Do you have any “expectations” when you think about marriage? A lot of us probably think of marriage as broadly the same thing: two people coming together in love to spend the rest of their lives together.
But when we start to dive into the specifics of that idea, it’s important to recognize the difference between what the world expects from marriage and what God expects.
The Church teaches that in the case of sacramental marriage, it is asked and even expected of the couple that they be open to children throughout their marriage. This is why the priest performing the ceremony and leading marriage prep asks the couple if they are freely, fruitfully, fully, and faithfully entering the sacrament with their spouse.
Unfortunately, our world often tells us that marriage doesn’t need to be open to life. People will even sometimes say it’s selfish and reckless to bring children into a world that is so broken. But the truth of the matter is that a marriage can’t be sacramental without an openness to life, and that’s a big deal.
Now, what about couples who can’t have kids, or are past the age of childbearing?
Those marriages are no less sacramental than the ones that have children, so long as they’re still open to the procreation of children. It’s the orientation towards procreation that’s important, not the achievement of it.
Bottom line is, sacramental marriage is a gift of self towards another, totally, fruitfully, fully, and faithfully. Without an openness to life and the procreation of children, this gift of self is not complete, and therefore it cannot be a sacrament of God.
Openness to procreation is an essential part of God’s plan for romantic intimacy, regardless of what “expectations” the world may have for marriage.