Marriage Preparation Course
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On Saturday 20th January 2007 a full day course was held in St. Theresa’s Parish Centre Leeds for 9 couples who intend to be married during this year. The couples came from different parts of the Deanery and the Diocese. This was the third such course to be facilitated by a team of presenters, who trained together in 2004: Clare O’Hora, Sheelagh and Tony Pickles, from St Theresa’s, Crossgates together with Angela Stevens from St.Joseph’s Brighouse. Fr. Michael McGee Parish Priest of Corpus Christi and Dean of East Leeds joined us for the first part of the morning. The day started at 10 o’clock and participants were kept hard at work – though with lots of laughter – until 4.30 pm.
What’s it all about
All Sacraments need careful preparation and support, none more so than Marriage where the couple freely gives themselves to each other for life, and where they grow closer to God through their generous love for each other. The course provides the couple with some time away from the pressures of making arrangements and preparations for their wedding.
How does it work
Couples intending to marry come from a variety of backgrounds and are all approaching marriage from a different stage or position. One of the partners may be from a different Christian background. Some may have known each other for many years before they have come to the decision that they want to marry. Others have already been living together for several years and may have children from their relationship or previous relationships. Clearly it can be an anxious time for couples who attend such a course and every opportunity is given to them to allow them to relax and feel welcomed. Presenters are not ‘experts’ but people who have experienced the joys and challenges of married life. They are there to facilitate discussion between each engaged couple. The format is that couples listen to presentations and role-play and then are encouraged to communicate by completing quizzes and exercises separately and then to share with each other rather than in a group discussion.
What is discussed
The importance of the sacrament of marriage and the understanding of married spirituality formed the initial session of the course after which, we looked at personality, our uniqueness, and childhood experiences, some of the rituals we bring from our family of origin and our family background. We saw that there may well have been different priorities and values from each partner’s home and how those could merge. We looked at how we communicate and particularly how we listen, finding a new technique of active listening. A session was devoted to how we manage conflict and are able to stay friends. The gifts of sexuality and intimacy in marriage and family life were explored and the difference which having or not having children can make to a marriage. A rug was used to portray one of the acronyms, which many of the couples will hopefully remember. This demonstrated that good communication requires the couple to show - Respect for each other, Understanding and Genuineness. Another memorable representation was modelled by two of the presenters showing some of the things we were proud to be bringing into our marriage and other items, of which we were a little ashamed. The positive qualities were brought out with a flourish from a very “Posh” bag while the “baggage” which we would have preferred remain hidden was reluctantly dragged from our “scruffy” bag to emphasise that we bring attributes of both kinds to our marriage.
The day ended with shared prayer and the distribution of certificates to the couples who had participated with commitment and enthusiasm.
What did the couples say about the course?
- “Gave us lots to think about”
- “My partner, who doesn’t share the same faith, got a better understanding of what the Sacrament of Marriage will mean for both of us”
- “Liked the various quizzes”
“……….made everyone feel at ease”
- “Good to understand you need time to listen to resolve a conflict”
- “We have been together for many years; today we have asked questions of each other which we had never previously thought to ask”
The Art of Marriage
Before leaving, the couples were given a copy of the following:
The Art of Marriage
A good marriage must be created.
In the marriage,
The little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “ I love you”
At least once each day,
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values
And common objectives.
Its is standing together
And facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love
That gathers in the family.
It is speaking words of appreciation
And demonstrating gratitude in
It is having the capacity
To forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in
Which each can grow.
It is a common search for
The good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying
The right person,
It is being the right partner.
Tony and Sheelagh Pickles
Published Sat 27th Jan 2007 13:29:49