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Pope Francis Offers Advice to Engaged Couples

Diane Montagna - published on 05/27/15

God took this path of betrothal. He then also made a promise: we heard it at the beginning of the audience, in the Book of Hosea: “I will espouse you to me forever, I will espouse you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will espouse you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord” (2:21-22).

The road the Lord takes with his people on this journey of betrothal is a long one. At the end, God espouses his people in Jesus Christ. In Jesus he marries the Church. The People of God is Jesus’ Bride. But what a long road! And you Italians, in your literature you have a masterpiece on betrothal, The Betrothed. Young people need to know about it and read it. It is a masterpiece that tells the story of fiancees that overcomes great suffering, they travel a road filled with many struggles, until at last they arrive at marriage. Don’t let go of this masterpiece on betrothal, which Italian literature has given especially to you. Go forward reading it, and you will see the beauty, the suffering, but also the faithfulness of the betrothed.

The Church, in her wisdom, keeps the distinction between being betrothed and being spouses — it’s not the same — especially in view of the delicacy and depth of this test. Let us be careful not to look down lightheartedly on this wise teaching, which also comes from the experience of happy married life. The powerful symbols of the body hold the keys of the soul: We cannot treat the bonds of the flesh lightly, without opening some lasting wound in the spirit (1 Cor 6:15-20).

Of course, today’s culture and the society have become rather indifferent to the delicacy and seriousness of this step. On the other hand, it cannot be said that they are generous to young people who are really serious about making a home and having children. Indeed, often they pose a thousand obstacles, mental and practical. Engagement is a path of life that has to ripen like fruit; it is a way of maturing in love, until the moment it becomes marriage.

Pre-marriage courses are a special expression of preparation. And we see so many couples, that perhaps come to the course somewhat reluctantly, “But these priests make us do a course! By why? We know everything! … and they go reluctantly. But afterward they are happy and grateful, because they have found there the opportunity — sometimes the only one — to reflect on their experience in non-trivial terms.

Yes, many couples are together a long time, perhaps also in intimacy, sometimes living together, but they don’t really know each other. It seems strange, but experience shows it’s true. Therefore engagement needs to be re-evaluated as a time of getting to know one another and sharing a plan. The path of preparation for marriage should be implemented with this in view, also by making use of the simple but intense witness of Christian spouses. And also by focusing on the essentials: The Bible, by consciously discovering it together; prayer, in its liturgical dimension, but also in the “domestic prayer,” to live out as a family, the Sacraments, the Sacramental life, Confession, … where the Lord comes to abide in the engaged couple and prepare them truly to receive one another “with the grace of Christ”; and fraternity with the poor and those in need, who lead us to live soberly and to share.

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