by Christian Rada
SINCE I ENTERED marriage ministry two years ago as coordinator of marriage, family life, and respect life education for the Diocese of Brooklyn, I have met with countless couples that are preparing for matrimony.
As someone who has been married for more than two years, the stress and anxiety of the engagement period is still fresh in my mind. Even with these feelings, couples find comfort in the love from their friends and family. However, more and more couples are finding relief in their involvement with the Church and in their faith.
More and more couples are looking to get involved in the Church, and there are several ways that young couples can be involved in the Church. Taking part in liturgical ministries, such as reading at Mass as a lector or distributing Holy Communion as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, are some ways that couples can minister and serve the parish community together. If a couple believes that they are called to share the faith with children and adults in the parish, they can become religious education catechists. Many young couples want to do social justice service for the Church. By working on service projects, the couples live the Gospel in today’s world.
In my experience in marriage prep, I have seen a stronger sense of faith or spirituality among couples preparing for the sacrament of matrimony. Most couples in the engagement period are growing in the development of their relationship. Within this stage of the relationship, couples learn more about themselves as a couple in a unique way that is different during the courtship period.
At the same time, couples begin to examine what sort of spirituality their family wishes to possess. What is beautiful about the family spirituality is that there is no right way to follow.
Observing young couples, I noticed that there are three key components within any family spirituality. The first component is worship. As Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. once said, “The family that prays together stays together.” In prayer and worship, especially in the participation of the Sacraments, the family grows and conforms into the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ comes to life when the family celebrates the Eucharist together as a family. When proper worship is set as a priority, it leads to a great awareness of God’s presence in the family’s life.
The second component is devotion. Every family has a different devotion or tradition in their spirituality. However in the engagement period, young couples begin the conversation of what sort of devotions will be part of their family. Each bride and groom brings to the marriage their own personal devotions and traditions, such as prayers and celebrations to our Blessed Mother, reading Sacred Scripture at home, or learning about the lives of the saints.
What is wonderful about devotions within the family is that it is the environment where the families bring the faith home and foster that deep and personal relationship that Christ wants to have with each individual family member.
The third and final component is discipleship. Worship and devotion leads to discipleship. The word disciple comes from the Latin word, “discipulus,” which means pupil. As pupils, the family members learn about the teachings of Christ and grow in love of Christ. That love is so great that it cannot be content within the family. It outpours itself into works of charity and service to the poor. It is a special type of discipleship.
St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “In matrimony, there is a kind of spiritual joining together.”
This joining together into the married life is a magnificent vocation of service. In this state of life, a couple grows together in an intimate way. The bride and groom empty themselves in mutual love for one another. The vocation of marriage is truly a life of splendid service and exquisite love.
Rada is the coordinator of marriage, family life, and respect life education for the Diocese of Brooklyn.