When Pope Francis labels this section and the seven that follow, i don’t think we’ll read about endorsements of particular programs, books, or dvd’s. We’re talking about directions for parishes to take. We’re talking about much more than marriage prep and loaning out the church for a liturgy.
223. The Synod Fathers observed that “the initial years of marriage are a vital and sensitive period during which couples become more aware of the challenges and meaning of married life. Consequently, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament (Familiaris Consortio, Part III).
Mentors are important, even if your parish doesn’t provide them. If the Church doesn’t provide mentors, just consider where young couples will get them: sometimes from their own families and acquaintances, sometimes from media.
In this regard, experienced couples have an important role to play. The parish is a place where such experienced couples can help younger couples, with the eventual cooperation of associations, ecclesial movements and new communities. Young couples need to be encouraged to be essentially open to the great gift of children.
Emphasis should also be given to the importance of
- family spirituality,
- prayer and
- participation in the Sunday Eucharist,
and couples encouraged to meet regularly
- to promote growth in their spiritual life and
- solidarity in the concrete demands of life.
Not only faith formation in those first three bullet points, and small group experiences, in those last two, but also large group experiences:
- devotional practices and
- the Eucharist celebrated for families, especially on the wedding anniversary,
were mentioned as vital factors in fostering evangelization through the family”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 40)
Eight items. How many does your parish do? Some of these don’t require a book, a dvd, or a program. Just imagination, and a willingness to work.
I’m going to note the need for a broad, overarching effort in parish ministry reflected in these suggestions. Any parish doing effective ministry and service will have to offer large group events (not just the Sunday Mass), small group experiences (not just Bible studies), and effective mentoring efforts (essentially apprenticeship) to round out the needs of the believer and hope to inspire people at home to work on matters of faith and personal development. I suspect no parish will reach its potential unless these three aspects, plus the cultivation of spirituality in the home, are realized.
For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.