The Verrets are founders of Witness to Love: Marriage Preparation Renewal Ministry and co-authors of the handbook for mentor couples Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation of Marriages Survive and Thrive, published by St. Benedict Press, August, 2015.
Long before the sun came up on Friday morning, I awoke with eager anticipation to read Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Joy of Love. I had one main concern though—would this be something with a message for the average couple? Happily the answer is a huge yes!
It is obvious that Pope Francis has sat down with couples and families, young and old, flourishing and hurting, rich and poor, healthy and sick, so that he knows family life. At one point he describes a scene where a couple is trying to grow in virtue even with the challenges of marriage. I feel like he must have snuck into our house for some observation.
There is, however, one challenge. Limited time and busy schedules don’t usually give young families much opportunity for leisurely reading. It’s possible they can get bogged down by the 250+ pages of this document and miss the most important parts written just for them. If this is you, here are three easy tips on how to read the chapters that will have the most impact on the future of your family.
Tip #1. If you are going to read only a portion of Joy of Love, read chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 is one of the longest chapters and it is titled “Love in Marriage”. It is my favorite. Every engaged couple should read it. Every married couple should read it. Every struggling couple should read it.
It is a beautiful and practical reflection on the passage from 1 Corinthians about the qualities of love. Pope Francis talks at great length about how marriage is a witness to the love of God, how to protect and nurture love, how passion should respect the dignity of the other, friendship and marriage, and very practical stuff like the tone of voice spouses use with each other, simply saying “please” and “thank you,” the importance of never withholding a tender glance, and most of all how to love selflessly. I plan to have all of our engaged couples and their mentors read this chapter. It is better than almost any marriage prep material out there. It is a perfect homework assignment, retreat reflection or challenge to go deeper for an engaged or married couple.
Tip #2. If you are parents, Chapter 5 is very short and perfect for you. The title of the chapter is "Love Made Fruitful". Pope Francis discusses infertility, becoming parents, the importance of mothers, what is a family, the domestic church, and how the witness of the family "makes God's love present in society" (AL 184). Chapter 5 is a nice motivational summary of the importance of building a future and creating a memory for your family.
Tip #3. Every night, set aside time for you and your spouse to read Chapter 4 slowly, one paragraph at a time. (Simply print Chapter 4. Tell your printer to print pages 71-123.) Take a few paragraphs per evening. Read it. Discuss it. Pray through it. What deeper depths of love is God calling your family to? How can you restore your marriage to the original splendor God called you to in the beginning? Take the time to read it and pray through it. You will not be disappointed. One day when you have more time, read it all and just go back and start at the very beginning. A very good place to start…