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In previous posts, we looked at the four goods of marriage and how to live them out. The Church also teaches that there are three ends of marriage. These are the extrinsic goods to which marriage is ordered, not the goods that arise from the married state.

Traditionally, the Church has taught that the primary end of marriage is the bearing and bringing up of children in the Faith. The second end is the mutual help of the spouses for each other through the grace they receive in the Sacrament of Matrimony. The third end of marriage is the relief of concupiscence, where sexual desires are directed in a way that honors God and the intrinsic dignity of the persons.[1]

In his encyclical Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage), Pope Pius XI further developed the Church’s understanding of the ends of marriage, defining the foremost responsibility of husband and wife in marriage:

For all men of every condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely Christ Our Lord, and by God’s grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is proved by the example set us of many saints.

This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.[2]

Thus, the principle end of marriage is the mutual assistance of spouses in growing in holiness with the goal of reaching heaven.

Many say that it is impossible to live marriage in this way and they are partially right. In our culture today, marriage has been stripped of its sacramental grace and is nothing more than a romantic relationship recognized by the state. Without grace, it is impossible to live marriage focused on the good of the other, forming ourselves into the image of Christ. We are sinful and selfish beings; only through the transforming grace of Jesus Christ can husbands and wives love each other with a sacrificial love.

Put Christ at the center of your life and marriage. Thank Him for the perfecting institution of marriage and the grace to live it out according to God’s holy plan.

[1] Scott Hahn, The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order (Steubenville: Emmaus Road, 2018), 46-47.

[2] Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Casti Connubii, (December 31, 1930), internet: https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19301231_casti-connubii.html, §23-24 (accessed June 15, 2018).