Have you ever gone to a priest for advice about your relationships? Try to imagine speaking with the pope, head of the Catholic Church, about such a topic, instead.
Well, it seems the pope has attempted to provide such an opportunity. In his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, which he released on Friday, Pope Francis presented ideas on marriage and the family. The exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” is founded on the conclusions from the two most recent synods of bishops.
While written in Rome by the Church leaders, this document is still relevant to us as University of Dallas students. Not only does it have plenty of information and advice to help us in the future as Catholic adults, but Francis also spends much of the exhortation writing about young couples and those preparing for marriage. Even to those not planning on the renowned “ring by spring,” this is still highly relevant.
Here at UD, we have a culture that strongly supports traditional marriage. The regularity of getting a “ring by spring” is one testimony to this. Despite some complaints about the lack of casual dating at UD, many of us acknowledge that dating is a process that helps you find out with whom you work well, and through this many attempt to determine and find a future spouse. For the UD student, Francis’ writing comes as welcome advice.
In “Amoris Laetitia,” Francis laments that there are many who postpone their weddings for various reasons, whether economic concerns, work or study, or even on account of fear of failure.
In face of these concerns, Francis challenges the Church to “reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage.”
Here are some pieces of advice and challenges Francis offers today’s young people:
Francis wishes that youth would find hope in marriage, rather than anxiety or despair.
“Their union encounters in this institution the means to ensure that their love truly will endure and grow.”
By fully entering into marriage, love will sustain the relationship; but to commit fully, especially in today’s anti-commitment society, can be challenging.
Young people seeking matrimony have to make the “firm decision to leave adolescent individualism behind and to belong to one another.” We must seek marriage “in order to build other strong ties and to take on a new responsibility for another person. This is much more meaningful than a mere spontaneous association for mutual gratification, which would turn marriage into a purely private affair.”
For those currently worried about when to get married, Francis says the “commitment of love cannot be the fruit of a hasty decision, but neither can it be postponed indefinitely.” Francis counsels us to take the vocation of marriage seriously, however, not to put the decision off forever.
For those having trouble committing to liking their significant other, Francis offers this advice: “The love of friendship unifies all aspects” of your relationship. The fundamental question for those dating is: are you being good friends to one another?
Finally, the age-old question: how can we keep the love alive?
“A love that fails to grow is at risk. Growth can only occur if we respond to God’s grace through constant acts of love, acts of kindness that become ever more frequent, intense, generous, tender and cheerful.”
Overall, this document was an immense and beautiful work. It states doctrine flat out, without any room for misreading or twisting. Even on the points that could have used more clarification, Pope Francis held to his usual tone of being a pastor of souls.
The document was reminiscent of speaking with a wise elder with the beauty of experience, poetry, wisdom and admonitions. If you need any last tips, Francis suggests the use of three words: “‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’.”