Two things happened recently that got me thinking about engaged couples (and no it wasn’t a man offering me an engagement ring, but thanks for asking).
The first happened at a Survey Meeting for a parish’s upcoming Parish Vision Plan. The committee wanted to ask the following question:
I would be willing to allow an engaged bride or groom-to-be live in a guest room in my house for several months prior to their wedding so as to help them avoid cohabitation before marriage.
It got me thinking about the Sacrament of Marriage and how much the people of the Church are willing to help combat the #1 reason cited for couples living together. Money; they simply can’t afford two domiciles so they consolidate into one to save money since they’re going to get married anyway.
A recent pew study found that nearly 60% of people under the age of 45 have cohabitated with a partner outside of marriage in the past. 75% of Catholics don’t see anything wrong with this. (Source & a great article)
The second was a friend talking about how hard it was to do both marriage prep and wedding prep at the same time when she and her fiancé live 3 hours apart and are getting married in a different city 2 hours in the other direction. They want to prepare well for their marriage and even participated in a Betrothal Blessing at their new parish, but wedding planning and marriage preparation become a battle of enough time in the day.
So what can we do to help engaged (and dating) couples follow the Church’s teachings? I think there are a few things, so I’ll offer some examples:
- Provide an alternative like the parish above was asking in their survey. If money is the issue, remove the stumbling block from the table.
- Preach out the beauty of marriage by celebrating married couples in the parish. One parish I know does a Cana Dinner on a weekend near Valentine’s Day every year celebrating couples. Another does Anniversary Blessings at Mass once a month for everyone celebrating their anniversary that month. A third offers fun children’s nights during Advent so couples can drop their kids off for an hour or two for a date night in the midst of the busyness of the holiday season.
- Begin talking about the Church’s teachings regarding sexuality and chastity early in religious education in an age appropriate way. Focus on the dignity of the human person and how we are all called to live out God’s call to purity (single, married, engaged, old, young).
- Make NFP Education free for parishioners. This seems like a big ask – but it’s expensive to take a class with a great teacher, and a woman’s doctor isn’t always the best source for information. If your don’t preach on it or teach on it at all, change that. You can get great resources from places like NFP Outreach or Off the Charts for couples.
- Provide great, amazing marriage prep. There are a lot of great programs out there like Beloved and Better Together and FOCUS. The best is being able to have an actual conversation with the priest who’s officiating the marriage and couples who are willing to give great, vulnerable advice.
- Gift our new journal for engaged women to anyone announcing an engagement in the parish.
There were two podcast interviews that I really appreciated this past year on the topic that I’d like to share as well. The first is with Sarah Tramonte who discusses truths and myths of NFP and Birth Control; she had some amazing information and great resources. The second was with a priest discussing how he supports married couples in his ministry particularly through the Sacrament of Confession and Spiritual Direction.