July 1, 2022

Pastoral Ministries / Gabriela Ross

Pope Francis calls for renewal of marriage preparation

Gabriela RossOn June 15, there was an exciting announcement from the Vatican regarding the future of marriage preparation in the Catholic Church. New guidelines were issued for a “marriage catechumenate” which will transform how we prepare couples for the sacrament of marriage.

The announcement came as part of the “Year for the Family,” which commemorates the fifth anniversary of the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”). The Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has been hard at work creating the new pastoral guidelines for marriage preparation, which have now been released in Italian and Spanish, with future translations forthcoming.

While it will take some time to digest the new guidelines and discern the pastoral implications in our archdiocese and parishes when an English translation becomes available, I am excited to share some highlights gleaned from the Spanish translation of the document, specifically the “preface” to the guidelines which was written by Pope Francis.

The pope writes:

Five years after ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ we once again place the family at the center, reflect on important themes from the apostolic exhortation, and encourage the whole Church to joyfully recommit to evangelization for families and with families.

Just like the catechumenate is key for adults preparing for the sacrament of baptism, so should marriage preparation become a catechumenal process in preparation for the sacrament of marriage.

It is very worrisome that marriage preparation has become so watered down. Couples run the risk of celebrating a null matrimony or having such a fragile commitment to their sacrament that it cannot withstand even the very earliest conflicts and crises that are inevitable. These situations bring great suffering and leave deep wounds. People become discouraged, bitter, and in the most painful cases, they stop believing in the vocation to love, written by God in the heart of every person. We have a duty as a Church to accompany those who seek marriage, so they can persevere through difficulty and never lose faith in love.

There is also a sense of justice that should motivate us. The Church is a mother, and a mother does not have favorites among her children. She gives all of them the same care, attention and time. To give someone time is a sign of love: when we don’t take time with someone, it is a sign that we do not cherish them. This is what comes to mind when I think about how much time the Church dedicates to the preparation of candidates for priesthood or religious life: years. But for those preparing for matrimony, only a few weeks.

Yet just like priests and consecrated religious, married couples are also children of mother Church, and it is not just to have such a disparity in their formation. The majority of the faithful are married couples. They are pillars in their parishes, volunteer groups, associations and movements. They are “guardians of life” not only through begetting children, educating them, and helping them to grow, but also in their care for the elderly, the disabled and the poor. It is within

these families that grow vocations to the priesthood and religious life. In light of all of this, it is a matter of justice and a duty for mother Church to dedicate time and energy to adequately prepare those whom the Lord has called to so great a mission as the family.

I ask, therefore, the openness, zeal and creativity of the pastors of the Church and their collaborators, to make more fruitful this vital and indispensable work of formation, evangelization and accompaniment of families, which the Holy Spirit is entrusting to us at this present time.

Let us take the first steps! Let us begin this process of pastoral renewal! Let us put our minds and hearts at the service of future families. I assure you, the Lord will sustain us, granting us wisdom and fortitude, and will multiply our zeal to announce the Gospel of the family to new generations.

Note: The full document “Itinerari Catecumenali per la vita matrimoniale a cura del Dicastero per i Laici, la Famiglia e la Vita” is available at cutt.ly/marriageprep in Italian and Spanish. Future translations are forthcoming. The summary provided above is intended for personal reflection and is not an official translation from the Vatican.

(Gabriela Ross is the director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life and may be reached at gross@archindy.org or 317-592-4007.)

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