GENERAL AUDIENCE OF WEDNESDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 
At the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday, 14
November, Pope John Paul II continued his treatment of the spirituality
of married life, drawing from the teachings contained in "Humanae
Following is our translation of the Holy Father's address.
1. In the light of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, the fundamental
element of the spirituality of married life is the love poured out into
the hearts of the couple as a gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5). In
the sacrament the couple receive this gift along with a special
consecration. Love is united to conjugal chastity, which, manifesting
itself as continence, brings about the interior order of married life.
Chastity means to live in the order of the heart. This order permits the
development of the manifestations of affection in their proper
proportion and meaning. In this way conjugal chastity is also
confirmed as "life by the Spirit" (cf. Gal 5:25), according to St.
Paul's expression. The Apostle had in mind not only the immanent
energies of the human spirit, but above all the sanctifying influence of
the Holy Spirit and his special gifts.
Chastity at the centre
2. At the center of the spirituality of marriage, therefore, there
lies chastity not only as a moral virtue (formed by love), but likewise
as a virtue connected with the gifts of the Holy Spirit—above
all, the gift of respect for what comes from God (donum pietatis).
This gift is in the mind of the author of the Ephesians when he exhorts
married couples to "defer to one another out of reverence for Christ"
(Eph 5:21). So the interior order of married life, which enables the
manifestations of affection to develop according to their right
proportion and meaning, is a fruit not only of the virtue which
the couple practice, but also of the gifts of the Holy Spirit
with which they cooperate.
The Encyclical Humanae Vitae, in some passages of the text
(especially 21 and 26), dealing with the specific asceticism of married
life, that is, the commitment to acquire the virtues of love, chastity,
and continence, speaks indirectly of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for
which the couple acquire a sensitivity in proportion to their
development in the virtue.
Power of the Spirit
3. This corresponds to man's vocation to marriage. Those two who—according
to the oldest expression in the Bible—"become
one body" (Gn 2:24), cannot bring about this union on the proper level
of persons (communio personarum) except through the powers
coming from the spirit, and precisely from the Holy Spirit
who purifies, enlivens, strengthens, and perfects the powers of the
human spirit. "It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless" (Jn
It follows from this that the essential lines of the spirituality of
marriage are inscribed from the beginning in the biblical truth on
marriage. This spirituality is also open from the beginning to the
gifts of the Holy Spirit. If the Encyclical Humanae Vitae
exhorts married couples to "unremitting prayer" and to the sacramental
life (saying: "...let them drink deep of grace and charity from that
unfailing fount which is the Eucharist"; "humble and persevering, they
must have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the
Sacrament of Penance" HV 25), it does so insofar as it is mindful of the
Spirit who "gives life"
(2 Cor 3:6).
Spirit's gift of fear
4. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially the gift of respect
for what is sacred, seem to have a fundamental significance here. This
gift sustains and develops in the married couple a particular
sensitivity to everything in their vocation and life that bears
the sign of the mystery of creation and redemption:
a sensitivity to everything that is a created reflection of God's
wisdom and love. Therefore that gift seems to introduce the man and
woman to a specially profound respect for the two inseparable meanings
of the conjugal act, which the encyclical speaks of in relation to the
Sacrament of Marriage (HV 12). Respect for the two meanings of the
conjugal act can develop fully only on the basis of a profound reference
to the personal dignity of what in the human person is intrinsic
to masculinity and femininity, and inseparably in reference to
the personal dignity of the new life which can result from
the conjugal union of the man and the woman. The gift of respect
for what is created by God is expressed precisely in this reference.
5. Respect for the twofold meaning of the conjugal act in marriage,
which results from the gift of respect for God's creation, is manifested
also as a salvific fear. It is a fear of violating or degrading what
bears in itself the sign of the divine mystery of creation and
redemption. The author of the Ephesians speaks precisely of this fear:
"Defer to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21).
If this salvific fear is directly associated with the negative
function of continence (that is, to resistance with regard to
concupiscence of the flesh), it is also manifested—and
to an ever greater degree as this virtue gradually matures—as
sensitivity filled with veneration for the essential values of the
conjugal union: for the two meanings of the conjugal act (or, to use the
terminology of the previous analyses, veneration for the interior truth
of the mutual language of the body).
On the basis of a profound reference to these two essential values, that
which signifies union of the couple is harmonized in the subject
with that which signifies responsible fatherhood and motherhood.
The gift of respect for what is created by God enables the apparent
contradiction in this area to disappear and the difficulty arising from
concupiscence to be gradually overcome, thanks to the maturity of the
virtue and the power of the Holy Spirit's gift.
6. If it is a question of the problem of so-called periodic
continence (or recourse to natural methods), the gift of respect for the
work of God helps, to the greatest extent, to reconcile human dignity
with the natural cycles of fertility, that is, with the
biological dimension of the femininity and masculinity of the couple.
This dimension also has a significance of its own for the truth of the
mutual language of the body in married life.
In this way, even what refers to conjugal union in the flesh—not
so much in the biblical meaning as directly in the biological meaning—finds
its humanly mature form thanks to the life in the Spirit.
The whole practice of the upright regulation of fertility, so
closely linked to responsible fatherhood and motherhood, forms part
of the Christian spirituality of married life and family life; and
only by living "in the Spirit" can it become interiorly true and