We could say that pizza has three main ingredients: crust, sauce, and cheese. Each is essential. Without cheese, it would only be breadsticks. Without sauce, it would only be cheesy bread. Without crust, it would only be a sloppy mess!
Marriage also has three essential components, rising out of the fact that it is a complete and unconditional gift of husband and wife to each other. If either of these three essentials are missing, by definition it would not be a complete and unconditional gift of self. We traditionally call these the three “goods” of marriage: unity, indissolubility, and openness to children.
Unity refers to the faithful, exclusive union between husband and wife. When a husband and wife are married, they give themselves completely to each other and only to each other. This fidelity is not only with the body, but also with the mind and heart.
Indissolubility refers to the permanence of the marital bond. If a husband and wife give themselves completely to one another unconditionally, then it means that there is no time limit or other conditions. The marital bond cannot be broken by decision of the spouses or by decree of the government; it is only broken by death.
Openness to children means that husband and wife will give of themselves in the marital act, and that this total gift of self will include whatever fertility is present. The couple give themselves completely to each other, including the beautiful gift of one’s fertility. They are open to welcoming whatever children God might choose to give them. (It is important here to recognize that a man and a woman can still give of themselves completely in the marital act even when fertility is not present due to age or medical problems. They give themselves as they are in a complete union of body and soul.)
It helps to see that these are the GOODs or treasures of marriage; these are what God’s teaching on sexual morality are meant to protect!
Some thoughts for prayer and discussion:
- If marriage is a total gift of self to one’s spouse in body, mind, and heart, how might the prevalence of pornography or impure novels be affecting fidelity of the mind and heart?
- If you are married, are there conditions that you have consciously or unconsciously placed on your marriage? (e.g., “I’ll only stay married as long as this or that is the case,” or “If that ever happened, it would be over.”)
- Children and marriage used to go together like a horse and carriage. Why do you think our culture has lost sight of the connection between the two?