GENERAL AUDIENCE OF WEDNESDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 
At the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday, 21
November, Pope John Paul II continued his treatment of the spirituality
of marriage, basing his teaching on the doctrine contained in "Humanae
Following is our translation of the Holy Father's address.
1. On the basis of the doctrine contained in the Encyclical Humanae
Vitae, we intend to trace an outline of conjugal spirituality. In
the spiritual life of married couples the gifts of the Holy Spirit are
at work, especially the gift of piety, that is, the gift of respect for
what is a work of God.
This gift, together with love and chastity, helps to identify in
the sum total of married life that act in which, at least
potentially, the spousal meaning of the body is linked with the
procreative meaning. It leads to understanding, among the possible
manifestations of affection, the singular or rather the exceptional
significance of that act: its dignity and the consequent serious
responsibility connected with it. Therefore, the antithesis of conjugal
spirituality is constituted, in a certain sense, by the subjective lack
of this understanding which is linked to contraceptive practice and
mentality. In addition to everything else, this does enormous harm from
the point of view of man's interior culture. The virtue of conjugal
chastity, and still more the gift of respect for what comes from God,
mold the couple's spirituality to the purpose of protecting the
particular dignity of this act, of this manifestation of affection.
In it, the truth of the language of the body can be expressed only by
safeguarding the procreative potential.
Responsible fatherhood and motherhood means the spiritual appraisal—conforming
the conjugal act in the knowledge and in the will of both spouses. In
this manifestation of affection, after considering the interior and
external circumstances, especially the biological ones, they express
their mature readiness for fatherhood and motherhood.
3. Respect for the work of God contributes to seeing that the conjugal
act does not become diminished and deprived of the interior meaning of
married life as a whole—that
it does not become a habit—and
that there is expressed in it a sufficient fullness of personal and
ethical content, and also of religious content, that is, veneration for
the majesty of the Creator, the only and the ultimate depository of the
source of life, and for the spousal love of the Redeemer. All this
creates and enlarges, so to speak, the interior space for the mutual
freedom of the gift in which there is fully manifested the spousal
meaning of masculinity and femininity.
The obstacle to this freedom is presented by the interior
constriction of concupiscence, directed to the other "I" as an
object of pleasure. Respect for what God creates gives freedom from this
constriction. It frees from all that reduces the other "I" to a mere
object and it strengthens the interior freedom of the gift.
4. This can happen only through a profound appreciation of the
personal dignity of both the feminine "I" and the masculine "I" in
their shared life. This spiritual appreciation is the fundamental fruit
of the gift of the Spirit, which urges the person to respect the work of
God. From this appreciation, and therefore indirectly from that gift,
all the affectionate manifestations which make up the fabric of
remaining faithful to the union of marriage derive their true spousal
meaning. This union is expressed through the conjugal act only in given
circumstances. But it can and it must be manifested continually, every
day, through various affectionate manifestations which are determined by
the capacity of a disinterested emotion of the "I" in relation to
femininity and, reciprocally, in relation to masculinity.
The attitude of respect for the work of God, which the Spirit
stirs up in the couple, has an enormous significance for those
affectionate manifestations. This is because side by side with it there
is the capacity for deep satisfaction, admiration, disinterested
attention to the visible and at the same time the invisible beauty of
femininity and masculinity, and finally a deep appreciation of the
disinterested gift of the other.
5. All this determines the spiritual identification of what is
male or female, of what is corporeal and at the same time personal. From
this spiritual identification there emerges the awareness of the
union through the body, in safeguarding the interior freedom of the
gift. Through the affectionate manifestations the couple help each other
remain faithful to the union. At the same time these manifestations
protect in each of them that deep-rooted peace which is in a certain
sense the interior resonance of chastity guided by the gift of respect
for what God creates.
This gift involves a profound and universal attention to the person
in one's masculinity and femininity, thus creating the interior climate
suitable for personal communion. That procreation which we describe as
responsible, rightly matures only in this climate of the personal
communion of the couple.
6. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae enables us to trace an
outline of conjugal spirituality. This is the human and supernatural
climate in which—taking
the "biological" order into consideration and, at the same time, on the
basis of chastity sustained by the gift of piety—is
formed the interior
harmony of marriage, in respect for what the encyclical calls "the
twofold significance of the conjugal act" (HV 12). This harmony means
that the couple live together in the interior truth of the language of
the body. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae proclaims that the
connection between this truth and love is inseparable.