October is Respect Life month. This time each year, the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-life Activities releases a series of pamphlets, bulletin inserts, posters, and more that highlight various life issues. This year, one of the pamphlets focuses on marriage:
Written by professor Helen Alvaré, the pamphlet draws its title from Bl. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus: “It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. The family is indeed sacred: it is the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed” (no. 39).
In the pamphlet, professor Alvaré gives a basic catechesis on marriage, noting that the esteem with which the Christian faith views marriage, as a sacrament of Christ’s love for his Church, runs counter to a calculated or utilitarian view (what’s in it for me?). She also notes that while our society is becoming more and more forgetful of the essential meaning of marriage (man and woman together for life and open to children), the Catholic “model” of marriage, with self-donation at its heart, continues to “work,” meaning that it provides joy, stability, and purpose to men and women and their children.
The pamphlet ends with a description of marriage as “a grand calling, a dramatic part of existence”: “Marriage is not just one choice among many in a person’s life. It is not a mere contract with another person, more or less lasting, for an exchange of love and good times. . . . Catholics hold that marriage is a vocation, a ‘call.’ It is a way of life that offers continual opportunities to be in loving service to the other. . . .It is both a splendid reality and serious business.”
Marriage is indeed the sanctuary of life, a sanctuary worth upholding and defending.