VATICAN CITY -- Christian families are called to welcome, demonstrate and spread the love and presence of Christ in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.
A family, founded on the marriage of a man and woman and open to having children, is "the human space for an encounter with Christ," he said in a speech late last year to members of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The council, founded by Pope John Paul II, was marking the 30th anniversary of its establishment by focusing on the role of the family in the "new evangelization."
The Missionaries of the Holy Family have a special focus on families, and have provided some resources to help couples getting married in the Church.
Their website, msf-america.org, provides answers to several questions facing families and couples. One section answers questions on what is needed to get married in the Church and another discusses marriage preparation.
WASHINGTON -- Like the number of marriages among Americans in general, the number of marriages performed in the Catholic Church has been in decline over the past few decades.
"Since 1972, the number of marriages celebrated in a Catholic Church has fallen nearly 60 percent" in the U.S., said Sheila Garcia, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, citing a study conducted for the secretariat by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University and released in 2008.
Staying close to your parish pays special dividends throughout a marriage, according to couples who've moved to the "empty nest" stage.
The stage that follows children leaving home as adults can be an adjustment at first, when the children are missed and a less active household is faced. Couples find, however, that they can reconnect through various fun activities with each other and develop new interests.
A big help is staying connected to their parish. Developing those ties earlier on is important, even during the busy times of raising children.
When the Catholic Church teaches that marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament, it means that the couple's relationship expresses in a unique way the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and His people.
According to "Marriage as Sacrament," an item on the U.S. bishops' website foryour marriage.org, marriage is "a sign or symbol which reveals the Lord Jesus and through which His divine life and love are communicated."