In Christianity, the primary purpose of marriage is not the birth of children– St. Augustine says it aptly, and it is also the doctrine of Tertullian, who has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology.” The main purpose of marriage is to offer the example, the model, the essential consecration of all human association in love, which is the bond of union. And since that model of all partnership must be the perfect unity, and therefore a unity in which everything is equal and indissoluble, it turns out that in Christian marriage everything is shared and nothing is broken; everything is shared: duties, condition: the duties are the same for the two contracting parties. Both must bring the same hope, the same heart to the same bonds destined to unite them forever.
Frederic Ozanam, “History of civilization in the fifth century,” Chapter XIII: Christian Women.
- Some might think that the thought of Frederic Ozanam, which is more than 150 years old, is passé or not current. How wrong! In most cases, when we read Frederic we can very easily apply his reasoning to present times. Today’s text is a clear example.
- The first sentence of the text is blunt: the main purpose of marriage is not to procreate, but to exemplify love.
- Let us compare Frederic’s words with those in Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution of the Second Vatican Council which deals with “the Church in the contemporary world”:
- “The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family” (GS 47,1).
- “The main purpose of marriage is to offer the example, the model, the essential consecration of all human association in love, which is the bond of union” (Frederic).
- They seem to be very similar texts, don’t they? Marriage is the perfect example for any society. Family ties are based on love and respect, values that society should make its own so that the greater part of the problems that concern us today would be solved.
- Let us again compare Gaudium et Spes with Frederic’s words:
- “The unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of wife and husband, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love” (GS 49,2).
- “In Christian marriage everything is shared and nothing is broken; everything is shared, duties, condition: the duties are the same for the two contracting parties” (Frederic).
- Men and women have in marriage equal dignity and duties, where everything is shared, from mutual and full love.
- May this text of Frederic and so many others, sadly for the most part unknown, encourage us to discover in him a true Christian and a Vincentian who has much to tell us today.
Questions for dialogue:
- What are my thoughts about marriage? Is my vision in accordance with Frederic’s?
- Christians in our Catholic Church: Do they live marriage so? How should they live it? What can we do to foster authentic Christian marriages?
- In my home, do men and women share the same duties, for example, in housework, education of the children, etc.?
- Machismo is a scourge that we must eradicate. Unfortunately it seems that it is still very present in the families. It is a poverty that has its roots in poor education. What can Vincentians do to eliminate machismo?
Javier F. Chento