Based on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, Dr. Manuel Santos and his wife, Karee, take the four keys to everlasting love and turn them into practical tips for married couples on how to handle most circumstances that are sure to arise throughout a shared lifetime. The keys include free, total, faithful, and fruitful. In each section, readers are offered anecdotes that pertain to stewardship, work, fertility, prayer, sex, handling in-laws, etc. These are followed by Dr. Santos’ diagnosis on what could be contributing to each couple’s tension or division. Finally, the Santos’ offer conversation starters and action plans that couples can use for discussion, reflection, and prayer.
Dr. Santos and Karee begin by sharing an excerpt of their own love story, which both engage and endear the reader. The four keys are broken into detailed subheadings, including how to be good stewards in your marriage and raising children to be holy young adults. Here’s a fantastic quote that captures the essence of this book from the Foreword by Christopher West:
Whether you’re married or single, when someone starts talking about ‘keys’ in marriage, it’s only a matter of time before someone starts joking about the ‘old ball and chain’ – as though marriage marks the end of a person’s freedom.
The truth is that marriage is a tremendous and beautiful use of one’s freedom.
It’s no secret that the institution of marriage is in serious trouble in our modern epoch. With societal definitions being more “inclusive” and “tolerant,” we are losing our covenantal foothold as husband and wife. No one knows what it means to be authentically feminine or masculine anymore. The Santos’ bring the reader back to reality, which is essentially back to God’s truth about the sacrosanct covenant of marriage. As the Santos’ explain so beautifully, marriage is so much more than affection or chemistry between two people. It’s not about the wedding, but rather about the lifetime of sacrifice, dying to self, and rising together as one mind and body in Christ that makes a marriage free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
As a wife of nearly ten years and a mom of two girls with special needs, I was especially pleased to read The Four Keys to Everlasting Love. The two most profound and pertinent sections for where my husband and I are in our marriage pertained to in-laws and communication. Sadly, communication (meaning dialogue) is often neglected between spouses who are raising children with special needs. These two chapters made me consider ways we could improve our communication so that our marriage will thrive.
I was especially pleased to see the chapter on welcoming and raising children who have special needs. As Catholics, we acknowledge that, to claim the pro-life label, we must accept and embrace children who may be atypical psychologically, developmentally, or in any capacity that differs from their developmental peers.
The Santos’ provide a comprehensive, easy-to-read primer on marriage that applies to engaged couples, newlyweds, or spouses who have been seasoned in marriage for many years. The Four Keys to Everlasting Love could easily be used for marriage retreats, in couples study sessions, or through marriage enrichment adult formation classes through parishes or at the diocesan level.
If you want to learn how to make your marriage holy and lasting through the legacy that remains after you have died into your eternal reward, then The Four Keys to Everlasting Love is the perfect book to teach you how.