It has been my experience in my roles both as pastor and as president of HLI that most married couples are ill-prepared for the sacramental life they are called to live in Christ. There are a number of reasons for this unfortunate reality.
Foremost, parents and the Church have failed to form souls to love God and his commands. In most cases, the faith has not been passed forward to the next generation as our Lord commands (Deut 6:4ff), bringing us to this current crisis within the Church and society. As a result, the Culture of Death has made great strides in corrupting the intentions of many adults seeking marriage because they do not comprehend the core requirements of fidelity, exclusivity, permanence, and fruitfulness within the marital union. In many cases their experience of sacramental marriage is limited or non-existent.
Because of the high rate of divorce, many young adults seeking marriage – or even those discerning a vocation to the priesthood – come from broken homes, which affects their understanding of sacramental marriage and family life as God has constituted. There are also a very high percentage of young adults engaged in premarital sex, exhibiting and worsening their misunderstanding of sexuality. Moreover, many couples approaching the Church are cohabitating as if they’re married. When – and if they do marry – they are more likely than ever to marry outside their faith, as indicated by a recent poll from Pew Research.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this tragic confusion continues to affect all of us today. Young people are not being raised in the same faith-based culture as many of us received from our grandparents and parents. We cannot compare the preparation of couples of that generation to the drastically needed preparation of couples today. If we are going to reclaim a proper understanding of natural marriage, then we must challenge and confront the ideology and environment in which our youth are being raised. We must lovingly and firmly assist them to live their duty and responsibility in Christ and to strive for holiness in their vocation.
It is true that several dioceses have designed robust marriage preparation programs, and bishops have raised standards for those who hope to be married in the Church. Unfortunately, however, many marriage preparation programs are inadequate, as they are not focused on assisting the couple to faithfully live out their vocation. Instead of focusing on marriage, many couples focus exclusively on the details of the wedding: the bridal attire, flowers, and banquet.
Catholic bishops and priests around the world must take seriously this responsibility to prepare young couples for a sacramental life in Christ. If we can reclaim this, then we can change the future! Children raised in homes open to life are more likely to receive the proper formation they need; and these same children will influence the culture around them and transform it as they become husbands and wives, religious, and priests. If we do not see the larger picture—the serious crisis in front of us that we must address—then divorces will continue, the number of cohabiting and same-sex couples will increase, and a childless society will usher in the death of traditional and natural societies around the world.
Finally, we must recognize that for many of those approaching the Church hoping to marry are not ready. We must be proactive in promoting chastity programs for young people. We must, as the Church faithful, claim the duty and responsibility to assist souls. This is the work of Human Life International, which began with Fr. Paul Marx’s vision to defend life, faith and family.
Therefore, pray that our bishops and priests will engage these issues and proactively support them whenever you can. Please pray for the success of HLI’s efforts to defend faith, life, and family. Finally, pray for a deeper love of God’s gift of natural marriage as the lifetime and faithful union of one man and one woman open to the transmission of life—and love.