Marriage isn't the same as having a wedding--the first is a lifetime commitment, while the latter is an event to celebrate the decision to spend the rest of their lives together. Sadly, however, it tends to feel like couples are putting more thought into the wedding preparation but neglect the real work that lies ahead--how to nurture and strengthen the bond of the relationship. At least, that is what Pope Francis seem to be observing.
During the Diocese of Rome's pastoral congress held last June 16, His Holiness was asked about the crisis of marriage, and how Catholics can help educate the youth and help them understand better the sacred vows of marriage.
The culprit, the Pope says, is the "culture of the provisional," or the throw-away culture. “Because of this, the great majority (later revised by the Vatican to 'a portion') of our sacramental marriages are null," he explains. "Because [young people who enter into a marriage] say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying... They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know."
CBC News also reported him as saying, "The crisis of marriage is due to the fact that people don't know what the sacrament is, the beauty of the sacrament, they don't know that it is indissoluble, that it is for your entire life. It's difficult." He adds, though, that there are young men and women who have purity and know a great love, but their numbers are few.
Pope Francis then turned to the issue of co-habitation or live-in parters, implying that some common-law partners, or those who've had a civil ceremony years after they decided to live in together, embody the sacrament of marriage more than church-wed couples. "I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage. They have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity," he says.
Now before you proclaim that the Pope now approves of co-habitation first before marriage, think again. It was important, Pope Francis says, that live-in couples are not abandoned by the Church, but instead they need help and assistance to receive the sacrament of marriage from the religious institution.
Pope Francis also has no plans of revising the points that make a Catholic marriage valid--only to change the culture that has plagued men and women who took or will take the sacred marriage vows. Speaking from experience, he stresses that individuals should very well know what they're getting into before saying "I do" in the altar.
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That means, for example, no shotgun weddings and walking to the altar because the couple already has a baby on the way, which he proudly says he didn't allow when he was still in Argentina. It also means not getting married because it’s tradition, or “just for the sake” of any other reason other than the lifetime commitment to each other and their future family.