|My daughter Cynthia and soon to be son-in-law, Grant Schmidt|
Good afternoon, JPII!
Some of may know I have three sons and one daughter, and we’re going to have two weddings in our family in the next seven months. My oldest son just proposed to a young lady from Columbus, OH and they’ll be getting married this summer, whereas my daughter is going to be married in three weeks down in Mobile, AL. Girls, if you have dreams of a big wedding, this would be your thing: It will be in a Cathedral, with organ and trumpet, there will be huge wedding party, the reception will be at a large, white mansion that dates back to the 1850’s, with live music, good food and a lot of “refreshments.” More important than that, though, my daughter is marrying a great guy. We are now in those final weeks of preparation with all the details, like how long the linens should hang from the reception tables (!), and I am doing my best to stay out of the way.
So weddings and marriages are very much on my mind these days.
Here’s a telling stat about marriages. Marriage rates in this country have declined by almost half since 1970. Many are becoming cynical about marriage and question why a public commitment or sacrament matters.
And I really can’t blame young people for this cynicism. The truth is, my generation has not been a very good witness to your generation about how awesome married life can be. About half of all marriages end in divorce, and many of you have seen first hand how difficult that divorce is on your family—on each parent, on your brothers and sisters, and on you yourself. In this age of technology, when our work lives now blend too seamlessly with our personal lives, we’ve not done a very good job finding life-work balance, often at the cost of our relationships. We’ve spent money too freely and borrowed too liberally, forcing both mothers and fathers to work long hours to pay bills, often not able to give enough time to each other or to their children.
It’s no wonder, then, that some people believe it’s better to live together BEFORE getting married, almost like a “trial marriage,” to see if you are compatible first. That seems reasonable at first blush—except that the statistics are overwhelming. Couples that live together as a prior step to marriage have 50% GREATER likelihood of divorce than those who wait until marriage.
It’s also no wonder, given high divorce rates, that pre-nuptial agreements are on the rise (a contract between husband and wife that spells out who gets what just in case there’s a divorce). They’re particularly common if one of the couple is wealthy. But such contracts poison the well of trust between couples even before the marriage begins: “Honey, I love you very much, and I promise we’ll be married forever, but just in case something happens, please sign this contract so you can’t take me to the cleaners in a divorce proceeding.”
The truth is, we live in a culture that doesn’t believe in permanence, where just about everything is perceived to be negotiable, where promises are taken to be temporary.
But marriages don’t work if the couples stand by the pool and test the water by sticking their toes in, or by planning which way they’ll get out of the pool once they jump in if it’s too cold. Marriage is an “all-in” commitment, where the couple holds hands and jumps in together, with the promise that they’ll help each other learn to swim. That’s the risk. That’s the adventure. That’s the fun and the joy and the mystery of it.
Pope Francis, speaking to young people recently, had this to say:
God calls each of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of you. Some of you are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.” July 28, 2013 Address to the World Youth Day Volunteers
It’s not too early in your life to begin praying that God will one day help you find the right person for you--someone who will love you forever, who will be a good father or mother to your children, and who will call you to become a better person. And it’s not too early to pray that God will give you strength and grace to be this person for someone else.
May you have the courage to swim against the tide, as Pope Francis says, and to be revolutionaries in the way you live and the witness you give others.
Please pray for my daughter and my soon to be son in law, that their lives together will joyful and blessed, and for all married people, your mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. We need strong, happy married couples. Our culture depends on it.