Friday, March 30, 2012

The beauty of marriage (Part 1)

On Wednesday night, we had another "Theology on Tap" at Tonic.  This was our third time doing it and got another decent showing.  The groups have been excellent - really into the topics and asking penetrating questions.  They seemed especially grateful for Wednesday's discussion on marriage.  Basically, I told some stories from weddings I have officiated, laid out my marriage preparation program, and went through some excerpts from a talk I give to engaged couples, "The Beauty of Marriage".  After all that, I opened it up for questions.  Interestingly, there was only one or two questions about annulments (that usually dominates when talking about the sacrament of Holy Matrimony), none on divorce, and a few on same-sex marriage.  One general point for those who were there (and for all of us) for that intense part of the discussion:  God has said that same-sex relations are sinful, and every sin is hurtful.  So, it is an act of love to defend the Church's teaching about same-sex relationships.

I started the talk with a few stories.  One time, I officiated a wedding in Philadelphia.  At the rehearsal dinner, I was asked to bless the food.  After the blessing, I yelled out to the room of about 80 Philadelphia Eagles fans, "Go Redskins!"  A moment of stunned silence ensued.  Then, a loud chorus of boos..!  In my homily at another wedding, I told the story of how the couple met: at a bar, the groom was filled with "liquid courage" and told the bride that she was the "most beauuuutiful the whoooole world".  I embelished the way he said it, of course, and included a slurring of some words.  Apparently, in telling the story and to the extent that I did, I stole half of the best's toast at the wedding reception!  One time, I started a wedding without the bride.   She was taking forever in the vestibule, and we were on a limited schedule.  So, when I walked into the Church ready to start, she immediately began to process down the aisle.  She joined the groom and me, and I said, "thanks for coming". 

I told one last story which led into a serious point that I would hit later.  One couple who came for marriage prep was extraordinary ignorant about their Catholic faith.  Some of our discussions were painful because they were so clueless.  But, they were like sponges during the whole process..they soaked up everything I said and taught.  So, at their rehearsal dinner, one of the bridesmaids made the comment, "yeah, so, (the bride) told me what you talked about with them, that contraception prevents not only procreation, but union.  I totally agree".  I  could...not...believe it. Wow, awesome, Lord!

I explained my marriage prep program: six meetings with couples.  In the first meeting, I interview each and do the prenuptial questionnaire from the Archdiocese which includes many canonical questions (mainly that each is free to marry the other) while the other takes a survey called "Foccus".  In the next meeting, we review the results of the survery, and the couple is usually crushed to know that they are not as compatible as they thought.  Normally, though, it just reveals all the things that they have not discussed.  And, need to discuss!  In the next meetings, I lead discussions on God's Plan / marriage as vocation and living holiness in marriage, communication / prayer, the good news about sex (a talk I give in the setting of Eucharistic Adoration), the "beauty of marriage", and planning the wedding liturgy.  They also have to attend a "Pre Cana" weekend with the Archdiocese with other couples to go over a lot of this same stuff but also to learn much about Natural Family Planning.  My program is pretty intense and thorough, but it's out of love for marriage and for the couple that I demand six meetings and discuss all these important things.  It's worth it!!

Next week in Part 2, I will post the notes from my talk, "The Beauty of Marriage", most of which I presented on Wednesday night.  To be continued...


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