The following are excerpts from the diocese of Ogdensburg’s FAMILY CATECHESIS FOR THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS. The full text can be found in Pastoral Documentation on the diocesan webpage. Check also the Family Life page: http://rcdony.org/family-life.html
The Sacrament of Matrimony: The Catholic Vision for Marriage
"What is marriage? It is a true and authentic vocation, as are the priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who marry have recognized the call of the Lord in their own love story, the vocation to form one flesh and one life from two, male and female." (Pope Francis, Meeting with the Young People of Umbria, October 4, 2013)
A question that confronts us: Are couples really prepared for marriage and the life that follows it?
The three stages of marriage preparation – remote, proximate, and immediate - according to Familiaris Consortio teach that marriage preparation is to be seen and put into practice as a gradual and continuous process beginning with the family, the domestic Church.
Remote Marriage Preparation is a lifelong process that occurs in the family, the domestic church. Christian parents are the first and most important witnesses and educators of their children in the growth of faith, hope and charity. Remote preparation begins “in the womb” and continues throughout childhood, adolescence, and up to the period of engagement. It is based primarily in the family with the assistance of the Church. During this period of preparation, children learn to give and receive love through spiritual and catechetical formation focusing on vocational choices.
Proximate Marriage Preparation (8-12 months before the wedding) Proximate marriage preparation builds the foundation for marriage by providing a more specific preparation for the sacrament, presenting marriage as an interpersonal relationship of a man and a woman that has to be continually developed over a lifetime. The Church wants couples to take time to reflect on the holiness of their vocation and on the importance of the step they are about to take. The diocesan marriage preparation program, Pre-Cana, is held at various times in many of the deaneries.
Immediate Marriage Preparation (10 weeks before the wedding) Immediate preparation for the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony is a part of the larger pastoral responsibility to assist the Christian faithful in preparation for marriage and to support them in living out this sacrament. This preparation should take place in the weeks immediately preceding the wedding. This stage of preparation should include: catechesis on the Rite of Marriage, Liturgy planning, (that is, choice of readings, music, blessings), rehearsal planning, completion of all paperwork and canonical requirements.
After the marriage itself, the real work begins! The two become one! Eventually the two become three or four! The vocation of marriage is a life long journey and the church wants to walk that way with you.