Saturday, 22 February 2020 21:26

4 Ways to Assist Couples Preparing for Marriage

Written by Jiza Zito

In the mid-1980s, Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries to Our Lady of Fatima, wrote in a letter addressed to Cardinal Carlo Caffara: Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.” It is evident, as Cardinal Caffara later shared in an interview at the Vatican in 2017, that this prophecy by Sister Lucia is being fulfilled today. 

Within recent years, as a mother and as a wife, I have often thought about that letter by Sister Lucia. I also think of it often in my work with engaged and newlywed couples through the ministry of Spoken Bride, a blog and online resource for Catholic brides and newlyweds. Marriage and starting a family in our secular society are often viewed as “milestones”, mere expectations of adulthood. Throughout my work within the American wedding industry, I have often seen and heard of many couples going into marriage with little to no intention on truly living out the faith after their vows have been made.  Many couples perhaps only get married in the Church because it is at the request and expectations of their parents. Then there is no more thought regarding their faith until they are able to have a child and it is time for that child to receive the sacraments. The Synod Fathers (1980) refer to these “troubling signs” as “...the spread of divorce and of recourse to a new union, even on the part of the faithful; the acceptance of purely civil marriage in contradiction to the vocation of the baptized to ‘be married in the Lord’, the celebration of the marriage sacrament without living faith, but for other motives; the rejection of the moral norms that guide and promote the human and Christian exercise of sexuality in marriage” (Familiaris Consortio, 7).

However, God Himself is the author of marriage (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603). God calls those into the vocation of married life for the ultimate good of ourselves, of others, of society, and of His Church. Therefore, realizing its significant value to history and to the world, the Catholic Church, in her great wisdom, through the words of St. John Paul II, stresses to us the “pressing need” to proclaim the Gospel “in particular to all those who are called to marriage and are preparing for it, to all married couples and parents in the world” (Familiaris Consortio, 3). He goes on to say that during this time when “numerous forces seek to destroy” or “in some way to deform” the sacrament of marriage, “the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God” (3).

So, how do we help fulfill this urgent mission of the Church in regards to engaged and newlywed couples? Here are four possible ideas:

  1. Become a Mentor Couple: Many couples may not have received proper formation or maybe did not have any faithful examples. “Christian spouses and parents can and should offer their unique and irreplaceable contribution to the elaboration of an authentic evangelical discernment in the various situations and cultures in which men and women live their marriage and their family life. They are qualified for this role by their charism or specific gift, the gift of the sacrament of matrimony” (15). Being a mentor couple would require praying for an engaged couple and meeting with them on a regular basis. The goal is to help prayerfully guide and encourage a bride and groom-to-be towards living a life of sanctity as they prepare to enter into their marriage covenant. 

  2. Get Involved in Marriage Preparation Programs: Marriage preparation programs have come a long way in recent years; however, there is still more work to be done. Couples still sometimes receive misguided or incorrect information in some of these programs that are supposed to better educate them on preparing for the sacrament. Therefore, non-newlywed couples who are gifted and equipped with “understanding of the faith and the grace of speech” (5) are very much needed for these programs so engaged couples can receive proper formation. Inquire at your parish or your Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family for available opportunities. 

  3. Create a Newlywed Prayer Group: Young adult ministries have also come a long way within the last several years, but again, since most young adult groups consist of single Catholics, there is a gap for newlyweds who are in need of fellowship with other like-minded couples living the same vocation. Soon after getting married many couples may move to a new city or could be expecting their first baby or may be experiencing significant difficulties and challenges as they acclimate to married life. The idea of newlywed prayer groups is still fairly new, but any married couple who feels called could perhaps host a group at their parish, open their home for dinner and Rosary, or a Bible study, or book study, or attend a conference or retreat together, or be involved in other outreach programs together. 

  4. Plant the Seed of Marian Consecration: Last but certainly not least, there is Mary. Where there is Our Lady, there is also her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the “seal of the [marriage] covenant”, “the ever available source of [a married couple’s] love and the strength to renew their fidelity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1624). Just like St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Louis de Montfort, and many other saints before us, share the gift of Our Blessed Mother with engaged and newlywed couples and try to give them a book on Marian Consecration. It is through her Immaculate Heart that we can draw ever closer to the Sacred Heart of her Son, Jesus, and it is in Mary’s mantle that couples will find the protection and graces that they need for their marriage.