With D.C.'s March for Marriage having drawn to a close, this is a good moment to take a look at how we Catholics—laypeople, priests, and bishops—can better prepare couples for this holy Sacrament, which was blessed in a special way by the first miracle of Our Lord at Cana at His Mother's request. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear that "the matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble. God himself has determined it "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (no. 1614). Of course, this teaching cannot be changed. It is divine revelation expressed in the words of Jesus Himself and is the infallible teaching of the Church. So where to go from here?
The answer is simple, but challenging, both to the hierarchy and the Church faithful. However, if the first Christians could do it over the course of the decline of the Evil Empire, so can we with the help of the Holy Spirit; so can we, and even quicker with the help of prayer and sacrifice, and the generosity of married couples and their plenteous offspring.
With fertility rates in much of the so-called developed world sinking below replacement level, and showing precipitous declines even in most of the developing world, it is clear that world population is positioned to fall, perhaps by the end of this century. This decline of course tracks with the introduction of artificial contraception and the heinous crime of legalized abortion. The growing number of jurisdictions (with Quebec the most recent) that have legalized euthanasia have not yet added multitudes to the death toll. But as nations face the economic consequences of the inverted human pyramid that their contraceptive practices produce—with fewer productive workers left to provide for an elderly population that outnumbers them—we can expect national health policies more and more to encourage such killings, willing or not.
Over time, not only the meek, but the fertile and procreative, will inherit the Earth, unless the Lord in His infinite wisdom pulls the plug on his recalcitrant children and proceeds to the General Judgment. (Could you blame Him if He chose to do so?) In the meantime, what should we do as members of his Mystical Body to stop the carnage of abortion and contraception and repopulate the Earth? A few suggestions for our married couples, their families, and the priests and bishops that have both the duty and the joy of watching over the flock entrusted to them by Holy Church.
1) All Catholic education should have as its main focus from the earliest ages the Church as the Family of God, with the understanding that most of the Church's members will be called to marriage as their path to holiness. In the case of married couples, holiness is pursued through loving generosity which is a response to God's own generous love of us. In large part Catholic couples will express this generosity through openness to bringing new children into the world to give Him glory.
2) Diocesan preparation for marriage should start much earlier, perhaps as early as elementary school or high school. Truly Catholic Colleges and universities (and there are more and more of them) should continue the job of transmitting an orthodox and attractive understanding of marriage and family life according to the teachings of St. John Paul II and his revolutionary Theology of the Body, with its insights into holiness, intimacy, and openness to life.
3) The best teachers for couples preparing for marriage are naturally (though not exclusively) those who are married with children and faithful to the teachings of the Church. They are the ideal candidates to lead pre-Cana classes in dioceses and parishes and to enthusiastically convey to the next generation of Catholic spouses joyful and faithful obedience to the faith.
4) The Church should also make the effort to celebrate in the media actors, athletes, well-known celebrities, and those in political life who clearly put their marriage and family first.
5) Each diocese should offer phone hotlines or Internet sites available for married couples and those preparing for marriage to answer questions dealing with marriage and fertility and also to recommend Catholic medical doctors in the diocese or elsewhere. All men preparing for the priesthood (along with men in religious life) should also be suitably prepared to answer such questions and to know where to go to recommend faithful doctors and marriage counselors. After all, where do they think the vocations of the future will come from if not from generous and joyous Catholic couples?
Let us go and multiply without fear and with joy! It is our world to conquer for Christ and His Church, whatever the cost!
Fr. C. John McCloskey writes for Truth and Charity Forum, from where this article is adapted.