A reflection on Humanae Vitae and married love

“[Married love] is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.” (Humanae vitae no. 9)


In our modern times there is great confusion about what it means to love another. Romantic love is portrayed as based primarily, if not entirely, on emotional highs and a feeling of intense attraction for the other. For many, then, when these feelings or attractions change, as they often do, the relationship ends.

Our Catholic tradition offers a different understanding of love: that to love is to “will the good of another.” For Blessed Pope Paul VI to say that married love is “above all, an act of the free will,” means that love is not only emotion or feelings of affection towards one’s spouse, rather it is choosing to “will the good” of one’s spouse in all times and circumstances. Love, in the view of the Catholic Church, looks beyond changing emotions and attractions to will – to choose – the good of the other.

What does it mean for spouses to choose the good for one another in everyday married life? How can you choose the good for others in your life, even when emotions or feelings fluctuate?

Intercessory Prayer to Paul VI

God our Father,
fill all married couples with your love.

Give them the grace to love one another every day,
living out their promise to love,
to “will the good” of one another in good times and bad.

Help them to imitate your freely given, sacrificial love,
that they may choose each day to give of themselves,
reflecting your love for us when you sent your Son to die for our sins.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Blessed Paul VI, pray for us!

More from the Office of Laity, Family and Life e-bulltin – July 25, 2018