For so many in society today, when one hears the word “family” in conversation, it evokes a number or reactions. They can be good, or bad. Happy or dad. Exciting or boring. No matter what the reaction is, everyone has one when they hear the word family. For my history class, I will be adding a couple of posts a week about families, and how they relate to Catholicism.
For this past class, we read thoughts on Marriage and Families from two great saints of the Church, Sts. Augustine and John Chrysostom. Because the class started with the Church, I figured it would be fitting if I started with Holy Mother Church as well, and see how she not only defines a family, but what intrinsically makes up a family. For this, I can think of no where better to look than the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism, quoting the Codex Iuris Canonici, defines Marriage as
The Matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.
It is clear that Marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, who are joined together as one in Holy Matrimony, to procreate. This idea that man and woman are to be joined together in Holy Matrimony is see in the teaching of many different people in the early Church. One of these is St. Augustine, who, in his Confessions, recounted the days before his conversion. St. Augustine, in writing These confessions, mentions not only that he had a concubine of many years, with whom he had a child, but that he was also engaged to be married to a 10 year old. Instead of going through with this wedding right away, St. Augustine decided that he would wait until she was of legal age, an age in which she could bear children.
So, basically, Holy Mother Church defines marriage as a sacramental bond between a man and his wife, in order to bear children. The saints, especially St. Augustine, helped the Early Church through writing his confessions, and thus, bringing the fact that he was to marry a 10 year old, but didn’t because she was not able to bear children, an important part of the Church’s definition of marriage. in fact, the same Church that went on the declare him a Saint.