Q: Archbishop J, why a week for marriage and the family?
Marriage a sacrament from Creation
The family is the load-bearing wall of civilisation. As the family goes, so civilisation goes. As we look on at the family, we have to honestly say both the family and civilisation need God’s intervention.
In the beginning of the God/Human relationship, God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). The original loneliness of the man moved God to continue the creation.
So God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep (Gen 2:21). He took a rib from the man and formed woman (2:22). The Bible interprets this as a marriage.
The man says: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen 2: 18-25).
The woman was created from the rib of the man. This both makes his heart more vulnerable and also places her as his equal, at his side. The biblical scholar, Matthew Henry said: “Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him.”
This fundamental equality in difference is integral to the creation of the human person. And ultimately to God’s intention for marriage.
You will notice that in verse 25 Eve is called wife. That they are called to be one flesh. And before the fall they were naked without shame. The male-female relationship is the image of God: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
The very next verse is the call to procreation—God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number” (1:28). From the beginning, marriage has been exclusively between one man and one woman for the unification of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines marriage as: “Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children… A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family” [CCC # 2201 & # 2202]. The good of the spouses involve assisting each in their vocation to holiness.
The challenge of our day
In our culture marriage is under attack from every side. Slavery, indentureship, the plantation system all contributed significantly to the demise of marriage, the emergence of alternative family structures and the current challenge facing us.
A large proportion of our families are not the traditional nuclear family. Most are single mums and children, while other are a cohabitation or non-legal unions.
The emergence of contraception with the sexual revolution that emerged changed the way we saw sex and marriage fundamentally. Pope Paul VI, in his controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae warned that widespread contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality” (17).
In this section, he made three other strong warnings—the loss of respect for women, the abuse of state power in the area of sexuality, and the false notion that we have unlimited dominion over our bodies.
Fifty years on we cannot disconnect the current state of marriage and the family from the warning of Pope Paul VI. The separation of the unification of the spouses from the procreation of children has created a civilisation hostile to heterosexual marriage, to mature femininity and masculinity, and to a commitment for life.
Pop music is always a good test of the prevailing sentiment. In 1950 when my father was a young man, the love song was Dean Martin’s ‘I’ll Always Love You’ . Twenty years later when I was listening to pop music the song was ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’, Kris Kristofferson. When my nephews were listening to pop music the music was 50 Cent’s ‘Amusement Park’ (2007).
We moved from lifelong commitment to ‘hook-up’ culture in three generations.
Because of the experience of their families and the predominance of the hook-up culture, many young people today do not see any benefit in marriage and family. This is a significant challenge to Church and society.
Add gender fluidity to this equation and the push of LGBTQIA+ making the heterosexual union one option amongst others and our young now are living pansexuality—anything goes!
We need to put the truth of marriage and family before this generation in a clear, compelling and coherent way. This is why Pope Francis has called the period from March 2021 to June 2022 a time for celebrating Amoris Laetitia.
This sexual revolution has touched all of us to some extent. Now we all need to rediscover God’s intention for marriage and the family from the perspective of our rich tradition.
Pope Francis reminds us that: your family is the nearest field hospital. By committing to live for each other, by laying down our lives for the good of the other, by learning to put the other before ourselves, we will be on the way to recovery.
In Amoris Laetitia #52 the Holy Father asks the most pertinent question: “Nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?”
Our answer must be: the whole Archdiocese of Port of Spain. On the Eve of Pentecost 2020, we launched — ‘Missioning the Domestic Church’. This is recognising that the domestic Church needs to discover its identity as a community of life and love, to discover its mission. In discovering its mission, it will assist other families to discover their identity and ultimately their mission.
Marriage and the family are the foundation of civilisation. We need to communicate and understand and invite people to conversion to God’s intention for marriage and the family.
As a family or individual, participate in the daily activities given for Marriage and Family Week (July 19–26).