We do not think it is a stretch to assert that marriage in the Roman Catholic (or any other Christian) tradition in the United States is under attack. Due in large part to the contemporary values of individualism, indeterminacy, and consumerism, American Catholics (along with our Christian brothers and sisters) live in an age of serial monogamy that discourages exclusive love, long-term commitments, and personal sacrifice. This cultural condition especially places tremendous pressure on the newly married, who already struggle naturally in establishing a new shared journey towards God.
Newly married couples require support from the Church community. While the number and variety of resources for the newly married have grown considerably within the Church over the past twenty years, the Church continues to invest more time in the wedding day than in the lifelong fruit of the sacrament. In an attempt to forge a stronger link between the marriage rite and marital journey, we offer Embracing the Mysteries as One: A Mystagogy for the Newly Married – a time for reflection modeled after the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis and Mystagogy in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
It is through the Rite of Marriage that a couple establishes an irrevocable bond of lifelong love. It is through the rite that a couple opens themselves to the lifelong grace of Christ. It is through the rite that a couple establishes the Domestic Church. The marriage rite is the source of sustenance for the marriage journey. Therefore, gaining a greater appreciation of the rite may assist married couples (especially the newly married) in gaining a greater appreciation of their shared journey towards God.
The final step in the RCIA process is the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis and Mystagogy. It is a time when those newly received into the Church contemplatively reflect on their experience of the Initiation Rites. As Sr. Kathleen Hughes aptly writes in Saying Amen: A Mystagogy of Sacrament, this is done to “savor its memory…ponder [symbolic] meanings of [actions and words]…and live out its vision. Questions that typically arise include: What physically happened to me? How did I feel? What words, actions, or symbols particularly resonated with me? How does this experience carry me forward in life?
These questions bear significant relevancy to the marriage rite and newly journeying couples. Our session would offer couples the opportunity to reflect contemplatively and prayerfully on the sacrament they conferred upon each other on their wedding day. With the aid of at least one mentor couple and an ordained minister, couples would mystagogically explore what it means to establish an irrevocable bond of lifelong love with the grace of Christ.
In the coming months we will be piloting this session in several diverse parishes around Minnesota. Our initial target audience comprises couples of diverse ages and backgrounds who have been married for at least six months. We will be happy to share the results of this pilot endeavor with the blog community at PrayTell!
Jeffrey and Natalie (Perl) Regan are St. John’s School of Theology·Seminary, Jeff as a liturgy student and Natalie as director of admissions.