Pope Francis spoke to engaged couples on St Valentine’s Day. The talk is in Italian on the Vatican website. It is in the form of answers to three questions which had been sent to him earlier.
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO COUPLES PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE
St. Peter’s Square, Friday, February 14, 2014
Question 1: The fear of “forever”
Your Holiness, many today think that to promise loyalty for life is too difficult an undertaking; many feel that the challenge of living together forever is beautiful, fascinating, but too demanding, almost impossible. We ask for your words to enlighten us on this.
Thank you for your testimony and for your question. Let me explain: You have send me your questions in advance … You understand … And so I was able to reflect and think about an answer a bit more substantial.
It’s important to ask whether it is possible to love one another “forever”. This is a question we need to ask: Can you love each other “forever”? Today many people are afraid to make definitive choices. A boy said to his bishop: “I want to become a priest, but only for ten years.” He was afraid to make a definitive choice. But it is a general fear, particular to our culture. Making choices for the rest of their lives seems impossible. Today everything is changing rapidly, nothing lasts long … And this mentality leads many who are preparing for marriage to say, “We’ll stay together as long as love lasts,” and then what? “All the best, and we’ll see each other around”… And thus ends the marriage. But what do we mean by “love”? Just a feeling, a psychological and physical condition? Sure, if that’s what it is, it cannot be built on solid ground.
But if love is a relationship , then it is a reality that grows, and we can also say by way of example that is built like a house. And we build the house together, not on our own! Building here means to encourage and help growth. Dear engaged people, you are preparing to grow together, to build this house, to live together forever. You do not want to base it on the sand of feelings that come and go, but on the rock of true love, the love that comes from God. The family is born from this project of love that wants to grow as you build a home that is a place of affection , help, hope, and support. As the love of God is permanent and forever, so also is love that founds the family: we want it to be stable and forever. Please, we must not let ourselves be conquered by the “culture of what is provisional”! This culture that invades us all today, this culture of the provisional. This does not work!
So how to cure this fear of “forever”? It is cured day by day entrusting ourselves to the Lord Jesus in a life that becomes a daily spiritual journey, made up of steps – small steps, steps of growth together – made in a commitment to become men and women mature in faith. Why, dear engaged couples, the “forever” is not only a matter of duration! A marriage is not successful if it just endures, but its quality is important. Being together and knowing how to love forever is the challenge of Christian spouses. I am reminded of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread: for you, the Lord can multiply your love and give it to you fresh and good every day. He has an endless supply! He gives you the love that is the foundation of your marriage and every day he renews it, strengthens it. It makes it even greater when the family grows with children. In this journey, prayer is important, it is necessary, always. Him for her, and her for him, and her both together. Ask Jesus to multiply your love.
In the Lord’s Prayer we say: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The bride and groom can learn to pray like that: “Lord, give us this day our daily love,” because the love of the spouses is the daily bread, the true bread of the soul, that which supports them to move forward. And the prayer: can we do a test to find out if we know how to say it? “Lord, give us this day our daily love.”
All together: [Engaged couples: “Lord, give us this day our daily love!”]
Say it again: [Engaged couples: “Lord, give us this day our daily love!”]
This is the prayer of engaged couples and married people. Teach us to love, to love each other! The more you entrust yourselves to the Lord, the more your love will be “forever”, capable of renewal, and will overcome every difficulty. That’s what I thought I wanted to tell you, responding to your question. Thank you!
Question 2: Living together: the “style” of married life
Holiness, to live together every day is beautiful, it gives joy, it supports. But it is a challenge to face. We believe that we must learn to love each other. There is a “style” of married life, a spirituality of daily life that we want to achieve. Can you help us in this, Holy Father?
Living together is an art, a patient way, handsome and charming. It does not end when you have each been possessed by the other … Indeed, it is precisely then that it starts! This daily journey has rules that can be summed up in these three words you’ve spoken, words which I have repeated many times to families: “Please”, or “May I”, you have said; “Thank you “; and “Excuse me”.
“Please – May I? “. It’s the courteous request to bed able to enter into the life of someone else life with respect and care. We must learn to ask: May I do this? Would you like that we do this? We take this initiative, and that we bring up our children like this. Would you like to go out tonight? … In short, to ask for agreement is to enter the lives of others with courtesy. But keep this in mind: to be able to enter into the lives of others with courtesy. It is not easy, it is not easy. Sometimes instead, the manners can be a bit heavy, like hiking boots! True love is not imposed by toughness and aggression. In the Little Flowers of St. Francis is this expression: “Know that courtesy is one of the properties of God … and courtesy is the sister of charity, which extinguishes hate and protects love” (Ch. 37). Yes, courtesy protects love. And today in our families, in our world, which is often violent and arrogant, we need much more courtesy. And this can begin at home.
“Thank you .” It seems easy to say the word, but we know that is not always so … But it’s important! We teach it to the children, but then we forget it ourselves! Gratitude is an important quality ! An old woman once said to me in Buenos Aires: “Gratitude is a flower that grows in the noble land.” Nobility of the soul is necessary to grow this flower. Remember the Gospel of Luke? Jesus heals ten who are sick with leprosy, and then only one returns to say thanks to Jesus. The Lord says, and the other nine, where are they? This is also true for us: do we know how to say thanks? In your relationship, and then tomorrow in married life, it is important to keep alive the awareness that the other person is a gift of God, and for the gifts of God to say thank you! And in this inner attitude say thanks to each other for everything. It is not a kind word to use just with strangers, to show you are educated. It is necessary to know how to say thank you, in order to get along well together in married life.
The third thing: ” I’m sorry . ” In life we make so many errors, many mistakes. We all do it. But maybe there is someone here who has never made a mistake? Raise your hand if there is someone there, a person who has never made a mistake? We all do it! All! There is no day when we do not make some mistake. The Bible says that the very best person sins seven times a day. And so we do mistakes … This then is why we need to use this simple word “sorry”. Generally, each of us is ready to accuse others and justify one’s self. This began with our father Adam, when God asks him: “Adam, have you eaten of that fruit?”. “Me? No! She is the one who gave it to me! ” Accusing the other person so as not to say “sorry”, “pardon.” It’s an old story! It’s an instinct that is at the origin of many disasters. We learn to recognize our mistakes and apologize. “Sorry if I raised my voice today,” “I’m sorry if I went without saying goodbye,” “I’m sorry if I’m late,” “If I have been so unresponsive this week”, “If I talked too much without ever listening”, “Excuse me, I forgot”, “I was angry and I’m sorry I’ve taken it out on you”… So many times to say “sorry” each day, we can say. This is how a Christian family grows.
We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect family, nor even the perfect husband or the perfect wife. We do not speak of the perfect mother-in-law …. Sinners, that’s what we are. Jesus, who knows us well, teaches us a secret: never end a day without asking for forgiveness, without peace coming back to our house, to our family. It is normal that there be a quarrel between husband and wife, but there’s always something to do about it. We had a fight … Maybe you’re angry, maybe a plate flew, but please remember this: never finish the day without making peace! Never, never, never! This is a secret, a secret to protect love and to make peace. It is not necessary to make a beautiful speech … Sometimes the right gesture,… and peace is made. Never finish the day … because if you end the day without making peace, what you have inside, the next day is cold and hard and it is harder to make peace. Remember well: never finish the day without peace! If we learn to ask pardon and forgive each other, the marriage will last, and will move ahead. When elderly couples come to the audiences or to Mass here in Santa Marta, who celebrate their 50th anniversary, I ask the question: “Who has put up with whom?” This is marvellous! They all look at one another, then look at me, and tell me: “Both of us.” And this is beautiful! This is a beautiful testimony!
Question 3: The style of the celebration of marriage
Your Holiness, in these months we are making many preparations for our wedding. Can you give some advice to celebrate our marriage well?
Make sure that it is a real treat – because the wedding is a celebration – a Christian celebration, not a secular party! The Gospel of John indicates the deeper reason for the joy of that day: remember the miracle of the wedding at Cana? At a certain point the wine runs out, and the celebration seems ruined. Imagine ending the celebration drinking tea! No, this is not the way! Without wine there is no party! At Mary’s suggestion, that’s when Jesus is revealed for the first time and gives you a sign: he changes the water into wine and, in doing so, saves the wedding celebration. What happened in Cana two thousand years ago, happens in reality in every wedding party. What will make your wedding full and deeply true will be the presence of the Lord who reveals and gives his grace. It is his presence that offers the “good wine”. He is the secret of full joy that truly warms the heart. It is the presence of Jesus in that party. May it be a beautiful celebration, but with Jesus! Not with the spirit of the world, no! This is how it is, when the Lord is there.
At the same time, however, it is good that your marriage is sober and make clear what is really important. Some are more concerned about the outward signs: the banquet, the photographs, the clothes and the flowers … These things are important in a celebration, but only if they are able to point out the real reason of your joy: the Lord’s blessing on your love. Make sure that, like wine at Cana, the outward signs of your celebration reveal the presence of the Lord and remind you and everyone what is the source and the reason for your joy.
But there is something that you said and I want to take flying, because I will not let it pass. Marriage is also a work for every day, I could say craftwork, a goldsmith’s work, because the husband has a duty to make his wife more a woman and the wife has the task of making her husband more of a man. Grow in humanity, as man and as woman. And that is done between yourselves. This is called growing together. This does not come out of the air! The Lord blesses it, but it comes from your hands, by your attitudes, the way of living, the way you love one another. Grow together! Always act so that the other person will grow. Work for this. And so, maybe , I think that one day you will go through the streets of your country and people will say: “Just look at that woman, so beautiful, so strong! … it’s the husband she has, you know.” And to you too: “Look at him, what he is like! … it’s the wife he has, you know.”
This is it: get this: make us grow together, each of us. And the children will have this heritage to have had a father and a mother who have grown together, making of themselves – each of them – more a man and more a woman!