Marriage Preparation Celebration and Enrichment
By Amy Julian
Director of Family Life Ministries
Thirty years ago, after the 1980 Synod on the Family, St. Pope John Paul II proposed a Marriage Catechumenate to better prepare couples for marriage. On June 15, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis wanted to see marriage formation reoriented as a “catechumenal itinerary toward matrimonial life.” While many of their suggestions are already implemented in the Diocese of Rapid City, there are some exciting ideas of how to further improve the preparation for marriage.
What is a Catechumenate? Similar to the process of RCIA, a marriage catechumenate would lean heavily on accompaniment, liturgy and mystagogia, rather than a “classroom style” preparation for marriage. Strictly speaking, a Catechumen is one who is not yet been baptized, but who is undergoing a course of preparation, being taught the principles of Christianity. But those of us who have been through RCIA, know that it is much more than head knowledge; it is a conversion of heart, a reception of the kerygma of the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Just as the Catechumen who are coming into the Church at Easter Vigil are accompanied by a sponsor, those preparing for marriage would be accompanied by a mentor couple, or couples, in addition to support from their parish. Pope Francis envisions a Rite of Betrothal, which would introduce a couple to their parish, perhaps similar to the Rite of Election from RCIA. Both the accompaniment and Rite would integrate the couple more deeply into the life of the parish. Just as RCIA guides Catechumen through periods of evangelization, catechesis, purification and enlightenment, and mystagogia, a Marriage Catechumenate would recognize the stages of spiritual growth that a couple might be going through and meet them where they are.
During RCIA, Catechumen transition from one period through various Rites and Blessings which not only mark the transition, but also provide the grace needed to allow the couple to continue to grow in love and knowledge, not only of each other, but also of Jesus Christ and his Church. The Marriage Catechumenal Itineraries propose rites such as the Rite of Betrothal and Rite of Blessings of Engagement Rings to dispense grace, celebrate the couple’s growth, and remind the parish to support the couple by prayer and example.
Perhaps most importantly, the Vatican document proposes a further period of accompaniment, which the Church calls Mystagogia, which is Greek for “leading through the mysteries.” Both the Christian journey and marriage are a mystery and take time to unpack. Intentional accompaniment and integration into the parish during the early years of marriage and Christianity could greatly increase the likelihood of success of both. Over the next months and years, we hope to find ways to encourage this mystagogia process in parishes and in the diocese. As these opportunities develop, couples can take advantage of several currently existing opportunities to both grow and celebrate healthy Christian marriages.
Marriage Matters Retreat – Aug 20-21
“Refocus on the gift of family in our marriage as a path to God’s plan and unity”
Catholic Social Services in partnership with Family Life Ministries will present “Marriage Matters: a Weekend Retreat for Married Couples” on Saturday & Sunday, August 20-21 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center. Previous participants overwhelmingly agree that the time spent together as a couple during this retreat is worth it!
Cost is $250 per couple and includes all sessions, materials, meals, snacks and lodging from breakfast Saturday through lunch Sunday. Optional early check-in on Friday, August 19 ($100 additional). Scholarships available – all are welcome! Please register before August 10.
Celebration of Marriage Mass & Luncheon – Sept 11
Join Bishop Peter, Deacon Rich and Mary Helen Olsen in a Mass and Luncheon to honor couples who are celebrating their 25th, 40th, 50th or more years of marriage in 2022. September 11 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center. Please contact Family Life Ministries to register for this free event, or to assist in the event. FamilyLife@diorc.org or 605-343-3541.
Married Sweethearts Dance – Feb 18
Save the date for a Valentines Celebration of a Holy Hour, Mass, Renewal of Vows, Dinner and Dance. February 18, 2023, Terra Sancta Retreat Center. For mor information, or to assist in this event contact FamilyLife@diorc.org or 605-343-3541.