Vatican City, Apr 10, 2016 / 04:39 am
Among the less-noticed passages of Pope Francis’ new exhortation was a lengthy section on marriage preparation, a subject that the pontiff has repeatedly spoken on, calling for additional focus at the diocesan and parish levels.
“Learning to love someone does not happen automatically, nor can it be taught in a workshop just prior to the celebration of marriage,” Pope Francis said. “For every couple, marriage preparation begins at birth.”
His reflections on the October 2015 Synod on the Family were released April 8 in the lengthy post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” He cited many statements of the synod and added his own commentary.
The main objective of marriage preparation for engaged couples is to “help each to learn how to love this very real person with whom he or she plans to share his or her whole life,” the Pope said.
“We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage,” he added.
Among those who are best prepared for marriage are likely those who witnessed the example of Christian marriage from their parents, the pontiff said.
He characterized marriage preparation as an initiation to the Sacrament of Matrimony. It provides couples with “the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family.”
The Church can help engaged couples’ love grow and mature through the example and advice of missionary families and the couples’ own families; other pastoral resources; discussion groups; and optional talks, he advised. However, individual meetings with the couple are still essential.
The Pope also stressed the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a means for engaged couples to find the mercy and “healing strength” of God from their past sins. He encouraged couples to reflect on the Bible readings of their wedding Mass and the meaning of the rings they will exchange.