In the midst of a monumental debate about the meaning and future of marriage, replete with audacious legal decisions nationwide that try to alter the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, has proclaimed this week of February 7-14 “National Marriage Week” to highlight the truth and good of marriage as an institution in which family life can flourish to the benefit to husbands, wives, children and society.

While courts and legislatures around the country attempt to redefine it,  the truth remains:  Marriage is the universal institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with the children born from their union. This very meaning of marriage antecedes all religions, governments and cultures and is inscribed in our human nature by our Creator.  No religion, government, judge or individual has the right or legitimate authority to alter the fundamental meaning and structure of marriage that has existed from the beginning of humankind.  As Heritage Foundation scholar and marriage policy expert Ryan Anderson reminded lawmakers in his testimony before the Indiana House Judiciary Committee, the institution of marriage is based in the objective, biological reality that men and women are different, yet complementary. Government does not recognize marriage because it has an interest in affording legal protection to the emotional commitment made between two people. Rather, it recognizes marriage because it has a unique interest in the union of one man and one woman, whose sexual complementarity is ordered toward the procreation of children.  Decades of social research continue to show that children do best when raised by a mother and a father, affirming that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable or irrelevant to the well-being of children. 

While our Virginia bishops and bishops throughout the U.S. will continue their vigorous defense of marriage, what can we do as Catholic laity to uphold marriage? Those who are married can provide a living example of Christ’s love for His Church through their own marriages.  We can also take part in the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty, which our shepherds re-issued in November 2013.  We can fast and pray for a greater reverence for the gift of marriage and family in our nation this week and beyond.  And we can join in the daily virtual retreat offered by For Your Marriage, which can be found on Facebook.  An initiative of the USCCB, For Your Marriage provides a great collection of resources for couples who are married or planning for marriage to strengthen and grow their relationship in holiness.

Let’s use National Marriage Week and St. Valentine’s Day to strengthen our marriages, pray for those suffering from the wounds of broken marriages, and be examples of the truth to the world around us.