Fewer couples are choosing marriage these days, opting for cohabitation or single parenting when children arrive on the scene. Marriage rates are at an all-time low at 6.5 marriages per 1000 people, compared to 17 following WWII (see chart below). And yet there is such power and beauty to be experienced if you choose to form a Holy Family.
Holy families are built on a foundation of faith with God at its center. The commitment of a sacramental marriage is its bricks and mortar, leading to more fulfilling long term family-life than the other options mentioned above. By any metric, whether financial, health, or child-rearing, the holy family model produces dramatically better outcomes.
Why would anyone choose anything else?
A competing model has emerged, which is called the ‘soul-mate’ model, which looks better to some couples than a ‘family-first’ model.
W. Bradford Wilcox, a senior fellow for the Institute of Family Studies, explained in a piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal:
“The soul mate model—trumpeted in books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” not to mention countless songs and rom-coms—is the idea that marriage is primarily about an intense emotional and romantic connection between two people and should last only so long as that connection remains happy and fulfilling for both parties. This self-centered model gained in popularity for many Americans starting in the 1970s, the “Me Decade.”
But feelings are a fragile foundation for marriage. A recent YouGov survey indicates that married people in California who hold this view of marriage are about 60% more likely to think their marriage might end in divorce, compared with those who have a more family-first model of marriage, believing that “Marriage is about romance but also the kids, money, raising a family together.”
The Good News About Marriage
Shaunti Feldhaun wrote an entire book, The Good News About Marriage, on why marriages built on authentic Christian faith weather the storms of life better than the ‘soul-mate’ model:
“One of the reasons for this is that those whose first commitment is to the lordship of Jesus put fewer expectations upon their spouses to meet emotional needs that only God can meet. The lessening of unrealistic expectations gives marriages a stronger foundation upon which to withstand difficult times.
Although 1 Peter 2:7 is speaking of the church in general, the words also echo the truths revealed in the statistics on Christian marriages: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” When Jesus is the cornerstone of our homes and marriages, we can weather the storms (see Matthew 7:24).”
Pulse Life Advocates has launched an entire project on THE HOLY FAMILY, because abortion is less likely to occur among married couples than non-married. According to the National Abortion Federation (no friend to holy families or the unborn), 83% of women who have abortions in the U.S. are unmarried.
The link between illegitimacy and income
The power of a holy family is dramatic on many fronts. For example, race issues are in the news with a lot of focus on inequality between the races. Asian-Americans earn more money, on average, than Caucasian Americans who earn more than Hispanic Americans who earn more than African-Americans.
The chart below gives a glimpse into one reason this might be the case: family structure:
You can see the inverse relationship between out-of-wedlock births and income. The teamwork and commitment of marriage unleashes the economic potential of a family compared to cohabitation and single parenthood. Black Americans are more than five times as likely to have out-of-wedlock children as their Asian-American counterparts. As at least a partial consequence, their median income is less than half as much. Other factors come into play, for sure, but family structure is surely a leading cause.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why marriage and holy families go together:
“There are two inseparable ends of marriage: the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. The education of children in faith, love, and wisdom is a vital task of married parental love (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2249; Gaudium et Spes, 50).
This essay affirms the power and beauty of the holy family without disparaging the efforts of single parents to raise healthy, holy children. We agree with these words from the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops:
“[W]e support and applaud the often heroic efforts of single-parent families. We also emphasize the value of parents staying together and sacrificing to raise children. Children generally do best when they have the love and support – personal and material – of both their parents” (“Putting Children and Families First: A Challenge for Our Church, Nation, and World,” 1991).