By Cara E. Ruegg
|Artwork by lisima|
It used to be that courtship was quick. He met her; he fell in love with her; he asked her to marry him; they got married. Now, he meets her; he nitpicks; he takes baby steps to this terrifying idea of commitment; he asks her to marry him and maybe they marry, maybe not. This is applicable to both men and women, to relationships in the secular world as well as to relationships in Catholic circles. Commitment has become a terrifying concept in the minds of many youth. Casual dating and testing out living together is a whole lot more common nowadays than it ever was before.
Where is this fear stemming from? Is it the divorces that seem more and more prevalent? Broken families? The hollywood perception of love as infatuation versus an act of the will? The overwhelming fear of failure? The pressure caring for a family entails? Why is it that so many men and women alike struggle to commit?
It is not coincidence that when marriage is under attack on all fronts with all these perverse movements, the devil would try in a sly way to convince the youth to wait, just wait. Maybe she’s not the one. Oh, did you see how she nagged you then? Are you sure you can take that kind of stress? Suddenly these tiny details become enormous problems, these little disagreements become all-out wars. So you wait, you prolong the courtship unduly. You tell yourself that if you made just a little bit more money, if you were just a little bit more experienced then you’d be ready as if anybody is ever really ready for the huge responsibility of marriage, as if it were solely dependent on our strength alone. Courtship is a necessary occasion of sin, but it is still an occasion of sin. If you weren’t ready to marry, you should not have been dating. If you were ready to marry, why let these fears cripple you? Why prolong the occasion of sin? Isn’t that what the devil wants? If he cannot prevent a good Catholic marriage, he will at least try to get you to sin and tarnish your attempt at a good Catholic courtship that will likely shape your marriage since if self-restraint is lacking in the courtship, if disrespect is prevalent, what is the likelihood it’ll change when you are married?
Chivalrous men seem to be a dying breed, replaced by cowards or worse: men that do not act like men at all and instead of protecting woman and child, tarnish them. But let us focus on the cowards, since even good men can fall into this category. Because of this lack of chivalry, women suddenly feel the overwhelming burden of taking upon themselves the man’s role, just as they had to during the World Wars. It should be the man assuring the woman that they can make it in marriage, that whatever crosses come, they can handle it with God’s grace. Now, it’s the opposite. Now it’s the woman telling the man how to be a man, tiptoeing around issues because she’s afraid to offend. Some of these men are genuinely certain they are making the prudent decision in holding things off and bringing up again and again, “what if…we need to be prepared for what if”. The devil loves to disrupt our peace. He loves to make us afraid. It takes an act of heroism to commit to marry someone, to promise them “for better or for worse”, not knowing what the worse may be. But that’s just it, we cannot know. Maybe we would do better to wait for that big promotion before marriage, but maybe it’ll never come; maybe, even if it does come, halfway through the marriage, we’ll lose our job altogether.
Money or lack thereof is actually quite insignificant when it comes down to it. If the man is hardworking and budgets well or is at least willing to learn to budget well, then there’s not much to worry about. It is a worldly mindset to focus too much on providing a comfortable living for one’s family. Feeding them, providing health of mind and body is certainly important, but not as important as raising them as good Catholics. It seems that even amongst Catholics, the financial side of it takes precedence over the spiritual realm, which is probably why there is such a fear to begin with. We are relying too much on ourselves when the spiritual realm is out of the picture, so no wonder we are so afraid. Without God at the center of our marriage, how can we be expected to succeed? Of course it’s too much then. But, as soon as we recognize that God will be at the center of our marriage if we just let Him, the fears suddenly seem very petty.
Saint Joseph and Our Lady were by no means financially well-off and yet they were to have the biggest responsibility of all: providing and caring for a God-child. But Our Lady didn’t tell the angel she’d think about it. She said, “Fiat”. Where is our fiat? Where is our “for better or worse” according to God’s holy will?
Of course, rushing into something is not the way to do things either. Virtue falls in moderation. A pretty girl will not necessarily make a pretty wife. You cannot love what you do not know. But, as common as rash decisions are in marriage, they do not seem half as common as the inability to commit. Both are problematic and both should be avoided. This being said, we need to set our eyes on the example of the holy family. According to the world’s standards, Our Lady probably should never have taken upon herself the responsibility she did. It would’ve probably seemed imprudent for her to just make that decision in one hit, judging by her poor status and her young age. Why are we, as Catholics, allowing the world’s standards to penetrate us so deeply? We shouldn’t be taking caution to such an extreme; we should be heroic; we should say our fiat to God’s will even if the known or unknown crosses it entails are scary.