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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

Engaged Couples in Malta Express Concerns to Pope

An engaged couple in Malta expressed the fear to Pope Benedict XVI that “life offers too many hurdles for us to live our married lives in God’s light.” The young couple preparing to be married in the church told the pope that while they want a marriage that is guided by God, a major concern of theirs is trusting that God will provide for their family.

The couple addressed Pope Benedict April 18 when he met with more than 10,000 young people on the waterfront in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. The pope arrived at the meeting after a 20-minute, festive crossing of Valletta’s harbor with nearly a dozen young people in a catamaran named the “St. Paul,” accompanied by small boats of every description.

Arrangements for the Valletta gathering called for five young men and women, including the engaged couple, to address Pope Benedict about their hopes, doubts and fears. The pope responded in a prepared address.

One young man spoke to the pope on behalf of young people who may feel marginalized in the church, such as substance abusers, homosexual persons or children of broken or dysfunctional families. A young woman spoke for youths active in the church who may feel marginalized in society. The final speaker, a young man, represented young people preparing for consecrated life.

The engaged couple said they felt uncertain about their “interpretation of God’s providence — whether it is totally gratuitous or whether it is a form of compensation for our wisdom and prudence in raising our children.” The couple said, “Show us the way to live our married life as a calling from God. … Tell us: What must we do?”

In his speech to the youthful crowd, Pope Benedict urged them to resist fear in whatever vocation they choose. He said, “To all of you who wish to follow Christ, as married couples, as parents, as priests, as religious, as lay faithful bringing the message of the Gospel to the world, I say, do not be afraid!”

Divorce and abortion were among concerns the pope addressed in his remarks. Malta, a largely Catholic nation, is said to be on the edge of change as public opinion shifts on important issues.

Upon arriving in Malta April 17, Pope Benedict addressed government leaders, including President George Abela. The pope said:

“Your nation should continue to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage as a natural institution, as well as a sacramental one, and for the true nature of the family, just as it does for the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and for the proper respect owed to religious freedom in ways that bring authentic integral development to individuals and society.”

The following day on Valletta’s waterfront, the pope urged Malta’s youths to “be proud that your country both defends the unborn and promotes stable family life by saying no to abortion and divorce.” He said, “I urge you to maintain this courageous witness to the sanctity of life and the centrality of marriage and family life for a healthy society.”

Pope Benedict said that Christians “are called to manifest God’s all-inclusive love.” All Christians have received a “noble vocation of love and service,” he said.

A month earlier Pope Benedict discussed the basic human vocation to love in another message for youths, a message for participants in the 10th International Youth Forum, held March 24-28 in Rocca di Papa, south of Rome. “Human beings are made for love; their lives are completely fulfilled only if they are lived in love,” said the pope.

He urged the youth forum participants “to put their whole heart into seeking their vocation to love, as people — and as baptized people,” since this is the key to their “entire existence.” Of course, the pope said, “the vocation to love takes different forms,” such as priesthood or marriage.

Commenting on marriage, Pope Benedict said that “the relationship between the man and the woman reflects divine love in a quite special way; therefore the conjugal bond acquires an immense dignity.” He added, though, that “in a cultural context in which many people consider marriage a temporary contract that may be violated, it is vitally important to understand that true love is faithful.”

True love “is the definitive gift of self,” calling for continuing commitment, Pope Benedict told the youths. Furthermore, he said that “since Christ consecrates the love of Christian spouses and is committed to and with them, this fidelity is not only possible,” but ought to be viewed as “the way by which to enter into ever greater charity.”

Through their daily life as a couple and in the family, “spouses learn to love as Christ loves,” Pope Benedict said. However, he added, suggesting the importance of preparation for marriage, “to measure up to this vocation, a serious educational process is necessary.”

About the author 
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.