By Shemaiah Gonzalez, freelance writer. Her website is www.shemaiahgonzalez.com.
As engaged couples prepare themselves for marriage, they look for advice for a rich and loving union. The best advice for engaged couples comes from Pope Francis himself in his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).
He says a couple should prepare for their wedding by meditating on Scripture together, saying it would not be good “for them to arrive at the wedding without ever having prayed together.” Couples should ask the Lord “what he wants of them.”
For engaged couples unsure where to begin, start with the Scripture readings for your wedding Mass. One of the most popular readings comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 5:25-33.
St. Paul writes that Christ’s union with us, the church, is a great mystery and that marriage is a human reflection of this intimate loving relationship. When a couple is married, that too is a mystical union.
Think how in marriage, the couple complements each other, bringing a strength to balance the other’s weakness. And how through encouragement from each other, a spouse grows into fullness as the person God created them to be. In marriage, the couple is stronger than any one of them alone.
St. Paul urges husbands to “love their wives as their own bodies,” for this is what happens when the two are joined in marriage, they “become one flesh.” “No one hates his own flesh,” he says, reminding us to “nourish and cherish” each other.
We are to look to Christ as our model in marriage. St. Paul tells husbands to “love your wives, even as Christ loved the church.” The sacrament of marriage, as a reflection of Christ’s mystical union with the church, should never be broken, for Christ’s love for the church will never fail.
The gift of the mystery of marriage was given to us so that we might more fully understand Christ’s love and union with us. This is what is astounding about marriage; it has been given so we can glimpse into Christ’s perfect love for us.
As we enter the mystery of Christ’s love, surrendering ourselves to it, we draw closer to him. His love shows us how to be loving partners in marriage.
Prayer for engaged couples:
Lord, as we prepare for the sacrament of marriage, we come to ask what you desire from us.
Guide us to know your will.
May we look to your love for us as our model of how we are to love each other.
Show us how to nourish and cherish each other as we would our own bodies.
Bring your strength to our weakness so that we might help each other grow into people you created us to be.
Enable us to grow in our intimacy with you and with each other so that we might experience the fullness of your love.
Thank you for the gift of marriage so that we can more fully understand your love for us.
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Engagement is a time to prepare for a lifelong marriage, not just a wedding day, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington writes in a pastoral plan implementing Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”
Engaged couples should “discuss together how you can begin to put into practice the qualities you want to live out as a married couple,” the cardinal said.
Gathering data and advice from couples in the Archdiocese of Washington, the pastoral plan suggests that engaged couples attend Mass and pray together “to establish a spiritual bond that will endure.”
To enrich their wedding-planning process, couples can “read a book together about marriage and take part in Catholic marriage preparation,” the document says.
Couples can also find a married mentor couple and ask them about their experience or ask a priest to recommend a mentor couple.
The pastoral plan recommends that couples start “marriage off by being generous. Make a donation to the poor as a part of your wedding budget or in lieu of party favors.”
Finally, the plan advises couples to learn about natural family planning to discuss “fertility, intimacy and planning for children.”