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Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ remarks when he met in St. Peter’s Square with some 20,000 youth engaged to be married on Valentine’s Day of 2014. He responded to questions posed by three couples:
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Question 1: The fear of the “forever”
Holiness, so many today think that to promise faithfulness for the whole of life is too difficult an enterprise; many feel that the challenge to live together forever is beautiful, fascinating, but too demanding, almost impossible. We ask you for your word to enlighten us on this.
I am grateful for the testimony and for the question. I shall explain: they sent me the question ahead of time … you understand. And so I was able to reflect and think about a somewhat more solid answer.
It’s important to ask yourselves if it’s possible to love one another “forever.” This is a question that must be asked: is it possible to love each other “forever”? Today so many people are afraid of making definitive choices. A boy said to his Bishop: “I want to become a priest, but only for ten years.” He was afraid of a definitive choice. But it is a general fear, proper of our culture. To make choices for life seems impossible. Today everything changes rapidly; nothing lasts long … And this mentality leads so many who are preparing for marriage to say: “we are together while love lasts,” and then? Greetings and good-bye … And so marriage ends.
But what do we understand by “love”? Is it only a feeling, a psycho-physical state? Of course if it’s this, one cannot build on something solid. But if, instead, love is a relationship, then it’s a reality that grows, and we can also say, by way of example, that it is built as a house. And the house is built together, not by one alone! Here to build means to foster and help growth. Dear fiancés, you are preparing yourselves to grow together, to build this house, to live together forever. You don’t want to build it on the sand of sentiments 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 wishes to grow, as a house is built that is a place of affection, of help, of hope, of support. As the love of God is stable and forever, so we also want the love that founds the family to be stable and forever. Please, we must not let ourselves be conquered by the “culture of the provisional”! This culture that invades everyone today, this culture of the provisional, is not the way!
So, how is this fear of “forever” cured? It’s cured day by day by entrusting oneself to the Lord Jesus in a life that becomes a daily spiritual journey, made up of steps – small steps, steps of joint growth – made up of the commitment to become mature women and men in the faith. Because, dear fiancés, “forever” is not solely a question of duration! A marriage hasn’t succeeded just because it has lasted – its quality is important. The challenge of Christian spouses is to be together and to be able to love each other forever. There comes to mind the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves: for you also, the Lord can multiply love and give it to you fresh and good every day. He has an infinite supply! He gives you the love that is the foundation of your union and He renews it every day, He reinforces it. And He renders it even greater when the family grows with children. On this journey, prayer is important and necessary always. He for you and you for him and all and the two together. Ask Jesus to multiply your love. In the prayer of the Our Father we say: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Spouses can also learn to pray thus: “Lord, give us today our daily love,” because the daily love of spouses is the bread, the true bread of the soul, that which sustains them to go forward. And the prayer: can we do the test to know if we are able to say it? “Lord, give us today our daily love.” All together! [Fiancés: “Lord, give us today our daily love”] Once again! [Fiancés: “Lord, give us today our daily love”]. This is the prayer of fiancés and spouses. Teach us to love one another, to will the good for each other! The more you entrust yourselves to Him the more your love will be “forever,” capable of being renewed and it will overcome every difficulty. This is what I thought I wished to say to you, in response to your question. Thank you!
Question 2: To live together: The “style” of married life
Holiness, to live together every day is beautiful, it gives joy and sustains. However, it’s a challenge to be faced. We believe that we must learn to love one another. Is there a “style” of the life of a couple, a spirituality of the everyday that we could learn? Can you help us in this, Holy Father?
It’s an art to live together, a patient, beautiful and fascinating journey. It doesn’t end when you have won each other. Instead, it’s really then that it begins! This daily journey has rules that that can be summarized in the three phrases you have said, phrases which I have repeated so many times to families: permission – that is, “may I,” [can you], as you said – thank you and excuse me.
“May I – Permission?” It is the polite request to be able to enter in the life of another with respect and care. It is necessary to learn to ask: may I do this? Are you happy that we do it this way? That we take this initiative, that we educate the children like this? Would you like us to go out this evening? In sum, to ask permission means to be able to enter with courtesy in the life of others. But hear this well: to be able to enter with courtesy in the life of others. And it’s not easy, it’s not easy. Sometimes, instead, rather heavy ways are used, like some mountain boots! True love doesn’t impose itself with harshness and aggressiveness. In the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, one finds this expression: Know that courtesy is one of God’s properties … and courtesy is the sister of charity, which extinguishes hatred and preserves love” (Chapter 37). Yes, courtesy preserves love. And today in our families, in our world, often violent and arrogant, there is need of much more courtesy. And this can begin at home.
“Thank you.” It seems easy to say this word, but we know it’s not like this … However, it’s important! We teach it to children, but then we forget it! Gratitude is an important sentiment! Once, in Buenos Aires an elderly lady said to me: “gratitude is a flower that grows in noble earth.” Nobility of soul is necessary for this flower to grow. Do you remember Luke’s Gospel? Jesus cures ten lepers and then only one returns to say thank you to Jesus. And the Lord says: and where are the other nine? This is true also for us: are we able to thank? In your relationship, and tomorrow in your married life, it’s important to keep alive the awareness that the other person is a gift of God, and one says thank you for God’s gifts! And in this interior attitude to say thank you to each other for everything. It’s not a kind word to be used with foreigners, to be well-mannered. It’s necessary to be able to say thank you to one another, to go forward well together in your married life.
“Apology.” We make so many errors, so many mistakes in life. We all do. Is there, perhaps, someone here who has never made a mistake? If there is one here, let him raise his hand: a person who has never made a mistake? We all make them! All! Perhaps there’s not a day in which we don’t make some mistake. The Bible says that the just man sins seven times a day. And so we make mistakes … See, then, the need to use this simple word: “sorry.” In general each one of us is quick to accuse the other and to justify ourselves. This began with our father Adam, when God asks him: “Adam, have you eaten of that fruit? “I? No! She is the one who gave it to me!” We accuse the other so as not to say “sorry,” ”pardon.” It’s an old story! It’s an instinct that is at the origin of so many disasters. Let us learn to acknowledge our errors and to ask for pardon. “I’m sorry if I raised my voice today”; “I’m sorry I passed by without greeting you”; “I’m sorry I was late,” “if this week I’ve been so silent,” “if I’ve talked too much without ever listening”; “I’m sorry I forgot”; “I’m sorry I was angry and took it out on you” … There are so many “sorry’s” we can say each day.
A Christian family also grows this way. We all know that the perfect family doesn’t exist, or the perfect husband, or the perfect wife. We won’t speak of the perfect mother-in-law … We, sinners, exist. Jesus, who knows us well, teaches us a secret: never end a day without asking forgiveness from one another, without having peace return to your home, to your family. It’s usual to quarrel between spouses, but there’s always something, we quarreled … Perhaps you were angry, perhaps a dish flew, but please remember this: never end the day without making peace! Never, never, never! This is a secret, a secret to preserve love and make peace. It’s not necessary to make a beautiful speech. Sometimes a gesture like this and … peace is made. Never end … because if you end the day without making peace, what you have inside the next day is cold and hard and it’s more difficult to make peace. Remember well: never end the day without making peace! If we learn to ask pardon of each other and to forgive one another, the marriage will last, it will go forward. When elderly spouses, celebrating their 50th, come to audiences or to Mass here at Saint Martha’s, I ask the question: Who has endured whom? This is beautiful! They all look at one another, they look at me, and they say to me: “Both!” And this is beautiful. This is a beautiful testimony!
Question 3: The style of the celebration of Matrimony
Holiness, in these months we are engaged in so many preparations for our wedding. Can you give us some advice to celebrate our marriage well?
Make it be a real celebration – because marriage is a celebration – a Christian celebration, not a worldly celebration. The most profound motive for joy on that day is indicated in John’s Gospel: do you remember the miracle at the wedding of Cana? At a certain point they ran out of wine and the celebration seemed ruined. Imagine ending the feast by drinking tea! No, it’s not on! Without wine, there is no celebration! On Mary’s suggestion, in that moment Jesus reveals himself for the first time and gives a sign: he transforms the water into wine and, by so doing, saves the wedding celebration. What happened at Cana two thousand years ago happens, in fact, in every nuptial celebration: what will make your marriage full and profoundly true will be the presence of the Lord, who reveals himself and gives his grace. It’s his presence that offers the “good wine,” he is the secret of full joy, what truly warms the heart. It’s Jesus’ presence in that celebration. May it be a beautiful celebration, but with Jesus! Not with the spirit of the world, no! This is felt, when the Lord is there.
At the same time, however, it’s good that your marriage [day] be sensible and that it highlight what is truly important. Some are more concerned with external signs, the banquet, photographs, clothes and flowers. They are important things in a celebration, but only if they are able to indicate the true motive of your joy: the Lord’s blessing on your love. Make the external signs of your celebration, as the wine at Cana, reveal the Lord’s presence and remind you and everyone of the origin and reason for your joy.
But there’s something you said that I would like to seize, because I don’t want to let it pass. Matrimony is also a work of every day; I could say a craftwork, a goldsmith’s work, because the husband has the task to make his wife more woman and the wife has the task to make her husband more man. To grow also in humanity, as man and as woman. And this is done between you. It is called growing together. This doesn’t come from the air! The Lord blesses it, but it comes from your hands, from your attitudes, from your way of living, from your way of loving one another. Make yourselves grow! Always act so that the other grows. Work for this. And so, I don’t know, I think of you who one day will go on a street of your country and the people will say: “But look at her, what a beautiful woman, how strong she is! …” “With such a husband, one can understand it!” And also to you: “Look how he is! “With the wife he has, one can understand it! It’s this, to arrive at this: to make each other grow together. And the children will have this legacy of having had a father and a mother that grew together, each one making the other more a man and more a woman!
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]
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