In long-awaited-for English translation, Vatican proposes a catechumenate model for marriage preparation – Our Sunday Visitor

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

The Holy See on Tuesday released the official English language translation of a new pastoral guideline aimed at guiding couples to better prepare for marriage, titled, Catechumenal Pathways for Married Life.

In long-awaited-for English translation, Vatican proposes a catechumenate model for marriage preparation – Our Sunday Visitor


marriage

Shutterstock

The Holy See on Tuesday released the official English language translation of a new pastoral guideline aimed at guiding couples to better prepare for marriage, titled, Catechumenal Pathways for Married Life.

The Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life explained that “the aim is to set up discernment paths of catechumenal inspiration, which can truly accompany young people to rediscover their faith and experience it when the vocation to family life opens up in them.” The document, first published in Italian in June, is a response to Pope Francis’ calls to engage young couples and provide new models for formation as they approach the Sacrament of Marriage. Pope Francis said in a 2017 address to the Roman Rota, “I would like to stress the need for a ‘new catechumenate’ for marriage preparation.”

But what is a marriage catechumenate? “A catechumenate model for marriage preparation uses relationships as the basis for catechesis,” Mary-Rose Verret said in a video introducing the model, implemented in the program she developed with her husband, Witness to Love. Verret, who has worked for more than a decade helping to prepare couples for marriage, argued, “Today we don’t understand what it means to be human, what it means to be man, what it means to be woman.” These ideas, she said, “have to be introduced in the context of a relationship.”

“The Church must go beyond a type of formation which is solely intellectual, theoretical and general (i.e. religious literacy) when engaging with those who intend to marry,” the new document reads. “We need to walk with them along a path that leads to an encounter with Christ, or to deepen this relationship, and assist them in making an authentic discernment of their own vocation to marriage, both on a personal and interpersonal level.”

The catechumenate model is the model the Church uses for introducing converts to the life and teaching of our Faith. Most Catholic parishes follow this model in their parish RCIA (now OCIA) programs. Periods of catechesis progress and are marked by stages of ritual and prayer. Neophytes are accompanied by sponsors — in the case of marriage preparation, young couples are accompanied by older “expert” couples. And then, ideally, converts are supported as they adapt to Catholic parish life.

The new document lays out three main stages for the new marriage catechumenate: proximate preparation (about a year, including a rite of betrothal), final preparation (a few months, including a retreat), and accompaniment (the last phase stretches into the first years of marriage). The catechumenate is to be preceded by “remote preparation” (age appropriate formation in youth programs, etc.) and an “intermediate phase” lasting a few weeks during which a ritual entry into the catechumenate proper occurs.

The new rituals mark the couple’s progress in formation. “Moreover,” the document continues, “rituals offer a sign of the gradual merging of faith and love of engaged couples.” Texts for the new rites, however, have not yet been made available.

Presenting at the Vatican at the Forum Amoris Laetitia, held in 2021 in honor of the Amoris Laetitia Year of the Family, Ryan and Mary Rose Verret emphasized the need for young couples to experience attraction, relationships and trust. The Verrets cautioned, “If they do not admire; or desire a marriage like the mentor’s, then the relationship between them is not going to be ongoing; it is not going to be life giving.”

While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have not yet commented on the new guidelines, implementation of the new catechumenate will be overseen largely at the diocesan and parish levels. The document concludes saying, “The ‘pastoral guidelines’ offered here, though not intended to be exhaustive, seek to provide an aid and stimulus for dioceses/eparchies and parishes in developing their own ‘catechumenal pathways for married life,’ according to the indications of the Holy Father Francis.”

Leave a Reply