Marriage preparation: Your views are invited on future practice

How can the Church help couples sustain a loving and lasting marriage? Archbishop George is asking for YOUR views.

Engaged couples today spend months if not years planning the perfect wedding with no expense spared for the big day. The clothes, the cars, the photos, the fireworks, the parties, the presents are all organised in advance. The average cost is £24,000.  And yet often something is missing: preparation for the marriage itself.

Marriage Preparation is a process rather than an event and gives couples who want to marry in the Catholic Church an opportunity to reflect on what marriage means to them and to the Church and to look at the commitment and sacramental implications involved.

The Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia; The Joy of Love (AL) was the Pope’s response to the 2014-15 Extraordinary Synod on the Family which was followed in 2016 by the publication of the long-awaited CBCEW New Marriage Preparation Guidelines.

(hard copies of this document can be purchased via the link or by contacting Joanne White)

All this prompted discussions within our Archdiocese around family ministry, and in particular current marriage preparation provision which appeared to vary across the diocese. Subsequently, the Archbishop requested a comprehensive review of current practice and the development of an Archdiocesan Policy to ensure that all couples wishing to marry in one of our churches are given the same and appropriate support during their preparation; allowing for a truly reflective period of.

The dignity and beauty of marriage

Pope Francis tells us:

‘…we need to help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage. The complexity of today’s society and the challenges faced by the family require a greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in preparing those who are about to be married..’ AL # 205-6

Marriage Preparation is a gradual, continuous, life-long endeavour, which follows a three-stage process of:

  • Remote; beginning in infancy, through to adolescence,
  • Proximate; catechesis for young people, through relational, moral and spiritual formation, presenting the sacrament of marriage, and
  • immediate preparation,

as defined in Familiaris Consortio #66 and by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Our policy is based upon this overarching principle of marriage preparation being a process rather than an event limited to the planning of a liturgy or the completion of obligatory paperwork. Couples wishing to marry in the Catholic Church and attending marriage preparation should be encouraged to view this experience as an opportunity for them to take the time to truly reflect on their call to the married vocation and discernment of the commitment and sacramental implications involved.

 ‘Marriage preparation should be a kind of “initiation” to the sacrament of matrimony, providing couples with the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family’ AL # 207

The Marriage Preparation Policy sets out the desired guidelines for immediate Marriage Preparation in the Archdiocese of Cardiff and aims to:

  • Further develop a proper appreciation of the need for and benefits of good marriage preparation.
  • Provide a framework for those charged with the delivery of marriage preparation, identifying those elements specific to the role of clergy and those appropriate to lay providers.
  • Provide a basic template for the marriage preparation process.
  • Place the marriage preparation within the wider context, reflecting the community’s commitment to nurturing vocation.
  • Acknowledge the need for continuing support during the couples’ lifelong commitment to their marriage.

Marriage preparation and practice

The Archdiocesan Family Life Worker, Joanne White, and the Family Life Commission, led by Ansti Corellis, have been working on this process for several months now; surveying the clergy to determine the current marriage preparation provision and practice. Both have met with representatives from Marriage Care Centres across the archdiocese and reviewing how other dioceses deliver their Marriage Preparation whilst using the CBCEW Guidelines and Amoris Laetitia to guide the development of our policy.

The parish survey, carried out in November 2016, highlighted several examples of the excellent use of the wide variety materials available for preparation and these are often developed by the clergy as they deliver them, in order to personalise them and adapt them to individual styles.

The Bishops Conference document clearly sets out the expectations of the content of any course and it is to be our recommendation that a minimum of four sessions are held with the couple, alongside initial & administrative meetings with the clergy, to support couples in the discernment process.

It is also envisaged, as is already the case in the majority of our parishes, that couples would be referred to a lay-led course alongside sessions with the clergy. It is here that Marriage Care play a significant role in our archdiocese and has done for many years.

All Marriage Care sessions are delivered by trained volunteers. This arrangement with Marriage Care is supported by the Archbishop and future plans include the retention and development of this relationship.

The draft policy is now available for viewing and Archbishop George Stack invites you ALL, clergy & laity, to read the draft policy and welcomes your comments and reflections of it; please send these by email to Joanne White parenting@rcadc.org or contact her for further details.

Please view the policy here.

It is intended that the collective clergy, together with the Archbishop, will review and discuss this draft policy during the Archdiocesan clergy conference in June (21-23), when it will be finalised in readiness for implementation in the latter part of this year.