By Eric Girten
Special to The Message
In 1986, Pope Saint John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
However, he was not the first to introduce the importance of marriage and family in society. It was St. John Chrysostom, roughly 1,400 years earlier, who wrote, “The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together.”
The Diocese of Evansville, through the Office of Family & Life, provides marriage preparation for couples wanting to get married in the Catholic Church. Marriage preparation is quite different than wedding preparation; but for both to occur, the couple’s first step is to contact their parish.
The Office of Family & Life is involved with three steps in the marriage-preparation process. First is a pre-marital inventory called FOCCUS that reviews many different aspects of the couple’s relationship, including communication; finances; family-of-origin; hobbies; spirituality; and more. This inventory is taken by the couple and then reviewed with them by a trained FOCCUS facilitator at their parish (usually the pastor).
The second step offers two options. The first option is a marriage-preparation retreat (UNVEILED); the couple comes to the Sarto Retreat Center in Evansville and spends time gaining a deeper understanding of themselves as individuals; themselves as a couple; and marriage in the context of Catholic sacrament. These retreats are offered in the spring and fall of each year and come in a 1-day and 1-1/2-day overnight package. The second option is called a Sponsor Couple program. The engaged couple meets with a married couple from the same parish for a set number of sessions. The trained sponsor couple is able to provide support and share experience as they move through the provided marriage-preparation materials.
In the third step, the engaged couple attends a one-hour free overview of Natural Family Planning, which is a practice of family planning (i.e. either trying to obtain or avoid pregnancy) according to the woman’s natural fertility cycle. With this method, the couple enters into the creative and generative process with God and avoids artificial contraception, which can have long-term negative health consequences for the bride (Note: the NFP overview is provided as part of the UNVEILED retreat).
There are many resources availeble to build and sustain a good marriage. It helps to know them and utilize them before they are needed. And the old adage that the family that prays together stays together is statistically true. Do your research, and figure out what will make your marriage and family a bedrock of your community for better and worse, and for years to come.
The U.S. bishops have issued a pastoral letter on marriage, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” It is available for download using this link:
Eric Girten serves as Director of the Diocese of Evansville Office of Family & Life.