When a couple is engaged to be married, one of the important aspects of the wedding planning process is a marriage preparation course or program. Marriage preparation helps couples work on communication skills and encourages them to explore certain necessary topics before not only their wedding day but their entire life together as husband and wife. Here at our parish, Fr. Don leads those couples who are preparing for marriage.
“In general, my role is to congratulate them, support, encourage them, and invite them to pray together,” he says. “How many couples will live together and have kids but don’t pray together because it’s too personal?”
The couple first contacts Fr. Don to set up an appointment about the possibility of their marriage being celebrated in our church, and to go over a prenuptial investigation to rule out anything that might hinder their readiness to enter marriage. Then, if everything is a “go,” Fr. Don leads the couple through a curriculum called Fully Engaged, a program for engaged couples from the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn.
“They each answer surveys and then they send me the results,” Fr. Don says.
Then, the results are reviewed and the couple examines the various strengths and weaknesses in their relationship. Fr. Don journeys with the couple as they go through the program. Once all of this is completed, then it’s time to plan the wedding.
“I walk them through the process of preparation, then I sit down with them to plan the liturgy, have the rehearsal, and then we have the ceremony,” Fr. Don says.
In times past, there have been other married couples who also journey with the couple as they prepare for marriage. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Don has been the only one serving in the ministry. He is open to any married couple who wishes to help out if they feel called to do so.
“I tell couples that my job as your pastor is to prepare you to enter into this marriage with your eyes wide open,” he says. “I tell them oftentimes love can be blind, we are so enamored with the other person. You’ve waited your whole life, can’t imagine being married to anyone else, but then 10 years later you think, ‘How come I didn’t see that in you?’ My job is to open their eyes.”
One of the objectives of marriage preparation is for the couples to talk about certain subjects that may not have been discussed, or that need clarification within the Church. For example, if a couple is of mixed religion, how will they handle differences in raising children?
There is a major difference between a civil union and a married vocation, says Fr. Don. The difference is bringing God into the marriage and inviting the whole Church to play an active role in their family life. In turn, Fr. Don asks the couples how they are inviting God to be part of their marriage vocation.
“The Sacrament of Matrimony is our celebration,” Fr. Don says. “It’s the Church’s celebration of your marriage to each other. In general, you’re representing the Church and its relationship with God, and you’re representing your relationship to God with each other.”
To learn more about marriage preparation, please call the parish office at 308-382-4753.