Marriage is a natural institution, a union between a man and a woman for mutual support and procreation. There are four elements in a marriage according to Fr. John Hardon:
- It is a union of opposite sexes.
- It is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse.
- It excludes a union with any other person so long the marriage exists.
- Its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract.
Christ Himself has elevated the natural institution to a sacrament in the wedding at Cana. The Catholic Church insists the marriage between two baptized Christians intended as a contract constitutes the sacrament of Matrimony. The ministers of the sacrament are the spouses themselves, and the effect of the sacrament is an increase in sanctifying Grace for the spouses.
Matrimony is entirely oriented on man’s supernatural goal for the benefit of the community: mutual help of the spouses and increase of the people of God. Divine life and love are communicated to the spouses in their total union, and the grace of Matrimony brings to the spouses the particular help to be faithful and good parents.
Couples tend currently to disregard this grace and opt just for the natural institution, partly due to EVIL Secularism. The tendency has societal repercussions including ineffective parenting and increase in the number of divorces.