Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Passing on the Wisdom of a Good Marriage to the Young

One of the priests who write about evangelization for the Peace Weekly tells us of his experience attending a Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekend . Arranged similar to weekends for married couples, starting on a Friday evening and ending on Sunday afternoon, these weekends consist of couples who will  be marrying within the year, along with two  married couples and a priest.

The priest-columnist  had doubts about whether the couples, some having a non-Catholic partner, would get anything from the weekend. He was quickly relieved of his  worries. The first talk focused on having the partners introduce each other to the group by stressing his or her strong points; a very positive beginning.  Each of the couples and the priest shared their experiences and  the teachings of the Church on each of 16 topics that were covered during the weekend.

The talks aroused in them feelings that spoke to them. The priest remembers, especially, the talk "Opening your heart to the other." It laid out the guidelines to follow when fighting: not to broaden the argument, don't bring up the partner's faults, don't go into the past, don't go to a third person for help,  before going to bed agree to a truce, keep your sense of humor--and do it all while holding hands.

The writer sensed a growth in affection as the time passed.  Especially memorable was the evening of the second day when they entered a room lighted only with candles, and sat in a circle.  Whether Catholic or not, each prayed for a happily married life together. After the prayers, the couples received the laying on of hands asking for God's blessing on their married life. It was a moving experience.

The Mass at the end of the weekend was attended by couples with hearts more open than before and pledging to make their married life an answer to the call of God. The priest  heard later that most of those who were not Christians when they participated in the weekend shortly after did  receive  baptism and began living the Christian life.  The aim of the weekend had nothing to do with trying  to evangelize, but it was an indirect result of the weekend spent together; a valid way of bringing others to Christ.

It would be encouraging to see more of our young people who are contemplating marriage attending such a weekend, but the difficulties of persuading the young to take time out of their life for an unknown experience can be great.  In life, we prepare for our jobs by years of education, but preparing for marriage--not the wedding or the externals of marriage--is not seen as necessary; one can learn by doing, many believe. Yes, trial and error do work, but it would be better to spend a few days in these encounter weekends, sharing ideas and learning skills that will help engaged couples to get the most from their married life, especially when the wisdom passed along comes from those who have made a success of their life together.

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