Based on his pastoral experiences with young people and married couples, Fr Charbel takes a look at the truth of the Sacrament of marriage, what it is and more importantly, what it is not!

A cynical definition of marriage has been given as “to spend one’s lifetime trying to solve together the problems one would never have had, if one had remained single.” It sums up quite effectively the frustration of many married persons who have lost sight of their marriage as a path to happiness, let alone to holiness. It also expresses the fear of many youth, and their affected indifference towards a state of life they perceive as doubtfully conducive to happiness and surely conducive to many troubles.

Asking the wrong question will never get us the right answer.

Cultural and traditional milieu sometimes contributes to preventing the perception of the sacrament of marriage as a path of happiness and holiness. For example in cultures where arranged marriage is still prevalent, both love marriage and arranged marriage will have their partisans, as if it were a case of traditionalist vs modernist mindset debate. And few seem to notice that the real question is somewhere else. Arranged marriage can be a success or a failure, as much as love marriage can be a success or a failure. To be more accurate:

  • The proportion of arranged marriages failing today in South India are high compared to a generation or two back, especially when the people getting married are not given the opportunity to know each other, in order to give substance to their choice of each other, and/or when irrelevant or secondary criteria are imposed on them by social conventions or a consumerist mindset. Arranged marriage are usually a success when their freedom is respected by the respective families, and where means are given to develop a real respectful relationship before finally choosing each other, and when a genuine autonomy is allowed after marriage to the couple for mutual respect, choice, trust, knowledge and love, to grow and develop at their own pace.
  • Love marriage is often a failure when ‘love’ is understood only as a feeling, often immature and fleeting, even when strongly and mistakenly felt as overcoming every other consideration. Love marriage can be a success when love matures both before and after the definitive choice publicly expressed and made holy in the sacrament. Love before marriage does not mean that sex or even dating before marriage are a necessity in order to know each other. There are various ways to develop a deep relationship. Genuine and close friendship (which itself takes so many different shapes) is often the best way to know and love someone in depth.

The relevant question, then, is something like this: ‘How to choose each other in truth and how to grow together in that choice?’

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Fr Charbel,Tamilnadu.India
Fr Charbel,Tamilnadu.India

Fr Charbel, originally from France and from the community of St John, is currently living in Pondicherry, India. He goes around preaching retreats and actively supporting youth and young families, especially with marriage issues and discerning vocation. He is currently the Chaplain for JY Tamilnadu.