Marriage Classes Help Couples Prepare for Life Together
By Margarita Mendoza, Editor El Observador
April 27, 2023
The sacrament of marriage goes beyond a union between a man and a woman; it is “by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In preparation for this lifetime commitment, the Catholic Church offers tools to each couple that will allow them to face different circumstances during their lifetime. 
The training is important because “you need to be trained for anything you are going to do,” says Deacon Rafael (Vianey) Villagomez of St. Joseph Parish, Elgin. 
For that reason, “the Church provides the gift of helping engaged couples learn how to have successful marriages through marriage preparation. Couples who are getting married in the Diocese of Rockford or who are having their civil marriages convalidated or recognized in the Church are asked to contact their parish priests to begin the process of marriage preparation,” explains Therese Stahl, Director of the Life and Family Evangelization (LiFE) Office. 
These classes help “their marriages succeed and increase their love for each other,” says Stahl.
Despite the excitement most couples show toward marriage preparation, some may feel that they don’t need to take the classes. 
For instance, Anna and her fiancé Kyle (last names omitted) have been living together since last year. They want to be “married legally at the church,” she says. Still, she has had some serious difficulties that deter her from taking the marriage preparation course, and “adding additional steps made [them] have second thoughts,” about get married in the Church.  
However, Anna learned that marriage training is about creating a solid foundation for a successful marriage. She found that the training includes education in finances; the possibility to learn Natural Family Planning, something that can help the couple grow closer and allow Anna to have a better knowledge of her body (and detect changes to help her prevent illnesses); and formation to help them overcome challenges and differences. Now they may “reconsider to take it,” especially knowing that they can do it online and on their own time.
Stahl explains that the instruction is important because “marriage is hard even when the relationship between spouses is healthy.” Consequently, “during preparation, couples learn about the grace that God gives to each married couple and receive practical advice on how to deepen their relationship with each other and with God and His Church,” she says.
Couples who prepare well for marriage can be stronger and have lasting marriages. Living proof is visible at the annual celebration of the Rockford Diocese’s Silver and Gold Mass each August. As Stahl says, it “is a sign of the success and strength of Catholic marriage. At this Mass, Bishop Malloy recognizes couples from our diocese who have been married for 25, 50, and more milestone years.” In that ceremony “last year, more than 200 couples gathered for a combined total of 10,742 years of marriage. This is a wonderful testament to the grace received on our wedding days,” she says.
The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says the “important thing for engaged couples to keep in mind as they check numerous items off their pre-wedding ‘to-do’ list is the well-known adage, ‘Your wedding lasts a day, but your marriage lasts a lifetime.’”
To sum it up: “No matter how good a Catholic formation you have, you don't know everything; that's why marriage preparation is so important. It is about love; it is not about criticism or rejection,” says Deacon Villagomez.  
To accommodate the different lifestyles and needs of each couple, marriage preparation is available in three different formats: in person, hybrid or online. “On average, about 25% of couples who prepare for marriage in the diocese attend in-person diocesan marriage prep. This percentage represents both English and Spanish language programs,” says Stahl.
After the wedding, couples continue to receive support through programs for healthy marriages, because the marriage is about three: God and the couple. 
That would be a topic for another article.
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