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Marriage topic of theology talk

Justin Tardiff | Friday, February 3, 2006

On Wednesday night, Saint Mary’s lit up with the spark of discussion when students engaged in a “Theology on Fire” session on “Marriage and the Church: Truth and Fiction.”

The “Theology on Fire” program was started by Saint Mary’s senior Jenny Robbins as a student initiative to educate students on important issues in the Church today.

“I wanted to increase mature faith development on campus,” Robbins said.

Sylvia and John Dillon, directors of Marriage Preparation and Religious Education at Notre Dame, led Wednesday’s discussion, explaining Catholic marriage using what Sylvia Dillon called “interactive dialogue.”

She described marriage as a calling similar to that of a religious vocation.

“Marriage is equally as important as a religious vocation because it is a conscious choice recognized by the church,” she said.

John and Sylvia Dillon said many couples they encounter have similar family backgrounds, values and fundamental ideas that help their marriages become stronger.

Sylvia Dillon then discussed the importance of age on marriage, as recent statistics show that the median marriage age for a female is 25 and 27 for a male.

“Age is a strong predictor of marriage success and stability,” she said. “The older a couple is, the more mature, experienced and settled in a job or career they are.”

John Dillon directed the conversation toward the familiar issue of college relationships approaching graduation.

“Many couples feel artificial pressure and graduation anxiety for the future of their relationships,” he said.

He expressed the importance of enjoying independence in college and “finding yourself.”

“In college, you make your own decisions for the first time in your life,” he said. “Enjoy that time. Celebrate it. Follow your dreams. Get to know yourself to be a better partner in marriage.”

The goal for college, as John Dillon put it, is to have as many healthy relationships as you can based on friendship and self-discovery.

Another issue the Dillon couple commented on was interfaith marriages.

They stressed that they are not at all uncommon in today’s society. On the retreat they are leading this coming week, five out of the 25 couples enrolled is interfaith.

“This is not at all uncommon today and should not be seen as a ‘problem,'” Sylvia Dillon said. “It is better to have two people of different faiths passionate about their beliefs rather than two people of the same faith sharing lukewarm beliefs.”

John Dillon mentioned cohabitation before marriage, saying most couples only live together before they get married out of convenience. Some, however, use their living situation as a “trial marriage,” which he said often produces poor results.

The topic of marriage could not be complete without discussing divorce. Although divorce rates are near 50 percent today, Sylvia Dillon said during the past decade, the rate has slowly and steadily declined to a stable number. When talking about divorce, both Sylvia and John Dillon stressed the importance of marriage preparation in order to secure a successful partnership.

The forum attracted more than 40 students of all ages.

“I came because I wanted to be educated about marriage so when I get to that place in my life, I can approach it with maturity,” freshman Megan Ryan said.