“The Synod Fathers stated in a number of ways that we need to help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage,” the Pope reflected.
“They should be helped to perceive the attraction of a complete union that elevates and perfects the social dimension of existence, gives sexuality its deepest meaning, and benefits children by offering them the best context for their growth and development.”
Furthermore, couples should be encouraged to see the meaning in the Catholic wedding ceremony and the “God-given meaning” in their created bodies, signs of the covenant of love between Christ and the Church, he continued.
Those charged with helping couples prepare for marriage should take care not to overwhelm them with too much information, but to focus on aiding them in accepting Church teaching and offering access to resources, practical advice, programs, and guidance, the pontiff said.
In addition, he recommended that marriage preparation help couples recognize eventual problems and risks before they commit to marriage.
“In this way, they can come to realize the wisdom of breaking off a relationship whose failure and painful aftermath can be foreseen. In their initial enchantment with one another, couples can attempt to conceal or relativize certain things and to avoid disagreements; only later do problems surface.”
“Sadly, many couples marry without really knowing one another,” the Pope lamented, saying that couples should be strongly encouraged to discuss their expectations in marriage, their understanding of love and commitment, what they want from each other, and what kind of life they want to build together. These discussions can help them discover if they have little in common and realize that mutual attraction alone is not sufficient for an enduring marriage.
“The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment,” he said.
At the same time, engaged couples discerning marriage must have a “realistic trust” in the possibility that each other’s weak points can be countered by developing good qualities.
“This entails a willingness to face eventual sacrifices, problems and situations of conflict; it demands a firm resolve to be ready for this,” the Pope said. Marriage is not the “end of the road” but “a life-long calling based on a firm and realistic decision to face all trials and difficult moments together.”
Noting that many couples tend to “drop out” of the Christian community after their wedding, the Pope encouraged Christian communities to recognize the great benefit they receive from supporting and engaged and newlywed couples.
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Marriage support must also extend through the first years of marriage, when initial affection or attraction can diminish, he commented. Couples who were insufficiently mature at the time of their wedding merit special attention.
“Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope,” Pope Francis said. “Hope is the leaven that, in those first years of engagement and marriage, makes it possible to look beyond arguments, conflicts and problems and to see things in a broader perspective.”
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