In Pope Francis' work on modern family life, "Amoris Laetitia (On Love in the Family)," he wants Church leaders to help the young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage and family life. In this apostolic exhortation, the pope speaks about the theme of accompaniment. He calls the Church to be a sign of mercy and encouragement for families. A pastoral way that the Office of Family Life Ministries accompanies engaged couples is with immediate preparation to receive the Sacrament of matrimony to help the couple make a solid beginning of life as a family.
Marriage between one man and one woman is a time-honored tradition of humanity's culture and the Sacred Scriptures of our Catholic faith tradition. A man and a woman make a very serious and sacred commitment when they decide to marry one another in the Catholic Church. Through this sacrament, Jesus calls them to draw closer to each other, to their God and to the local faith community. The vocation of marriage requires couples to do their best to build a healthy and happy relationship. This way of life takes time, skills, information and hard work. This is one of the reasons the Church requires some marriage preparation for couples that want to get married in the Catholic Church.
All couples being married in the Diocese of Buffalo are required to attend one of the diocesan approved marriage preparation programs. Inquire at your parish for the time and location of available programs or refer you to the Office of Family Life Ministries for more information. The time frame for completion of a marriage preparation program is determined by each parish, so be sure to find out your parish's requirements early in your engagement.
For parish pre-Cana programs, the Family Life Office recommends the use of "Perspectives on Marriage." It is adaptable on the parochial, regional or vicariate levels and can be used individually with a sponsor couple, in a group gathering for at least two evenings or a one day session. Topics include communication, conflict resolution, family of origin, marital roadblocks, finances and serious issues, sacramental commitment and spirituality.
Journey into Love is our diocesan one-day marriage preparation program that uses presentations offered by trained married couple teams. Engaged couples use various communication exercises focusing on such areas as dynamics of effective communication, Natural Family Planning and other topics as noted above. This program includes a continental breakfast, lunch, program materials and prayer. Dates and location for this program are found at www.buffalodiocese.org/PastoralServices/FamilyLife/FortheEngaged.
Husband and wife teams are needed to help with Journey into Love. Married couples give a 20-minute talk a couple of times a year on important topics such as effective communication, sacramental marriage, and commitment with spirituality. If you have an interest in finding out more, call the Family Life Office.
A research based Pre-Marriage Inventory tool called FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) is an online pre-marriage inventory tool that can help couples preparing for marriage. Couples who complete the FOCCUS inventory, then participate in a facilitated discussion on key topic areas, have the opportunity to review, reflect and discuss strengths and growth opportunities within their relationship as they prepare for lifelong marriage. FOCCUS is a supplement to a pre-Cana program; it is not a substitute for one.
Cana II is a program designed for couples that are planning remarriage in the Church. Some of the topics addressed include family background, step-family structure, handling conflict, money management, communication and sacramental marriage. This program specifically fits the needs of couples in which at least one person is widowed or divorced. In the latter case, previous marriages need to have been annulled or declared invalid by the Church.
The overall purpose of marriage preparation is to assist the engaged couple in evaluating their readiness to live married life, which between two baptized persons is a sacrament. The married couple is called to be a living sacrament, a sign of God's love, life and service in the world.
This faithful relationship of man and woman is the root of a family. Pope Francis reminds us that the family is the "first church" in which faith is passed from one generation to the next as we experience love, forgiveness, and generosity with each other. When we learn about these things in our home, we also begin to see God's presence and grace there. In the family, parents provide an environment where children learn the virtues of humanity, where the child learns what it means to be a human person. Parents also teach Christian values and how to put them into action. Grandparents also participate in passing on our human and religious heritage and they provide a safety net for the children. The family has a role in building a culture of life and faith.
The Church community cares about marriage as an institution and cares about the couples that have been married in the Church. For 25 years, our diocese has had a Golden Wedding Anniversary Mass for couples celebrating 50, 60 and 70 years of marriage, held at St. Joseph Cathedral. This annual celebration began under the leadership of Bishop Edward Head in 1993 to increase the awareness of the sanctity of marriage and the commitment made by couples celebrating milestones in married life. This year's event will be held on Sunday, Oct. 14 at St. Joseph Cathedral's 10:30 a.m. Mass. Family and friends are welcome to attend with honorees. Following Mass, pictures of the anniversary couples will be taken with Bishop Richard J. Malone in the cathedral's Lady Chapel. If you have questions concerning this event call your parish or call the Family Life Office.
For more information or resources, call the Family Life Office at (716) 847-2210.