“In a particular way the Church addresses the young, who are beginning their journey towards marriage and family life, for the purpose of presenting them with new horizons, helping them to discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life.” –Familiaris Consortio
Shortly after Christmas I ran into an old friend from college at a conference for young adults. She was recently engaged and introduced me to her fiancé. We started chitchatting about wedding plans and marriage prep (two of my top-ten favorite conversation topics).
At some point I blurted out, “And don’t worry if you’re finding it to be the most challenging, frustrating, nerve-wracking time of your relationship, everyone feels that way! Working through all those things together now will help you build a strong marriage.”
My friend’s fiancé reached over, wrapped me in a big hug and said, “Thank you for saying that!”
And with that, right there in the middle of a convention center in Nashville, we started sharing hearts and talking about the real nitty-gritty of preparing for this wonderful vocation.
I think one of the things we forget along the way is that marriage is under attack not just after the vows, but also leading up to them. The demands of the wedding industry can take much of our time and effort and distract us from really entering into conversation, prayer, and sacrifice with and for each other.
The stress of combining homes and finances and families and traditions builds up – until we can’t remember why we’re doing this in the first place! The voices of doubt in our heads as we think about how hard it is to say ‘till death do us part’ when we don’t know what lies ahead are difficult to silence. The evil one does not want to see holy men and women laying their lives down for Christ and one another.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for married couples and families to accompany those who are preparing for marriage. With more and more young people coming from broken homes, many haven’t had the witness of strong marriages to shape and guide them or offer them support. Building a culture marriage begins at home, but it cannot end there.
Now that Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day are past (the three most popular times for proposals), most of us know a newly engaged couple. How can we, like the Church, accompany them on this journey?
Here are a few ideas:
Offer a specific prayer each day for the engaged couples you know and send them a little note to remind them that you’re praying for them.
Invite them over for dinner and let them see marriage and family up-close-and-personal. Share stories, insights and advice from your own time of engagement and preparation. Provide space and opportunity for them to ask questions, to share their own struggles honestly, to ask for advice or prayers.
Offer your help. Is there a way you can contribute to their wedding celebration? (Items you can lend, talents you can contribute) Check in with them to see how things are going and to lend a listening ear and a pep-talk when needed.
Give them a wedding gift that will help them build a strong marriage (books, sacramentals, certificates for date-nights). Continue to journey with them even after the wedding. Send an anniversary card, bring them a meal when they have babies, have them over for dinner and invite them to family parties. Be available to them when they have questions or bad days and need encouragement.
In these ways we can help engaged couples to “discover the beauty and grandeur” of their vocation, while increasing our appreciation of our own.
Copyright 2015, Megan Swaim
Art/Photograhy: High Line Nyc Marriage Proposal, Victor Grigas, December 21, 2013, CC BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons