Some words from the Holy Father and his Jesuit tradition. First a notice that formation involving engaged couples is not a matter of one-way service. Those preparing for marriage have many gifts and insights to offer the Church, even those who are less-involved or engaged by the faith:
207. I encourage Christian communities to recognize the great benefit that they themselves receive from supporting engaged couples as they grow in love. As the Italian bishops have observed, those couples are “a valuable resource because, as they sincerely commit themselves to grow in love and self-giving, they can help renew the fabric of the whole ecclesial body. Their special form of friendship can prove contagious and foster the growth of friendship and fraternity in the Christian community of which they are a part”.(Italian Bishops’ Conference, Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, Orientamenti pastorali sulla preparazione al matrimonio e alla famiglia (22 October 2012), 1)
In other words perhaps, love is contagious.
Some insights from Ignatian spirituality:
There are a number of legitimate ways to structure programs of marriage preparation, and each local Church will discern how best to provide a suitable formation without distancing young people from the sacrament. They do not need to be taught the entire Catechism or overwhelmed with too much information. Here too, “it is not great knowledge, but rather the ability to feel and relish things interiorly that contents and satisfies the soul”.(Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Annotation 2)
Too often pastoral ministers throw a lot of stuff* at people and hope something sticks. A wider approach would be accompaniment. Walk with couples. Encourage them to see their interior life awakening in the context of marital love.
Quality is more important than quantity, and priority should be given – along with a renewed proclamation of the kerygma – to an attractive and helpful presentation of information that can help couples to live the rest of their lives together “with great courage and generosity”.(Ibid., Annotation 5) Marriage preparation should be a kind of “initiation” to the sacrament of matrimony, providing couples with the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family.
This insight from the 5th annotation would appeal to many who have one foot or less in the Church. Being brave and self-giving are two aspects which I see are not lacking in many people.
For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.
- stuff: theological term