I got up last Saturday with a headache. I didn’t give my body a chance to work through it, so I took two Tylenol.
I went to the mirror to edge my beard. The Bic razor I grabbed was a day old. I threw it out. I used a new one. Threw that one out.
I got a sense that I was looking at a difficult day ahead of me. I went back to bed.
That scenario sums up for me why some relationships don’t last these days. It may also indicate why fewer people are getting married.
We’ve gotten used to the quick fix. We’ve grown up in a disposal society. And it seems like when things get tough and we need to dig in, we don’t. So if we do it with our coffee, our razor blades, and our everyday problems, who’s to say that these attitudes haven’t crept into our philosophy about marriage?
When I served in the 1990s as director of spiritual activities in Catholic high school and resided in St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Reading, we would witness more than 40 weddings a year in the parish. In 2019, the year before the pandemic erupted, eight.
Young people are not getting married. And if they are getting married, they are not getting married in the Church. Many of us remember the days when a girl dreamed of a Church wedding. Today, not so much.
Besides the reasons mentioned above, one of the biggest factors may be fear. Some young people with whom I have spoken often mention that their fear of failure causes them to think hesitatingly about marriage – and even more so when they consider marriage in the Church. They recognize that entering into a sacramental marriage takes the commitment to a new level, and a failure here would be worse.
This past September, Pope Francis visited Slovakia. He met with young adults. Recognizing their apprehension to marry, he told them very straightforwardly to get married. Furthermore, he told them to have children. The pope encouraged Slovakia’s youth to not be afraid of the inevitable challenges of married life and parenting. He shared with them what became a mantra of St. John Paul II: Do not be afraid!
The Lord, through the Church, assists those who desire to enter into this permanent, faithful commitment we call holy matrimony. The Church accompanies couples as they prepare for marriage, as they celebrate their wedding, and as they live out their sacramental life together.
There is hope. Over the past few months I happened to run into several former students of mine. They all married in the Church. All the couples have several children. The same for many of their friends.
We must be as straightforward as Pope Francis in challenging young people to marry. And the Church needs to reach out to our youth and show them that we are truly here for them.
Maybe we’ll have more girls dreaming again about a Church wedding.
By Monsignor Thomas Orsulak, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, Reading, and regional priest coordinator of Hispanic ministry for Berks, Carbon and Schuylkill deaneries.