In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis said the process of engagement is essential for any couple on their way to marriage since it not only allows love to mature, but helps future spouses deepen in knowledge of one another. “Marriage, as a vocation from God, is not just a relationship based on attraction and feelings, of a moment, of something short. It requires a journey,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his May 27 general audience. The journey of marriage “establishes a very strong and lasting partnership, which makes two lives one, a true miracle of human freedom and the grace of God,” he said, adding that such a partnership “is not improvised overnight.” An “express marriage” doesn’t exist, he said, explaining that “we have to work for love. We have to journey in the relationship of love between a man and a woman until it learns (and) until it grows.” Stages along this journey “should not be burned,” the Pope said, warning against the consumerist “throwaway” culture prevalent in society that wants “everything and immediately.” When seen through this lens, love is turned into an object of consumption, and is unable to form a solid foundation for such a “vital” commitment as marriage. Francis’ focus on engagement is part of his ongoing catechesis on the family, which he began last fall as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family. In his address, the Pope said that the process of engagement is a call for couples to lay the foundations for a “project of common love” that should be assumed by both parties with “full awareness” of what they are committing to. The word “engagement” itself points to a process of entrustment and commitment, he said, explaining that it is a unique time for couples to get to know each other more deeply while preparing for the “beautiful yet demanding enterprise of marriage.” Pope Francis said that it is necessary for couples to have this time to get to know one another “so that the responsible decision for something so big — something which can't be bought or sold — matures.” “Love itself demands this preparation, which makes possible a free, generous and sober decision to enter into a life-long covenant of love,” he said. The Church in her wisdom has always placed a heavy emphasis on preserving the distinction between engagement and marriage, Francis noted. This distinction protects “the depth of the sacrament.” He said that marriage preparation courses are a concrete example of the Church’s concern for the preparation of spouses. Marriage preparation is a gift, the Pope said, lamenting that frequently couples go through the courses “a little reluctantly,” saying “these priests make us do these courses. Why? We already know...’” However, Francis observed how many times couples who finish the courses are grateful for everything they have learned. “Today more than ever it's necessary to revalue engagement as an initiation to the surprise of the spiritual gifts with which God blesses and enriches the family,” he said. Couples are challenged during this time to reflect together on their love and their future, as well as the important role that faith and prayer will play in their coming life together, the Pope continued. He called on Christian married couples to help accompany young engaged couples on this path. Francis concluded by encouraging attendees to pray for all young people on their way to marriage, that they may “prepare for the wedding day not in a worldly or banal way, but with the wisdom, hope and joy born of their faith in Christ.”
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