Even if in ever-decreasing numbers, many people consider marriage to be among the most fundamental decisions and realities of their lives. By it and in it a man and a woman form a community of love and life before God, the Church and society. Marriage is a sacred vocation. God himself calls a man and a woman together to be one spiritual-carnal reality. In Genesis, it is God who brings Adam and Eve together after creating them for each other. By God's will, they are "not to be put asunder." By God's will, they are "to help each other." By God's will, they are to "go forth and multiply." For the believing Catholic who is properly informed, as well as for many other Christians and non-Christians alike, any true marriage is not merely a contract but is a most noble and sacred commitment: it is an irrevocable covenant between a man and a woman until death doth them part.
Moreover, if both spouses have been validly baptised, the marriage they enter into is a sacrament. As such, it is an effective sign of the inseparable unity between Christ and the Church and a participation in that unity. Saint Paul roots the marital union in the sacrifice of the Cross upon which Christ, the Bridegroom, freely and totally sacrificed himself for the Church, His Bride (Ephesians 5, 21-33). In the sacrament of marriage, man and woman thus surrender themselves in freedom and unsparingly to one another, finding the necessary strength in the grace of the sacrament to give life to a love that "is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes" (1 Corinthians 13, 7). A sacramental marriage is a permanent source of divine grace, giving strength to husband and wife to live out their commitment, in body and in soul, until death doth them part, and to help each other on the path to holiness and eternal life.
Marriage is also the fundamental cell of the Church and of society. The health of a society depends on the health of its marriages and, by extension, of its families. This is not ideology: it is the sovereign, deliberate and creative will of God. It cannot be tampered with or be arbitrarily replaced by, or extended to encompass, any other model of relationship without setting in motion a process which bodes ill for the future of both society and Church. In such a climate, the Church needs not only to proclaim God's truth as Prophet, but to prepare thoroughly, as Mother and Teacher, those who approach her to contract marriage. Once married within her doors, the Church then needs to tend to these new cells of married love and life for a suitable period of time.