Between Amens — Prepare for your marriage journey

Dr. Karen Shadle

Don’t just prepare for a wedding. Prepare for a marriage.

This is sage advice. While we may think of the sacrament of matrimony as something that happens once in a couple’s life — on their wedding day, the truth is that marriage is lived each and every day. In this sense, the sacrament is repeated in perpetuity.

It is certainly important to prepare a beautiful and holy wedding liturgy, to make plans for the presence of friends and family, and to assemble all the venues and food and attire that make a wedding day a wonderful celebration. It is even more critical to prepare for the years that follow — to understand that marriage is journey of seeking salvation for the other, and that there will undoubtedly be some suffering on the journey.

This past June, the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life (an office of the Vatican) released a new document about the methods of preparing Catholics for marriage all over the world. In it, they propose a new vision for marriage prep that looks similar to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the process by which new Catholics enter the Church.

The dicastery calls for more robust catechesis about marriage for adolescents and youth and a sort of “marriage catechumenate” for engaged couples. Additionally, they suggest a period of continued formation after the wedding. For the sacraments of initiation, this period is called “mystagogy” — a time of reflecting on the realities of the sacrament just celebrated and the lived experience of God’s grace.

For the sacrament of marriage, a time of mystagogical reflection would be significant for a number of reasons. First, it clearly demonstrates that the wedding is a point of beginning, not the finish line at the end the preparation process. Second, it reveals marriage as a true vocation, paralleling the vocations of the ordained and consecrated religious. Continuing formation is expected of the clergy; we must do likewise for husbands and wives. Finally, a mystagogical approach acknowledges that the first years of marriage are often a difficult transition when spouses may go through crises, discouragement, and disillusion. The Church cannot be absent at these critical times.

Some parishes accomplish post-wedding formation with “sponsor couple” programs, matching newlyweds with other couples who have been married a number of years. Others offer prayer and reflection groups for the newly married. The liturgy itself is also a crucial part of these formative first years of marriage. Going together to Sunday Mass — a space where we are united to Christ’s mystical Body — is a natural continuation of the unity of husband and wife.

Looking forward, the Church sees the sacrament of marriage as a continuous process of accompaniment, not just a one-day event. In this way, we hope that young people can not only better understand the sacrament but also experience firsthand the presence of God in their marriage and be certain that their union is in the hand of God.

Dr. Karen Shadle is the director of the Office of Worship in the Archdiocese of Louisville. This article was published in the Record’s bridal section for January 2023.

Tags from the story
The Record
Written By
The Record
More from The Record
Carmelite Sister Martha Showalter dies at 82
Carmelite Sister Martha of Christ died on Dec. 5. She was 82...
Read More
0 replies on “Between Amens — Prepare for your marriage journey”