Pope Francis pens the preface for guidelines to create “Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life”, and urges the Church to help better prepare future spouses for marriage so as to avoid the suffering caused by broken families.
By Devin Watkins
The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life on Wednesday released new pastoral guidelines for local Churches, which lay out a path toward the creation of “Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life”.
Pope Francis wrote the preface for the Document, saying it represents a “fruit” of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year marking his Apostolic Exhortation on the family.
“The Church, in every age, is called to proclaim anew the beauty and abundance of grace contained in the Sacrament of Marriage and the family life which flows from it, especially to young people.”
Reducing number of null or failed marriages
The Pope said the Document charts a path toward a true “catechumenate”, based on the model of the ancient baptismal catechumenate for adults, in order to help them build their marriage on the rock of faith.
Many couples, he noted, receive only superficial preparation before their wedding and therefore risk setting their marriage on such weak foundations that it “falls apart in a short space of time and cannot withstand even the first inevitable crises.”
“Marriage failures bring with them great suffering and leave deep wounds in people. They become disillusioned, bitter and, in the most painful cases, even end up no longer believing in the vocation to love, inscribed by God Himself in the heart of the human being.”
Mother Church accompanies couples
In response, said Pope Francis, the Church must accompany couples who seek to marry in the Church, animated by a desire for justice.
Just as no mother plays favorites among her children, neither does the Church treat her children differently. Therefore, the Church must devote considerable time and energy to accompanying engaged couples toward marriage, as she does men who seek to become priests or women and men who enter religious life.
Married couples, he said, “are truly ‘guardians of life’, not only because they beget children, raise them, and accompany their growth, but also because they care for the elderly in their family, and devote themselves to the service of people with disabilities and frequently to people living in poverty with whom they come into contact.”
Walking stretch of road together
Pope Francis then repeated his desire for local Churches to set up a “true catechumenate for future spouses which includes all the steps of the sacramental path: time of preparation for marriage, its celebration, and the years immediately thereafter.”
“The goal is to walk an important stretch of road together with couples in the journey of life, even after the wedding, especially during moments of crisis or discouragement,” said the Pope.
Gift and responsibility
The Document, he added, is both a gift and a responsibility, because it offers a wealth of abundant material while requiring local Churches to adapt its guidelines into concrete programmes based on cultural sensibilities.
“I appeal to the docility, zeal, and creativity of the Church’s pastors, and those who assist them, to increase the effectiveness of the vital and indispensable work of formation, proclamation, and accompaniment of families, which the Holy Spirit is asking us to carry out at this time.”
Pope Francis concluded his preface for the “Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life” document by urging the Church’s pastors to be courageous in the face of this new responsibility.
“Let us put our minds and hearts at the service of future families,” he said. “I assure you that the Lord will sustain us, give us wisdom and strength, make our enthusiasm grow, and above all, allow us to experience the ‘delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing’, as we proclaim the Gospel of the family to new generations.”