The National Catholic Register has an informative article on how marriage prep programs in various dioceses are evolving to meet the challenges of ministering to today's modern, engaged couples.
It's easy to lament the state of preparation for the sacrament -- or lack thereof -- in which all too many Catholic brides and grooms come to the altar. As one person involved in marriage enrichment courses put it to the Register: "Priests ... have eight years of training for their vocation, and most Catholic couples have eight hours of training for their vocation."
The article further notes:
As Catholic marriage rates decline, many of the couples who do marry in the Church today are older and cohabiting, often impacted by divorce and societal pressures, and have been away from the Church as young adults. Not surprisingly, they often lack both an understanding of the sacrament of matrimony and practical skills to live it out.
Yet overall, the Register article reveals signs of hope regarding the Church's approach to guiding couples through the sacrament of marriage: From the top, there's a new document in the works from the Pontifical Council for the Family, which will offer practical applications on how to cultivate a deeper understanding and committment to marriage -- not only among engaged couples, but even beginning in the formative years of childhood. At the local level, many dioceses are seeking ways their marriage prep programs can combine teaching necessary, practical skills -- communication, for instance -- with helping couples better appreciate the richness of the sacrament itself. From focusing on Pope John Paul II's theology of the body as a starting point for discussing marriage and human sexuality, to tackling head-on the reasons for the Church's stand on issues like contraception, IVF and cohabitation, more and more courses are providing couples with a solid arsenal of tools and knowledge to live out a healthy, holy marriage. There's a long way to go, but I'll take good news any day.
-- Elizabeth Hansen