Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobón Restrepo of Medellín called for the implementation of the "catechumenal itineraries for married life" proposed by the Vatican, including a yearlong phase beginning with a commitment rite and then a few months of more immediate preparation.

In an article posted on the website of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, the archbishop referred to the June 15 "Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life" of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life.

This document, Tobón noted, offers an itinerary "designed to help young people understand and celebrate the sacrament and to encourage spouses in their married life."

The prelate explained that the "catechumenate for marriage" in its first phase "should last about a year and begin with a 'commitment rite.' The second phase should include a few months of more immediate preparation and a pre-wedding retreat."

“The third phase of assistance to newlyweds should last two or three years. It is a path that must put faith and the personal encounter with Christ at the center and must include several stages: reflection, dialogue, prayer, community, liturgical life, celebrations,” he said.

The prelate said that “we must begin by becoming aware of the serious challenge we have with so many young people who don’t want to get married, with others who get married without knowing what they’re doing, with the short duration of many marriages and the problems with the validity of quite a few marriage celebrations. All for the lack of evangelization.”

The archbishop explained that the document proposes "preparing the ground" for marriage "by starting the work with children, adolescents and young people, planting seeds whose fruits will be seen later."

"The proposal is not simply to renew the immediate preparation for marriage,” but to propose a pastoral ministry that explains the vocation of marriage “to children and adolescents," he said.

Tobón pointed out that "a quick preparation of the bride and groom, shortly before the celebration of the rite, is not enough today for the Church to be able to care for those whom the Lord calls to marry and build a Christian family."

More in Americas

“With superficial preparation, couples run the risk of entering into marriages that are invalid or have foundations so fragile that they won't stand the test of time,” he said.

The archbishop highlighted the proposal that married couples collaborate in the formation of the couple, because "their experience will allow them to offer understanding, welcome and gradualness in this journey aimed even at couples who already live together.”

But in addition, "just as for the baptism of adults, the catechumenate is part of the sacramental process,” he said, and also “a solid preparation must be an integral part of the celebration of marriage" for which "a complete rethinking of pastoral accompaniment for engaged couples and spouses is proposed.”

The archbishop said that it may not be possible “to start immediately this complete itinerary, but we must begin to take the steps that allow us to do so in the not too distant future."

“Let us understand that we may be facing a new stage that allows us to have spouses who truly live the sacrament and families that are serious domestic churches. But, this hope demands faith and responsibility from us to have a profound rethinking of family ministry,” he stated.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.