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Betrothal / Engagement

Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Family
General Audience, Wednesday 27 May 2015 - in ArabicEnglish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!
Continuing these catecheses on the family, today I would like to speak about engagement. Engagement — one hears it in the word — has to do with trust, confidence, reliability. Confidence in the vocation that God gives, since marriage is first and foremost the discovery of a call from God. Certainly it is a beautiful thing that young people today can choose to marry on the basis of mutual love. But the very freedom of the bond requires a conscious harmony in the decision, not just a simple understanding of the attraction or feeling, for a moment, for a short time ... it calls for a journey.

Engagement, in other words, is the time when the two are called to perform a real labour of love, an involved and shared work that delves deep. Here they discover one another little by little, i.e. the man “learns” about woman by learning about this woman, his fiancée; and the woman “learns” about man by learning about this man, her fiancé. Let us not underestimate the importance of this learning: it is a beautiful endeavour, and love itself requires it, for it is not simply a matter of carefree happiness or enchanted emotion. The biblical account speaks of all creation as a beautiful work of God’s love. The Book of Genesis says that: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Only when it is finished does God “rest”. We understand from this image that God’s love, which brought forth the world, was not an impromptu decision. No! It was a beautiful work. The love of God created the concrete conditions for an irrevocable covenant, one that is strong and lasting.

The covenant of love between man and woman — a covenant for life — cannot be improvised. It isn’t made up one day to the next. There is no marriage express: one needs to work on love, one needs to walk. The covenant of love between man and woman is something learned and refined. I venture to say it is a covenant carefully crafted. To make two lives one is almost a miracle of freedom and the heart entrusted to faith. Perhaps we should emphasize this point more, because our “emotional coordinates” have gone a bit askew. Those who claim to want everything right away, then back out of everything — right away — at the first difficulty (or at the first opportunity). There is no hope for the trust and fidelity entailed in the gift of self, if prevailing tendency is to consume love like some kind of “supplement” for mental and physical well-being. This is not love! Engagement focuses on the will to care for something together that must never be bought or sold, betrayed or abandoned, however tempting the offer may be.

God, too, when he speaks of the covenant with his people, does so several times in terms of betrothal. In the Book of Jeremiah, in speaking to the people who had distanced themselves from him, he reminds the people of when they were the “betrothed” of God, and he says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (cf. 2:2). God took this path of betrothal. He then also made a promise: we heard it at the beginning of the audience, in the Book of Hosea: “I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord” (2:19-20).

The road the Lord takes with his people on this betrothal journey is a long one. At the end, God espouses his people in Jesus Christ. In Jesus he marries the Church. The People of God is Jesus’ Bride. But what a long road! And you Italians, in your literature you have a masterpiece on betrothal, The Betrothed. Young people need to know about it and read it. It is a masterpiece that tells the story of an engaged couple who have endured great suffering, they travel a road filled with many struggles, until at last they arrive at marriage. Don’t leave aside this masterpiece on betrothal, which Italian literature has given especially to you. Go on, read it and you will see the beauty, the suffering, but also the faithfulness of the betrothed.

The Church, in her wisdom, guards the distinction between being engaged and being spouses — it’s not the same — especially in view of the delicateness and depth of this test. Let us be careful not to disregard lightheartedly the wisdom of this teaching, which also comes from the experience of happy married life. The powerful symbols of the body hold the keys to the soul: We cannot treat the bonds of the flesh lightly, without opening some lasting wound in the spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:15-20).

Of course, today’s culture and society have become rather indifferent to the delicateness and seriousness of this step. On the other hand, it cannot be said that they are generous to young people who are determined to make a home and welcome children. Indeed, often they put up a thousand obstacles, both psychological and practical. Engagement is a path of life that has to ripen like fruit; it is a way of maturing in love, until the moment it becomes marriage.

Pre-marriage courses are a special expression of preparation. And we see so many couples, who perhaps come to the course somewhat reluctantly: “But these priests make us take a course! But why? We already know...” and they go reluctantly. But afterwards they are happy and grateful, because they have found there the opportunity — sometimes the only one — to reflect on their experience in non-trivial terms. Yes, many couples are together a long time, perhaps also in intimacy, sometimes living together, but they don’t really know each other. It seems curious, but experience shows that it’s true. Therefore engagement needs to be re-evaluated as a time of getting to know one another and sharing a plan. The path of preparation for marriage should be implemented from this perspective, also with the benefit of the simple but intense witness of Christian spouses. And also by focusing on the essentials: the Bible, by consciously rediscovering it together; prayer, in its liturgical dimension, but also in “domestic prayer” to live out in the home, the Sacraments, the Sacramental life, Confession, ... where the Lord comes to abide in the engaged couple and prepare them truly to receive one another “with the grace of Christ”; and fraternity with the poor and those in need, who lead us to live soberly and to share.

Engaged couples who commit themselves to this path both grow, and all of this leads to preparing for a beautiful celebration of Marriage in a different way, not in a worldly way, but in a Christian way! Let us consider these words of God we have heard, when he speaks to his people as bridegroom to his future bride: “I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord” (Hos 2:19-20). May every engaged couple think of this and say to one another: “I will take you as my bride, I will take you as my bridegroom”. Wait for that moment. It is a moment, it is a path that goes slowly ahead, but it is a path of maturation. The steps of the journey should not be rushed. This is how we mature, step by step.

The time of betrothal can truly become a time of initiation, into what? Into surprise. Into the surprise of the spiritual gifts with which the Lord, through the Church, enriches the horizon of the new family that stands ready to live in his blessing.

I invite you now to pray to the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Pray that the family may make this journey of preparation; and pray for couples who are betrothed. Let us pray to Our Lady all together, a Hail Mary for all engaged couples, that they may understand the beauty of this journey towards Marriage.

[Hail Mary…]

And to engaged couples who are here in the square: “Enjoy the journey of engagement!”."

"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les pèlerins de Beyrouth, accompagnés de Monseigneur Salim Bustros, les pèlerins du Cameroun, ainsi que les groupes venus de France.
Je prie spécialement pour tous ceux qui se préparent au mariage, et j’invite les communautés chrétiennes à les encourager et à les aider dans l’accomplissement de leur généreux projet.
Que Dieu vous bénisse.

[Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini di lingua francese, in particolare i fedeli di Beirut, accompagnati da Mons. Salim Bustros, e quelli del Cameroun, come pure i gruppi venuti dalla Francia.
Prego specialmente per tutti coloro che si preparano al matrimonio, e invito le comunità cristiane a incoraggiarli ed aiutarli nel compimento del loro generoso progetto.
Che Dio vi benedica.]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from Great Britain, Switzerland, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Canada and the United States of America.  Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.  God bless you all!

[Saluto i pellegrini di lingua inglese presenti all’odierna Udienza, specialmente quelli provenienti da Gran Bretagna, Svizzera, Cina, India, Indonesia, Giappone, Canada e Stati Uniti d’America. Su tutti voi e sulle vostre famiglie, invoco la gioia e la pace nel Signore.  Dio vi benedica!]

Herzlich heiße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger willkommen. Ich begrüße den Familienbund des Bistums Würzburg in Begleitung von Bischof Friedhelm Hofmann sowie die vielen Gruppen von Jugendlichen, besonders die Firmlinge aus dem Bistum Rottenburg-Stuttgart und die Ministranten aus Berchtesgaden. Der Heilige Geist mache euch immer mehr zu freudigen Zeugen des Evangeliums und der Liebe Christi. Von Herzen segne ich euch alle.

[Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca. Saluto l’associazione delle famiglie della Diocesi di Würzburg accompagnata dal Vescovo Mons. Friedhelm Hofmann, nonché i numerosi gruppi di giovani, in particolare i cresimandi provenienti dalla Diocesi di Rottemburgo-Stoccarda e i ministranti di Berchtesgaden. Lo Spirito Santo vi renda sempre di più testimoni gioiosi del Vangelo e dell’amore di Cristo. Con affetto vi benedico tutti.]

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España y de América Latina. Invito a todos, especialmente a los esposos cristianos, a acompañar con la oración y el testimonio de amor y fidelidad, a los jóvenes novios que se preparan para el matrimonio. Muchas gracias.

[Saluto i pellegrini di lingua spagnola, in particolare i gruppi provenienti dalla Spagna e dall’America Latina. Invito tutti, soprattutto gli sposi cristiani, ad accompagnare con la preghiera e la testimonianza di amore e di fedeltà, i giovani fidanzati si preparano al matrimonio. Grazie mille.]

Com grande afecto, saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, particularmente os fiéis da Catedral de Bragança do Pará e demais grupos do Brasil, com votos de que possais vós todos dar-vos sempre conta do dom maravilhoso que é a vida. Vele sobre o vosso caminho a Virgem Maria e vos ajude a ser sinal de confiança e esperança no meio dos vossos irmãos. Sobre vós e vossas famílias desça a Bênção de Deus.

[Con grande affetto saluto i pellegrini di lingua portoghese, in particolare i fedeli della Cattedrale di Bragança do Pará e gli altri gruppi del Brasile, augurando a voi tutti di rendervi sempre conto di quanto la vita sia un dono meraviglioso. Vegli sul vostro cammino la Vergine Maria e vi aiuti ad essere segno di fiducia e di speranza in mezzo ai vostri fratelli. Su di voi e sulle vostre famiglie scenda la Benedizione di Dio.]

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربيّة، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ من الشّرق الأوسط. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، لتكن العذراء مريم التي نكرّمها في شهر أيار هذا معلمّة لكم جميعًا في المحبّة والحنان ولتكن مثالكم لعيش الوحدة والتناغم العائليّ. ليبارككم الربّ!

[Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua araba, in particolare a quelli provenienti dal Medio Oriente! Cari fratelli e sorelle, la Vergine Maria, che veneriamo in questo mese di maggio, sia maestra di tenerezza e di amore per tutti voi e sia il vostro esempio per vivere nell’unità e nell’armonia familiare. Il Signore vi benedica!]

Pozdrawiam polskich pielgrzymów. Drodzy przyjaciele, dziś w sposób szczególny zwracamy myśl ku narzeczonym i modlimy się, aby okres przygotowania do małżeństwa był dla nich szkołą miłości i odpowiedzialności oraz otwierania się na dary duchowe, którymi Pan za pośrednictwem Kościoła ubogaca perspektywę nowej rodziny pragnącej żyć Jego błogosławieństwem.

[Saluto i pellegrini polacchi. Cari amici, oggi in modo particolare rivolgiamo il pensiero ai fidanzati e preghiamo per loro, affinché il periodo di preparazione al matrimonio sia per loro scuola di amore e di responsabilità, nonché di apertura ai doni spirituali con i quali il Signore, tramite la Chiesa, arricchisce l’orizzonte della nuova famiglia che si dispone a vivere nella sua benedizione.]

Zo srdca pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov, osobitne z farnosti Kapušany, Lemešany, Nová Ves nad Žitavou, Košice a okolie, ako aj kňazov Košickej arcidiecézy, ktorí slávia desiate výročie svojej kňazskej vysviacky.
Drahí bratia a sestry, minulú nedeľu sme slávili slávnosť Zoslania Ducha Svätého. Povzbudzujem vás, aby ste boli stále vnímaví na pôsobenie Ducha Svätého. S láskou žehnám vás i vašich drahých.

[Di cuore saluto i pellegrini slovacchi, particolarmente i gruppi parrocchiali, come pure i sacerdoti dell’Arcidiocesi di Košice che celebrano il decimo anniversario della loro ordinazione sacerdotale.
Cari fratelli e sorelle, domenica scorsa abbiamo celebrato la Solennità della Pentecoste. Vi esorto ad essere sempre docili all’azione dello Spirito Santo. Con affetto benedico voi ed i vostri cari.]

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Sono lieto di accogliere i cresimandi della Diocesi di Teggiano-Policastro, con il Vescovo Mons. Antonio De Luca; i partecipanti al Convegno del Movimento Apostolico e al simposio L’arte: luce di Dio; e i fedeli di Cascia e Norcia, accompagnati dall’Arcivescovo di Spoleto Mons. Renato Boccardo. Saluto l’Associazione Meter di Avola; gli studenti dell’Istituto Santa Maria di Roma, che ricordano i 125 anni di attività didattica; la Fondazione Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice; e i militari di Napoli e Salerno. La visita alla Città Eterna in questo mese mariano vi aiuti a riscoprire il senso cristiano della festa come momento di incontro con Dio e di comunione con i fratelli.

Un pensiero speciale ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Ieri ricorreva la memoria di San Filippo Neri,  di cui celebriamo il quinto centenario della nascita. La sua attenzione per l’oratorio stimoli voi, cari giovani, a testimoniare con gioia la fede nella vostra vita; il suo abbandono in Cristo Salvatore sostenga voi, cari ammalati, nei momenti di maggiore sconforto; e il suo apostolato nelle periferie inviti voi, cari sposi novelli, a sostenere i più deboli e bisognosi della vostra famiglia."

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