Preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony

In Christian Matrimony, the committed relationship between husband and wife finds Christ at its very heart. This dynamic, intentional, covenant of love becomes a living witness of God’s love in the world and is a lifelong vocation. It is in the midst of one day flowing into weeks, months and years that a married couple, through the grace of the sacrament, gives themselves over to self-sacrificing love and mutual fidelity. The sacrament of Matrimony is rooted in Baptism, sustained in Eucharist and little by little transformed by the redemptive love of Christ, Our Risen Lord. This transformation of moving from “I” to “We” grows throughout the life of marriage. It is in this roller coaster ride of married love that each partner takes their gifts, talents, and heart willingly offered to the other in a covenant relationship blessed by God.

An Italian Proverb reads: Marriage is not as they are made, but as they turn out. As engaged couples prepare for this journey of a lifetime, the Church bears a great responsibility to cast the light of Christ on the path before engaged couples in order that they may fruitfully celebrate the sacrament of marriage. The following is intended to assist parish communities as they companion engaged couples along the way of marriage.

 While an aspiring engaged couple’s wedding often day has a mythical and even magical quality in the imagination of engaged couples, the reality of this celebration will take them to places surprising and unexpected. The dignity and sanctity of this sacramental union, coupled with the profound, transformational power of marriage on the lives of the engaged couple compels the Church to stand firm on the need for a well-developed process of preparation for marriage.
No one model of marriage preparation would fit the diverse needs of our engaged couples in our Diocese. In order to provide an experience that will be enriching and beneficial to engaged couples, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston offers several options for marriage preparation:

Weekend Workshops
These weekends will be offered three to four times a year at a pastoral center in the Diocese: St. John XXIII in Charleston, Bishop Hodges Pastoral Center in Huttonsville,  or Priest Field Center in Kearneysville (near Martinsburg).  The weekend includes a variety of topics and time for engaged couples to discuss, reflect and pray. These are opportunities for the couple to get away and to learn the Catholic teaching about the sacrament of Matrimony.
Meals and lodging (required) are included. Please expect having a roommate of the same sex during the weekend unless the Pastoral Center notifies diocesan staff that additional rooms are available. You will not be permitted to share a room with your fiancé while on the weekend. No alcohol or illegal substances are permitted.
You are expected to stay and participate in all sessions unless an emergency arises and you notify appropriate staff.
The Sacrament of Confession and Sacred Liturgy (Mass) may or may not be included in the schedule.

Parish-based Workshops
These parish-based workshops present a series of weekly sessions (five to six) covering key marriage issues and provides some time for engaged couples to dialogue and reflect.

Parish-based Companioning (sponsor) Couple Program
The Companioning (or Sponsor or Mentor) Couple ministry pairs an engaged couple with at least one married couple (sometimes several) for a series of weekly meetings (five to six) in their home to discuss a variety of marital issues. Companioning couples are selected by local parish pastors.  Contact your pastoral coordinator  if you wish to be a Companioning Couple at your parish.

Whether an aspiring couple finds the Parish-based workshop, Weekend Workshop or the Companioning Couple ministry to be the best fit for them, they can expect to discuss some of the following components:
  • Family of Origin
  • Marriage & Faith
  • Marriage & Communication
  • Marriage & Sexuality
  • Marriage & Stewardship
  • The Rite for Celebrating Matrimony

Not discussed: The use of “Fully Engaged,”  or other Premarital Inventory (typically reviewed with the Priest, Deacon or Parish Team preparing the couple).