In speaking to a group of priests on February 25th, Pope Francis urged that during marriage prep, couples must be helped to understand “the profound meaning of the step that they are about to take. . . They say yes, but do they understand this? Do they have faith in this? A true catechumenate is needed for the sacrament of marriage.”
I got excited to hear this because that’s exactly what we are striving to do with Agape Catholic Ministries’ program, CatholicMarriagePrep.com. It’s different from many other marriage prep experiences precisely because it stresses the sacramental nature of marriage. This can throw a lot of couples off, because they are expecting communication skills and relationship tools (which are a part of this course, too). But before all that, a couple must understand why marriage is a Sacrament and why it’s different than a civil declaration of marriage.
We’ve spoken with some couples who took the course and got married 2, 4, and even 8 years ago to see how CatholicMarriagePrep.com has helped shape their marriage. We think you’ll like what they have to say:
“Marriage is a sacrament and getting married in the Church gives the couple the graces and strength to persevere through life’s ups and downs and remain faithful to each other in God,” said Shawn and Kathleen, who took CMP years ago. They liked that “It reinforced and gave practical examples on how to keep Christ first in our marriage and reminded us that our true home is in heaven, this is only the journey.”
What Joelle and Tim remember most about the course even though they took it 8 years ago was the importance of marriage as a Sacrament and the discussion about NFP. They were surprised to realize how important marriage is in getting your spouse to heaven.
Shauna liked that the course “was scripturally based and dove deeper into the sacramental richness of marriage. The program emphasized the need for couples to pray together and was a good reminder that we need to make time for prayer as a couple. It gave us a good foundation for what a sacramental Catholic marriage is all about.
After going through the Creation story in Genesis line by line, the CMP course explains why God made man and woman for each other, how sin ruins that relationship, and finally how it is restored in the Sacrament of Matrimony. It’s unique in that it’s online, so a couple can do it together from anywhere in the world. It also requires you to spend hours talking to your spouse about the questions before getting fleshed out responses through an answer key provided by mentor couples. “If you want to get to know, I mean really get to know your potential spouse, then this is the course for you,” advise Joelle and Tim.
John and Bethany appreciated the course because “we were able to lay the ground rules for our marriage and the important role that the church plays. We were able to study scripture together and learn it. It strengthened us by reinforcing the importance of daily devotions and involvement in our parish.”
According to Sam, CMP is different because of the scope and depth of the discussion. “It can lead to a mini conversion because of the fact that you understand things differently, leading to interior change,” he said. Sam and his wife Isabel remember most learning about Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae: how two are to become one flesh, why marriage has to be opened to life, why the conjugal unity is the most perfect image of God Himself.
This reflects what Pope Francis also said in his February 25th address: “Marriage is the icon of God, created for us by him, who is the perfect communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
“We really view one of our primary goals as a couple is to help each other get into heaven, “ said CMP graduates Jevan and Eliana.
Lastly, Pope Francis also encouraged that this support must also continue through the celebration of marriage itself and even through the first years after. Agape Catholic Ministries has now launched a mentoring program for newly married couples, called EnCompass, to help couples in those first few years of marriage build a stronger foundation in Christ. This course is intended as a follow up for couples who took the marriage prep course and want to continue that mentoring after their wedding day. See more at: https://www.agapecatholicministries.com/encompass