Marry early and have lots of kids: a key part of the new evangelization?
While walking from class to a campus chapel for afternoon prayer last week, I overheard the following conversation:
Yeah, so it’s just weird that she’s getting married, because she’s my neighbor and whatever.
Dude. Is she knocked up?
[laughing] Nah, she and her boyfriend are really religious. So I don’t think so.
People don’t get married when they’re in school unless the girl is knocked up.
I dunno. I mean, he’s like, 24 and has a job and stuff.
That’s f***ed up.
This, friends, is what we’re up against: a couple can’t get married without people questioning their ages, motivation, and purity. Unintended pregnancies, whether real or assumed, have crude labels slapped upon them.
None of this should come as a surprise to me; thirteen years in an über-liberal public school in the middle of the Rust Belt only enforced the stereotypes of young romance as espoused by shows like MTV’s tragicTeen Mom. At my university, though, things seem different. It may just be the orthodox undercurrent I find myself in, but young marriage is generally accepted, if not preferred.
It is sad to think that the singular institution that guarantees the greatest stability — economic, social, and emotional — is seen as something undesirable to young twenty-somethings, who love to claim (and with some truth) that they are the most vulnerable demographic.
Vulnerability does not have to equal solitude, depression, or lack of direction. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Catholic faith is that vulnerability and suffering can draw us closer to others and closer to God. Many millennials simply do not want to hear that embracing our frailty through relationships will be most fruitful and authentic when we choose Christ-centered courtships and marriages over one-night stands and sexual experimentation.
One of my favorite professors, a devout Catholic and the father of a big family, frequently tells his students that the best way to combat the modern conception of marriage, sexual ethics, and family life is to “wed other Catholics early, have lots of children, and move to Catholic neighborhoods.” I know more than a few people who hope to follow this advice, myself included.
The folks I overheard demonstrate the need to evangelize, even if our capacities to reach the hearts of those most in need are not unlimited. If the best we can do is serve as witnesses, then that is what we need to do. Leading by example, especially in our pursuit of family life, will certainly draw doubt and criticism from our peers. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Lilia Draimeis a junior at a Catholic university in the United States. Her biweekly column, Living Christ on Campus, addresses issues that impact young students struggling to live their faith on college and university campuses, whether those institutions be Catholic or not.