Bishop: Marriage is for life, so choose wisely

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A thriving and holy marriage depends on choosing a suitable spouse, having realistic expectations for the difficulties of marriage, and understanding the role of God’s grace in Christian life, according to a Nigerian bishop.

“You do not choose when and where you are born, you may or may not choose what school you attend, but you alone can choose who your spouse will be. And because this is a critical life decision, it can mar one's life when a wrong choice is made,” said Bishop Anselm Umoren, auxiliary bishop in Abuja, at a July ceremony launching a book on marriage written by Henrietta Okechukwa, a counselor in Abuja.

At the ceremony, the bishop noted that “many young people, having observed the tragic situation of marriage and family life today, are giving up hope of ever starting a family. I have heard and seen young people today who say, ‘If this is what marriage is, I prefer to remain single’. This seems to be the chorus on the lips of many young people in our society,” according to the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.

Those young people who do marry, he said, “go into marriage relationships with skewed values. Many young people want to marry a wealthy partner and are desperately seeking a life of comfort without seeking the values that make for a happy and holy life. They therefore end up mortgaging their lives and exchanging their happiness for the temporary pleasures of life.”

“On Valentine's Day in 2014, Pope Francis addressed 10,000 young couples preparing for marriage at a special Valentine's celebration in St Peter's Square in Rome. In his address, the Pope spoke to the engaged couples about love and about lasting fidelity in marriage and encouraged them not to be afraid to make the life-long commitment that marriage entails. But the Pope also expressed his sadness that many marriages today do not last long. This mentality, he says, has affected many young people who now see marriage as a temporary arrangement according to their own preferences,” Umoren said.

“This is why today many young couples seem to be overtaken by excessive planning and preparation for wedding, with exotic wedding gowns, elaborate photo shoots, and huge financial spending, without giving much attention to the spiritual and mental preparation for marriage.”

“They spend a lot of time and resources preparing for wedding instead of preparing for marriage. The wedding ceremony takes only a couple of hours, but the life after wedding lasts ‘till death do us part’. We need to help today's young people to focus on this priority,” he added, while praising Okechukwa’s book.

The book, “Understanding your spouse before and after saying ‘I do,’” has not been released in the United States.

The bishop urged dating couples to reflect carefully on their values, and those of their partner, encouraging them not to marry if they do not share a common commitment to the permanence of marriage, to faith and to the Gospel.

“We are inundated almost on a daily basis with harrowing tales of husband and wife who are unable to live together under the same roof and sometimes resort to violence even to the point of killing a partner,” he said of his own pastoral experience in the Diocese of Abuja.

“It is better to put an end to an incompatible relationship today than to find yourself in an unhappy and sorrowful marriage tomorrow.”

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