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Marriage: The Rock on Which the Family Is Built [Paperback]

William E. May
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

30 Oct 2009
Is marriage the foundation of family life? Many people today would say, "No!" Others would say, "Yes!", but they would define "family" and "marriage" in ways at odds with how the words have been used almost throughout human history. In this revised and expanded edition of Marriage: The Rock on Which the Family is Built, internationally-renowned theologian William E. May makes the case for marriage's foundational role for family, with marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman. Drawing on Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body", he explains the person-affirming, love-enabling, life-giving, and sanctifying nature of marriage. He shows how marriage is necessarily a complementary union of man and woman and how this rules out the idea of "same-sex" marriage.

May argues, drawing on Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, that marriage fully respects the equal dignity of husband and wife as persons, while recognizing their unique, exclusive, enduring, complementary contributions to their union. Likewise, he shows how marriage honors the truth that each new human life brought about by sexual union is a person equal in dignity to his mother and father. What's more, both reason and revelation are used to show that only the family, founded on marriage as an enduring, mutually-exclusive union of one man and one woman, provides the proper context for begetting and raising children.


Reproductive technologies are also critically examined and the author argues that human beings ought to be begotten in an act of spousal love, not made through in vitro fertilization. Furthermore, the role of the family as the "domestic church", a community of holiness, is explored. This expanded edition includes new chapters: "'Man and Woman He Created Them': Pope John Paul II's Catechesis on Human Sexuality" and "Pope Benedict XVI and Marriage," the latter summarizing Benedict's thought on marriage, particularly as found in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est. Also included is Pope John Paul II's "Letter to Families".


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Product details

  • Paperback: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; 2 edition (30 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586172581
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586172589
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 828,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 13 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The product is excellent. Thanks a lot for being faithful to your promise. It is a sign of business minded enterprise that you have the welfare and good of your customers at heart.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Indispensable Family 18 Aug 2012
By Eric Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Thirteen years ago, William E. May wrote the book: Marriage: The Rock on Which the Family Is Built. Three years ago, Ignatius Press published a second edition, which includes a new introduction, as well as two additional chapters, one which delves into John Paul II's Catechesis on the Theology of the Body, and another, which covers Pope Benedict XVI's Teaching on Marriage and Family Life. These are much welcome additions to an already fine book.

Many of the arguments we have about divorce, or whether or not gays ought to be allowed to marry, start at the wrong end. Marriage and the family are primary, and must be discussed first, which May wisely does. Thus in his first chapter, he offers fourteen basic moral criterion for families with supporting argument. For instance: "the family must be rooted in the marriage of one man and one woman"; "children... are to be begotten in the loving embrace of husband and wife"; "spouses ought not... impede procreation"; "Church and State must both honor the primary right of parents as educators of their children and cooperate with them in this educative task"; "society must support the sanctity of the marriage bond if men are to be fathers to their children."

The second chapter builds on this, exploring the complementarity of male and female. In our age of triumphalist feminism, it is verboten to suggest that men and women are different, and--worse--that this difference is intrinsic and natural. Yet as Chesterton remarked, "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." May takes this difference as a given, and indeed, illustrative, for it tells us something both about mankind as well as the God who made us. Our design is such that husband and wife participate in procreation, bringing new life to the world through an act of love. May quotes the philosopher Robert E. Joyce who notes that men: "give in a receiving sort of way" while women "receive in a giving sort of way." One mild complaint, these wonderful phrases are used too frequently throughout the text, reducing their potency.

Another chapter is devoted to examining Pope Paul VI's prophetic utterances in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Yet somehow May's defense here is a bit underwhelming. He accurately explains that the late pope was correct about the consequences of detaching, or rather, attempting to detach, sex from reproduction. Still, the critics were so disastrously wrong that one wishes May would hammer the point home with a bit more force. The mainstreaming of contraception has been so thorough that the idea that sex has a natural end is not so much considered outdated as simply ludicrous.

In making his arguments about marriage, May uses a variety of sources. He relies heavily on Catholic references: philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, encyclicals, the Catechism, and so forth. This allows him to make the Catholic case thoroughly. Unfortunately, this reduces the appeal of his book to a secular audience. Revelation undoubtedly guides the Church's understanding of marriage; hence she has elevated it to a sacrament. Yet marriage antedates the Church. If the author plans a third edition, I would like to see him to sketch an argument in defense of marriage that relies on secular sources.

Still, until Catholics adhere to their own Church's teaching, there is more work to be done. May's book provides a well structured look at the family and the role it must play in society. For as Pope John Paul II observed, "As the family goes, so goes the world."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings out the beauty of Marriage 16 April 2011
By William B. May - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is one of the most beautiful books I have every read about marriage. Dr. May provides deep insights into its beauty but does it in the most simple and easy to digest ways. It provided me insights about how to talk about marriage to children in ways that they can understand. It also provides new insights into Humanae Vitae and its significance.

By the way, while I share the same name as the author (with the exception of the middle initial) we are not related. :)
5.0 out of 5 stars I totally recommend it for both 30 Sep 2014
By juan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book contains solid catholic teaching regarding the sacrament of matrimony. I totally recommend it for both: single people and married couples.
The delivery was just as promised and the quality of it was great.
William May = awesome moral theologian.
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