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286 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

out having to marry each other. The legalization of abortion has reduced

the pressure on men and women to worry about the consequences of

unwanted pregnancies. The casual acceptance of unmarried cohabita-

tion—and of couples’ entering marriage without a permanent commit-

ment—contradicts the very nature of marriage. The political pressure for

the legalization of same-sex unions is yet another step in the erosion of

God’s plan for marriage and the understanding of marriage in the natu-

ral moral order of creation.

In her teaching, the Church gives us a picture of family life that

begins with the total gift of love between the spouses evidenced in their

resolve to remain exclusively faithful until death. This promise, made

before God in the midst of family and friends before an authorized priest

or deacon, is supported by the continuing presence of Christ in the life of

the spouses as he pours into their hearts the gift of love through the Holy

Spirit. The couple does not walk alone and possesses the graced freedom

to respond to all natural and supernatural help.

The couple’s joyful acceptance of children includes the responsibil-

ity to serve as models of Christian commitment for their children and

helps them grow in wisdom and grace. In this way, their family becomes

a “domestic church.” The family honors the home as a place of prayer

that conveys a sense of the sacred where so much of Christian life occurs.

The couple needs to remember they have entered a relationship

between persons. They come to one another with two loves, the one

commanded by Jesus and the one caused by their attraction to each

other. They are challenged to unite their personal love with Christ’s love.

Their human love will survive more effectively the cultural challenges

they face, as well as the psychological and economic ones, when it is

merged with the powerful love of Christ, who wants them to succeed

and whose divine grace is ever at their service.

The New Testament shows that Christ’s command to love is the

door to the whole supernatural order. At the same time, it encourages

the couple to know that Jesus affirms the human good of each person.

Together the couple must seek the same goals of mutual love united to

Christ’s love, the raising of a family and the continued growth of their

own relationship.