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How a ‘culture of distraction’ is keeping millennials from marrying

Consumerism. A culture of distraction. Fear of commitment. These are some of the factors driving today’s young people away from marriage, said a theologian reflecting on the words of Pope Francis in the U.S.

“In short, the habits of life promoted by the culture prior to marriage scarcely help form in young people the habits needed for a life of marriage and family,” Dr. David L. Schindler told CNA in a recent interview.

Dr. Schindler is the dean emeritus at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

“Young Catholics” are not immune to this “cultural trend wherein the time between ages 20 and 30 becomes a period when you graduate from college and get an apartment, and you live and you get to know people and have a lot of space for yourself,” he said.

The problem with this trend is that when young people finally make up their minds to get married, they are not prepared for such a commitment, because “it makes all kinds of demands. It interrupts careers, for example,” Schindler noted.

He referenced the words of Pope Francis, who warned Congress and the U.S. bishops during his visit to the United States last month that the culture is a key contributor to the phenomenon of young people choosing not to get married.

In his Sept. 26 address to U.S. bishops in Philadelphia, Pope Francis stated that “we are living in a culture that pushes young people not to form families: some because they don’t have the material resources to realize a wedding, or a life together. But others just choose this because they think they’re better off this way – but that’s the temptation, to not lay a foundation, to not have a family.”

He went on to say that in a society with more large retail stores and fewer small neighborhood shops, choices are more abundant but business and relationships have become more impersonal. With the rise of social media and virtual “friends” and “followers,” many suffer from “loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized,” the Pope said.

Living in this state, youth are thus “paralyzed” when faced with the prospect of marriage and put off their decision until conditions are “perfect.”

“Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full,” Francis added. “For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm and passion.”
The problem Pope Francis was diagnosing takes multiple forms today, Dr. Schindler said.

First, a “culture of distraction” hinders people from pursuing a deeper relationship with God through daily contemplative prayer – which is the most important thing a person can do, especially to combat the negative effects of this culture, he said.

“We are greatly afflicted today with an activist Christianity that is increasingly enabled by our omnipresent technological devices,” he said.

“The problem is that, if you’re not centered in the one thing necessary, which is the relationship to God,” he added, “then you end up searching for depth and for infinity of some sort, but it’s inevitably a bad infinity. It’s just one thing after another, instead of something that takes you into the true depth of reality.”

Another false promise of today’s culture is that commitment is bad because it is by nature exclusive, depriving us of other choices, Schindler explained. Thus, “we have difficulty in saying ‘forever’.”

However, he added, commitment “enables inclusivity of the right sort – an integrated inclusivity that enables reaching the depths and not merely the surfaces of love.”

For example, an Olympic athlete or a professional musician has spent years perfecting his craft and saying no to many other distractions and commitments along the way. Only through limiting his options and saying “no” to many other good things could an artist or athlete become great, Schindler explained.

In the same way, a couple can only achieve a deep love for each other through exclusivity, commitment, and sacrifice. “Marriage is about relationship and love and being present to other people in a way that takes time, involves sacrifice, and the like,” he said.

Because many do not have deep relationships with God and others – which are “necessary” to our very being, Schindler said – there is a “poverty” here that is key to understanding Pope Francis when he talks about caring for the poor.

“The people that really, truly, suffer the most in our culture and most need our assistance are the people that are without relation,” he said. These include unborn persons who are rejected by their parents, as well as those who lack a “coherent family.”

Schindler also stressed that the effects of today’s culture don’t just reach young single people; they also affect even those who get married and have children.

“In a word, the answer to consumerism is coherent relationships – and coherent means relationships where people don’t walk away when it gets difficult, where they’re in it with you forever,” he said.

For many young people who are the children of divorced parents, this is a major problem.

People approach marriage today as if they’re buying a house, Schindler said. Just like they might “upgrade” to a new house at the first opportunity, they may divorce and find another spouse they feel fits their needs better down the road.

However, “the root reason why divorce is evil,” he continued, is because the child “is not merely metaphorically but truly the unity of the two spouses.” Thus if the spouses split and divorce, the child’s very identity is “split.”
“The price children, and men and women, are paying for this in our culture today is unimaginable,” he said.

And when couples do get married, many turn to contraception to prevent children or in-vitro fertilization to create them, Schindler continued. Both of these practices violate Church teaching, because they undermine children as a gift, treating them as an object or a product that one is entitled to when one feels that it will “fit” into their life plans.

With all these problems and negative effects presented to us by a consumeristic culture, what is the best remedy for young Catholics?

First and foremost, it is “daily prayer,” Schindler insisted, “by which I mean, especially in our culture, truly contemplative prayer” that is not self-centered, but rather silent “adoration and listening” before God.

“You can’t reach God, who infinitely transcends us, without at the same time reaching into your own depths, which involves being quiet,” he said.

“It’s not very glamorous to propose prayer,” he admitted. “But I think we need most to follow the saints. We don’t need more administration and more programs and the multiplication of websites and the multiplication of meetings. All those things may have their place, but they usually come at the expense of remaining mostly on the surface of things.”

When you practice contemplative prayer, he said, “you think about things differently. You become more patient. Your dealings with people, what you expect out of life, all those things unfold differently.”

In addition to prayer, young people need to personally encounter the witness of strong marriages and religious communities, which can inspire them to make commitments of their own, Schindler stressed.

“Young people will get over their fear of commitment when they see and experience its being lived,” he said. “Whatever else we do, we must put before them an alternative that shows the beauty of a freedom that has said forever, that is being lived – above all in families and in consecrated life.”

“We need to show them the beauty of local community, of the depth of joy that can come from ‘staying in place’ and not moving about so incessantly,” he said.
Photo credit: Ivan Galashchuk via

By Matt Hadro



  1. OgeGod Reply

    Those in sacramental. Marriages must do better to display this beauty. We must also remember that in this sacramental marriage three are connected, not two. Christ, the Bride and the Groom. For the sake of this covenant with Christ, we must overcome and carry any cross that comes into the union. For the honor and glory of Christ, the Bride and Groom must be willing to die to self. The Bride and Groom must be willing to decrease to allow Christ to increase in this sacramental marriage. The Bride and Groom must be willing to sacrifice much to receive all the gifts promised with this sacramental covenant between three!

    Holy family of God, pray for us!

  2. OgeGod Reply

    Those in sacramental. Marriages must do better to display this beauty. We must also remember that in this sacramental marriage three are connected, not two. Christ, the Bride and the Groom. For the sake of this covenant with Christ, we must overcome and carry any cross that comes into the union. For the honor and glory of Christ, the Bride and Groom must be willing to die to self. The Bride and Groom must be willing to decrease to allow Christ to increase in this sacramental marriage. The Bride and Groom must be willing to sacrifice much to receive all the gifts promised with this sacramental covenant between three!💟💍💒🌹💑👪💰💸📑👍

    It is through this sacramental marriage that all who enter can receive there full promise from the covenant when they have full filled the vows to love, cherish and obey.

    Look at the life of our father Abraham and Sarah. God would not allow Hagar to put asunder, not even as the mother of the first born. It was through the offspring from the sacramental marriage that God reserved his blessings. Yet by his mercy, he did not fail to bless Hagar who called upon him for life.

    Look at the sacramental marriage of Jacob and Rachel. A sacrament entered freely by two as the covenant is sealed by three. Again God reserve his favors to flow from those offsprings, although he did not fail to bless Leah and her offsprings by his grace.

    Now do not fail to notice the pains, trials and tribulations created from these divisions. They were not created by God, but by man, yet his promise remained. Full filled to every letter is the promise of God, for his grace and mercy endures forever. Full filled to every letter is the Word of God, from generation to generation, it will never come back void!

    When a man and woman nurture their sacramental marriage with the covenant of Three, they are not only blessed, they are also highly favor with abundant multiplications.

    Instead of catering and caring for the father with his new family, or the mother in yet another family, the offsprings will only have to honor one household with both parents cared for without division of time and resources. The offsprings will shine greater as they gather their blessings and offerings under one roof. Under one Micro Church held together by Christ.

    Marriage is the micro church of Christ. We can choose to receive the full 10 % by honoring our vows, or we can risk the receipt of 10% percent divided by 2, or even 0 divided by emptiness.
    The clergy share in the sacrament of marriage, only the covenant is made between them and Christ and the rewards of his faithful are so great that it can never be hidden or covered up.

    They not only have one or two children, but they are blessed by many who call them Father. They are surrounded by mothers, brothers, sisters and children who look to them for food and drink to nourish the soul, anywhere and everywhere around the world. They have sacrificed much, to include the desires of the flesh, for this, their blessings and favors shall know no bounds. They shall surely receive their prophets reward promised .

    For all who are victorious in keeping their sacramental martial vows and are able to hold fast their covenant with God. Their promise will be sealed on earth and in Heaven. They shall live their purpose hear on earth victoriously by overcoming all trials and tribulations that may lead them to break their vows with the covenant keeping God.

    Holy family of God, pray for us!

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