This is an article from the Denver Catholic Register of April 2, 2008.
Catholic marriage prep for marital success
Building a strong marriage takes desire, time and a commitment not just to the other person, but to the relationship on which the marriage is based. And if you were to ask Christian or Christine Meert what a marriage should be based on if it is to be successful the answer would be: Christ.
The couple, who founded the nonprofit organization Catholic Marriage Prep Inc., which is fully dedicated to building strong Catholic marriages, say that many of the people who come to them often have a desire for religion, but lack a personal relationship with God.
“What we do is help the couple build their spiritual relationship with Christ,” Christian said.
In today’s world, said Christian, couples don’t always think of God as being the cornerstone of their marriage, when in fact, he should be.
Married since 1977, the Meerts, who are transplants from France, are the parents of five daughters. When they moved to Colorado in 1999 as part of a new religious community—the Community of the Beatitudes—Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., invited the community to begin a house of prayer in Denver. Eventually, the Meerts put together a marriage class from scratch. Today they are directors of the Marriage and Family Life Office in the Colorado Springs Diocese. Their marriage prep course offers sessions in both Colorado Springs and Denver.
“We didn’t choose the ministry,” Christine said with a smile, “it chose us.”
Marriage preparation must begin at least eight to 12 months prior to a couple’s anticipated wedding date. The Archdiocese of Denver divides this period into proximate (the first several months) and immediate (the last two months) preparation. During this time, couples prepare for their sacrament through steps of preparation as well as a manageable series of meetings with a priest, deacon, or marriage preparation minister. Catholic Marriage Prep Inc. is a four-night class, one night a week over a four-week period that orients couples toward a shared, Christ-centered life. Online classes are also available for people whose schedule doesn’t permit regular weekly classes.
“We have discussions at every class and all couples have homework to finish before the group meets again,” Christine said. “In the online version, worksheets are involved; we want the couples to put a lot of thought and reflection into their answers. Often, couples don’t have a clear idea of what they want in their marriage. The worksheets focus their attention on what their future could be.”
Classes address many aspects of marriage, including the rite of the sacrament, the vocations of both men and women, and tools for dealing with money, communication and children. The Meerts said they hope couples come away with an enriched understanding of the sacrament of matrimony.
One of the challenges the Meerts face is cohabitating couples. They challenge the couples in their classes to sign cards pledging to abstain from conjugal relations until after the wedding takes place.
“It isn’t something we jump into from the beginning,” Christian said. “We discuss at length the importance of communication and forgiveness—many things that the couples otherwise may not have considered. Then we bring up the idea of (abstaining) until God has brought them together. We ask them to find the benefits of abstaining before their wedding and we commit to pray for them and we ask them to find the benefits of abstaining before their wedding.”
According to the Meerts’ statistics, abstinence before marriage, even for those couples who have been living together, is one their couples embrace. In numbers the Meerts have compiled, of 700 couples asked, 76 percent agreed outright to sign the pledge cards and another 22 percent said they would give the matter some thought. Christine sees this as a blessing and an overwhelming success for people who are looking to walk with the Lord in their married life.
“Many who say ‘no’ at the beginning often change their decision after some reflection,” she said.
Classes for Catholic Marriage Prep are $180 for the four-week program, $150 for online classes, which includes all materials for the course. All Denver area classes are held at Holy Family Parish, 4377 Utica St., on Monday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The next series begins April 28. For more information, call 1-866-425-7193 toll free, or visit online at www.Ca tholicMarriagePrep.com.
“We simply want to teach couples to welcome God as part of their relationship,” Christine said. “That’s how they’ll find success in their marriage.”