National Marriage Week (February 7th-14th) is a wonderful time for couples to reflect on the gift of their marriage and for parishes to discuss the importance of healthy and holy marriages. These discussions often involve the importance of children and family life. For this year’s National Marriage Week, I would like to highlight a lesser-known vocation, the Josephite Marriage, while also reminding couples who are dealing with infertility and waiting for a child that your marriage, and family of two, is just as valuable and necessary to the Church and society as a marriage with children.

My husband and I prayerfully discerned a Josephite marriage as I was being diagnosed with chronic illness. This arrangement, though rare, is still valid and sacramental. Oftentimes, people look at our marriage as “lesser” and even invalid because we are celibate, but also because we will never have biological children; however, it is the vows that make a marriage between two consenting, baptized parties valid and sacramental, and our marriage (and yours!) is still sacred, valuable, and filled with abundant grace.

Your marriage is sacred. To quote St. John Chrysostom, “when a husband and wife are united in marriage, they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God Himself.” How beautiful it is that through our marriage, we have the privilege to reflect the sacred image of God through the way that we love our spouse. Marriage provides us with the opportunity to imitate Jesus’s love for His Church through the unconditional, sacrificial love we give our spouse on a daily basis. We walk with our spouse to Heaven through Calvary as we share each other’s burdens and help carry each other’s crosses. In marriage, we have the honor and responsibility of being each other’s friend and helpmate as we accompany each other on the spiritual path with the hope of becoming saints, thereby fulfilling the primary purpose of marriage – to lead each other to Heaven. Even in the absence of children, married couples are still a reflection of the sacred image of God as each spouse makes sacrifices for the good of the other out of great love, just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for our salvation and now selflessly gives of Himself to us in the Eucharist – an act of great love. Childless couples and those in a season of infertility are still fulfilling their vocation as they prayerfully strive for deeper sanctification and holiness, in the hopes of leading each other to Heaven.

Your marriage is valuable. The spouses witness to fidelity and constant honoring of their wedding vows is essential to our Church and society. My husband has been living out his wedding vows of staying faithful to me “in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad” to the core. When I became ill, he faithfully stood by me (even if it meant spending the night with me in the hospital) and continues to do so to this day. In my darkest hours, I have even told him he could leave – offering him an “out” as a Josephite marriage, though valid and sacramental, is still soluble due to the unconsummated union. Yet, he constantly chooses me in every moment of the day, selflessly loving and serving me and diligently living out the vows he proclaimed to me, on a Crucifix, on our wedding day in the Spring of 2021. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, and we honor it as such through our love and fidelity toward one another even in the midst of great trials. Whether your cross is serious illness or infertility, your faithfulness and love toward your spouse in difficult times provides a necessary witness to the Church and society of a healthy and loving marriage.

Your marriage is grace-filled. St. Josemaria Escriva says, “marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others. For this reason, they receive a special grace in the sacrament Jesus instituted. Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy.” If God called us to this vocation, we can trust that He will give us the graces we need to live it out. We need not (and should not) rely on our own feeble strength to be a good spouse, rather, we should rely on the graces that the Lord gives us within the Sacrament. The Lord is on our side. He is vouching for our marriage. He is constantly filling our marriage with grace, and we only need to pray to accept it and use it well.

Even in the absence of children, your marriage is sacred, valuable, and grace-filled. Whether you have carefully discerned a Josephite marriage, are in a painful season of infertility, or have suffered from loss, your marriage is never “lesser,” and your witness to fidelity, love, and hope is a necessary example to the Church and society. During National Marriage Week, I encourage you all to reflect on the beautiful gift that is your marriage and ask God for the grace to continue to sanctify yourself and your spouse as you lift up your cross and carry it daily – with your spouse and God right there by your side.

A. Rossi is a 20-something in her third year of marriage. She loves spending time with her husband, reading, writing, crafting, and advocating for those with chronic illness and rare diseases.