Pope Lauds Work on a Marriage Prep Handbook

Family Council to Offer Guide for 3 Stages of Preparation

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today told members of the Pontifical Council for the Family that their work on a marriage preparation handbook is an important task.

The dicastery is having its three-day plenary assembly through Wednesday.

In his address to the assembly, the Holy Father noted how Pope John Paul II affirmed marriage preparation is more necessary than ever, and defined three stages: remote, proximate and immediate.

Benedict XVI noted how the pontifical council is endeavoring to follow this guideline and «delineate appropriately the physiognomy of the three stages of the itinerary for the formation of and response to the conjugal vocation.»

He offered his own reflection on these stages.

The first, the Pontiff said, refers to children and young people.

«It involves the family, the parish and the school, the places in which they are educated to understand life as a vocation to love, which is specified, later, in the modalities of marriage and of virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. In this stage, moreover, the meaning should emerge gradually of sexuality as capacity of relationship and positive energy to be integrated in authentic love,» the Pope said.

Engaged couples enter into the stage of proximate preparation, he continued.

This step «should be configured as an itinerary of Christian faith and life, which leads to a profound knowledge of the mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the meaning of grace and of the responsibility of marriage,» the Holy Father proposed.

He suggested that the length and style of preparation for engaged couples will vary from one situation to another.

However, the Pope did propose a program that offers catechesis and experiences of the community, with the support of a priest and experts, Christian spouses, and couple and group dialogue, all combined in «a climate of friendship and prayer.»

Engagement should even be a time for couples to «relive their own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, especially by listening to the Word of God, approaching the sacraments and above all by participating in the Eucharist,» he affirmed. «Only by putting Christ in the center of personal existence and of that of the couple is it possible to live authentic love and to give it to others.»

Prayerful retreat

Finally, immediate preparation is for the final steps before marriage.

«In addition to the examination of the engaged couple, provided by Canon Law, the latter [stage] could include a catechesis on the Rite of Marriage and on its meaning, a spiritual retreat and preparation so that the celebration of marriage is perceived by the faithful, and particularly by those preparing for it, as a gift for the whole Church, a gift that contributes to its spiritual growth,» the Pope proposed.

He further suggested that bishops promote an exchange of experiences and that they encourage «serious pastoral commitment» in this endeavor.

The Holy Father asked his brother bishops to «show particular attention so that the vocation of the spouses becomes a richness for the whole Christian community and, especially in the present context, a missionary and prophetic testimony.»

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-28291?l=english

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