Catholic marriage has a timeless beauty that rings true for each new generation. It is multi-faceted like a fine diamond with many points of light – it is a Sacrament, covenant, partnership and vocation. It is permanent, faithful, exclusive and open to life. Catholic marriage is fully human, lived out in the ordinary moments of daily family life, yet it has a supernatural quality – it is infused with sacramental grace, a sharing in God’s divine life.

For those of us who love Catholic marriage so much that we’ve made a career of it, we know the stark realities. Most young people who grow up Catholic will choose not to marry in the Church, and too many in committed relationships will not choose marriage at all. As of 2018, marriage rates in the general population reached an all-time low. This is not good news for anyone, and it makes the job of those who minister to families in every faith denomination quite challenging. Yet, when it comes to Catholic marriage, there is more than enough good news to go around.

First, we know of far too many great and lasting marriages to ever think that Catholic marriage is somehow archaic or only for the holiest couples. Even those Catholic couples who are seeking God in other places than the Church still have the foundation of their Sacrament and sacred covenant. Their marriages bear the mark of Christ’s sacrificial love and there is always the hope and strong possibility that they will return to the loving arms of their Catholic faith community.

Because Catholic marriage is sealed by the death and resurrection of Jesus, He is always at work behind the scenes, even when couples are not aware of it. Jesus is just waiting for us to open our hearts to an intimate personal relationship with him, to invite him to a place at our table. How wonderful to know that no matter how far we stray from his love, no matter how many times we fail to give the loving response to our spouse, Jesus never gives up on us or our marriage. At times he must leave the 99 to search for us, but he relentlessly pursues us until he brings us home.

This notion of home is central to our Catholic faith. As Catholics our parish community is our spiritual home. Our parish is a family of families. When we celebrate the Eucharist at Mass, we come to the table together and become one body united in Christ. This means that we are deeply connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ – we never need to go it alone. If one couple is struggling with a difficulty, they need only turn to their parish community for a helpful response, whether from their parish priest, a trained lay minister or the host of Catholic couples who are only too willing to assist from their own experience of overcoming difficulties we must all face.

The practice of peer ministry, couples helping other couples, taps into married couples’ vocational call to serve others, and helps build what Pope Francis calls the “culture of encounter” in our parishes. The good news about Catholic marriage is evident in our conversations with couples who’ve been transformed by accompanying other couples on their spiritual journey.

Furthermore, we hear daily from engaged and newly married couples who have made the counter-cultural decision to marry in the Church. They tell us that Pre-Cana was a sort of “coming home” for them because they had been away from the Church and were afraid to be judged. They tell us of the generous witness of the married couples who run their Pre-Cana events. They tell us they can’t wait to register for a parish and become active members. They tell us they want to raise their children in the Catholic faith – that’s great news!

Peg Hensler is associate director of Marriage Ministries and NFP for the Diocese of Trenton.