How interesting it is to be a young, newly married, Catholic in light of the quickly changing moral code of our country. The Supreme Court’s decision left me unsurprised but filled with dread. How can our country stand in the midst of moral and financial collapse and what can we do about it? Perhaps we should start where we should have never stopped, and that is Marriage Prep. Wouldn’t it be nice if all couples in marriage prep had this information presented to them:
Nominal Catholics have 5% less chances to divorce than the average population.
Sunday Mass Practicing Catholics: 31% less chances to divorce.
Seriously Practicing Catholics, couples praying together and using NFP have a 95% less chances to divorce.
As I speak to other newly married couples about their experiences, I find that we are all on the same page – we would have loved more preparation time from our church/pastor/diocese. It seems to be common knowledge that our system isn’t so great, and serious young Catholics will encounter avoidable moments of panic as they prepare for their marriage. Drawing on our experience I have outlined a few points that I hope will encourage marriage prep leaders.
1. Be the guidance: Schedule the couple for a follow-up appointment with Father after the wedding day – preferably within the first month. We found that we had a bunch of questions pop up within the first week of marriage and quickly found that solid Catholic resources in this area are sorely lacking. I am sure in a parish there is a sense of relief once the wedding ceremony is over, but for the young couple the life-long journey has just begun. We young people tend to think we know it all until we actually are in the middle of something. That is when we wake up and admit we really could use some advice and guidance.
2. Require NFP classes: Perhaps this is required in most dioceses, but to our surprise we found out that it is actually not required in ours. Our pastor made it clear where the church stood on NFP, and we were already committed to the church teaching, but we still wanted the knowledge! The lack of information in this area is pretty astounding. It should be the other way around – we should be drowning in it. Not because we want couples to limit their children, but because we want them to embrace the whole person and gain the understanding that comes from Theology of the Body and NFP. Children are a key part of marriage, shouldn’t we help couples understand this? We have to admit that our society that doesn’t care how many millions of children are murdered by abortion, is not going to care about their well-being growing up… The idea that babies have rights, has long been trumped by our ego-centered culture - and we need to change that.
3. Make wedding information available: This is something that really needs worked on in our church. Sad to admit that most young couples probably aren’t enthusiastic about getting married in the church in the first place. Since Catholic parishes just don’t do websites well, you would think they could routinely say: “hey” “if you are planning to get married this year, here is A, B, and C, of what the first steps are in our parish are”. Provide an email address in the bulletin with info on who to contact for the first steps. Be sure to update the church guidelines on marriage frequently, and give them out to young couples on the first meeting.
Jennifer Fulwiler, a well-known blogger and author discussed how we have paved the way for same-sex “marriage” on her blog a few years ago. In it she states: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the demand for gay marriage has followed closely on the heels of our culture’s widespread acceptance of contraception, and the radical re-thinking of the purpose of marriage and human sexuality that came with it. I bet the average same-sex-attracted person living in 1711 wouldn’t have even understood the terms of our modern gay marriage debate: He would have strongly associated marriage with having babies, raising kids, supporting a family, and all the struggle and self-sacrifice that went with it. The idea of two guys living together wouldn’t even seem to be in the same universe of activities.”
Where does this leave us? We should be doing everything in our power to assist engaged couples in their understanding of marriage. We should ask ourselves these questions: Are we doing anything to help improve the overall parish outreach to engaged couples? Do we reach out to newly engaged couples to assist them in the initial stumbling steps? Do we really teach them what the church teaches about marriage? Now is the time to start putting our words into action.
Note: I would like to thank our pastor, Father Patrick, and all of our friends who have encouraged us in our married vocation! I would also love to hear you thoughts and experiences in this matter – feel free to post them below!