Francis blesses a bride and groom © Osservatore Romano (CBA)
Marriage preparation in the Catholic Church is not enough: that's what Pope Francis stressed Wednesday in Rome at the general audience. He said the church often offers only a "sham preparation". Francis wants more. Because: "You don't play with love"
Love is everywhere: "All of life takes place in love," the pope found Wednesday at the general audience in Rome. But: "One does not play with love!", Francis promptly warned. The audience focused on the Sixth Commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
Most important for this is loyalty, the head of the Catholic Church said. "For no human relationship is authentic without fidelity! One cannot love only as long as it suits one."It is in the nature of love: it never ends. "Love wants to be definitive."
Love does not stop
Love is not only eternal, but also free of all conditions, Francis declared. "Man has the desire to be accepted without reserve, and those who do not experience this acceptance carry within them a certain incompleteness, often without knowing it," he warned.
To fill this void, man seeks substitute satisfactions and makes lukewarm compromises. What he gets out of it is at best a reflection of true love, Francis said.
Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty
Of course, even true love is not immune to temptation. That is why Francis explained in detail what fidelity means. In fact, he does not mean only physical fidelity, but it is above all about the spiritual attitude, about fidelity as a "lifestyle": "One works with loyalty, one speaks with honesty, one remains faithful to the truth in one's thoughts and actions.
"A life interwoven with fidelity finds its expression in all dimensions and leads to being faithful and reliable men and women, in every situation of life." The sixth commandment also reminds us of this fidelity, which can prevent so many "breaches of fidelity," the pope continued.
Physical attraction is overrated
On the role of sexuality and physicality in love, the pope again found his usual rational words: physical attraction is also a gift from God, he said, but it "should only serve to prepare the way for an authentic and faithful relationship."In this sense, physicality is very often simply overrated.
More important than the physical attraction is the "recognition and discernment of the impulses of one's own heart" – with which Francis reminds his predecessor in office, Pope John Paul II., cited. At the beginning of the 80s, in a general audience, the Pole had called for a "mature spontaneity" in relationships. What was meant by this were the inner impulses towards the beloved person, which, however, were not only sensual desires – but had to be based on a recognition and a decision.
Church preparation for marriage is insufficient
Marriage, moreover, is not just a matter for the spouses, the pope continued, advising even young engaged couples to base their relationship on the "faithful love of God". To do so, of course, requires adequate preparation – for Francis, best in the form of a catechumenate, a special spiritual preparation for a sacrament.
So far, the church provides this only for baptisms. What the Church currently offers to those who want to marry – a few courses and talks at most – is no more than a "supposed preparation.". "But the preparation must be mature, and for that it needs time. 'It's not a formal act: it's a sacrament,' Pope warned. He called on local bishops and parishes to take better care of loved ones.
Jesus' role in marriage
In order for life as a couple to succeed, a third person must not be left out: Jesus Christ. "Without God, a life of love and fidelity cannot be sustained," Francis said. Only in Jesus can unconditional love be found, which in turn is necessary for the love of spouses.
Good will or the hope that everything goes well is not enough either. Rather, the pope spoke of a "vocation to married life" and that requires a very precise decision with regard to the quality of the relationship, as well as an intense period of engagement, which is considered a trial period for marriage.