Courtship is a very important subject for young Catholics, especially in the times in which we live. In a world where dating is “just for fun,” the idea of a serious courtship can seem confusing to us. Thus, we offer a series of articles on courtship, since it is such a vast subject to cover. It is also one that can be greatly misunderstood. On the one hand, we have young people being influenced by the world to date with a shallow attitude; on the other hand, we have the older generations not always taking seriously those in a courtship because of all the worldliness they see around them. But before going into different important aspects that should be kept in mind, what is a proper courtship?
According to traditional Church teaching, the best kind of courtship is when two Catholics, who are both of the age to get married, spend time together in a good and wholesome way in order to develop a strong relationship, and later to marry and have children for the greater glory of God and the salvation of their souls. It is a beautiful union that will strengthen the sanctity of the couple, and later on sanctify the children they raise together. It may seem to the young couple who hears this that this is a far too serious definition, and that they are not ready for such a commitment. But think of it this way: If we are not courting for marriage, we are setting ourselves up for sin and heartbreak. The world romanticizes dating in such a way that it catches our eye, and we forget the emptiness of it all. Let us then begin with a few reminders that will help us if we are in a courtship, and put our minds at peace.
The Importance of Taking Courtship Seriously
Too many times, I’ve seen a young couple courting and those around them seem not to take their relationship seriously. They’re young, they have young love, and the realities of life will hit them one day. If we are going to encourage the youth to have a fruitful courtship, this is not the way. Perhaps the couple enjoys laughing together and having good times. We should encourage prayer and good works, but also the lightheartedness that comes with the beginning stages of a relationship. For those courting, never lose that balance of spirituality and joy. On one side, you can forget the spiritual aspects of the relationship, and on the other you can get too caught up in worries and scrupulosity. Adulthood is not about being cold and overly serious, but rather growing in the spiritual life with joy and practicing virtue in our daily lives. If we are preparing for marriage, we must be mature in our decisions, but also be lighthearted and happy with those around us.
In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis tells us, “Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger or higher or wider; nothing is more pleasant, nothing fuller, and nothing better in Heaven or on earth, for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God, Who is above all created things.” God created us to love Him directly, and also to love those around us for His sake. This is a very serious thing, but just because love is serious does not mean it has to be unfeeling. We should then pray to have this balance, in order to grow with the other person and give the good example all around us of a Catholic relationship. When you are young, people might not always take you seriously, but use these opportunities to grow in humility, maturity, and always with a peaceful and childlike disposition. There is a reason Our Blessed Lord loved the children He came across so much when He was on earth. He loves especially to be honored with simplicity, sincerity, and always with a smile.
Genuine Kindness and Wonder
In order for a courtship to be fruitful, we must realize what the vocation to marriage means for us. When we read up on vocations, we find material on nuns being brides of Christ, and priests having the sacred place of offering to God Himself the same Sacrifice He offered on earth, but material on marriage is oftentimes lacking. If we truly think about it, God has called us to offer everything we are to another person, in order to serve Him and fulfill His holy will. This is an incredible calling, since it involves true self-sacrifice. We must learn and pray for the grace to see God in the eyes of the one we love, which will help us treat the other with a sacred kindness and charity in everything we do. When we see Our Blessed Lord’s sacred Eyes in those of the one we hope to marry, it helps us to be more charitable, more patient, and teaches us how holy the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony really is. In the period of courtship, growth in all these virtues is especially important since they will be used regularly throughout married life, which will no doubt be difficult at times. However, if a relationship has grown under the guidance of God, it will be far easier and give everything a joyful light. If trials come our way, we can look into the eyes of our beloved and offer it all up for their benefit. Sorrow is then turned to joy, and God can actively make every trouble a greater good.
Seek Wise Counsel
One final point for this introductory article on courtship is that we should trust in the advice of others. For generations, couples have been getting together and learning all the ins and outs of a holy courtship and marriage. Young people can often struggle with listening and asking for advice, but this does not always have to be difficult. We should be open to learning from the older couples we know and trust, and ask them for advice and counsel. They have experienced the fullness of life, and though we want to be mature and independent, their help will always benefit us. In asking for help, we grow in humility as well as wisdom for the future. If we find that those around us are not giving holy or beneficial advice, we must seek out those couples who lift us up and challenge us to pursue holiness in our courtship.
May God watch over all those preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage, so that they can grow in sanctity and peace. God always wills true peace for our souls, especially when preparing for such a holy union. St. Catherine of Sienna is a great model to follow as she understood so well the sanctity of charity: “Charity is the sweet and holy bond which links the soul with its Creator: it binds God with man and man with God.”
May all the Saints and Angels watch over the young, for they are extremely loved in the eyes of God, and can do great things for the Church.