In the early 1980s, Pope Saint John Paul II recognized rising problems within marriage and family life. He appointed Cardinal Carlo Caffarra to head a new Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Because the institute was under the patronage of Our Lady of Fatima, Cardinal Caffara wrote to Sister Lucia dos Santos, a Carmelite nun who was one of the three children to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Not expecting a response, he was surprised when he received her reply, which included these words:
“Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the Kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because our Lady has already crushed his head.”
A Game Plan
Forty years have passed since this correspondence between Cardinal Caffarra and Sister Lucia. And all we have to do is scroll through social media or turn on the evening news to know that this prophecy has come true. Not only are marriage and family being attacked, the very dignity of who men and women are created to be is being eroded.
This is why, now more than ever, it is so important to turn to the Lord and ground ourselves in His plan and purpose for those whom He created in His image and likeness. We do this by rooting ourselves in Biblical truths that reveal God’s design for the dignity of men and women, specifically lived out in marriage and family life. Moreover, we turn to qualified, reliable experts steeped in knowledge of Catholic doctrine to strengthen our own understanding of the authentic and beautiful purpose for marriage in the family, Church, and society.
Fr. Robert Altier is one such expert. A priest for more than 30 years, Altier has taught catechetical programs that have aired on television throughout the world. He is also a major contributor to Catholic radio and his sermons are widely sought after on YouTube.
During a month-long series of prayerful experiences in 2019, the Lord gave Altier the material to write a book on marriage. He said in an interview that as quickly as the information came to him, it one day ended. And he knew he needed to compile all of it into a book format, even though he does not consider himself a writer.
A New Book on Marriage
Published by Sophia Institute Press, God’s Plan for Your Marriage: An Exploration of Holy Matrimony From Genesis to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, explores the foundation of marriage from the beginning of creation and how it will be fulfilled in Heaven, at the marriage banquet of the Lamb.
God’s Plan for Your Marriage is not your average how-to relationship book. That is because “marriage is first and foremost a spiritual reality,” writes Altier. “The purpose of this book is to help married couples to know and understand the dignity and beauty to which they have been called and to provide some insights to help them to live their sacrament in a spiritual way.”
The book is organized into seven chapters, which build upon one another:
1. From the Beginning
2. God Is Love
3. What God Has Joined
4. The New Creation
5. Consummatum Est
6. You Are a Temple
7. The Banquet of the Lamb
A Fresh Perspective Worth Pondering
When I opened God’s Plan for Marriage, I had no idea what I was in for. I had no idea how deeply moved I would be. I had no idea I would learn so much about the sacrament I have been living for more than 20 years.
That is because, of all the marriage books I have read, and workshops and retreats I have attended, none have approached the topic from a strictly spiritual perspective. Before reading this book, I had received a lot of practical advice, such as communication dos and don’ts. However, Altier really emphasizes the spiritual reality of being married, of being man and wife. Not so much how we live that out, but simply who we are within it. And this fresh perspective is key to making us better men and women in order to be better spouses in better marriages.
A Few Key Takeaways
God’s Plan for Marriage is dense with profound insights into God’s intention for marriage from the beginning. Here are 10 key takeaways that I found to be incredibly meaningful and impactful:
- “The human person is created for truth, love, and life—to live in relationship with the Trinity.”
- “Our nature is very good, and our dignity is immense.”
- At the time of the Fall, “our nature was wounded but not corrupted.”
- “God took that which was closest to the man’s heart and built it into the person whom Adam would love and who would love him.”
- “So there are emotions that come with love, but love is not an emotion . . . Love is an act of the will . . . It is a choice.”
- “God made marriage to make married people saints.”
- “Christian marriage is a prefiguration of eternity.”
- “. . . there is a real and true union of persons—souls—that occurs when the couple professes their vows in a sacramental marriage.”
- “God cannot be excluded from any part of the marriage; this means He should not be excluded from the intimacy of the couple.”
- “In the garden, Adam and Eve did not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life; but, in a garden two thousand years ago, the Cross became the Tree of Life . . . The fruit of the Tree of Life is the Eucharist.”
A Final Note
God’s Plan for Your Marriage is complete with thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter that can be used for personal reflection. They also can serve as prompts for fruitful discussion between spouses.
God’s Plan for Your Marriage is a must-read book for Catholic married couples. For engaged or newly-married couples, it will serve as a firm foundation that you can return to as you grow together in experience. For couples who have been married for a while, it will bring refreshment and renewal to your relationship, as you embark on the next chapters of life together.
This was originally published on the Blessed Is She blog.