Not long ago Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of engaged couples with tips and well wishes on their new journeys of love. His message imparts wisdom to couples preparing for the lifelong commitment of marriage and reminds married couples of the significance of their vocation to love one another.
Benedict XVI crafted his message around the key wedding story in the Gospels: the wedding feast at Cana. In particular, he reminds us of Jesus’ significant act within the story, turning of water into wine. The celebration was missing the wine and Jesus provided it!
Today, wine is lacking from our own celebration of marriage. If so, what are we drinking instead? And, what is the real pleasure of the celebration that we long for?
3 Tips from the Papal Address to Engaged Couples
1. Remember, Marriage Isn’t Going to Be Easy
“Ours is not an easy time, above all for you young people. The table is full of many delicious things, but, as in the Gospel episode of the Wedding of Cana, it seems that wine is lacking from the celebration.”
The Holy Father pointed to significant challenges in our society and culture that misdirect us from the true joy and pleasure of marriage. Where is the wine lacking? Benedict XVI points to these characteristics of our culture:
- People tend to put off definitive commitments for later in life (marriage, children, stable careers, etc.).
- Society is not able to appreciate the energies, competencies, and creativity of young people.
- Our culture puts aside clear moral criteria.
- Everyone is striving for individuality and autonomy, which leads to fragmentation reflected in relativism.
- Emotions seem more important to us than sharing a plan of life.
- In the name of freedom, fundamental decisions can easily be revoked.
- There is an apparent exaltation of the body.
These shouldn’t be seen as just challenges to the Church and Church teachings. Benedict XVI’s point is that these elements of our culture are the equivalent of a wedding celebration without joy. Couples who reject this culture for a marriage based on other values will find the true joy that they seek.
2. Embrace Your Love! It Leads You to God.
“Do not be afraid to face these challenges! Never lose hope. Have courage, also in difficulties, remaining firm in the faith.”
It would be a misrepresentation of the Holy Father’s letter to present only the challenges. No, the Pope had something much more important in mind. He calls couples to look first at their own love and see that it leads them to God.
The opening of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, shared this important point: “all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that has created us.” What better example of this love than the love of a newly engaged couple! “Live this path with intensity,” he says, and “do not give up on pursuing the lofty ideal of love.”
Pursuit of this ideal, leads us to seek the good of our spouses. It beckons us to recognize an essential goal of marriage: to be together for life.
Marriage preparation, therefore, is a time to “rediscover for [our] life as a couple the centrality of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is the wine of the celebration!
“In those who trust in him, the water of daily life is transformed into the wine of a love that makes life good, beautiful, and fruitful.”
Why would we seek love in any other place? For God is love!
3. You Are Not Alone. Go find help.
“You are not alone: Seek and receive in the first place the company of the Church.”
Young people engaged to be married want to establish the values of faith, family, and justice in their home. If married couples truly want to seek the love of Christ and put him at the center of their marriage, then they need the Body of Christ, they need the Church.
We encounter God through personal and communal prayer. With the loving support of the Church, we can live out our vocation to love.
We are also called to witness that love in the community, whether we are engaged or already married. As a community being sent (Matthew 28:19), the Church is the place for couples to learn how to be witnesses. It can be the place for couples to express, in the greatest way possible, the witness of their life of love together.
Read this papal address for yourself on Zenit.