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

Divine Mercy – What is it?

The Sunday after Easter has been declared by Pope John Paul II as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” What a great time to learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy and the special day of Mercy the Church celebrates every year!

The devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus was given to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska in a series of visions she had of our Lord. Sister Faustina was an uneducated Polish nun. She wrote a 600-page diary about her visions at the request of her spiritual director. The message of the visions became very popular by her death in 1938, and devotion to the Divine Mercy began growing throughout the world.

Jesus’ Message of Divine Mercy

Jesus’ message to Saint Faustina was very much in line with what He taught in His earthly ministry.

Ask for Mercy: Jesus reminded Saint Faustina (and through her, all of us) that God is eager to forgive our sins, if we would only we acknowledge them and ask for His forgiveness. Jesus won infinite mercy for us on the Cross. But we need to receive that mercy – and to receive His mercy we need to ask for it.

Be Merciful: In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors).” In His story of the unforgiving servant, Jesus makes a strong point that those who do not forgive cannot receive forgiveness. Mercy is love in the midst of suffering. To show mercy is to exercise love. To receive mercy is to receive love. If our hearts are hardened against giving love, how can they be soft enough to receive it?

Completely Trust in Jesus: Saint Faustina had an image made of her vision of Jesus. You’ve probably seen it. It’s a picture of Jesus with red and white rays shining from His heart and the words “Jesus, I trust in you” across the bottom. Trust is the most fundamental element of a relationship. Once we acknowledge our sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness, we need to trust that He will forgive us – that His mercy is vast enough to keep forgiving us even when we continue sinning in our weakness.  In His love for us, Jesus wanted to strengthen our trust in Him and in His mercy.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

The devotion that sprang from Jesus’ visions to Saint Faustina is known as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. As devotional prayers go, this is a pretty simple one. But it is profound in its power. This Chaplet actually draws our hearts to all three parts of Jesus’ message to us. It calls us to ask for mercy through the words of the Chaplet. It calls us to bring others to the mercy of Jesus in its intentions. And it is a prayer of trust in Jesus’ mercy.

After an opening prayer, the Chaplet starts with an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Apostle’s Creed. It uses a regular Rosary. On the “Our Father” beads, we say:

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our lord Jesus Christ. In atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

On the “Hail Mary” beads, we say:

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole lot world.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday is a special day for the Church to recall the great mercy Jesus won for us on the Cross. It’s much broader than a day honoring Saint Faustina, though the Divine Mercy Chaplet plays an important role in the celebration.

Divine Mercy Sunday comes right after the Easter Octave, which ends on Saturday and it extends the Easter celebration. It reminds us again that we are celebrating Jesus’ incredible love for us on the Cross, His conquering sin and death in His glorious Resurrection, and the abundance of grace that flows out to us from His incredible act of salvation.

Fittingly, there is a plenary indulgence associated with praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet in a group or in a church (or in a group in church) on Divine Mercy Sunday. A plenary indulgence wipes away the “temporal punishment” for sin that remains even after we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we die with no temporal punishment for sin, we will have no need for Purgatory. To get the Plenary Indulgence you need to:

  1. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (within a week of Divine Mercy Sunday)
  2. Receive the Holy Eucharist (going to Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday fulfills this requirement)
  3. Have no affection for sin. This is a very ambiguous requirement for an indulgence (it’s standard for all plenary indulgences). It basically means that you’re far enough along your spiritual path that you no longer struggle with being attracted to sin. If you don’t think you’re that far yet, don’t worry. Make a firm choice that you hate your sin and want to conquer it, then trust in Jesus’ mercy.
  4. Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (this is usually part of the chaplet – you can dedicate the opening Our Father, Hail Mary and Apostle’s Creed to the Holy Father’s intentions).
  5. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a group (even your family) and/or in church with the intention of gaining the indulgence.
  6. Let grace and mercy flow!

Not a New Prayer

While Saint Faustina’s visions of Jesus happened in the 20th Century, the devotion to Divine Mercy isn’t new. We saw how Jesus’ message to Saint Faustina was a continuation of the message He taught during His earthly ministry. Likewise, the devotion itself is a continuation of the Church’s constant understanding of mercy. In fact, the image of the Divine Mercy is very close to the image for the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Both devotions are acknowledgements of Jesus’ love and mercy.

The Divine Mercy is also a very Eucharistic prayer. The Church talks about the special way that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist – “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.” So the words of the prayer, “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son our lord Jesus Christ,” are not used in isolation. They represent our participation in Jesus’ eternal self-offering to the Father, as we offer Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to the Father in atonement for sin.

Get to Know Divine Mercy!

The Year of Mercy is the perfect time to become more familiar with the powerful devotion to the Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Learn how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Even if you missed the Divine Mercy Novena (which started on Good Friday), download a copy and pray through the intentions.

Finally, learn more about Divine Mercy Sunday and the indulgence associated with it.


Celebration Season is here – putting Christ in each event

With the cold and snow behind us we hope we are gearing up for those times of sunshine and celebration in our lives and in the life of the Church. Be it a child’s First Communion, graduation, weddings or just a long awaited vacation, it is an important reminder to include our faith in these watershed moments.

Put Jesus at the Center of Your Celebrations!
Put Jesus at the Center of Your Celebrations!

The benefit of recognizing and using our faith lies in seeing where we have come from and how God has used the blessing, struggles and opportunities in our lives to bring about this celebration. Of course, the way in which we communicate to God is in prayer. In the life of our faith there are four basic forms of prayer: adoration (giving praise to God), petition (asking God for something), contrition (asking forgiveness), and thanksgiving (thanking God). It is important to keep these forms in mind when formulating how to involve God in one of these moments of celebration.

Here are a few examples of how include Christ in your celebrations:

1st Communion/Confirmation

    • This is certainly one of the most obvious ways to continue to make Christ part of the celebration. After the Mass, celebrate this great experience with a party and begin it with a toast and prayer for your child. Thank God publicly for deepening the faith of the child.


    • Consider purchasing a religious icon or sacramental to give to graduates as they go out to make their way in the world. A good example would be a crucifix for their dorm or a rosary for when they feel alone.


    • Solemnize your participating in the event with more than a toaster or alarm clock.
    • Give a parent’s or friend’s blessing by thanking God for them, praising Him for their union and petitioning God to provide them many years together.


  • Remember your Sunday obligation to utilize all four forms of prayer at Mass! Visit to determine the parish and mass times at your vacation location.
  • Use downtime in the car to pray together as a family with the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • End each day of your vacation by thanking God for the fun and relaxation you shared that day.

As Catholics it is always important to shroud ourselves in the culture of our Catholic faith. The great blessing and benefit of Catholicism is that we are not limited to only a place of worship, but are part of a great well spring of community and a bastion of love, mercy and celebration. Thus, when we participate in a celebratory occasion, it is always appropriate to be mindful of God’s purpose and presence in it.

Pick up your Cross and Follow Me!

By Matthew Canter

mp-Iron MikeAnyone familiar with the US Army Infantry knows that its motto is ‘Follow Me!’

The infantry is the main land combat force and backbone of the Army. They are responsible for defending our country against any threat by land, as well as capturing, destroying and repelling enemy ground forces. As such, the infantry plays the central role in the army as the premier fighting force for all combat operations. This motto of ‘Follow Me!’ is analogous to our Catholic faith.

As Catholic men, we are called to be at the forefront of our family’s endeavors to show love both inside and outside our homes. The analogy helps us hold fast to the idea that we cannot expect our families to go into something that we ourselves would be unwilling to do. We must see our objective as leading from the front as we journey together to heaven.

Take up your cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24)

This analogy gains a new perspective when we put it into the context of Christ. Far too often Catholics tend to associate Christ as a moral messenger and forget that he was brutally tormented by a state that had perfected the act of torture. If we are called to follow Him, then we, in turn, are called to suffer. We must remember that suffering takes on many forms. The Christian example is always to die to yourself for the sake of another. This is the example that Christ gave us. This is what it means to be a man of the cross.

There is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)

Whether you are married or single, you are called to be of service to others and lead; to pick up your cross.

Photo Credit: Follow Me! – Iron Mike, Fort Benning Georgia
Photo by John D. Helms –

Finding a Life-long Spouse: 10 Findings for Youth & Young Adults

By Alice Heinzen
Parents of high school and post-secondary young adults used to guide their offspring towards healthy, life-long marriages and away serious dating that results in a living together conclusion. Sadly, the current dating culture rarely focuses on life-long marriage as the right and best outcome. Rather, it directs young adults towards a life of serial monogamy (one relationship after another). If you are a parent with a late teen or early 20s aged child, know that what you expect can make a huge difference in the type of relationships your child will experience. Here are ten findings that you should read.

1. Marrying as a teenager is the highest known risk factor for divorce. 

People who marry in their teens are two to three times more likely to divorce than people who marry in their twenties or older.

2. The most likely way to find a future marriage partner is through an introduction by family, friends, or acquaintances. 

Despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love through chance or fate, the evidence suggests that social networks are important in bringing together individuals of similar interests and backgrounds, especially when it comes to selecting a marriage partner. According to a large-scale national survey of sexuality, almost sixty percent of married people were introduced by family, friends, co-workers or other acquaintances.

3. The more similar people are in their values, backgrounds and life goals, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage. 

Opposites may attract but they may not live together harmoniously as married couples. People who share common backgrounds and similar social networks are better suited as marriage partners than people who are very different in their backgrounds and networks.

4. Women have a significantly better chance of marrying if they do not become single parents before marrying. 

Having a child out of wedlock reduces the chances of ever marrying. Despite the growing numbers of potential marriage partners with children, one study noted, “having children is still one of the least desirable characteristics a potential marriage partner can possess.” The only partner characteristic men and women rank as even less desirable than having children is the inability to hold a steady job.

5. Both women and men who are college educated are more likely to marry, and less likely to divorce, than people with lower levels of education. 

Despite occasional news stories predicting lifelong singlehood for college-educated women, these predictions have proven false. Though the first generation of college educated women (those who earned baccalaureate degrees in the 1920s) married less frequently than their less well-educated peers, the reverse is true today. College educated women’s chances of marrying are better than less well-educated women. However, the growing gender gap in college education may make it more difficult for college women to find similarly well-educated men in the future. This is already a problem for African-American female college graduates, who greatly outnumber African-American male college graduates.

6. Living together before marriage has not proved useful as a “trial marriage.” 

People who have multiple cohabiting relationships before marriage are more likely to experience marital conflict, marital unhappiness and eventual divorce than people who do not cohabit before marriage. Researchers attribute some but not all of these differences to the differing characteristics of people who cohabit, the so-called “selection effect,” rather than to the experience of cohabiting itself. It has been hypothesized that the negative effects of cohabitation on future marital success may diminish as living together becomes a common experience among today’s young adults. However, according to one recent study of couples who were married between 1981 and 1997, the negative effects persist among younger cohorts, supporting the view that the cohabitation experience itself contributes to problems in marriage.

7. Marriage helps people to generate income and wealth. 

Compared to those who merely live together, people who marry become economically better off. Men become more productive after marriage; they earn between ten and forty percent more than do single men with similar education and job histories. Marital social norms that encourage healthy, productive behavior and wealth accumulation play a role. Some of the greater wealth of married couples results from their more efficient specialization and pooling of resources, and because they save more. Married people also receive more money from family members than the unmarried (including cohabiting couples), probably because families consider marriage more permanent and more binding than a living-together union.

8. People who are married are more likely to have emotionally and physically satisfying sex lives than single people or those who just live together. 

Contrary to the popular belief that married sex is boring and infrequent, married people report higher levels of sexual satisfaction than both sexually active singles and cohabiting couples, according to the most comprehensive and recent survey of sexuality. Forty-two percent of wives said that they found sex extremely emotionally and physically satisfying, compared to just 31 percent of single women who had a sex partner. And 48 percent of husbands said sex was extremely satisfying emotionally, compared to just 37 percent of cohabiting men. The higher level of commitment in marriage is probably the reason for the high level of reported sexual satisfaction; marital commitment contributes to a greater sense of trust and security, less drug and alcohol-infused sex, and more mutual communication between the couple.

9. People who grow up in a family broken by divorce are slightly less likely to marry, and much more likely to divorce when they do marry. 

According to one study the divorce risk nearly triples if one marries someone who also comes from a broken home. The increased risk is much lower, however, if the marital partner is someone who grew up in a happy, intact family.

10. For large segments of the population, the risk of divorce is far below fifty percent. 

Although the overall divorce rate in America remains close to fifty percent of all marriages, it has been dropping gradually over the past two decades. Also, the risk of divorce is far below fifty percent for educated people going into their first marriage, and lower still for people who wait to marry at least until their mid-twenties, haven’t lived with many different partners prior to marriage, or are strongly religious and marry someone of the same faith.

Research Sources 1. Teenage marriage and divorce 

Depending on how the age categories are delineated and the length of the time period covered after marriage, teenage marriages have been found to be from two to three times more likely to end in divorce compared to marriages at older ages. See T. C. Martin and L. Bumpass “Recent Trends in Marital Disruption,” Demography 26 (1989): 37-5. A recent government study found that 59% of marriages for women under age 18 end in divorce or separation within 15 years, compared with 36% of those married at age 20 or older. National Center for Health Statistics, Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States. (Hyattsville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services, 2002),

2. Finding a marriage partner 

Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels, The Social Organization of Sexuality (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994) pp. 234-5.

3. People of similar backgrounds 

Finnegan Alford-Cooper, For Keeps: Marriages that Last a Lifetime (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1998); Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, The Good Marriage (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); Jeffry H. Larson and Thomas B. Holman, “Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability,” Family Relations 43 (1994): 228-237; Robert Lauer and Jeanette Lauer, “Factors in Long-Term Marriage,” Journal of Family Issues 7:4 (1986): 382-390.

4. Single parents and marriage 

Gayle Kaufman and Frances Goldscheider, “Willingness to Stepparent: Attitudes Toward Partners Who Already Have Children,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, 2003. Available at ( On the situation of African-American men and women, see Orlando Patterson, Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries (Washington, DC: Civitas, 1998): 72-76.

5. College education and marriage 

Joshua R. Goldstein and Catharine T. Kenney, “Marriage Delayed or Marriage Forgone? New Cohort Forecasts of First Marriage for U. S. Women,” American Sociological Review 66 (2001) 506-519; Elaina Rose, “Education and Hypergamy in Marriage Markets,” (Seattle, WA: Department of Economics, University of Washington, 2004). Available at

6. Cohabitation as trial marriage 

See discussion in Claire M. Kamp Dush, Catherine L. Cohan, and Paul R. Amato, “The Relationship between Cohabitation and Marital Quality and Stability: Change Across Cohorts?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 65 (August 2003): 539-49. For a comprehensive review of the research on the relationship between cohabitation and risk of marital disruption, see David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Should We Live Together?, 2nd Ed. (New Brunswick, NJ: The National Marriage Project, Rutgers University, 2002). See also William G. Axinn and Jennifer S. Barber, “Living Arrangements and Family Formation Attitudes in Early Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 59 (1997): 595-611; William J. Axinn and Arland Thornton, “The Relationship Between Cohabitation and Divorce: Selectivity or Causal Influence,” Demography 29-3 (1992): 357-374; Robert Schoen “First Unions and the Stability of First Marriages,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 54 (1992): 281-84. However, living together with the person one intends to marry does not increase the risk of divorce. For first time cohabiting couples who eventually marry, living together is linked to the engagement process. See, for example, Jay Teachman, “Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution Among Women,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 65 (May 2003): 444-455; Susan L. Brown and Alan Booth, “Cohabitation versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (1996): 668-678.

7. Marriage and wealth 

Thomas A. Hirschl, Joyce Altobelli, and Mark R. Rank, “Does Marriage Increase the Odds of Affluence? Exploring the Life Course Probabilities,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 65-4 (2003): 927-938; Lingxin Hao, “Family Structure, Private Transfers, and the Economic Well-Being of Families with Children,” Social Forces 75 (1996): 269-292; Jeffrey S. Gray and Michael J. Vanderhart, “The Determination of Wages: Does Marriage Matter?,” in Linda Waite, et. al. (eds.) The Ties that Bind: Perspectives on Marriage and Cohabitation (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 2000): 356-367; S. Korenman and D. Neumark, “Does Marriage Really Make Men More Productive?” Journal of Human Resources 26-2 (1991): 282-307; Joseph Lupton and James P. Smith, “Marriage, Assets and Savings,” in Shoshana A. Grossbard-Schectman (ed.) Marriage and the Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003): 129-152; K. Daniel, “The Marriage Premium,” in M. Tomassi and K Ierulli (eds.) The New Economics of Human Behavior (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 113-125.

8. Marriage and sex 

Linda J. Waite and Kara Joyner, “Emotional and Physical Satisfaction with Sex in Married, Cohabiting, and Dating Sexual Unions: Do Men and Women Differ?,” in E. O. Laumann and R. T. Michael (eds.), Sex, Love and Health in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001): 239-269; Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels, The Social Organization of Sexuality (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

9. People from broken homes 

Jay D. Teachman, “The Childhood Living Arrangements of Children and the Characteristics of Their Marriages,” Journal of Family Issues 25-1 (2004): 86-111. One study found that when the wife alone had experienced a parental divorce, the odds of divorce increased by more than half (59%), but when both spouses experienced parental divorce, the odds of divorce nearly tripled (189%). Paul R. Amato, “Explaining the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (August, 1996): 628-640. Another study suggests that the main reason people who experience a parental divorce have a higher divorce rate themselves is because they tend to hold a comparatively weak commitment to the norm of lifelong marriage. Paul R. Amato and Danelle D. DeBoer, “The Transmission of Marital Instability Across Generations: Relationship Skills or Commitment to Marriage?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 63 (November, 2001): 1038-1051. Research on mate selection and marital success is reviewed in Jeffry H. Larson and Thomas B. Holman, “Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability,” Family Relations 43 (1994): 228-237. On the lower marriage rate of the children of divorce, see Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Parental Divorce and Offspring Marriage: Early or Late?” Social Forces (September, 2003): 337-353.

10. The risk of divorce 

Some primary sources for the risk factors associated with divorce and the divorce rate trend are Jay D. Teachman, “Stability Across Cohorts in Divorce Risk Factors,” Demography 39 (2002): 331-351; Tim B. Heaton, “Factors Contributing to Increasing Marital Stability in the United States,” Journal of Family Issues 23-3 (April, 2002): 392-409; For a review of research, see Jeffry H. Larson and Thomas B. Holman, “Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability,” Family Relations 43 (1994): 228-237.