Chapter 21. The Sacrament of Marriage • 285
notes that “All the members of the family exercise the priest-
hood of the baptized in a privileged way” (CCC, no. 1657).
Not all married couples are able to have children. “Spouses to whom
God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full
of meaning. . . . [and] can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality
and of sacrifice” (CCC, no. 1654).
EFFECTS OF THE SACRAMENT
The first effect of the Sacrament of Matrimony is the gift of the bond
between the spouses. “The consent by which the spouses mutually give
and receive one another is sealed by God himself” (CCC, no. 1639).
“The marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way
that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons
can never be dissolved” (CCC, no. 1640).
The grace of this Sacrament perfects the love of husband and wife,
binds them together in fidelity, and helps them welcome and care for
children. Christ is the source of this grace and he dwells with the spouses
to strengthen their covenant promises, to bear each other’s burdens with
forgiveness and kindness, and to experience ahead of time the “wedding
feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9).
DO ALL YOU CAN TO STRENGTHEN MARRIAGE
The pastoral care of the Church for the support of marriage is shown
by a variety of programs to help men and women to know God’s plan
for marriage and the Church’s teaching. Remote preparation, which can
begin in the family, takes on a more organized character in the form
of courses in high school and college years. As engaged couples draw
closer to the celebration of marriage, there are more intense programs of
preparation (frequently called “pre-Cana programs”).
These programs are all the more necessary because cultural changes
in recent times have undermined God’s will for marriage. The so-called
sexual revolution, aided by artificial contraception, has made it more
culturally acceptable for men and women to have sexual relations with-