Marriage and Family Life

The Vocation to Marriage

An exclusive and lifelong union

Through marriage, a husband and wife give themselves to each other without reservation, promising to love each other freely, truly, faithfully and fruitfully for the rest of their lives, sharing their joys and sufferings in whatever circumstances life brings them.

They express their love through their sexual union, which brings them together in the closest intimacy and opens them to the gift of new life. They build not just a relationship but a home and a family and a place of welcome for others too.

You do not need to be a Christian, of course, to get married. But for Christians the natural union of marriage is transformed into a sacrament. For a Christian couple the call to love each other in this way becomes at the same time an invitation to follow Christ and to give their lives wholeheartedly to him in love and service.

The love shown between a Christian husband and wife becomes a sign of the radical love shown by Christ in his life, death and resurrection. Christian marriage is not just an expression of human affection, it is a sacrament of the love of Christ, a way for husband and wife to minister to each other and to their children. And in this way the Christian family becomes a place where others can see the beauty and power of Christ’s redeeming love, a love that is often obscured in our fallen world. This is why marriage is a Christian vocation.

Marriage could be called a ‘natural’ vocation. God, who is love, has created us in his own image and likeness, and planted in our hearts a longing to love and be loved. And it is perfectly natural that as men and women we should want this love to be fulfilled in the love of marriage – a love that is without reservation, faithful, lifelong, and open to new life.

When this marriage is between two Christians it is transformed into a sacrament, and the natural and God-given call to marriage becomes something far, far deeper – a joyful and costly call to follow Christ and to give one’s life in love, in the context of marriage and family.

Not everyone wants to get married, and not everyone who hopes to marry does actually get married. But if someone freely chooses to get married it does not usually need a lot of explaining. The reasons are straightforward: a desire for love and family and children that grows out of who we are as human beings, as men and women.

For Christians who are discerning marriage there will be deeper vocational questions: listening to Christ, listening to the deepest desires of your heart, reflecting on the unique person you are called to be and on the particular ways you hope to give your life in love and service.

Christian marriage is a sacrament, a vocation, and if you choose to be married it will be a sign of your love for Christ as much as of your love for another person. But it is not the kind of call that pulls you away from your natural hopes and expectations. Marriage is not easier to live than other vocations, but it is easier to explain. If you long to be married, and there are no other big pulls in your life, then you should be at peace about seeking a husband or wife.