MARRIAGE PREPARATION COURSE
Courtship and Engagement
Matrimony, considered in the light of Faith, is a Holy State, capable of procuring for all who enter into it the means of self-sanctification and true happiness. All this depends, to a great degree, on the manner in which we prepare for marriage. The authorized voice of Pius XI solemnly warns : "All these things, however, depend in large measure on the due preparation, remote and proximate, of the parties for marriage. Let, then, those who are about to enter upon married life approach that state well disposed and well prepared, so that they may be able, as far as they can, to help each other in sustaining the vicissitudes of life, and yet more in attending to their eternal salvation." (Casti connubii).
This preparation for marriage consists of several parts. There is (1) the remote preparation which is irreplaceable the sum-total of Christian habits which prepare for right living, and which strengthen the souls of the partners, rendering them capable of facing the inherent difficulties of the holy state they are entering. There is also (2) an immediate preparation, which is very important, and which may not be neglected without risking fatal results.
This immediate preparation is also subdivided: There is (a) the material preparation: finances, income, trousseau, the future home, furniture, etc. Finally, there is (b) the very important spiritual preparation. This spiritual preparation is the effort made by the future partners, by means of their courtship, to acquire mutual understanding, by comparing their ideas as to the ideal wife and husband, and as to the ideal Christian father and mother, in order to be able to work harmoniously together on the principles that will guide their common life and the education of their children. In this way they will be ready to start life together endowed with the special graces conferred by the Sacrament of Matrimony. These preparations, the material and, particularly, the spiritual, will be confirmed and consolidated by the promise of marriage, called the Engagement. In this lesson, then, we shall discuss Courtship and Engagement.
l. NATURE AND PURPOSE OF COURTSHIP
What is understood by courtship? Is it simply the attention a young man showers on a young woman for a more or less prolonged period of time? Should one consider courtship, the visits made by the young man, as merely a way of passing time or as a diversion ? No. These are not to be called courtship; they are, at best, an imitation.
By courtship is understood the regular and attentive visits of a young man with a young woman for the purpose of mutual understanding and with the idea of marriage in view. Before becoming engaged, it is wise to consider the step one contemplates taking, to follow the advice of the Gospel, and to ask oneself if such a person will contribute to eternal, as well as temporal, happiness. Not only is one's own happiness at stake but also that of the future partner in marriage and the children to be born of the union. The choice of a life companion should not be made lightly nor without considerable thought and prayer. Hear the words of the illustrious Pontiff, Pius XI, in the Encyclical "Casti Connubii ': "To the proximate preparation of a good married life belongs very specially the care in choosing a partner; on that depends a great deal whether the forthcoming marriage will be happy or not, since one may be to the other either a great help in leading a Christian life, or on the other hand, a great danger and hindrance. And, in order that they will not deplore for the rest of their lives the sorrows arising from an indiscreet marriage, those about to enter into wedlock should carefully deliberate in choosing the person with whom henceforward they must live continually".
To make a wise choice it is necessary to know the person, and to know him or her intimately. For this reason, keeping company is necessary. It is true that courtships have been carried on through correspondence, but this is, even at its best, an unsatisfactory method, since it is most unlikely that a true, complete knowledge of the other's character will be revealed in this way. Therefore, intimate courtship is of prime importance.
a) MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING Mutual understanding should be the aim of young people keeping company and, as it is a question of spending the rest of their lives together, they should find out whether they will be able to fulfill in a Christian manner the duties incumbent on them as husbands, wives and parents. How often the unhappy cry is raised: "I acted blindly and now I am tied down to a partner I never really knew." It must not be forgotten that not all characters are compatible and that great acts of heroism are not everyday affairs. How often do we hear the tragic cry: "If only I had known -!" Now, too late, they realize that, dazzled by infatuation, they had painted for themselves an unreal picture of glowing days following each other in unbroken succession. Now, too late, they realize that, motivated by the consideration of financial or physical advantages, they had leaped without sufficient reflection into the serious adventure of matrimony. Now, for the rest of their lives, it is their sad privilege to ponder the bitter conciseness of that phrase: "Marry in haste and repent at leisure".
This being the case, if young people were to make a closer study of each other, in order to acquire a deeper mutual understanding, it is difficult to see why either would not divulge to the other, such or such a fault, deficiency, or weakness, that might affect the important step they plan to take. When a young man gives the impression that his financial condition is better than it actually is, when he conceals voluntarily a physical disability that might jeopardize the future home, when he maliciously dissimulates a repugnant vice from the girl he is courting, he is being dishonest and disloyal to an unpardonable degree. When, on the other hand, the young girl feigns qualities that she does not possess, or deliberately conceals faults which may prove a menace to the future union, she is avoiding her duty.
Courtship should be carried on with simplicity. Both should seek mutual understanding and assist each other in this study. So very few really know themselves as they really are! The opportunities most favorable for this study must be sought. He would be very ill advised who would seek to fool the other; not only would he be the cause of his own unhappiness but his act of deception would lead, as well, to the unhappiness of his entire married life. It is to the interest of both the young man and the young woman who are keeping company to make a complete, honest effort to mutually understand each other.
Let no one tell you that marriage is a lottery, and that it is impossible to know the future until it is too late. It is a fact that marriage carries its hazards: the human elements affecting this holy state are often hard to understand. Nevertheless, just because it does carry such risks, so much the more does marriage demand that we should not enter this state blindly, leaving reason entirely aside, but that we prepare for marriage with eyes wide open, keenly appreciative of the important responsibilities and privileges that we are about to assume. In choosing one's partner, great prudence cannot be too strongly urged. The Church herself, careful mother that she is, commends this great prudence in the choosing of one's partner and her wise counsels should not go unheeded.
b) WITH A VIEW TOWARDS MARRIAGE Courtship is not a psychological study of character between two people who are indifferent to each other. The definite aim of a young man and woman during courtship is ultimate marriage. Marriage does not necessarily always result, but it is with this serious purpose in mind that courtship should be carried on. "But", you will protest, "according to this idea, nobody could pay an occasional visit to a young woman without thinking of proposing." Here it is necessary to return to the definition of courtship. Courtship consists of regular and attentive visits; an occasional visit is not considered as courtship. This does not mean that a young man may never go out with a young woman without having serious intentions concerning marriage. For a young man to begin thinking of keeping company with a certain girl who seems to come nearest to realizing his ideals, he must first make her acquaintance and, to do that, he must meet her one day or another.
The modern trend in "dates" is to be severely condemned, when, under the guise of company-keeping, and with no serious intentions whatsoever, a person seeks only amusement with as many as possible of the opposite sex. It can be so interesting to compare different types, to break one heart after another, but it is at the same time exceedingly dangerous. It is a game that can lead only to disillusionment, so deep as to leave, almost inevitably, a permanent scar on other lives as well as on one's own. The lasting effect on the moral outlook of the "discarded" ones is too frequently one of bitterness and despair.
How frequently the first steps which lead to the brink of the abyss, if not over it, are taken at social gatherings where those present are almost strangers, if not entirely so. More dangerous still is flirting continued between two people; reserve is dropped, familiarities are permitted the trend is to take what you can get, tomorrow it will be somebody else. There are no longer any scruples about flirting with a married person. "It doesn't do any harm, because nobody knows." "It can't hurt anybody, there is no question of marriage: he already has a wife!" Such an unchristian moral order (or lack of order) gives rise to all sorts of scandals and disorders. Proof of this is furnished daily. If a pastime is made of deceiving another, serious charges can be laid and reparations exacted. "Then courtship should stop when it becomes apparent that marriage is out of the question? ..." Definitely! It is a moral duty not to waste the time of a young man or woman when it becomes apparent that marriage is unlikely to result. Highly culpable are those who play with the future of another through their own egoism. If through fear of hurting the other's feelings, you have hesitated to terminate such a courtship, you must now courageously speak up. Duty is often hard but it obliges nonetheless. At the same time, it is better for your friend to sustain a lesser hurt now than a really severe one later by allowing a one-sided attachment to grow until the loss of it may become overwhelming.
From what has been said about courtship and its aims, we can deduce the qualities it should possess and the manner in which it should be carried on.
2. QUALITIES OF COURTSHIP
a) SERIOUS When we consider the grandeur of: the Sacrament of Matrimony, and the advantages and benefits which accrue from it, we realize the importance of careful Christian preparation through serious courtship. Every vocation demands careful, efficient training: medicine, law, engineering, etc. Hard studying is done on the eve of an examination. As much effort and more should be put into your preparation for Matrimony. Make an honest attempt to understand your future partner. Respect the moral laws. How often regret gnaws at the consciences of those who have permitted unlawful liberties during courtship! It is a time of preparation, not a time to be passed in reciprocal or individual self-gratification. "We love each other, so we grant certain marks of affection. It is our method of developing love. Everybody does it."
Whether or not "everybody does it" is not the point (and be assured that there are many who refuse to contaminate something pure and noble by such practices). The point is: Do these so-called "marks of affection" find favor in the sight of God? He holds your destiny in His Hands. If you pass this time of preparation for Matrimony in a state of sin and therefore are His enemies, can you expect Him to bless the home that you are founding on evil? Can you be amazed then if your future in marriage may not be one of happiness? . . . You may then, perhaps, think Him unjust and harsh towards you ... Look ahead now. Keep yourselves pure and faithful to your duty, directing your conduct according to the ultimate objective of your own sanctification and that of your future partner.
b) SHORT How long should courtship last? As every case varies, it is difficult to give a specific answer. As a general rule, the length of courtship should be proportionate to the aims we set, and circumstances may prolong or shorten this time. Normally, a year is considered sufficient. Under ordinary circumstances, a young mar or woman should be able to arrive at a mutual understanding after keeping company for a year. In exceptional cases, it may take a couple of years, but courtship should not be prolonged beyond that time. If it begins to stretch out into five, seven or ten years, as happens occasionally, it should be discouraged and discontinued as soon as evidence of this trend is noted.
"Then, if we do not see our way clear to be married in less than four or five years, we should not start going together? . . .. Under these circumstances, such a step would not be recommended. Too many examples of this kind are seen! Courtships, carried on over interminable years are all too often the cause of sin. Consequently, it is advisable, before starting to keep company, to wait until marriage in the comparatively near future is a foreseeable probability.
A sad situation exists today among many of our young people. Still at school, and scarcely past their sixteenth or seventeenth birthday, they are, in many cases, "going steady". It is a great pity which can only end in disappointments. Through company keeping at this time, the emotions are frittered away. As a general rule, company keeping in these circumstances should be strongly discouraged.
c) FAITHFUL Another important quality of courtship is loyalty. Today, many feel no scruples against accepting the serious attentions of one young man while going out with others. Not being married, it is not a mortal sin to go out with others while keeping company with one young man or woman, but it is being disloyal: keeping company and seriously contemplating marriage, meeting for the purpose of better mutual understanding yet lacking the stamina and loyalty to remain true to that one. If it takes place with the consent of the other, it might be permissible. Done deceitfully, against the wishes of the other, it is a disloyalty that will bear bitter fruits when it becomes known, as it almost inevitably does. Be not one of those who seek only amusement and diversion during courtship. Rather, be one of those who, considering the seriousness of courtship, act accordingly as a matter of duty and right thinking.
3. SCENE OF COURTSHIP
Courtship should normally take place at the home of the parents, preferably that of the girl. There, under the kindly and protective eyes of the parents, the young couple can learn to know and respect each other. In this, our day, this may seem old-fashioned to many but great stress must be laid on supervision at this time ! Courtship is a period of special danger: The heart blossoming under love feels the need to give; passions are awakened and the devil strives desperately to spoil the two hearts who are dedicating themselves to the forming of a home. Experience teaches that adequate supervision is a vital necessity during courtship.
Beware of those who, under pretence of love, seek to elude the watchful care of their parents and are only happy when away from those charged with their welfare. If a young man truly loves a young woman, he will be willing to meet her in her own home, where he can see her as she really is. Do not consent to nor tolerate a courtship carried on in restaurants, on the streets, in public parks, in automobiles, or still more deplorable, in private rooms or night clubs. These are too immediate occasions of sin to be accepted by serious people.
Another deplorable condition affecting our cities especially, is that of young women away from home who have no suitable place to entertain their friends. Young women living in private rooming-houses, or in domestic service, often have a particularly difficult time. In many cases, if they "receive" at all, it must be in their own room with absolutely no supervision. This is an abuse that cannot be tolerated.
Employers of domestic help and keepers of private rooming-houses have duties and responsibilities to the young women they employ or shelter. Among these duties is that of seeing that these young women have a suitable and supervised place in which to receive the visits of a young man. Let not the mistress of a home think that she has fulfilled her duty and discharged herself of all responsibility in the eyes of God, when she settles the question by simply refusing to permit any visiting on the grounds that she does not wish to assume responsibility for any harm that may ensue. She has responsibilities to her employees or tenants and she cannot escape these responsibilities by closing her eyes to them. In cases where these duties are shirked, the young woman is forced to keep company away from all supervision, with the resulting very grave exposure to sin. Let us repeat: Such a danger would not exist if the master and mistress of a home were practicing their duty.
Supposing, however, that they do refuse to assume their responsibility. Under such circumstances, the only solution for the young couple is to call on friends and acquaintances, or to go out ... always in the company of others . . . never alone.
If, despite all efforts to remedy the situation, one still cannot entertain without exposure to sin, the required sacrifices must be made: immediate occasions of sin must be remedied, whether that occasion be in the form of a person, a place, or a thing. Always, always, always, the salvation of one's soul must come first. Any deviation from this standard can result only in sorrow and regret.
4. SUBJECTS TO BE DISCUSSED AND SETTLED DURING COURTSHIP
There are certain very important subjects which should be discussed before marriage because on them will depend to a great extent the harmony, happiness and stability of the home. A large number of young people, blinded by love, mistakenly neglect to discuss and arrive at a clear-cut and definite understanding of these subjects before marriage. They suffer under the illusion that these will automatically take care of themselves after they are married. Experience in thousands of homes proves quite the contrary!
Finally, if you wish to construct your future home on solid rock, we beg that, in order to avoid disappointment and deception, you and your future partner consider now, discuss now, and decide now, the following points:
a) the religious question
b) the question of children
c) the question of the family budget
d) the question of social relations.
Let us emphasize: These questions should definitely be settled before marriage. This is the purpose of courtship!
a) THE RELIGIOUS QUESTION
DIFFERENCES OF RELIGION Mixed marriages (between Protestants and Catholics) are a real disaster; in certain parts of the country they are a terrible evil. In the majority of instances, they are followed by loss of faith, by misunderstandings, and the rupture of the home. Raised in this atmosphere, what, then, of the souls of the children? What of their future, both eternal and temporal?
Women, especially, should be warned against mixed marriages. They, more often than young Catholic boys, are the victims. To many of them, Protestant boys hold some mysterious attraction. Added to that, they frequently feel the desire and the urge to convert them. Unfortunately, such conversions are actually far fewer than wishful thinking would have them.
It is with serious reasons that the Church is so strongly opposed to mixed marriages. It is with the voice of sad, but wise, experience that she speaks. Grave dangers to the salvation of the souls of the children lurk in these unions lacking the same religious life as a common basis and a common security. The husband goes to his Church, the wife goes to hers; the great religious feasts, source of such profound joy in the Catholic home, are causes of friction. Comes time for the Baptism of the children, First Communion, Confirmation! One of the parents will be absent, will fail to understand the value and the meaning of these great events. Next arises the question of the Catholic school, in which all the children must be educated. It is true that the Protestant partner to a mixed marriage must promise beforehand that all the children born of the marriage will be given a Catholic education. BUT, how very often do cases occur where, after marriage, the Protestant refuses to live up to the promises made before marriage ... promises that permitted his marrying a Catholic in the first place. Nor is it wise to declare that "my partner is different". Probably, each of those who have already been so misled, was equally convinced that "my partner is different".
It is an everyday story. Beware of mixed marriages! The best protection against such a mishap is to avoid keeping company with a person of a different religion. You have plenty of reasons for not allowing yourself to get mixed up in such a relationship. Statistics prove the truth of these claims and further show that mixed marriages result in children predominantly Protestant or completely irreligious. The exceptions are all too rare!
RELIGIOUS PRACTICE There are other factors in the religious life of the future spouses that must be considered. For example, regular reception of the Sacraments, faithful assistance at Mass every Sunday, the observance of the Commandments of God and of the Church, are all matters needing not only discussion, but needing definite affirmation by both parties. More than a simple decision to carry out the great religious principles is necessary. That would be merely a negative method of acting: there must exist between the two parties, a joint intention to strive in a positive manner, according to a definite plan, to grow in the love of God. How many young couples, because of a common ideal of self sanctify solution for the young couple is to call on friends and acquaintances, or to go out . .. always in the company of others . . . never alone.
If, despite all efforts to remedy the situation, one still cannot entertain without exposure to sin, the required sacrifices must be made : immediate occasions of sin must be remedied, whether that occasion be in the form of a person, a place, or a thing. Always, always, always, the salvation of one's soul must come first. Any deviation from this standard can result only in sorrow and regret.
b) THE QUESTION OF CHILDREN
(1) NUMBER OF CHILDREN This is, indeed, a vital question which, regrettably, too many people do not seek to solve according to the Commandments of God and the principles of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We will return later to this important question, but we do wish to give you some precise and incontestable information now.
First: Do not marry with the intention of having no children. Such a decision condemns you to misery here and throughout eternity. Second: Do not marry with the idea of having a certain number of children and no more. The same fate as that above awaits you. Third: the decision that should be shared by both of you before marriage is the following: "We will do our duty as a Christian couple until the end; we will be faithful in all things to the laws of God, and we will accept as coming from Him all children that will be the fruit of our union". In making this decision you assure yourselves true happiness, temporal as well as eternal, you throw open the door of your home to life and to the Life. You invite under your roof superabundant blessings from Heaven. During eternity, you will never regret this decision; so, remain steadfast now and always. To succeed, pray, be generous and pay no attention to the 'advice' of certain men, women, or organizations, (however respected they may seem to be), if their advice is contrary to that which you are receiving in your course in preparation for marriage. There are lives at stake, souls at stake, eternities at stake. Next to your own salvation, this is the most serious decision you can make, and it involves your own salvation.
(2) EDUCATION OF THE CHILDREN The education of the children is of prime importance, forming, as it does, part of the first purpose of marriage: the procreation and education of the children. Education is not an easy matter. It is a science and an art that has to be learned. Undoubtedly, natural instinct helps to a certain extent, as do the experiences of every day; but here are a number of principles and methods which must be studied personally and courageously if we wish to be as successful as possible..
After you are married, there will be organizations, information services, at your disposal to help you with the sublime but difficult task of Christian parenthood. What is important for the moment is that you foresee now, study these questions and above all, decide, both of you, to spare nothing in order to become true Christian educators.
As the union of the father and the mother is the source of physical life, so this same union will be the source of the real physical, intellectual and moral education which is nothing else, finally, but the flowering of the life given to the child by birth and baptism.
We must be ever mindful of the fact that even as a child grows in the natural order (that is, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to maturity), there is also growth in the supernatural order. More and more should the growing child be molded in the image of Christ. In order to accomplish this most effectively, it is necessary of course that the parents themselves be in frequent, regular reception of the Sacraments, that they have more than just a nodding acquaintance with the Gospels, and that devotion to the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier, be the source of light on all decisions they may be called upon to make. The enthroning of the Sacred Heart in the home is another vitally important means of winning innumerable, priceless treasures of grace for your home and family.
Another point to be carefully noted: Let both of you immediately resolve to be united on all questions regarding the education of your children. Consequently, never permit your children to see you divided on this point. If disagreements arise, settle them in the absence of the children . . . not in front of them. Moreover, in the absence of your partner, never destroy what he or she has built, never reverse the decisions your partner has made unless, of course, that decision may lead to immediate, sinful consequences on the part of the children. Then, it must be corrected without delay. To avoid such an unfortunate situation arising, we stress again the practice of asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit before rendering any decision. A short ejaculation, a turning of the mind to Him is sufficient: "0 Holy Ghost, we humbly implore Thee, be with us always that we may think, act, and speak only by Thy holy inspiration". It may be slightly difficult at first but every new habit is difficult at first. Certainly, for the sake of a momentary pause, it is better to be safe in your decisions than sorry afterwards. Later, as this habit becomes firmly fixed in your life, snap judgments and decisions in the face of necessity will be rendered easy and sure.
Let there be no disagreements, therefore, in the presence of the children, no arguments, no disputes, no quarrels. Working together for the love of your children, let there be only unity, always unity, approbation one of the other. Hence their education will be strong and powerful because it is based on a solid foundation.
c) THE QUESTION OF THE FAMILY BUDGET This question will be dealt with more fully in the Sixth Lesson. We desire simply to draw attention to the following points: Money (whether plentiful or scarce) may be used or misused. Money plays an important role in the home. It can be a source of contention and a nest of trouble, unless you clearly determine, before marriage, in what manner the money will be distributed in the family, how you intend using it, the role of the husband and of the wife in this matter. Good reckonings make for good friends, in marriage as elsewhere, and may happen more so in marriage. A definite, clear-cut understanding on the attitude towards money and on the management of money should be settled before marriage.
d) THE QUESTION OF SOCIAL RELATIONS This point is also very important. It should, therefore, be settled, as far as possible, by mutual understanding. Start with the premise that you are creating a home. It is there that your heart and your life should be centered. "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife." Consequently, for the husband and wife, the home life comes first, not for just the first few days, nor the first year, but for the rest of their lives. The home must have preference over the club, parties, bridge, etc. Guard your heart well on this point . . . see that it is not weaned away from the home for you are its base and support.
You must make the home attractive. It is the role of the father and of the mother to contribute, each one his and her share. Later, we will have occasion to develop this point in further detail, but let us emphasize here that the method of making the home attractive is by not deserting it ... This is only negative. Much more has yet to be done. Your presence must be desired because it is needed and desirable. Therefore, work at your own character according to your Model, Christ. Work at beautifying your home, at improving it. In this matter, we urge you to not neglect the silent apostolate of well-chosen holy pictures. Strive by all means possible to make the home a happy place. Strive the more as it becomes filled with joyous children. Bring Christ, the Source of happiness, under your roof: "Where two or more are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them".
The "in-law" question, a delicate point which is often the cause of much sorrow and misunderstanding may arise. A frank position from the beginning should help to preserve an agreeable relationship. Regardless of whether you are husband or wife, remember the saying of the Gospel: "Therefore, the husband will leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife". This truth should be understood by the husband and wife and by their parents.
A last point: Going out to visit. Whenever this is necessary, the husband and wife should, as much as possible, go out together but they must, at the same time, safe-guard the home for the education of the children. The presence of the parents is absolutely essential for the education of the off-spring. Never forget this fact and do not confide to the care of others this fundamental task of Christian parents. As the children grow, you can make companions of them. This companionship will give them a true knowledge of people that cannot be obtained otherwise. With his father, the adolescent boy becomes more manly, more virile, he will lose his timidity and gain that confidence and assurance so necessary today.
With the mother the young girl rapidly becomes a young lady, acquiring that poise, seriousness and ease of manner that she might otherwise never attain in the exclusive company of other young girls.
These are the principal subjects that it is a duty to discuss during courtship They will help pass this time in a serious but none the less agreeable manner. This love of the future home, this intelligent courtship, will enrich your souls and prepare you for the work of tomorrow
1. NATURE OF AND KINDS OF ENGAGEMENTS
Ordinarily, after a man has kept company with a woman for a certain length of time, if they decide that they wish to marry, their promise of marriage is called an engagement. An engagement is, therefore, an agreement made with one of the opposite sex, to contract marriage with him or her. There are two kinds of engagements: The Solemn Engagement, made under the direction of the Church and according to specific laws, and the simple or private engagement. As the obligations flowing from both these engagements differ according to the kind of engagement, we shall deal separately with A-the solemn engagement and B-the private engagement.
SOLEMN ENGAGEMENT This solemn engagement made through the Church is called a canonical engagement because it is accomplished according to the holy canons (laws) of the Church. The Church is anxious to assure the engagement the maximum of security and holiness possible by determining the conditions necessary to the validity of the engagement that the parties seek to contract.
a) CONDITIONS OF VALIDITY
"Any promise of marriage whether mutual, or made by one party, and accepted or refused by the other, is invalid and entails no obligations, even in conscience, unless made in writing and signed on one part by the future partners and on the other part by the Pastor or Ordinary of the place (Bishop or Vicar General of the Diocese) or by at least two witnesses" (Canon 1017-1).
(ii) "The contract should be dated with the exact day, month and year" (Sacred Congregation of Rites, July 27, 1908).
"The intended, and the witnesses, whosoever they may be, must sign in the presence of one another. Therefore, the parents can no longer contract an engagement for their children, as they did formerly."
"However, this promise of marriage, although valid, if violated without any reasonable motive, does not grant recourse to the (ecclesiastical) tribunal to force the celebration of the marriage, but only for the reparation of damages, if any" (Canon 1017-3).
"No other special form is required to validate the engagement contract, nor any condition regarding the writing, the language, the type of manuscript or printing, etc. Clauses, conditions and reservations may be inserted as desired." When the contract does not have to remain in the possession of the pastor, it is desirable that each of the contracting parties retain a copy signed by them and by the witnesses.
If the contract becomes null and void because of an impediment later revealed, this contract will remain invalid even after a dispensation for this impediment has been granted ; it will be necessary to draw up a new contract, in which may be mentioned the fact that the dispensation has been obtained.
b) WITNESSES FOR THE ENGAGEMENT The official witness for an engagement is the pastor or Ordinary of the diocese. Unofficial witnesses are any men, women or children, baptized or not, who can understand what is taking place in their presence and the information communicated to them. It is necessary for the witnesses to be able to sign their names: their mark is not sufficient. However, the signature is valid if they sign with the assistance of another party; the use of a typewriter, rubber stamps, etc., renders the engagement invalid. If the pastor is witness, in addition to his signature, he should use the seal of the parish.
Note that an engagement may be contracted, validly and lawfully before any pastor, provided it is within the limits of his parish or territory. (Sacred Congregation of Rites, March 28, 1908).
c) EFFECTS OF THE SOLEMN ENGAGEMENT CONTRACT If the contract is valid, it will enforce the following obligations:
Obligation in conscience for the engaged couple to marry on the date set, if the date has been fixed; if no date has been set, they should marry within a reasonably short period of time, unless there be legitimate reason for postponement.
Interdiction against seeking to contract matrimony or engagement with another party, unless one has a legitimate reason for dissolving the engagement already contracted.
The innocent party is granted the right of recourse to the (ecclesiastical) tribunal to claim from the unfaithful party breaking the engagement payment of damages, if there have been any.
Let us note however that the engagement is not enjoined for the validity or legality of the marriage. The future husband and wife are entirely free to make or not make such a contract before marrying. If they have made such a contract validly, they themselves can dissolve it by mutual consent for any of several reasons. Their pastor should be consulted to determine the validity of their reasons for wishing to dissolve the engagement.
SIMPLE ENGAGEMENT A simple engagement is one that lacks one or several of the conditions of a solemn engagement : for instance; if the engagement has been made orally and not in writing, if it is an engagement lacking any witnesses, etc. What we are going to say will surprise many and undeceive others. Nevertheless, it is the strict truth: a simple engagement obliges no one, not only in the eyes of the Church, not even in conscience, nor as a point of honor, to contract marriage. In the eyes of the Church, a simple' engagement is valueless. The Church, in her great wisdom, has wanted it thus, in order to emphasize the seriousness of Matrimony and the steps that should go into preparation for Matrimony.
While the simple engagement (not the solemn) carries no obligation in conscience to marry, it can nevertheless impose the obligation of repairing any damages ensuing from its being broken without sufficient reason; that is why the Civil courts grant reparation to the injured party in such cases.
Does that mean that, following a simple or solemn engagement, if one of the parties finds that he or she is making a mistake . . . a mistake that can lead only to future unhappiness, a mistake that may compromise the future of the other partner, they should nevertheless go ahead and marry? No. Marriage, under such circumstances, would be an ill-advised step to take. Much better to stop immediately before becoming more involved. Any serious cause, regardless of its nature, is a sufficient reason to justify breaking the engagement. Make the effort though, in such a case, to part as good friends.
2. DURING THE ENGAGEMENT
Does the fact that two people are now engaged to each other give them certain mutual claims and duties? Yes, the claim to faithfulness and the duty of being faithful. This is not the same as the faithfulness demanded by marriage. It is, however, more than the faithfulness of a man who goes out with a girl, but is not engaged to her. Consequently, there must be no running after other girls. The same applies to the girl, with regard to men other than her future husband. A habit of running around with others, persisted in throughout the days of engagement, will scarcely be dropped without difficulty after marriage.
On the other hand, an engagement does not break down all reserve nor does it confer the rights of marriage and it is necessary to be on guard against permitting any liberties. The fact that they are betrothed does not permit a couple to grant each other unlimited evidence of their love nor the assuming of marital privileges. A good Christian should have no difficulty understanding the falseness of the prevailing idea that, between engaged couples, everything, or almost anything, is permitted with the sole exception of the marriage act. On the contrary, the nearer the wedding day approaches, the more the engaged couple should strive to remain pure, to be well prepared; the more they should insist on seeking the favor of God. So wonderful is this Sacrament instituted by God to sanctify the marriage state that it should be entered into well prepared, with pure hearts, constant prayer and great prudence. Take heed, therefore: Instead of being for each other an occasion for sin, help your partner to be chaste, to rise to sublime ideals. For this purpose, pray together, go to Communion together, make sacrifices, one for the other.
May you be among those who marry with a chaste heart, a pure and noble soul, which did not seek happiness through gratification of the passions, but found its happiness in the companionship of the chosen one, courted under the eyes of God and Mary most pure, a companion with whom you have made plans for a Christian life and for the children that will bless your union.
ENTHRONEMENT OF THE SACRED HEART
The Enthronement is "the Official and Social Recognition of the loving Kingship of the Heart of Jesus in a Christian family." This recognition is made manifest by giving the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a place of honor in the home which is thus solemnly offered Him by an act of consecration. The God of infinite mercy said at Paray-le-Monial: "Being Myself the fount of all blessings, I will distribute these abundantly wherever the image of My Heart has found a place, to the end that It may be loved and honored." And further: "I shall reign in spite of My enemies and all those who attempt to oppose me."
The Enthronement then is simply the realization, not of this or that one of the requests made by our Savior to St. Margaret Mary, but the complete and integral realization of all of them, calling forth the fulfillment of the splendid promises with which the King of Love has enriched them. Note that we say "integral realization" of all the requests made at Paray-le-Monial; for the supreme end of the Enthronement is not, and ought not to be, to further a new pious practice, but to sanctify the home, and convert it into a living and social throne for the divine King.
The great need of modern days is, then, the reconstruction of Nazareth, or if you prefer, the reproduction of the holy family of Bethany, the home of the true friends of Jesus. We say "Bethany" because Nazareth, in its sublimity, will be unique throughout all ages, whereas in Bethany are creatures of our own condition, cast in our mould of clay. This home is therefore wholly and perfectly imitable. How many homes have, as Bethany had, souls like Magdalen's, and prodigal sons. Call to the Master, hearken to Him, treat Him as an intimate Friend, and you will witness resurrections even more marvelous than that of Lazarus, conversions as wonderful and touching as that of Magdalen.
The Enthronement presupposes a sincere homage of social adoration to and a loving dependence on Christ the King. This homage is of more importance today than ever, seeing that the modern crime is a social and national apostasy. It is impossible to insist too much on this Christian act of faith and reparation which is implied in the title and work of the Enthronement.
In the home which acclaims the Heart of Jesus as its King of Love, the Enthronement ought to be the beginning of a new life far more intimate in faith and much more ardent in charity. Thus, far from being a mere formality, the consecration is lived. By virtue of a great Christian and supernatural spirit, the Heart of Jesus will become little by little, the divine soul of the family. Their one law will be that of the Gospel; their sole happiness will be to obey the Master of the house. This means sharing our family life with Jesus in order that He may remain and abide with His friends, blessing everything in the house, from dawn to twilight and from the cradle to the grave. How much easier it is to live and struggle, to keep a bright face in spite of our sorrows, when Jesus is the Center of the home, when He presides over it as Friend, Counselor, and King. Everything is ennobled and sanctified in this enviable Bethany because Jesus shares the family joys and sorrows. He really lives in such a home, and the family live by Him and with Him.
It is the Pope's desire that this work, which he calls providential, should live, be organized, and expand. The Vicar of Christ considers it urgent and of the greatest importance; for the Enthronement ought to succeed in uniting in one single stream the fountain of natural life, which is the home, and the inexhaustible fountain of grace and divine life which is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us generously fulfill the Master's demands formulated at Paray, and He will fulfill with an excess of mercy, His divine promises.