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National Marriage Week

Annual observance celebrates, supports marriage

By Nate Madden, Catholic News Service 

While the week leading up to St. Valentine’s Day had many thinking about candlelit dinners and those chalky candy hearts, some people were taking a more serious approach by celebrating matrimony.

National Marriage Week was first celebrated in the United States in 2002, originating from Marriage Week International, and now serves as an annual call to strengthen marriage and the family across the country and around the world.

The organization behind the week, National Marriage Week USA, says on its website that the “social science is clear that all children are best served when they grow up with both a mother and father. It is critical to strengthen the bonds of marriage to best support marriages so that they can survive and thrive.”

In a letter sent to all U.S. bishops Jan. 16, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, hailed National Marriage Week USA, this year Feb. 7-14, as an opportunity “to celebrate the gift and blessing of marriage and to affirm and support engaged and married couples.”

World Marriage Day, started in 1983 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, was observed Feb. 8.

“Marriage is in crisis, this is true in the United States as well as around the world,” Robert P. George told CNS when asked about the importance of National Marriage Week. “And when marriage is in crisis, society is in crisis."

“Societies depend upon the traditional institution of marriage,” said George, a Catholic, who is a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University. He also is director of the university’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. “All other institutions of a society, economic, civic and legal, vitally depend on marriage. They rely on people being decent, law-abiding citizens who are willing to do their part for the common good, so they depend on the institution of marriage because they (society’s institutions) require the kinds of people that they themselves are not able to generate.”

In November, George attended a Vatican-sponsored conference on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman,” along with the Rev. Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

In his opening remarks at the conference, Pope Francis called for preserving the family as an institution based on marriage between a man and a woman, which he said is not a political cause but a matter of “human ecology.” He noted that “marriage and the family are in crisis.”

“The complementarity of man and woman ... is at the root of marriage and the family,” he said. “Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity.”

For Your Marriage, a USCCB initiative, says that “marriage is a gift from God to men, women, children, and society. ... Marriage is the foundation of the family, which is the primary place where we all learn to love and be loved, to live in community with others, and to care for the most vulnerable.”

National Marriage Week this year concludes on the feast day of St. Valentine, a third-century martyr and the patron saint of affianced couples, love and happy marriages.

For information on National Marriage Week, visit the USCCB website.

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops