My friends in Christ, the family is the basic building block and the basic cell of the society.  The Council of Vatican II has stated that the family indeed is the Domestic Church.  The following ten points are directed at helping us to foster good families. Especially we must help young people who are called to the marriage vocation to take seriously their choice of the proper spouse as well as undergo the necessary preparation for the sublime vocation of marriage and family.

1.     PRAYER BEFOREHAND.  Parents should pray and even offer Masses for their children that they make the right choice for  their partner of life. By far, this is the most important decision in life. Unfortunately most people today make the wrong choice as to their marriage partner. Just look at the divorce rates that have skyrocketed over the past 25 years. Also the youth should pray to God that they make the right choice.  The choice should not be based merely on physical attraction, economic reasons, and physical talents and degrees. The most important criteria should be will this person help me and my future family arrive safely home to heaven. Remember the words of Jesus: “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

2.    NO TRIAL-MARRIAGE.  It has indeed become an epidemic among the young generation of today to start off with what is called a “Trial-marriage”.  This means, the mentality of today is simply to try it out.  Their reasoning is the following: “We have to see if we are compatible; if we have “Chemistry”. The best way to find out is to live together to see if it really works out.  Totally wrong!  In the meantime, they live in mortal sin, deprive themselves of access to the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist and give bad example to other young people, including their own siblings!  Start off on the right foot by Sacramental marriage and not by living in free-union or cohabitation!

3.    MARRIAGE PREPARATION.  Any pursuit or endeavor of authentic value demands hard work and preparation.  Successful professionals have many years of prior studies; athletes exert painstaking hours of blood, sweat and tears to arrive at the heights of their performance.  Future priests have to study many years--- philosophy, theology, and serious spiritual training to become excellent priests.  The same can be applied to the married life. Young people should not kid themselves into believing that they will form a good family without serious preparation.   The athletes put it this way: “No pain, no gain!”

4.    PROPER UNDERSTANDING AND USE OF SEXUALITY.   Young people must understand that there is a proper time and place for everything. This especially applies to the proper use of sexuality.  Human sexuality has its proper place only between a man and woman that have been married sacramentally in the church. In other words, no sexual relations until the night of the honeymoon--- not a minute before!

5.    LEARNING AND ACCEPTING NFP (NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING). As a sequel to the previous point regarding human sexuality, married couples must never have recourse to immoral means of avoiding children. This means any use of any artificial means of preventing the conception of the child is intrinsically disordered.   The Church teaches that for a just cause couples can postpone and avoid having children. However, the avoidance of children should never imply using the Pill, Norplant, Condom, hormones to prevent the conception. Read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” , July 25, 1968.   All of this obviously implies that couples engaged to be married should feel the serious obligation incumbent upon themselves to learn NFP before  they are married! Furthermore, all pastors and priests engaged in preparing couples for marriage should provide the means by which these couples can take a course and learn the Natural Family Planning method approved by the Church. Experience has proven that one of the primary reasons for divorce is the rampant use of contraceptives. (Listen to the excellent talk given by Dr. Janet Smith “Contraception why not?”).  Dr. Smith explains clearly the countless benefits of NFP as well as the nefarious and fatal consequences of caving in to the Contraceptive mentality.

6.     THE THREE C’S OF MARRIAGE.  Even before entering into the life-long commitment of marriage the couple should be cognizant of the “Three-C’s of Marriage”. What then are the “Three-C’s?”  COMMUNICATION, COMMITMENT, AND CHRISTOCENTRIC MARRIAGE.  The couple must learn the art of dialogue before marriage and into marriage. Many marriages fall apart due to poor communication. Commitment must be total and irreversible. In the marriage ceremony the priest asks the question to both separately: “Do you promise to be faithful in good times, and bad, in health and in sickness, in richness and poverty until death to you part?”   The response must be a resounding: “I do!”  This is for life, until death do they part!

7.    CHRISTOCENTRIC!  By far the most important binding force in any successful marriage is the person of CHRIST.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a book on marriage with the title:  “It takes three to get married”. Who are those three?  The husband, the wife and Jesus the Lord. Jesus must be the third partner of any successful marriage. If you like, Jesus is the super-glue that holds the marriage together.

8.    MARRIAGE MENTORS.  Teachers, athletes, young and budding professionals need others with more experience to help them, to coach them along, to help them to see clearly the right path.  This concept of mentoring or coaching can and should be applied to couples preparing for their marriage commitment. Parishes can set up a team of “Mentors” to provide invaluable guidance. These mentors are couples who have been married for a good block of time, have been involved in marriage preparation, and are living a deep spiritual and sacramental life. From their wealth of experience and deep spiritual life they can mentor and support this young couple. Advice on possible dangers, as well as good advice from their own experience can prove exceedingly beneficial!

9.     UNION IN PRAYER AND THE SACRAMENTS IN THE COURTSHIP.  Pastoral and intellectual preparation is indispensable in preparing couples for the life-long marriage commitment. However, the courting couple should form the habit of praying together even before they are married. Better yet, they should get into the habit of attending Holy Mass together and receiving the Holy Eucharist together. As such, both receive a “Spiritual Heart-transplant”. They receive in Holy Communion the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be flowing through their own veins and into their own hearts!  Indeed this is what it really means to be a CHRISTOCENTRIC marriage!

10. READING MATERIAL.  Today the modern world is swimming in a vast ocean of words, ideas, and limitless information. Pastors, priests, deacons as well as those involved in preparing couples for the vocation of marriage should have a rich Bibliography of material that can be read, heard or viewed by those embarking upon the vocation of marriage. Ecclesial documents should be provided: “Familiaris Consortio” of Pope John Paul II, his letter to the Family 1994, as well as numbers from Gaudiem and Spes regarding marriage and family and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.   In my pastoral experience preparing couples for marriage the text “A Catholic Handbook for Engaged and Newly Married Couples” By Frederick Marks, Ph. D, Emmaus Road Publishers has proved to be a gem for those soon to be married as well as the newly married couples.

Blessed Pope John Paul II clearly stated that the future of the society is closely connected with the state of the family.  The great civilizations—Greek, Roman—to mention just two, unravelled and fell apart largely due to the crisis and destruction of the family.

Therefore confronted with so many negative and opposing forces in the society militating against marriage—divorce, homosexual unions, and adultery—we must do all on our part to defend traditional marriages and the family. Let us beg good St. Joseph, Mary and Jesus to come to our rescue!