The lead-up to Valentine’s Day is always a time to focus on the trappings of love and romance— the flowers, the chocolates, the candlelight dinners.
It’s probably more than coincidental, then, that the first half of February is also the time of year that the Church in the United States makes a special effort to honor and encourage the expression of adult commitment and love that is marriage.
This year, National Marriage Week USA began on Feb. 7 and ends on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, and includes World Marriage Day on Sunday, Feb. 13. The theme of the weeklong celebration is “Called to the Joy of Love.”
In the archdiocese, it’s been a tradition for many years to honor long-married couples on World Marriage Day—a tradition that includes a search for the “longest married couple.” Certainly, few could match the experience of Myrtle and Angelo Prisco of Pelham Manor, whose 75-year marriage earned them this year’s spot. They are profiled on Page 11.
We congratulate the Priscos and the 34 other couples sacramentally married for 65 or more years to be recognized with a certificate from Cardinal Dolan.
The couples’ heartwarming stories remind us that marriage and family life remain vital vocations even in the face of threats from a larger culture that often seems bent on destroying commitments of any kind.
When it was launched in 2010, National Marriage Week USA was part of an international movement aimed at mobilizing individuals, organizations and businesses in “a common purpose to strengthen marriage in communities and influence the culture.”
Easy divorce, cohabitation, the choice of single parenthood and the notion that marriage inhibits personal fulfillment have steadily brought down what was once the classic building block of a stable society.
The National Survey of Family Growth, a project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clearly reflects the overall decline. Asking adult women and men if they’d ever been married, results show that in the period 2015-2017, 53.6 percent of adult women and 47.5 percent of adult men answered yes to the question. The following two-year period of 2017-2019 showed a slide to 50.7 percent of women and 46.8 percent of men.
These are not good signs.
We don’t minimize the challenges of marriage and family life that can come through infertility, school and job anxieties, financial strains, infidelity and the myriad stresses of everyday life.
But the positives of marriage are many, as shown in various studies including a recent one by the National Bureau of Economic Research that concluded, “Those who marry are more satisfied than those who remain single,” and that those who see their spouse as their best friend benefit most of all.
The survey also found that married adults live longer, are healthier and have higher incomes, and that children in intact families do better educationally and emotionally than those not living with both parents.
Still, most of us don’t need surveys to tell us what we already know from personal observation. Yes, marital numbers are declining, but having a happy and stable marriage and family remains a goal of many Americans.
The run-up to Valentine’s Day is a good time for married couples to begin reflecting on their union with an emphasis on strengthening and renewing their commitment, and serving as a model to others.
We’ll all be better for it.