Thank you for your questions regarding courtship and marriage.
Without courtship can one have a happy married life?
Of course a couple can enter into a happy married life without courtship. Even marriages that begin in a state of sin can, by the grace of God, go on to be renewed in purity and holiness later on in married life. There are many marriages that have gone from turmoil to experience the graces of healing and conversion and become wonderful examples of Christian marriage. God’s love is a constant source of hope to all!
I believe though, that the graces gained and the virtues developed during an honourable Christian courtship lay the best foundation possible for a marriage.
If a couple has entered married life by a path different than courtship there is no reason to believe that their marriage is going to be second rate! They may have a wonderful and dynamic relationship. Some couples have to rediscover some things along the way after they are married, especially if they were not sexually pure entering into marriage. But God’s grace is so amazing! He can make new what is old. He can make beautiful what has been tainted. He is the God of new beginnings.
There are many couples that look at the option of courtship now and wish that they could go back and redo things in their life. I often get the question referring to my novel, Arms of Love, “Where was this book when I was a teen-ager?” I always reply the same way, “I don’t know. Where was it when I was a teen-ager?”
I wish purity had been presented to me in such a beautiful package. I would have made fewer mistakes along the way. But thanks be to God, He has come into our married life and rewritten His love all over our hearts! Through our on-going study of the Church’s teachings on marriage and human sexuality, we have discovered tremendous joy and on-going renewal in our life and our love. God is so good. And His vision for marriage is so beautiful. And the teachings of the Catholic Church are so very rich!
I encourage all couples to consider doing a formation in marriage such as: Christopher West’s seminars and Catholic Marriage Conferences. Check out his website: The Gift Foundation, promoting chastity and Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. www.giftfoundation.org
I also strongly encourage couples to get involved with excellent programs such as FAMILIA, sponsored by Regnum Christi. FAMILIA does not yet have a central website, but information on this program can be reached through Regnum Christi’s website: http://www.regnumchristi.org
Whatever your path has been to marriage, each day brings the opportunity for growth and renewal. Commit yourself, from this day on, to live out chastity and purity according to your state in life. The blessings which will come to you will be many!
Remember: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” (Matthew 5:8) I believe that this is what courtship is all about and this is why I have dedicated my time and talents to promoting it to a world which is dying to know PURITY!
What can cause a family to separate?
This is a very difficult question because there are so many causes for separation in this culture and climate of “temporary marriage”. But, whatever the surface issues that immediately precipitate a separation or divorce, there are always underlying factors. I’ll address what I believe is the prevalent underlying cause for the breakdown of marriage.
Marriage has a purpose. It is not an accidental or incidental institution. Today there is much talk about marriage and redefining marriage. That comes from an attitude that says that marriage is merely a human institution – subject to change. But marriage is a gift from God, ordained from the beginning of mankind, established for the good of humanity and directed toward the procreation and rearing of children. It is not possible to redefine marriage, any more than it is possible to redefine love or life. But in our culture, which has given over to many lies and darkness, the light of truth has often been disregarded in all these areas: love, life and marriage.
So what is the underlying cause for separation and divorce? I believe the main cause is not living out the Church’s teachings in the area of marriage – primarily through contraception and sterilization which are acts oriented in selfishness. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is selfishness. Contraception prevents a couple from giving themselves completely and freely to the other. It is rooted in a selfishness that says I want your body for my pleasure, but I am not willing to give myself to you completely or to take you completely as you are – fertility and all. People are to be loved; objects are to be used – never the reverse. But contraception trains the heart to use not to love.
Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body teaches that there is a language of love communicated in the body between a husband and wife in their expressions of sexual intimacy. This body language says that I give myself to you completely, faithfully and permanently. When a couple practices contraception they make a lie out of what they are communicating to each other. They are not giving themselves over completely. Because of this, the “faithfully and permanently” message is also often lost.
Contraception is a lie from the beginning because it distorts the meaning of human sexuality, and in doing so it spills its poison into all areas of married life. The lie grows!
So it may seem that the couple splits up over finances, but there were underlying currents in their marriage working towards its destruction! I contend that if a couple has the honesty in their relationship that comes from living according to the Church’s teachings, they will have the ability to overcome the other obstacles they encounter. Every marriage encounters obstacles and difficulties. Some of these are seemingly insurmountable! Yet some marriages make it and others don’t. I believe the number one difference is living according to the principles of Natural Law on which the Catholic Church basis her teachings on marriage.
To give evidence to my assertion that the lie of contraception destroys marriages we just need to look at the stats. Statistically just over 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Yet, less than 5% of marriages that follow the Church’s teachings in Natural Family Planning end up in divorce. That is a ten times better chance for your marriage when you choose to live out the Catholic Church’s teachings!
I believe that when we stand firmly on the Christian principles of love, life and marriage, separation and divorce become non-issues. The Catholic Church has the most beautiful teachings and the deepest understanding of human nature, sexuality and the meaning of love, life and marriage. These are founded on Revelation through Scripture, based on Natural Law and perpetually reiterated and supported through the Living Tradition of the Magisterium of the Church throughout the ages. I could not possibly go into every detail here – but I encourage you to investigate for yourself what these teachings are.
A brief explanation of the Church’s teachings on married love:
I have taken the following excerpt from my webpage: Too Young to Get Married. This gives a brief explanation of the Church’s teachings on married love. It is geared as advice, things to consider, before choosing and spouse and entering into marriage.
So, what will give you the best guarantee in entering marriage? I believe following the Church's teachings on marriage is the best way to ensure a life of happiness and fulfillment. Here is a quick explanation of some things to consider, when entering into this sacred covenant.
Christopher West, in his explanation of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body explains that married love is, by God's design and the Catholic Church's teachings, to be free, faithful, total and fruitful. These are, in fact, part of the vows you take entering into marriage. Are you prepared to give yourselves to each other freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully?
By FREELY we understand that the couple is entering into marriage without
reservations, without outside pressures, without coercion of any kind. Are you getting married to escape something or out of fear that you'll never get this opportunity again? Or, are you getting married because you have discerned God's call in your life to the vocation of marriage with this one person. Love is FREE or it is not love at all! Search out your heart! Are you prepared to give it freely to this one person for the rest of your
By FAITHFULLY we understand that the couple will give themselves to each other in married love to the exclusion of all others. There is no room in marriage for "distraction". Is this the ONE and ONLY person you intend to give yourself to? Are you able to keep your heart focussed on this one person, faithfully? A good examination of your readiness for marriage comes from 1 Ephesians 5: 21-33.
"Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one." This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
Are you both ready to love each other like this? This is total faithfulness – as it imitates Christ's total faithfulness to His bride, the Church.
By TOTALLY we understand that the gift of marriage is a gift of each spouse's TOTAL self to the other. You belong to each other in marriage. Marriage is a mystery whereby the two become one. This is not only a mystery – it is a real challenge. There will be many opportunities in married life for you to die to yourself for the sake of your spouse. Some days it is easier said than done. But the vocation to marriage, when you are called to it, is your means of sanctification. Through marriage both you and your husband will help each other grow in holiness through sacrificial loving. Yet, even as you sacrifice for each other, a marriage founded on God's laws and love will give you the safety of knowing that you are loved totally and unconditionally by your husband – in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. There will be tremendous joys – like you could never experience apart from marriage, but also there will be times of sorrow. The grace of the sacrament will be there to give you the strength you need to have a good and holy marriage.
By FRUITFULLY we understand that married love is to be open to life. The act of marriage can never be inhibited, contracepted or manipulated so as to not be open to the possibility of life. Natural Family Planning is the means by which a couple can space children according to the circumstances of their life – but the Catholic Church teaches that avoiding pregnancy is to be done for grave circumstances. Periodic abstinence requires self-control and selfless loving. In this it demonstrates respect and unconditional love. And the benefits to a couple who practice NFP go far beyond spacing children. Couples who follow the Church's teaching in this regard have a less than 5% chance (statistically speaking) of divorce. Couples who follow the Church's teaching in this regard are often much more satisfied in their married love than those who contracept. In loving freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully, a couple lives their married love in union with God.
Married love is a very unique expression in which we imitate the very life
of the Trinity. The Father initiates the love. The Son receives the love and returns it to the Father. And their love becomes so real that it brings forth the life of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Where in our human experience do we imitate this love? Only in marriage. The husband initiates the love, which is received by his wife, the life is conceived within her and brought forth. God planned it this way, that
stamped into our very beings as male and female we would come to experience and taste the very nature of God who IS Love!
Satan has attacked this gift of our sexuality and so distorted it in our society that we often do not see it for the holy, sacred and beautiful gift that it is from God. Society has reduced sex as just a means to pleasure. But God's intention was that the enjoyment from sexual union of a man and woman in marriage would be for us a foretaste of heaven! It was intended to draw us closer to the life of God by giving us the opportunity to experience, in a small yet real way, the very life of the Trinity.
I think it is important, when discerning marriage, to examine the nature and
meaning of marriage. It is an awesome sacrament and beautiful gift which God has given to us. When we live it out as God has planned, it is amazing! When we forsake His laws, it is devastating. It is not a decision to be made lightly, as I am sure you are aware!
I hope that these thoughts on courtship and the meaning of marriage give light to your questions. I believe the best way to avoid separation and divorce, is to understand and live out marriage according to God’s plan. Take time to inform yourself of the Church’s teachings and then conform your heart to them and live them out. The results will be absolutely transforming!!
I apologize, Jovita, for how long it took me to respond to these questions. Thank you for your patience. We remember our readers each day in our prayers. I humbly ask that you would remember me, my family and this ministry in your prayers.
In His Most Holy Name,