NOT LONG AGO in the columns of this paper I provoked a fair amount of comment and correspondence as the result of writing an article on preparation for marriage.
Confronted with what I termed the rising tide of divorce in our society (in 1975 in Great Britain there were 117,000 divorces), and the fact that three brides out of every five today are under 20. I advocated the importance of pre-marriage counselling, especially among young people in secondary schools.
It is questionable. for example, how many schools are making full use of the excellent resources of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council in this field.
To those concerned riot only with pre-marriage counselling but with women's rights and the role of women in the Church, it often proves of value in a discussion group to consider what was Jesus' attitude to women.
Jesus may have resembled Jewish teachers of his time in gathering around him a group of disciples. speaking in parables, preaching in synagogues, going to the Temple to pray and to pay his dues, but he was unique in having women followers.
His concern for sinners and prostitutes may have caused raised eyebrows, but is would have been incomprehensible to religious leaders at the time why he should have been willing to speak to the heretical Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well, allow himself to be considered unclean by being touched by the woman with an issue of blood, break laws of the Sabbath to heal a woman (let alone the many others recorded), and to be moved by their needs on other occasions.
He was moved, for instance, by the Widow of Nain. He put himself out for the SyroPhoenician Woman. He drew a lesson from the sacrifice of the Widow in the Temple, He defended Mary of Bethania when she anointed his feet. His friendship with Mary and Martha is proverbial. His con cern for his Mother was expressed on the Cross. And it. was to a woman that he first appeared after his Resurrection.
All these incidents indicate not only Jesus' reverence for the dignity of women, but they make it apparent that he regarded the Good News he brought and the Kingdom of God which he embodied as being equally available to men and women.
He not only appreciated women as human beings created by his father, but he deliberately refused to follow the conventions of the time and regard them as second-class citizens. And neither did he treat them asses symbols.
1. To what extent do we treat women in the same way as Christ? Are there ways in which we refrain from according them equal opportunities and rights?
2. In what areas of the institutional side of the Church's life could women be called upon to give their services considerably more? In what fields might they be as effective as, if riot more than, men?
3. In our Catholic schools is there adequate teaching on the subjects of emotional development and male-female relationships? Should this • be left to parents?
4. Is there sufficient scope in the life of the Church for women who wish to dedicate their lives to Christ and the People of God but who do not have a vocation to the Religious Life?
S. Is there sufficient preparation between couples before marriage concerning. their mutual as well as differing roles in their future relationship'?
6. In his Letter to the Ephesians St Paul says; "Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church."
In what ways is a Christian sacramental marriage different from a marriage plain and simple as entered into at a Registry Office?
Fr David Forrester