Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pope Francis's Valentine's Day Message

The modern development of Valentine's Day as a quintessential Hallmark Holiday is perhaps rather silly, but that's no reason not to co-opt this feast of greeting cards and chocolates to good purpose. Pope Francis took the occasion to address a crowd of engaged couples in St. Peter's square, talking about marriage and love:
“Today many people are afraid of making definitive decisions, that affect them for all their lives, because it seems impossible … and this mentality leads many who are preparing for marriage to say, 'We will stay together for as long as our love lasts'. But what do we mean by 'love'? A mere emotion, a psycho-physical state? Certainly, if it is just this, it cannot provide the foundation for building something solid. But if instead love is a relationship, then it is a growing reality, and we can also say, by way of example, that it is built in the same way that we build a house. And we build a house together, not alone! … You would not wish to build it on the shifting sands of emotions, but on the rock of true love, the love that comes from God. The family is born of this project of love that wishes to grow, as one builds a house that becomes the locus of affection, help, hope and support. Just as God's love is stable and lasts forever, we want the love on which a family is based to be stable and to last forever. We must not allow ourselves to be conquered by a 'throwaway culture'. This fear of 'forever' is cured by entrusting oneself day by day to the Lord Jesus in a life that becomes a daily spiritual path of common growth, step by step. Because 'forever' is not simply a question of duration! A marriage does not succeed just because it lasts; its quality is also important. To stay together and to know how to love each other for ever is the challenge Christian married couples face! … In the Our Father prayer we say, 'Give us this day our daily bread'. Married couples may also learn to pray, 'Give us this day our daily love', teach us to love each other, to care for each other. The more you entrust yourselves to the Lord, the more your love will be 'for ever', able to renew itself and to overcome every difficulty.”
The Pope also had a bit to say about wedding ceremonies:
[T]he Holy Father commented that marriage should be a celebration, but a Christian rather than a worldly one. He offered as an example Jesus' first miracle at Cana, when he transformed water into wine when the latter appeared to have run out, thus saving the celebrations. “What happened at Cana two thousand years ago, happens in reality at every wedding feast. It is the presence of the Lord, who reveals Himself and the gift of His grace, that will render your marriage full and profoundly true. … At the same time, it is good for your wedding to be sober and to emphasise that which is truly important. Some people are more concerned with external signs, with the banquet, the dress... These are important aspects of a feast, but only if they are able to indicate the true reason for your joy: the Lord's blessing upon your love. Ensure that, like the wine in Cana, the external signs of your wedding feast reveal the presence of the Lord and remind you, and all those presence, of the origin of and reason for your joy”.
It's been striking me lately that the outsize importance of wedding ceremonies (at least in modern America, I don't know if this applies to the rest of the world) is beginning to overshadow marriage itself in some ways. Our WSJ subscription provides a sometimes humorous view into the world of secular elites, and one of the things that has struck me increasingly in recent years is the number of stories they carry about the amount of legal and financial work people put into living together as if married without actually being married. (This weekend there was one about couples over fifty dealing with the financial implications of cohabiting when you have separate sets of heirs.) Among the people I know at work, with the relationship conservatism of the upper middle class, the progression seems to be: get engaged, move in together, save up for several years, get married when you can afford a huge party and a long trip together. Getting married has gone from being a sign of commitment "we have decided to live together for the rest of our lives and build a family together" to an addendum "and now we can afford the big party to celebrate that".

I enjoy a good party as much as the next fellow, but perhaps we need a new trend towards small weddings to remind society that marriage is itself the commitment to form a family together. It's not a party to celebrate that commitment after the fact.


Jenny said...

It seems like nowadays a wedding is a social indication that the couple now intends to add children to their preexisting household.

bearing said...

Except when they don't.

bearing said...

Though many times, Jenny, it is that; and I wonder if therein lies some hope in re-presenting to the world the truth that the primary purpose of marriage is children.

Darwin said...

The main secular circle I have direct experience of is at work, and there the script seems to be that you get engaged and move in at roughly the same time, get married when you can afford a big party and honeymoon, then wait at least 3-4 years for kids while logging the requisite home improvement and destination vacations first.

Jenny said...

The version here is similar. You get engaged and and move in at roughly the same time and get married when you can afford the big party, but this takes a long time because the period of engagement is marked by a bevy of destination vacations. Getting married leads to buying The House which leads to children because it is plainly irresponsible to have children while still living in an apartment. So I would say from the time of the wedding until the children is about two years since all the required vacationing happened before and around the wedding.

I do think there is some hope in the fact that most people still recognize that it is best to be married before having children.