When we encounter a paragraph without footnotes, that is usually a sign of an original reflection from Pope Francis. There’s a good bit here; pardon me for breaking into the narrative as I’ve done. Comments in the boxes, as you wish.
218. Another great challenge of marriage preparation is to help couples realize that marriage is not something that happens once for all. Their union is real and irrevocable, confirmed and consecrated by the sacrament of matrimony. Yet in joining their lives, the spouses assume an active and creative role in a lifelong project. Their gaze now has to be directed to the future that, with the help of God’s grace, they are daily called to build.
This sentiment works against the graduation/requirement mindset. Of course, the Church sometimes works against this principle in its emphasis on the canonical reality of marriage. Still, that doesn’t absolve parishes and ministers from forming people in thinking of their relationship as a lifelong project. Never quite completed. Not quite perfect. Just like the individuals who come into a marriage:
For this very reason, neither spouse can expect the other to be perfect. Each must set aside all illusions and accept the other as he or she actually is: an unfinished product, needing to grow, a work in progress. A persistently critical attitude towards one’s partner is a sign that marriage was not entered into as a project to be worked on together, with patience, understanding, tolerance and generosity.
One might say that any relationship, including employment, friendship, or a vocational discernment that manifests persistent criticism on the part of a participant might also be fodder for discernment on this issue.
Slowly but surely, love will then give way to constant questioning and criticism, dwelling on each other’s good and bad points, issuing ultimatums and engaging in competition and self-justification. The couple then prove incapable of helping one another to build a mature union. This fact needs to be realistically presented to newly married couples from the outset, so that they can grasp that the wedding is “just the beginning”. By saying “I do”, they embark on a journey that requires them to overcome all obstacles standing in the way of their reaching the goal. The nuptial blessing that they receive is a grace and an incentive for this journey. They can only benefit from sitting down and talking to one another about how, concretely, they plan to achieve their goal.
Practical advice. Sounds good during the engagement period. But, of course, people are usually on their best behavior before the wedding.
Remember Amoris Laetitia is online here.