Pope Francis and the bishops at the Synod on the Family called for marriage preparation to take on a catechumenal form. What an exciting proposition! When preparing couples for marriage, I invite them to model their immediate marriage preparation after Lent and Advent.
This suggestion proves difficult when looking at venues and tasting wedding cakes. It is much like all of the Christmas parties in Advent (from which we are all still recovering) or St. Patrick’s Day in Lent. These occasions cause us to lose focus on our preparations for Christmas and Easter and, in fact, live the joys of these great feasts in advance.
Preparation involves a patient expectancy—couples know the excitement of marriage that awaits, but they are not there yet. And, in this time, there is much work to be done. As Mary made space for Jesus, so too spouses—as they prepare to become one flesh— are called to make space for their beloved. This process proves difficult, whether because of finances or communication (or in-laws !). But, beyond the practicalities, marriage is a path to holiness and, as such, couples are called to strive for sanctity together.
As a couple approaches the altar for marriage, we should encourage a greater intensity of prayer and a regular reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (or simply attending Mass every Sunday).
Perhaps as we prepare our “RCIA groups” for the Lenten Scrutinies, it is worth asking how can we prepare couples in a way that is more “catechumenal.” One dimension that is so striking about the RCIA is the way they live the liturgical year, which culminates in a profound encounter with Christ through the Scrutinies. As the catechumen stands before the congregation, there is a great silence where the catechumen is called to reflect on what Christ might have said to them if they too were drawing water from the well that day.
What sin still lingers and prevents one from celebrating fully the joys of Easter? So too, what selfishness or lack of trust prevents a couple from entering fully into the Sacrament of Marriage?
Another critical component to the RCIA is that it ought to be done within the context of the community. I was at a marriage retreat this weekend where the couples were invited to participate and be recognized at the Sunday morning Mass.
It is essential that we walk with these couples as they prepare themselves for the Sacrament of Marriage. If they have been away for a while, welcome them back and invite them into a deeper encounter with Christ.
But, most importantly, let us pray for all engaged and married couples and, to be sure, for ourselves that we may eliminate anything in our own lives that prevents us from celebrating, with full joy, the Easter Season.
A PRACTICAL TIP
Often couples are overwhelmed by this proposition and do not even know where to begin. One easy-to-use resource I came across at MAC was Embracing God’s Plan for Marriage by Mark and Melanie Hart. Consider sharing it with couples at your parish this Lent.
Marriage preparation requires this deep level of introspection and self-awareness by the couple. In what ways does your parish encourage this sort of self-awareness? How can we, as a Church, do this better and earlier?