Published on June 06, 2016

The Sacrament of Marriage and the Healing of Desire

written by Timothy O'Malley

Within Catholicism, there is a significant vocation crisis, and it relates to the sacrament of marriage. In 1970, there were 426,309 sacramental celebrations of marriage in the United States with a Catholic population of 51 million.[1] In 2015, there were 148,134 marriages with a Catholic population of 81 million. While quantitative data does not tell a narrative, it remains the case that sacramental marriage among those baptized into the Church risks becoming a marginally practiced rite in the next two generations, as Americans’ views of marriage—especially among emerging adults—continue to change.[2]

Of course, while an Irish American Catholic would love to simply leave the reader with this bad news as an act of dramatic performance, my obligation is to address one reason for this decline: the incapacity to make a permanent commitment to another person. This problem with commitment is especially evident among emerging adults (18–29-year-olds), who struggle with the demands placed upon them by career, financial expectations, and a malformed understanding of what constitutes the “perfect” relationship.[3] If the Church seeks to renew marriage, it will need to deal with the renewal of the practice of marriage itself, demonstrating how the Sacrament of Marriage provides a way of human flourishing distinct from secular approaches to marriage. Attention to the Order of Celebrating Marriage, the actual rite, may be helpful in this regard.

This essay will proceed in three parts. The first will attend to the disordering of desire produced by the consumer imagination, suggesting that consumerism may perhaps have more to do with the decline of marriage than one may surmise. As the reader will discover, consumerism is not ultimately about the acquisition of material goods that distract one from the task of evangelization but the formation of a specific way of desiring. In the second part, I suggest how the Order of Celebrating Matrimony can function as a healing of this disordered desire, a claim that necessitates some defense. In the third and final part, I will address some of the movements of the rite, pointing toward the kind of human flourishing made possible by contemplation of the rite’s theological and pastoral implications.

Consumer Desire and Matrimony

A consumer critique of marriage must be grounded in a proper understanding of consumption in the first place. That is, to hear that a crisis in marriage is caused by consumerism may lead to the following claim: “Young people today need to care less about material goods and more about what’s important in life.” Indeed, it is the case that emerging adults often find themselves trapped in forms of consumer desire that do not lead to human flourishing. As Christian Smith has noted, emerging adults

believe that any money that they or anyone else earns is entirely their own to do with exactly as they please. Notions such as the common welfare or of living a good life not defined by material consumption rarely cross their minds. Shopping, buying, and consuming as a way of life is thus presupposed by most emerging adults, and owning some of the nicer things in life is a natural part of the purpose of life. Most simply want and expect to live comfortably, working hard to earn money and using their earnings to happily consume products and services to their satisfaction.[4]

This approach to consumerism is not hard to find. While in Manhattan in December, I overheard a conversation in a bar in which one businessman counseled another that what really matters in marriage is having enough money to make one’s kids happy. His personal goal was to make $500,000 before he was 35 years old. He was not particularly concerned about how this money was earned, as the conversation unfolded.

Yet, this understanding of consumerism is limited insofar as it does not get to the root of the problem. In his now classic account of consumer desire, Vincent Miller provides a corrective to those who perceive the essence of consumer desire in acquisitiveness, the greedy acquisition of material goods.[5] If consumerism is simply badly formed desires, necessitating a reconsideration of what one really needs, then it is easily fixable: want less, buy less, and learn to be happy with what one has.

Rather, for Miller, the problem with consumerism is that it apes a Christian form of desiring, rooted in Augustinian anthropology. As he writes, “Close examination of the texture of desire in consumer culture reveals that [it] is not simply about fixing one’s heart on materials or sensual pleasure. Indeed, it is about never being satisfied with them. This is a much more complex problem.”[6] Consumer culture forms the human being as an endlessly desiring being, a goal it shares in particular with Christian faith. The human person is not complete in anything, until one finds completion in God. Consumer culture takes up this anthropological perspective, affirming it, and then using it toward its own ends: the fostering of an endless cycle of consumption. In particular, advertising is the sacramental liturgy of this form of desiring.

How does advertising work? Miller describes two correlative elements present in modern advertising: seduction and misdirection. Seduction is not simply sexual as one might imagine (although sex is often the most powerful form of seduction). Rather, seduction is a formation into an endless pleasure seeking, whereby the human being recreates his or her identity. Miller writes:

Consumer desire . . . strengthens the joys of seeking, of reaching out. The sufferings of particular lacks are endlessly rewritten with new desires. The bitterness of disappointment and frustration with particular objects of desire is endlessly glazed over by the sweetness of desire for new ones. With each cycle, the subject is reinforced in the habit of endless consumption, formed in the joys of endless desire. Thus, the insatiability of consumer desire arises not from confusion about the proper object of human longing, but as a result of formation in the daily commerce of advanced capitalist economies.[7]

Photo: thinkretail; CC BY-NC 2.0.
Photo: thinkretail; CC BY-NC 2.0. 

Apple, for example, employs this kind of seduction masterfully.[8] The desire to connect more deeply to our family and thus be perceived as a decent parent; the desire to stand out as a unique individual in contradiction to those who own PCs, who are portrayed as glum, non-hipsters sucking the joy from life; the desire to travel the world and to capture it with some device. Advertising knows that the human person does not simply want a cell phone but a sense of meaning, a beautiful existence. The new Apple product promises a closer connection to the entire human family, seducing the consumer to see this good as fulfilled in the product.

For this reason, seduction works in tandem with misdirection. Misdirection is the suggestion, sometimes patent, sometimes latent, that procuring this material good will fulfill this basic human desire. Misdirection is “is the systematic association of other needs and desires with commodity objects and the resultant channeling of the drive to fulfill these needs into acts of consumption.”[9] A car commercial set against the background of a rugged terrain seems to proclaim that if one wants to be this kind of rugged person—the kind of person who lives out the American dream to go West, to be unlimited— one should buy a Subaru. Such commercials do not show how most Americans would use this car: parking it in a driveway, driving it to commute to work, parking it, returning to it at the end of the day, and then driving it home. The car is not simply a machine that gets one to work. The car is the fulfillment of an identity.

Of course, because these businesses are actually designed to attempt to procure profits, they cannot be satisfied with producing advertising that actually leaves the viewer fulfilled. The process of seduction is never ending. Once the product is purchased, the advertiser must show how a newer commodity would actually be even more fulfilling than the initially purchased product. Despite its initial excellence, the advertising must demonstrate why the iPhone 5’s camera is paltry, insufficient once one encounters what is present in the iPhone 6. Products, in fact, are designed to fall apart after a certain period of time so that advertising may effectively proclaim anew the kerygma of the incomplete.

For Miller, the problem therefore of consumerism is not that it is an unholy acquisition of materiality. Actually, consumerism is not strictly speaking material at all. It’s an aping, a disordering, of the very process by which Christian desire works. At the heart of Christian existence is the capacity for endless desire, for a fulfilling happiness beyond anything that a human being can construct. The well-formed Christian is aware that this kind of fulfillment is not possible until the beatific vision when one beholds God face-to-face.

The problem ... is that they have been formed to perceive human happiness as mediated through an endless process of acquisition. In this case, the wedding itself becomes a product par excellence.

In this sense, the problem of marriage and consumerism is not that emerging adults are too focused upon material goods. Rather, it is that they have been formed to perceive human happiness as mediated through an endless process of acquisition. In this case, the wedding itself becomes a product par excellence. One need only peruse to discover a cultural account of marriage in which the acquisition of certain wedding goods, the creation of an experience, will lead to the fullness of human flourishing. How else would the wedding industrial complex convince couples that it was sensible to spend on average within the United States $26,444 (not including the honeymoon), the cost of a down payment on a first home?[10]

The problem, of course, is that the actual event of the wedding itself, despite its cultural and economic prominence, does not guarantee happiness. If consumer desire has been formed through the twin processes of seduction and misdirection, then many couples may eventually come to the conclusion that the ennui that sets in during most marriages in the first years is a sign that one must look for a new product. One is no longer “satisfied” by this person, and thus, it is time to look elsewhere. In the context of dating, this would mean that any dissatisfaction with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend necessitates looking for a new one. This is a problem for marriage and Christian existence alike.

For, as Miller points out, the robustness of Christian faith is not simply about the endless referral of desire. Instead, it is about a form of commitment, which consumer culture makes nearly impossible. He writes:

Because of the misdirection by advertising of needs and desires toward consumption, our more profound desires are focused on the moment of decision. We are looking to choose the ideal vision, synthesis, or vocation that will bring everything together for us. Commitment becomes a momentary action of self-disposition, not a long-term process of self-transformation. The practice we are engaging in is consumption. Thus, it is hard for us to move on to the transformative practices of the tradition we choose.[11]

Marriage is not, in the end, a moment of self-fulfillment. Rather, Christian marriage consists of a series of lifelong practices whereby the spouse becomes for the other Christ’s sacrificial love.[12] It is commitment even to the mundaneness of marriage within Catholicism that enables one to discover the fullness of human flourishing.

Thus, through the consumer imagination, the human person is formed to seek satisfaction not simply in material goods but in human persons as well. The commitment of marriage, necessary even for a secular marriage, is simply too much because it locks one into a form of life in which other options are no longer on the table. To this viewer, it is no accident that Don Draper in Mad Men works in advertising, experiences significant problems in his marriage, and seeks fulfillment in sexual liaisons. He is the icon of consumer desire, and it is almost honorable that many young adults choose not to be married rather than to leave the wounds that a Draper would.

The Rite of Marriage: Healing the Imagination?

It may seem counterintuitive to heal the consumer imagination through focusing on the rite of marriage itself. After all, if participation in the rite is in significant decline, then perhaps one may conclude that there is little interest in the sacrament itself—that the once robust cultural Catholicism leading many to participate in the rite of marriage has now passed away.[13]

While this argument cannot be entirely dismissed, it remains the case that those couples who do get married want to have a wedding that does provide a real sense of “sacredness” to this rite of passage. At, one is just as likely to find articles on creating the optimal ceremony that expresses the couples’ unique love as pieces on planning the perfect honeymoon. The implicit necessity of some ritual activity at this moment, even if it is not performed in the walls of a church (and it often is), means that the Church’s ritual life has the power to become a persuasive moment of evangelization.

Louis-Marie Chauvet describes the complex way that rites function as evangelizing for the modern person. Indeed, one cannot escape from ritual formation in the school of discipleship. Ritual positions the Christian in the world, forming the person in an identity attached to specific habits of life:

One becomes a Christian only by entering an institution, and the modes of Christian behavior which may appear the most ‘personal’ (meditative prayer, for example) or the most ‘authentic’ (concern for others) are always the expression of an apprenticeship interiorized for a long time and of habits inculcated by institutional and highly ritualized processes.[14]

Of course, as Chauvet notes, this ritual can be performed in a deadening, even psychologically unhealthy way. But, there is something about marriage in particular in which, even though couples may reject institutions (and emerging adults often do), they nonetheless require this moment of positioning in which they transition from being fiancés to being married.

It is the concrete images, practices, and narratives prescribed in the rite that can heal human desire. Marriage, in its Christian specificity, can actually offer a more authentic way of freedom than marriage outside the Christian economy.

Chauvet notes that this positioning has in fact been complicated by the renewal of the rites enacted by the Second Vatican Council. On the one hand, the couple coming to celebrate marriage is seeking certain psychological and spiritual benefits. They want a beautiful space to ritually mark this important moment of their lives. They want to be married in the very same church where their parents were, seeing their own union as connected to family life. On the other hand, the rite itself prescribes a theological vision of what marriage consists of, often at odds with the social-cultural desires that the couple brings to the altar. For the couple, there is an anthropological reason to perform the rite of marriage, one often grounded in the very culture of consumerism described above. For the Church, there is the sacramental claim that marriage is fundamentally oriented toward the elevation of natural love to its supernatural end: the couple becoming an icon of Christ and the Church for the world.

The goal is not to deny the anthropological dimension of the rite, grounded in the socio-cultural milieu. This would be to foreclose the possibility of any real conversion or conversation to begin with. Instead, it is to offer a sacramental apologia, a reason that Christian marriage actually more than fulfills these anthropological desires.[15] This apologia must argue that the happiness that the couples want may be achieved in the particular commitment made during the nuptial liturgy but performed over the course of a lifetime of Eucharistic love. In this sense, there has to be a renewal of the imagination itself around the Sacrament of Marriage.

In his recently published Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis is aware of this plight of the sacramental imagination vis-à-vis marriage. Among young adults in particular, he notes that the institution of marriage is questioned. He thus advises:

We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage.[16]

The renewal of marriage, among even marginal Catholics, will therefore occur not at the level of intellectual argument about the proper order of procreation. It will not be an intellectual discourse in which one argues for marriage. Rather, it will be a renewal of the imagination in which couples are introduced into the possibility that their deepest desires are answered in the rites of the Church—that somehow, the sacramental provides the proper arena for human flourishing.

Therefore, attention to the specifics of the Order of Celebrating Matrimony is not a Sisyphean task when working with emerging adults. Rather, it is the concrete images, practices, and narratives prescribed in the rite that can heal human desire. Marriage, in its Christian specificity, can actually offer a more authentic way of freedom than marriage outside the Christian economy.[17]

The Order of Celebrating Marriage as Healing Consumer Desire

While a wholesale reading of the Order of Celebrating Marriage would be necessary, at present, I seek simply to show some ways that the rite itself can function as a medicine for the illness of consumer desire. First, it should be noted that the Sacrament of Marriage does not dismiss the natural order of human love. Among those interested in the renewal of marriage, it has become de rigeur to critique contemporary conceptions of love. These approaches to love seem to place the onus of marriage upon the affections rather than the art of self-gift. Of course, there is a truth to this, which must be attended to. But, as Augustine notes in his Confessions, all human sin is an aping of some goodness, a disordered desire for the good that is creation.

In this regard, even something like cohabitation reveals a desire for a union. A decision simply to get married in the Church, even if one is not a missionary disciple and simply finds the place “pretty,” manifests recognition that the monumental nature of this event, of this act of love, should be marked through beauty. Sacraments do not destroy this natural love but rather elevate it, restoring human desire to its proper place. A liturgical-sacramental formation for marriage acknowledges the authenticity of self-gift, even if not properly ordered.

But as in all the sacraments, that which is natural is eventually transformed into a gift. As the Orthodox liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann reminds Catholics, liturgical rites do not simply effect some grace. Rather, they return men and women to their original priestly and thus Eucharistic function. This return is through love. Schmemann writes:

As long as we visualize marriage as the concern of those alone who are being married, as something that happens to them and not to the whole Church, and, therefore, to the world itself, we shall never understand the truly sacramental meaning of marriage. . . . We must understand that the real theme, ‘content’ and object of this sacrament is . . . love. . . . In this sense the sacrament of marriage is wider than family. It is the sacrament of divine love, as the all-embracing mystery of being itself, and it is for this reason that it concerns the whole Church, and—through the Church—the whole world.[18]

The love of the couple is being knit into the love of the Church, transforming this love into something that has implications for the cosmos itself. This love is “formed” and “reformed” through the nuptial kerygma of the sacrament.

Of course, one may object that the rite itself can be celebrated in such a way that one does not experience a healing of this desire. After all, Catholics get divorced too. Catholics get bored of marriage, despite having participated in the rite. How can the rite itself heal?

At the heart of this Sacrament of Marriage, if contemplated well, one discovers an understanding of human desire related not to consumption but the converting logic of the gift.

To a certain degree, this question has not been answered by the Church. Formation programs for marriage have tended to focus primarily upon human formation with little attention given to the deeper spiritual renewal required for participation in the sacrament. Marriage retreats concern themselves with communication skills, with parenting, with an often paltry defense of Natural Family Planning, and perhaps a workshop given over to planning the liturgy for the rite. What remains absent is providing the spiritual formation that might enable a fruitful participation in the sacramental gift of marriage. It is precisely this spiritual and thus sacramental formation around the rite that may be healing of consumer desire. And at the heart of this Sacrament of Marriage, if contemplated well, one discovers an understanding of human desire related not to consumption but the converting logic of the gift.[19]

What is meant by the logic of the gift, and how is it discernable in the rite itself? Marriage as a sacrament requires a theological anthropology quite distinct from that of consumer desire. In consumer desire, the naked self is at the center, seeking out material objects to satiate (at least briefly) one’s desire. In Christian marriage, the rite “performs” a distinctive anthropology, one grounded in the Trinitarian and thus Paschal logic of the gift. Cardinal Ouellet writes:

The sacramental celebration of the marriage of two of the baptized is a highly symbolic event, which introduces a fledgling conjugal love into the mystery of Christ’s nuptial love for the Church. This holy rite is not just the starting point along a path; it is a consecration enabling the couple’s and the family’s whole life, making it an offering to the Lord. This offering is accepted, blessed, and given back to the new spouses as a ‘mission’ received from him, destined to glorify God in the flesh. From the moment of the sacramental exchange of gifts in faith, this mission consists above all in radiating Christ’s love for the Church in the spouses’ fleshly exchange, in their openness to life, in the education of children, and in various services rendered to society.[20]

The rite of marriage, then, is not a sacrament that is fundamentally about the individual desires of the couple. Instead, it is the transformation of burgeoning natural love into a gift for the world. At the very moment in the romantic encounter in which the spouse might seek to consume the other in total desire, the Church prays with the couple so that their love might be re-directed toward the world. The rite, then, is not then about creating a place where the couple can individually express their love. Instead, it interrupts this “individual love,” necessitating that the couple extend their love outside of themselves toward the world.

How is this logic of the gift present in the rite? One initial place to look is in the series of readings assigned by the Church. One encounters in the Scriptures an image of what human love looks like as it is transformed into the order of divine gift. At the wedding liturgy, the couple may hear the following text:

The Lord has established his reign,
[our] God, the almighty.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
his bride has made herself ready. (Rev 19:6–7)

Here the nuptial imagery employed by God in the prophets, continued in Christ as the Bridegroom from whom blood and water flows upon the Cross, finds its final end. The eschatological vision of heaven is not disembodied but is a wedding feast. The feast that the Church enjoys in the celebration of the couple, no matter their particular background, is itself a foretaste of this eschatological hope. Imagine telling a couple receiving marriage that not only will they celebrate this feast today but also the entire Church, because this couple has presented a vision of the hope that every human being longs for. Certainly, this would make a better homily than telling the couple how unique their relationship is.

Photo: Tom O'Connor; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Photo: Tom O'Connor; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Yet, perhaps desire is most healed in the consent that is offered in every Sacrament of Marriage. While much could be said about the history of consent,[21] it is perhaps more important here to pay attention to the ritual action, which is itself a theological performance of divine love. The couple proclaims, “I, N., take you, N., to be my wife / my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” This consent, of course, is what “seals the deal.” But this is an inadequate treatment of what is actually taking place. In some ways, the consumer desire addressed above is now sacrificed upon the altar of divine love. One promises in a public manner (and the public nature matters) that love and honor shall be offered permanently. The promise is not saccharine. It is not naïve. The couple recognizes at this most sacred moment the perils of sickness and thus death. The poverty of human existence is recognized but it is transfigured. And the Church’s consecration of this act, the nuptial blessing itself, becomes the lifting up of this self-offering, nearly Eucharistic in form, to a participation in the life of God:

Christian marriage can be seen as an overflowing source of Trinitarian life, a specific participation in the very fruitfulness of God in Christ. From the moment of the consecration of marriage, this participation is no longer received by two individuals, but by a new community, by an I-thou that has become a subjective and objective we.[22]

Thus, the moment of consent is more than the moment of sacramental happening. Instead, it is the consecration of a love, of a life, a lifting up of a particular union into God’s own gift-giving. These are not vows that are personal expressions of desire. Rather, they are a commitment, a ritual performance into a form of life, a consecration that transforms the mundane into the place of salvation.

And indeed, the final orientation of marriage is actually not to sexual union and thus procreation per se but to Eucharistic self-gift. In fact, the celebration of the Eucharist in the marriage rite is to give form to what follows for the couple: a mundane life, in which self-gift is lived out in such a way that one cannot perceive its wonder. As Cardinal Scola notes relative to marriage:

The sacrament of marriage and the family . . . requires therefore that the Christian spouses live the profundity of the sacramental logic on a daily basis. The same human experience of love between man and woman teaches us that the more the reciprocal gift grows, the more the other is allowed to be truly such, that is properly other; the more the difference is respected and, therefore, its character one of gift, the more likely there will be an equality of rights-duties. One can say in this sense that the best school of matrimonial life is the Eucharist/church. In fact, it becomes the primary path of education in the gift, and therefore of education in how to live reality.[23]

The Sacrament of Marriage within Catholicism is not simply about “getting married in the Church,” and thus remaining within the bounds of social acceptability. If this was the case, then the era for ecclesial weddings has passed. Instead, the rite of marriage gives a form to a life, at its very beginning, toward self-gift. Marriage is not about consumer desire, the individual’s happiness, or even about the couple. It is about the transformation of the world into a place of gift. The rite itself becomes an occasion to transform the mundaneness of the world, of raising children and taking out trash, and caring for those on the margins. The rite itself provides those salutary images, a saving narrative, and a commitment toward Eucharistic love that might serve as a medicine against consumer desire.

Conclusion: A Liturgical Catechesis for Marriage Formation

Marriage is a sacrament. And yet, it risks disappearing because the fear of a lifelong commitment exists—a fear brought about partially through the effect of consumer desire among emerging adults. The Church cannot fix this problem easily. But, she can celebrate matrimony in the world today as a healing sign of what lifelong commitment consists of. She can proclaim the kerygma of marriage that every nuptial union is not about the individual couple but the salvation of the world through nuptial love. She can hold up the gift of consent as a lifelong commitment to another, in which one practices the logic of the gift from day-to-day, making God’s love available in the process.

Perhaps, it is actually a liturgical formation of couples seeking out marriage that may bear the most fruit in the Church today. Although the rite of marriage is in decline, it remains an anthropologically important moment of transition. Instead of creating marriage retreats in which the couple turns inward to address communication, budgeting, and how to raise children, the Church would be negligent if she did not learn to nourish the sacramental imagination of the couple in formation. This kind of formation, attentive to the transformation that takes place in the rite, may function as a salve for a consumer desire that eschews commitment.

Editorial Note: This essay is an adaptation of a talk given at Benedictine College from April 9, 2016 at the 5th Annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization.

Featured Photo: RiNux; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

[1] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, “Frequently Requested Church Statistics” (Accessed May 27, 2016).

[2] Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 169–204.

[3] Shmuel Shulman and Jennifer Connolly, “The Challenge of Romantic Relationships in Emerging Adulthood” in The Oxford Handbook of Emerging Adulthood, ed. Jeffrey Jansen Arnett (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 230–244.

[4] Christian Smith with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, and Patricia Snell Herzog, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 108.

[5] Vincent J. Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (New York: Continuum, 2008).

[6] Ibid., 110.

[7] Ibid., 119.

[8] See Brett Robinson, Appletopia: Media Technology and the Religious Imagination of Steve Jobs (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2013).

[9] Miller, Consuming Religion, 119.

[10] See, Rebecca Mead, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding (New York: Penguin, 2008).

[11] Miller, Consuming Religion, 144.

[12] Kent Lasnoski, Vocation to Virtue: Christian Marriage as a Consecrated Life (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2014).

[13] This is, of course, the suggestion of Sherry Waddell in Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus (Huntington, IN: OSV Press, 2012).

[14] Louis-Marie Chauvet, The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body, trans. Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001), 112.

[15] This approach to sacramental apologetics is suggested by Marc Cardinal Ouellet: “In a postmodern context, we have to justify the ‘why’ of the sacraments; it is not enough to explain their ‘how’ within a universe of meaning that no longer exists” in Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 2.

[16] Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, §40.

[17] Here, I am presuming that theology has social implications unto itself, which the theologian may attend to. See John Milbank, Theology & Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 382–442.

[18] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s 1982), 82.

[19] Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Divine Likeness: Toward a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family, trans. Philip Milligan and Linda M. Cicone (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 206–24.

[20] Ibid., 218.

[21] Edward Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery (London: Sheed and Ward, 1965), 231–397.

[22] Ouellet, Mystery and the Sacrament of Love, 97.

[23] Angelo Cardinal Scola, The Nuptial Mystery, trans. Michelle K. Boras (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 302.

Timothy O'Malley

Timothy O'Malley

Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, where he engages in scholarship that seeks to retrieve biblical, catechetical, and liturgical insights that facilitate a renewal of the Church’s liturgical imagination. He is also an associate professional specialist in the department of theology at the University of Notre Dame, where he teaches courses on preaching, catechesis, liturgical theology, and the Scriptures. In addition to authoring numerous articles, the book Liturgy and the New Evangelization, and a forthcoming monograph entitled On Praise: Worship and the Eschatological Imagination, O’Malley is the founding editor for Church Life.


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