Sunday, March 11, 2007
Marriage Preparation Day
On Saturday we had our termly Marriage Preparation Day here in the parish. Couples find it hard to commit themselves to a series of evening classes so we tend to do everything in one go on a saturday. It's not ideal - but it works.
It is in fact quite a tough day for those who sign up. In the morning we cover marriage as a vocation and as a Christian sacrament. Then, still before lunch, there is a presentation on life issues: sex outside marriage, contraception, pre-natal tests, the theology of the body and so forth. These can be tough messages for people hearing them for the first time but we try and do it in a way that makes sense. I wouldn't be satisfied with people knowing the teaching of the Church - I want them to know why she teaches those things. In that way they are given a chance to internalise Christian teaching and so begin to live it. Over the years we've seen wonderful conversions of life thanks to these marriage preparation courses.
I was reminded of the importance of what we do today after the first Mass. I'd heard that one of our parishioners, a mother of four, is expecting her fifth child in September and I was looking for a chance to congratulate her. When I did so she started crying - because she's over forty the doctors think she should terminate the pregnancy. She has been offered a termination four times and has now, sensibly, refused further tests. In our marriage preparation course we describe many of these tests as 'seek and destroy missions'.
After lunch Joanna Bogle helped lighten things with one of her very amusing, but nonetheless hard-hitting, talks on the joys and challenges of married life. Someone asked afterwards if they could book her to cheer them up if ever they feel low in their marriage! Joanna came straight to us from Gatwick having just arrived back from a conference on marriage and the family in Rome.
Joanna was followed by a talk from Nicole Parker (nee Syed) on Natural Family Planning. Nicole gives an excellent presentation on female fertility and I know that she has helped many of our couples in this area, including quite a few who had been trying to conceive for some time. She has also been very helpful to couples who would not have been able to spot the signs of hormonal abnormalities that may otherwise have led to miscarriage. Nicole always speaks at our marriage daysbut this time she was joined by James, her husband, who then spoke about how fertility awareness and natural family planning had helped them grow together as a couple.