St. Paul wrote that marriage is a “great mystery” that is intimately linked to the mystery of Christ and the Church. At the same time, the Church understands Matrimony to be one of the two sacraments (along with Holy Orders) that is intrinsically ordered to the service of others. At first glance it would seem that a ministry of service could hardly be considered a great or sacred mystery, so how can both of these things be true? How is marriage best to be understood? How is the primary goal of marriage — the procreation and education of children — helped by romantic love, or by the quest for wisdom and holiness? The answer lies in the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, that husband and wife are actually capable of sharing in “the greatest of friendships,” and it is this union of love that allows marriage to be the perfect venue for practising the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and living out the beatitudes in imitation of Christ.

Dr Joshua Madden lives in Oxfordshire with his wife and five children, and lectures on Catholic Theology at Blackfriars in Oxford. A convert to the Catholic Church, Dr Madden specializes in biblical theology and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, regularly publishes popular articles and podcasts and is currently working on a book on Scripture and Marriage.