Welcome to the Office for Marriage & Family Life!

The Office for Marriage and Family Life places itself at the service of parishes and families so that they can answer their call to holiness and help form communities of love and life in Jesus Christ. Our primary goal is to help families become what they are by realizing these four tasks:

  • Forming a Community of Persons
  • Serving Life
  • Participating in the development of Society
  • Sharing in the life and mission of the Church

The Feast of the Annunciation: Welcoming Children from God

The Feast of the Annunciation is a great time to pray for all children conceived in 2017.
The Feast of the Annunciation is a great time to pray for all children conceived this year.

On March 25th the Catholic Church will celebrate the feast of the Annunciation and honor Mary’s great fiat – her great yes to God’s invitation to become the mother of our Savior. This is cause for great rejoicing. And yet, this feast day, which is often overshadowed by the season of Lent, is rarely elevated with jubilation in our parishes.

Sadly, the news of some pregnancies today is also not cause for immediate rejoicing and celebration. Here, I refer to couples who sit on their “good news” because of a fear that they may miscarry. This fear may be well founded. Nearly 50% of all pregnancies are lost according to an article in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology. In most cases, the loss happens so early after conception that the mother may not have even known that she was pregnant. But, one fourth to one fifth of clinically diagnosed pregnancies are lost. Statistically, 10% of confirmed pregnancies are lost when the mother is 30 years of age and around 40% are lost by age 40. In addition, 5% of pregnancy losses are called recurrent which means that the mother has lost 2 or more children consecutively in the first trimester.

The causes for miscarriage are varied. Over half of first trimester losses are due to a chromosome anomaly that will likely not be repeated. In other cases, the loss is the result of a immunologic, lifestyle choice or infection. No matter the cause, the loss is usually devastating and painful.

Life in the womb is becoming more and more tenuous. Let us be mindful of the complex nature of pregnancy and the need to commend all unborn children to the protection and care of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps we can begin our mindfulness by wholeheartedly celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on March 25th. As we do so, let us pray for all couples who will conceive this year, asking God to provide them with healthy and safe pregnancies that bring forth our next generation.

Tip for a Better Marriage: Know Your Trigger

mp-angerWhat helps you calm down when you are upset? Are there “trigger” words that cause situations to escalate? Identify these and work with your spouse to adjust your conversations accordingly.

Research says Dating in Middle School is a Bad Idea

Ready to date?
Ready to date?

One question that we get asked often is, “when can I let my child date?” This is a very good question. In general, dating implies some form of intimacy which involves emotional closeness. A desire to single date typically comes from a longing to be physically close to someone who is attractive.  While these feelings can and do begin in middle school, there is mounting evidence that parents should NOT let their middle school children act on these sentiments.

An article in the on-line Newsweek Magazine reports that middle school students who date are setting themselves up for catastrophe. According to research conducted at the University of Georgia, teens who “couple up” in middle school are four times more likely to be high school drop outs and twice as likely to use drugs and alcohol. In addition, they are more likely to suffer from depression and other risk behaviors.

The findings from this research team seem logical to us because youth between the ages of 12 and 15 are not capable of processing and controlling the physical and emotional stimulations that accompany dating. For starters, a typical middle school youth is undergoing tremendous hormonal changes. These changes directly impact not only the youth’s reproductive system but also the nervous system; in particular the child’s brain. The major brain activity for an adolescent is the completion of the circuitry that connects all of the lobes of the brain to the “thinking” frontal cortex. This delicate and complex rewiring of the brain determines the capacity for rational thinking and decision making in adulthood. During the teenage years, the development of the brain is slow and methodical. It is not changing at the same pace as the other physical changes that make the child appear more like an adult. What does all of this mean? Even though your child looks like they are mature, his or her brain is not fully functional and should be treated as such.

During this time of intricate neural development, your child will think less clearly, find it difficult to understand and read emotions and be more impulsive. All of these tendencies in and of themselves spell trouble. But, when they are joined with dating, the problems that result can be even more treacherous and disastrous.   

We strongly suggest that parents postpone single dating until after the age of 16 because a 16 year old has greater self-discipline and self-knowledge than someone younger. Dating before the age of 16 is more likely to lead to risky behaviors and abuse. We have another dating rule to consider. When you do allow your child to single date, discourage them from dating people more than 2 years their senior. Older youth are more likely to take advantage of the younger person and to promote unhealthy risks.

For more information about adolescent brain develop, consider watching the Quick Facts about Adolescence segment that is part of the Teaching the Way of Love series.

Photo Credit: Middle School Dance 2006
Photographer: Carole Powell

Lenten Resolutions for Married Couples(Inspired by Pope Francis)

By Bethany Meola as posted on

Make some Lenten resolutions for your marriage this year.
Make some Lenten resolutions for your marriage this year.

Are you wondering how to grow in holiness this Lent, together with your spouse? Try following some advice from the Pope! In homilies and addresses, Pope Francis has spoken quite directly about how husband and wife should treat each other, about prayer within the family, and other ways the family lives its identity as a “domestic Church.” So this Lent, why not commit with your spouse to try one of the following Lenten resolutions, based on words from the Holy Father?

1) Be courteous to your spouse. Use polite requests: “May I? Can I?” For example, “Would you like for us to do this?” and “Do you want to go out tonight?”

“To ask permission means to know how to enter with courtesy into the lives of others. …True love does not impose itself harshly and aggressively” (Address to Engaged Couples, Rome, Feb. 14, 2014).

2) Say “thank you” to your spouse. “It seems so easy to say these words, but we know that it is not. But it is important! … It is important to keep alive the awareness that the other person is a gift from God – and for the gifts of God we say thank you!” (Address to Engaged Couples, Rome, Feb. 14, 2014)

3) Ask forgiveness from your spouse. Say, “I’m sorry.”

Let us learn to acknowledge our mistakes and to ask to forgiveness. ‘Forgive me if today I raised my voice’; ‘I’m sorry if I passed without greeting you’; ‘excuse me if I was late’” (Address to Engaged Couples, Rome, Feb. 14, 2014).

“Never let the sun go down without making peace! Never, never, never!” (Address to Engaged Couples, Rome, Feb. 14, 2014)

“It is important to have the courage to ask forgiveness when we are at fault in the family” (Address to Participants in the Pilgrimage of Families, Rome, Oct. 26, 2013).

4) Pray together with your spouse and family.

“Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents…praying for each other. This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer” (Homily for Family Day, Rome, Oct. 27, 2013).

Pray to the Lord to “multiply your love and give it to you fresh and good each day.” Pray together, “Lord, give us this day our daily love” (Address to Engaged Couples, Rome, Feb. 14, 2014).

5) Visit the elderly, especially your grandparents. “Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family, they are the wisdom of a people. … Listen to your grandparents” (Address to Participants in the Pilgrimage of Families, Rome, Oct. 26, 2013).

“How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society!” (Angelus at World Youth Day, Rio de Janeiro, July 26, 2013)

6) Share the faith with others. “Christian families are missionary families. …They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!” (Homily for Family Day, Rome, Oct. 27, 2013)

Bethany Meola is the Assistant Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. She hopes to grow in holiness during Lent with her husband, Dan.