What does the Christian faith have to do with marriage? Can the same dignity be found in married life as there is in celibate life? Is sexual desire God’s will or is it a consequence of original sin? Do masculinity and femininity exist or are they mere social constructs?
These are just some of the many questions addressed in the book Family Mission. A Path to Marital Spirituality by Carla Rossi Espagnet (Edusc, 2022).
At a time when the “institution” of marriage is ever more downgraded, the “personal dimension of the body” is often ignored, and sexuality is trivialized, it is necessary that we address the vocation of marriage, so that this covenant between two people before God truly lasts forever.
Marriage: the way to holiness as spouses
At the beginning of the book, the author briefly walks us through the history of marital spirituality, starting with Sacred Scripture. It then delves into the Catholic view on the matter—from the Fathers of the Church to the Second Vatican Council and the recent Magisterium—showing how the church has come to recognize marriage as the authentic way for spouses to lead holy lives. This is followed by a section devoted to the Creator’s intention for marriage, explaining why sexuality is a good thing and God’s will.
St. John Paul II—whose reflections on the theology of the body are referred to quite a bit in the text—states that the body has a “spousal significance,” and that men and women are different so that they might give themselves to one another. Referring to a catechesis of St. John Paul II, the author explains, “Man was made in God’s image and likeness not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons that man and woman form from the beginning,” and “sexual difference is given by God to bridge original solitude.” The family is the reality that comes closest to the image of the Holy Trinity.
Certainly, the reality of sin cannot be ignored. Therefore, the book also explores the problems arising from the loss of grace: as purity of heart has failed, malice, which destroys communion, has entered the relationship between man and woman. Adultery and possession are realities that took over when mankind “sank into the material creation,” the moment it “ceased to draw on the power of the spirit that raised it to the level of God’s image.”
Concupiscence, however, the text explains, is not insuperable: For Christ has redeemed every aspect of the human existence, including man’s sexuality.
Married daily life: how to handle ups and downs
A large part of the book is devoted to typical aspects of married life: how to handle becoming new parents, crises, health problems… What role do extended family members play? How does one balance their time between work and family?
The author shows the difficulties, expectations, joy, and hopes that are all part of every family’s dynamic. It evidences just how important it is to build strong bonds because your family is and always will be the first place you’re welcomed home, the first place to offer a helping hand, and the place that will help care for you when you’re low or in a fragile state.
It’s so important to be prepared for this vocation that the book also explores the spirituality of engaged couples.
Preparation for marriage is crucial; love—contrary to what many people think—is not just something spontaneous and cannot be improvised. The book suggests two fundamental “beams” for “building a strong house” that can withstand life’s trials: friendship and chastity.
Only after learning to look deeply within and encounter the most hidden parts of the soul, through dialogue, listening, and tenderness, can a man and a woman really begin a lifelong journey together.