By Bonnie Mack, NACFLM Region IV

STRENGTHENS couples to renew their commitment & grow in the skills for a happy & holy marriage.

EDUCATES all members about the nature & purposes of marriage as a natural institution & a Christian sacrament.

 Strengthing the Married Assessment

I’m sure you’ve heard the sentiment expressed many times.  We do a great job of preparing couples for marriage but unfortunately, we leave them at the altar.  There are a variety of logical reasons for this, but to become a marriage building church we need to be intentional about supporting the sacrament of marriage and the couples living out their vocation.  Strengthening marriage involves a combination of both educating and renewing/enriching couples to help them grow in their love for God, each other and their neighbor.  This entails helping couples understand the nature and purposes of marriage as a natural institution and a Christian sacrament.  But it also involves helping them renew their commitment and grow in the skills for a happy and holy marriage.  A parish leader oftentimes knows this but translating it to the folks in the pews, is difficult.

“If you build it, they will come,” may be true in the movie, “Field of Dreams,” but doesn’t necessarily translate in parish marriage enrichment.  Too often a parish feels frustrated because a great program and speaker they selected, fun activities and great food they chose, good publicity they handled for the event was done and few couples showed up.  Folks were too busy, not interested or…fill in the blank, and therefore it is determined to shelve marriage enrichment for a while.  When this happens, we suggest you take a step back and assess your approach to strengthening marriage.  Essential ingredients and therefore a strong suggestion for parishes interested in supporting and strengthening marriage is threefold:

Under gird everything you do with prayer

Gather a core group of parishioners interested and invested in marriage who together can address this building block of marriage in a holistic way

Find out the desires and needs of your targeted audience then build accordingly

Under girding your efforts with prayer seems like a no-brainer but is too often the forgotten ingredient or the afterthought.  After we make our plans, we’ll ask God to bless our efforts.  What about asking God for His wisdom, direction and help as you begin and relying on His strength and provision as you progress?  From inception to delivery depend on Him.

Use the Resource Guide’s assessment for Strengthening Marriage with a core group of parishioners who desire to promote marriage holistically.  Evaluate your parish and use the checklist to determine what you are presently doing, can realistically do and what you might want to do sometime in the future.  Begin to put the lens of marriage building and specifically, strengthening marriage, on everything.

Lastly, make sure you find out what people in your parish are interested in or see as a need.  Research tells us if people perceive a need and are invested in the process, they are more likely to attend.  Rather than “building it” and hoping they come, incorporate their ideas and needs and involve them in the process.

The thoughts of the Bishops (below) expressed eloquently in Love and Life in the Divine Plan, can be fleshed out in a myriad of ways to strengthen the married.  May God guide and bless us as we begin.

“As a couple grows in virtue, they grow in holiness.  In other words, the couple acquires, by prayer and discipline, those interior qualities that open them to God’s love and allow them to share in his love more deeply.  Couples instinctively understand this when they speak about their marriage being a means of leading each other to heaven…

“Communication and relationship skills are crucial to building such intimacy.  As spouses learn to improve their communication, they can better respond to each other’s needs for love, acceptance and appreciation.  They deepen marital intimacy and strengthen their practice of chastity.