March 2010: Getting to the Heart of Marriage Preparation
Marriage preparation is “precious work” both because “we know that the foundations of a long and happy marriage are laid down in its earliest years” and, “just as surely,” because “the seeds of later problems are sown in the neglects of that period,” British Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said in a Feb. 14 homily in Liverpool. He spoke at the Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King during a service of evening prayer celebrating marriage and family life.
The archbishop said that “marriage preparation is essentially a spiritual work.” It involves “striving to find that level of communication which can properly be described as ‘heart speaking to heart.’ It is about overcoming the reluctance to speak together of all the things of the heart: of love, of beauty, of truth and of God.”
Marriage preparation also ought to explore “the possibility of praying together,” Archbishop Nichols suggested. For couples this means taking “those first tentative steps that only slowly grow into a bond of loving faith and faith-filled love,” qualities able to “withstand the difficult times when they arrive,” he said.
The Liverpool cathedral’s celebration of marriage and family life took place during Marriage Week UK, an annual observance calling attention to the need to strengthen marriage, along with ways of doing so. The week is supported by a number of churches and organizations.
During Marriage Week UK, the British Catholic bishops’ Committee for Marriage and Family Life launched a survey of Catholic marriage-preparation leaders and participants. The committee hopes to clarify how couples experience the marriage-preparation courses offered by the Catholic community in Britain and to better understand those providing the preparation, for example, their numbers, the training and support they receive, and the kinds of programs they offer.
Auxiliary Bishop John Hine of Southwark, the committee’s chairman, commented that “the sacrament of matrimony is a blessing that lasts for a lifetime, not just the day of the ceremony. Preparation for such a great commitment, then, is an essential step in the journey toward marriage.”