An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


Sunday Pope Quote: Bl. Pope John XIII on marriage in the natural order

Posted Apr. 29, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Apr. 29, 2012

Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is from the 1963 Encyclical Letter of Bl. Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris: “On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty.”

Bl. John XXIII begins the Encyclical: “Peace on Earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” (1)

This “order,” John XXIII observes, “predominates in the world of living beings and in the forces of nature […] And it is part of the greatness of man that he can appreciate that order, and devise the means for harnessing those forces for his own benefit.” (2)

The Catholic Church teaches that the family, as the union of one man and one woman together with their children, is a part of the natural order; it is essential and foundational for the organization of a humane society.

Bl. Pope John XXIII: “The family, founded upon marriage freely contracted, one and indissoluble, must be regarded as the natural, primary cell of human society. The interests of the family, therefore, must be taken very specially into consideration in social and economic affairs, as well as in the spheres of faith and morals. For all of these have to do with strengthening the family and assisting it in the fulfillment of its mission.”

Bl. Pope John XXIII,  Pacem in Terris (no. 16)

Read all Sunday Pope Quotes

About this series:

Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from either our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, or our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II (or occasionally another pope). These two men have given the world an immense treasury of wisdom about marriage, love, and the meaning of the human person, all of which are topics integral to the Church’s witness today. Their words are well worth reflecting on, as we have much to learn from these wise successors of St. Peter.


Married Saint: St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Posted Apr. 28, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a 20th century wife, mother, and doctor who sacrificed her life for the sake of her unborn daughter. St. Gianna, pray for us!

A picture of St. Gianna

The basics:

  • Born October 4, 1922 near Milan, Italy
  • Married Pietro Molla on September 24, 1955
  • Mother of six children (including two lost before birth): Pierluigi, Mariolina, Laura and Gianna Emanuela
  • Died April 28, 1962 in Ponte Nuovo di Magenta, Italy
  • Beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994
  • Canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 16, 2004

Read St. Gianna’s biography (on the Vatican website).


    • A model of discernment: After earning her medical degree in 1949, St. Gianna actively discerned whether God was calling her to join two of her brothers in the mission fields of Brazil, or to marry Pietro Molla, an engineer and fellow member in the charitable group Catholic Action. Gianna sought God’s will in prayer and spiritual direction and eventually, during a pilgrimage to Lourdes on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, it became clear that her vocational call was to marriage and the family. Pietro and Gianna were engaged on Easter Sunday of 1955 and married that September.
    • A heroic witness to life: After being blessed with three children (and suffering two miscarriages), St. Gianna was again with child in 1961. Early in the pregnancy, a dangerous cyst was discovered on her uterus. Choosing the route of treatment least dangerous to her unborn child, Gianna underwent a risky and painful surgery to remove the cyst. Thankfully the baby was unharmed, and the pregnancy continued. When it came time for her to give birth, Gianna said to the delivering doctor, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child.” Little Gianna Emanuela was born on April 21, 1962. A week later, her heroic and self-sacrificing mother died at home after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.”


    • “Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” – St. Gianna, in a letter to her future husband a few days before their wedding (as quoted in Bl. John Paul II’s homily at her canonization mass)
    • “Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love…Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own…loved them to the end‘ (Jn. 13:1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves.” – Bl. John Paul II, homily at St. Gianna’s canonization mass
    • “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation.” – Pope Paul VI, Angelus, September 23, 1973 (quoted in the Vatican biography; original in Italian)
    • “All my mother’s life has been a hymn to life, to joy, to God’s love, to Our Lady, to her family, to her very near, to her beloved husband, my daddy, her beloved children and her dear patients.” – Gianna Emanuela, St. Gianna’s daughter, in a 2011 interview

Patron saint of mothers, physicians, preborn children

Pray: Litany of St. Gianna Beretta Molla



Bishops of Mexico Affirm Importance of Marriage, Family

Posted Apr. 24, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

As reported in EWTN News, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico released a statement on April 18 calling for a vigilant defense of marriage and the family. The statement, entitled “The family: the heart and face of hope for the Church and society in Mexico,” recalled the authentic meaning of marriage and exhorted fellow Mexicans “to open our freedom to the original plan of God, who created man and woman in his image and likeness, different yet complementary, and he bestowed on them the blessing of fertility.”

Continuing, the bishops wrote:

This is the time of the family! The future of evangelization, like humanity itself, depends greatly on it. For this reason, let us make the love and trust Pope John Paul II had for the family our own and say, Family, believe in what you are! Family, be what you are!

They also recalled the importance of both fathers and mothers in the lives of their children, writing that children are the “visible sign and fruit” of their parents’ love. “They need both parents to forge a healthy personality, and this requires stability and co-responsibility in marriage.”

Read the entire news release at EWTN News.

Resources in Spanish here – Recursos en Español aqui.



Sunday Pope Quote: Bl. John Paul II on marriage and a civilization of love

Posted Apr. 22, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Bl. John Paul II: “Love then is not a utopia: it is given to mankind as a task to be carried out with the help of divine grace. It is entrusted to man and woman, in the sacrament of matrimony, as the basic principle of their ‘duty,’ and it becomes the foundation of their mutual responsibility: first as spouses, then as father and mother. In the celebration of the sacrament, the spouses give and receive each other, declaring their willingness to welcome children and to educate them. On this hinges human civilization, which cannot be defined as anything other than a ‘civilization of love’.”

Letter to Families, no. 15 (emphasis added)

All Sunday Pope Quotes

About this series:

Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from either our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, or our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II (or occasionally another pope). These two men have given the world an immense treasury of wisdom about marriage, love, and the meaning of the human person, all of which are topics integral to the Church’s witness today. Their words are well worth reflecting on, as we have much to learn from these wise successors of St. Peter.


Strengthening and Defending Marriage is a Matter of Justice: from "Catholics Care. Catholics Vote." series

Posted Apr. 20, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Over at the USCCB Media Relations blog, there’s a series underway called “Catholics Care. Catholics Vote.” The posts in this series discuss various aspects of the 2007 USCCB document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which was reissued in 2011 with a new introductory note. Today’s post treats the topic of marriage, which is identified by the bishops as a key public policy concern.

Catholics Care. Catholics Vote: Strengthening and Defending Marriage is a Matter of Justice

Marriage is clearly a big deal for Catholics.

Even many non-Catholics know that, for instance, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize divorce and that being married in the Church is important to Catholics. Delving into Catholic teaching itself, Scripture is filled with references to marriage, and the Church presents it as a vocation and as one of the Sacraments, a visible sign of God’s gift of grace.

What might be more surprising is that, for Catholics, marriage is also a key public policy issue, in fact one of six raised by the U.S. bishops when they reissued Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, their call to political responsibility. This means marriage is not only something that matters to the doctrine of the Church and the private lives of the people entering into it. It matters to all society.

Keep reading at the USCCB media relations blog.


Seattle Archbishop and Bishop Urge Washington State Faithful to Participate in Marriage Referendum

Posted Apr. 18, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

Background: In February of this year, the state of Washington passed a bill that would redefine marriage to exclude sexual difference. Governor Christine Gregoire promptly signed the bill into law, but opponents are able to present the bill for voter approval or rejection this November by collecting 120,000 signatures by June 6.

The latest: Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of the Archdiocese of Seattle have issued a brief letter stating their support for the marriage referendum (Referendum 74) and some basic reasons why all people should support this referendum.


  • “The key to understanding the Church’s view of marriage can be found in the two fundamental ends or purposes toward which it is oriented: the good of the spouses and the procreation of children.”
  • “Some have suggested that the Catholic Church’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage amounts to discrimination. That is not the case. Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman because of its unique ends, purpose and place in society.”
  • “Why does the Catholic Church care so much about marriage? Because marriage is a fundamental good in itself and foundational to human existence and flourishing.”

Read the entire letter.

Find more about protecting marriage in Washington State by visiting the Washington Catholic Conference website.



Sunday Pope Quote: Pope Benedict XVI on the family, in Cuba

Posted Apr. 15, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

During his recent apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba, Pope Benedict spoke beautifully about the importance of marriage and the family to society:

Pope Benedict XVI: “The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy.”

Homily in Santiago de Cuba during Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba (March 26, 2012)

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St. Joachim and St. Anne: saintly witnesses to marriage

Posted Apr. 12, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Who are the saints featured in the Marriage: Unique for a Reason logo…and why were they chosen? Let us explain:

Saints Joachim and Anne are the father and mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the fruit of their marriage. By a singular grace of God in view of the merits of Jesus, she was preserved from all stain of Original Sin from the moment of her conception. Thus it is in the context of married life and conjugal love that Mary is prepared to receive the Divine Logos, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the Logos, the “Reason” at the heart of all reason and truth, including the truth of marriage. The marriage between Joachim and Anne is a significant witness to why marriage is “unique for a reason” (from the home page, emphasis added).

St. Joachim and St. Anne provide for us an example of holiness (see CCC, no. 2030) and as a married couple, they provide in a particular way an example of holiness as a married couple. The portion of the mosaic featured at the top of the website brings out the beauty of marriage’s unity, depicted here as the intimate face-to-face encounter between husband and wife. And in the larger version of the mosaic found on the old USCCB defense of marriage site, the river that streams behind St. Joachim and St. Anne recalls their fruitfulness, the life-giving love that took form in their daughter Mary, the mother of our Redeemer.

St. Joachim and St. Anne serve as inspiring models of a holy marriage and as the informal “patron saints” of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason initiative. We ask for their intercession in the defense of marriage prayer: Sts. Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

Read about other married saints and blesseds throughout history.

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Easter Sunday: He is risen!

Posted Apr. 8, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Today, Easter Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and His victory over death.

Today we share with you a reflection on Easter by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage:

Easter season time of coming to life

In his column, Bishop Cordileone writes about the maternal nature of the Church:

“The Church gives birth to new children for God’s kingdom at the baptismal font; she nourishes them with the food of the Eucharist and by teaching them the truth of Christ; she comes to their aid when they are ill spiritually or physically through the healing grace of the sacraments; she trains them in the school of virtue so that they may develop the capacity for love and happiness.” Read more

A very blessed and happy Easter to all of our readers!


Holy Saturday: The mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell

Posted Apr. 7, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today is Holy Saturday, when we recall the mystery of Christ’s lying in the tomb and his descent into hell (see CCC, nos. 624-37). Even in the Lord’s death, the consequence of the full outpouring of his life (his gift of self) for our salvation and for the glory of the Father, the Lord was at work to bring about life (see CCC, nos. 634-35).

On this day we are invited also to recall the mystery of Baptism, a “nuptial mystery” (CCC, no. 1617), which many will be experiencing tonight in the Easter Vigil. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (as quoted in CCC, no. 628).


Good Friday: Marriage and the Cross

Posted Apr. 6, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today is Good Friday, part of the “Easter Triduum,” the Church’s remembrance of and participation in Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection. On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial.

In his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Bl. John Paul II reflected at length on the connection between marriage and the cross:

“The communion between God and his people finds its definitive fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the bridegroom who loves and gives himself as the savior of humanity, uniting it to himself as his body.

He reveals the original truth of marriage, the truth of the ‘beginning,’ and, freeing man from his hardness of heart, he makes man capable of realizing truth it its entirety.

“This revelation reaches its definitive fullness in the gift of love which the Word of God makes to humanity in assuming a human nature, and in the sacrifice which Jesus Christ makes of Himself on the Cross for His bride, the Church. In this sacrifice there is entirely revealed that plan which God has imprinted on the humanity of man and woman since their creation; the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ.

. . .

Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the church of what happened on the cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.”

Bl. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio (no. 13, emphasis added)



Holy Thursday: "The Eucharist, a Nuptial Sacrament"

Posted Apr. 5, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Today the Church celebrates Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, commemorating Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and the institution of the Eucharist. The evening of Holy Thursday marks the beginning of the “Easter Triduum,” the three days of intense recollection of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

In his 2007 apostolic exhortation about the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict devotes one section to explaining the connection between marriage and the Eucharist. His words provide a fitting reflection for Holy Thursday.

The Eucharist, a nuptial sacrament

The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time. Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: ‘The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.’ [MD, 26] Moreover, ‘the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.’ [CCC, 1617] The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32). The mutual consent that husband and wife exchange in Christ, which establishes them as a community of life and love, also has a eucharistic dimension. Indeed, in the theology of Saint Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for his Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of his ‘marriage’ with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist. For this reason the Church manifests her particular spiritual closeness to all those who have built their family on the sacrament of Matrimony. The family – the domestic Church – is a primary sphere of the Church’s life, especially because of its decisive role in the Christian education of children. In this context, the Synod also called for an acknowledgment of the unique mission of women in the family and in society, a mission that needs to be defended, protected and promoted. Marriage and motherhood represent essential realities which must never be denigrated.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis (no. 27, emphasis added)



Sunday Pope Quote: Benedict XVI on the importance of strengthening the family

Posted Apr. 1, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a message sent by Pope Benedict about a year ago to Latin American and Caribbean bishops who were meeting in Bogota, Columbia. The Holy Father remarks how central the family is to Latin American and Caribbean culture, and then continues:

One notes, however, with sadness, that homes are coming under increasingly adverse conditions caused by rapid cultural changes, by social instability, by the flows of migrants, by poverty, by educational programs that trivialize sexuality and by false ideologies. We cannot remain indifferent to these challenges. In the Gospel we find the light needed to respond to them without losing heart. Christ with his grace urges us to work with diligence and enthusiasm to accompany each one of the family members in discovering God’s plan of love for the human person. No effort is therefore wasted in promoting anything that can help to ensure that each family, founded on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, accomplishes its mission of being a living cell of society, a nursery of virtues, a school of constructive and peaceful coexistence, an instrument of harmony and a privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected, joyfully and responsibly, from its beginning until its natural end.

Message on the Occasion of the Meeting of Bishops Who Head Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life in Latin America and the Caribbean (March 28, 2012, emphasis added)