Francis told fiancés gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a special papal date that expressions of courtesy, gratitude and contrition go a long way toward conserving and enhancing love over time.
“Never finish the day without making peace!” he begged them. “Because if you end the day without making peace, what you have inside becomes hard and cold and it becomes harder to make peace the following day.”
Francis has on several occasions met with young couples to give them advice before they embark on marriage.
The need for such church counseling, both before and after the wedding, is a theme on which he’s expected to elaborate at a major Vatican meeting on the family in October.
Francis has often lamented how many marriages end in divorce and has blamed such failed relationships on today’s prevailing “provisional culture” that makes people unwilling to make lifelong commitments.
Originally the audience was due to be held inside a Vatican auditorium. But the response from soon-to-wed couples to Francis’ invitation for a Valentine’s Day date was so large — Vatican officials said 25,000 people from 30 countries showed up — that the event was held in the piazza on a perfect,sunny afternoon after weeks of rain.
Francis joked that we all make mistakes and that no one is perfect: “The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor the perfect husband nor wife. Let’s not even talk about the perfect mother-in-law!”
Here's a more complete summary
The event, which was promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, was filled with music and dancing prior to the Holy Father’s arrival. After an introduction by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council, several couples asked the Holy Father questions about the challenges of Christian couples on their way towards marriage.
Nicolas Pecino and Marie Alexa Gaggero, a couple from Gibraltar, asked the Holy Father about the difficulties of commitment for the rest of their lives. “Many feel that the challenge of living together forever is beautiful, enchanting, but very demanding, almost impossible. We ask your word to enlighten us on this,” they asked.
The Holy Father said that in today’s fast paced world, many couples are afraid of making a definitive choice in life, contributing to a mentality that brings couples to “stay together until this love lasts.” Love is more than just a feeling or a psychophysical state, but a relationship that grows like the construction of a house.”
“Just as the love of God is stable and forever, so we would want the love that is the foundation of the family to be stable and forever. We cannot let ourselves be overcome by the 'throwaway culture',” the Holy Father said.
The Pope told the couples gathered that the fear of “forever” is cured day by day through a life of prayer. Recalling the Lord’s prayer, the Pope told the Holy Father to ask Christ to multiply their love.
“In the ‘Our Father’ we say: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Married couples can learn to pray like this: ‘Lord, give us this day our daily love’ because daily love is the bread of married couples,” he said.
An Italian couple, Stefano Campoli and Valentina Mirabella, asked the Pope on what “style” of spiritual life that couples should live. Reiterating a point made in his meeting with families late last year, the Holy Father said that to live together is an art that can be summarized in three words: excuse me, thank you and I’m sorry.
“‘Excuse me’ is the gentle request to enter into someone’s life with respect and attention,” he said, adding that to ask permission means to know how to enter into other’s lives with courtesy. “Courtesy,” he stressed, “conserves love. And in our families, in our world, where there is much violence and arrogance, there is a greater need for courtesy.
The 77 year old Pontiff went on to say that ‘thank you’ is not just a polite manner of speaking but a sign of gratitude. “I’m sorry”, he said, allows us to learn from and recognize our mistakes and faults.
“We all know that the perfect family doesn’t exist, nor the perfect husband, or the perfect wife,” he said. “We won’t even talk about the perfect mother-in-law,” the Pope said jokingly.
“Jesus, knows us well, he teaches us a secret: to never end the day without asking for forgiveness, without returning peace to our house, to our family.”
The final question, asked by a couple from Tuscany, Miriam and Marco, was how to best celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage. Concluding his dialogue with the couples, the Holy Father said that while the marriage is a feast, that it is important to highlight what matters most. “Some are worried more about the exterior signs, the banquet, the photos, the dresses and flowers.”
While they are important for a feast, they are only useful if they serve to show the true reason for their joy: the blessing of God over their love.
“Do it in such a way that, like the wine in Cana, the exterior signs of your feast reveal the presence of the Lord and remind you and all present the origin and reason for your joy,” he said.