This month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.
Chapter 4: Two Become One
a) What is the Catholic spirituality of marriage? What can families do to celebrate and protect Christian marriage?
Catholic marriage is a radically different to the romantic partnerships the culture proposes. While romance is great element in a relationship, marriage, Catholic or otherwise, cannot be built on this alone. “To be what we are- to love as we were created to love- certain virtues are necessary.” (WMF Catechesis). Prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope and love are required for marriage to thrive. The catechesis reminds us that, in order to fulfill our destiny, we must be alive to these virtues and cultivate them. Families can protect Christian marriage by nurturing these virtues.
b) If marriage is a sacrament, what are the implications for courtship? What qualities should we seek in a Catholic spouse?
While all the virtues are important, the virtue of chastity, in relation to marriage, is especially important. When discerning marriage, it is important to train the heart by practicing interior freedom.
Some of my friends thought I was crazy to marry my husband before living with him. In their eyes, our marriage was doomed before we said “I do”. Trial marriages are the new normal on our culture, while waiting until marriage to move in together is unusual. The Catechism tells us that a trial marriage is a contradiction of terms-2 it is an attempt to live intimately but hypothetically, to test the relationship and pursue it as long as the romance is flowing” (CCC 2391). On his blog, Sliding vs Deciding, Dr Scott Stanley observes that the many steps and stages of courtship that used to exist in a relationship are no longer there and couples are more likely to slide through important transitions, such as moving in together, rather than make concrete decisions, and a commitment, about them.
As the virtues are essential to the sacrament of marriage, one should look for these virtues when seeking a Catholic spouse. However this quest is not an intellectual pursuit. We can recognise the virtues in a future spouse through the characteristics they share with moral exemplars in our own lives, those people we have grown to respect, admire and love.
c) How do the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist relate to the Sacrament of Marriage?
Reconciliation and fidelity are the foundation of married life. These sacraments foster and protect true communion between the sexes, and help us grow in our capacity to love as Jesus does.
d) In the Lord’s prayer, we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do you find it easy or difficult to do that? How does forgiveness enable relationships?
Many of us take God’s mercy for granted. Yet, when others wrong us, we spurn their apology, make little effort to make amends and even seek revenge. This situation is not uncommon in my own life. Being angry and holding a grudge is the easy choice, while forgiveness can be a difficult option and a long hard road to healing.
Forgiveness enables relationships by helping the relationship, and the people in it, to grow. The sacrament of Penance renews our appreciation of our own sinfulness and how this wounds God and others, and damages the relationship we have with Him and our loved ones. Above all, the sacrament renews our comment to being again, to restore the harmed relationship and gives us the grace to do that.