National Marriage Week and New Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage

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Marriage Week 7 – 14 February 2017

National Marriage Week celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The week’s aim is to draw attention to the value of marriage, for individuals, family life and civil society.

Everyone is invited to take part in the celebration – not just those who are married – because marriage and family life, as the place where we learn to love and live well with others, and support each other through thick and thin, in spite of our differences, is the basic building block for stability in society, and as such holds deep significance for everyone.

In a complex world where the reality is that not all marriages last, and on-going support is essential, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, asks for greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in welcoming and preparing those who ask to be married in Church. By saying ‘I do’ the couple begin a journey that calls for great courage, generosity and commitment, and they need the welcome, and practical, relational and spiritual support of the community not only at the start, but throughout the seasons of married life, to help them live out their calling to a life-long, loving and fruitful commitment.

Marriage Prep Guidelines

In response to the Pope’s call in Amoris Laetitia, and as a fruit of several years’ work, including a survey of marriage preparation providers and a conference hosted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in 2011, the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship have published ‘Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage’.

The process proposed in the Guidelines envisages a life-long pastoral accompaniment by the community – flexible and gradual, meeting each couple where they are, and walking alongside them in a Christ-like, loving, steady, reassuring way, in steps and stages, at all times being assured that the grace of God is at work. The Guidelines appreciate the engaged couples’ need for preparation in both the relational and spiritual aspects of marriage, encouraging them and equipping them to make the best possible start, with the assurance that they do not make this journey alone – family, friends, the community of the Church, are there to support them in their ‘life-long project’.

Bishop Peter Doyle, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Committee for Marriage and Family Life commented:

“I am delighted that we are launching these guidelines in national Marriage Week. I hope they will support the good work going on in our communities to welcome, accompany and help young couples prepare for a lifelong, fruitful and happy marriage.

“As Pope Francis has said, often they are left to their own devices, but it’s precisely at this time that they need our closeness and strong spiritual support. We have a great opportunity to rediscover together the beauty of marriage and family life according to God’s plan.”

The Guidelines encourage whole communities to develop their shared vision for marriage, and marriage preparation, as essential to the life and mission of the Church in their particular place. Everyone involved needs to be well trained and well informed, allowing for a flexibility of approaches in delivery and content.

The Guidelines, intended to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, suggest a range of actions for parishes and dioceses, including the development of marriage preparation ‘teams’ with clergy and lay people sharing together in accompaniment of marriage and family life.

Fascinating Fact: In 1946, when the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council was founded (now Marriage Care), with Cardinal Griffin’s blessing, the Council (dedicated to the Holy Family), arranged for 52 Contemplative Orders in England, and further Contemplative and other orders of religious, to pray for and support their work.

Get your copy of the guidelines