Youth - NCYC Closing Mass

Together we THRIVE!

By Angie Poat.

Statistics reveal the trend that teenagers and young adults consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. Many recognize God as a creator, who set the world in motion, like a master clockmaker, distant and absent from daily life. Subsequently, a personal relationship with God and participation in a Church community is undesirable.

I am proud to give testimony that reveals a different picture. Since beginning the role of Diocesan Youth Minister in June, I have personally encountered hundreds of young people who are deeply religious, spiritual and seek relationships within the Catholic community.

They have raised thousands of dollars to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference, they arise early to attend Mass before school starts, they participate in works of mercy and service, lead music, retreats, attend Holy Hours, March for Life, use prayer APPS, mentor younger youth, pray rosaries and lead virtuous sporting events.

They attend youth ministry events sandwiched between school, homework, extra-curriculars, sports, jobs and family obligations. These young people, like the first Christians, are counter cultural.

Sometimes we do not “see” them because they do not want to bring attention to themselves. However, I assure you they exist. They are in parishes, schools and pockets around the diocese. They all need our help to THRIVE! It is hard to live a holy life in a secular culture.

THRIVE! is a diocesan Youth Ministry initiative to grow and support youth ministry that is unified, sustainable and rooted in the joy of the Gospel. A thriving ministry will be unique to each setting. There is no one model that works for every parish, school, retreat or ministry.

Comparing one ministry or location to another often leads to disunity and despair. Thus, THRIVE! provides support, networking and ministry tools, rooted in Christ and peer relationships, to keep both the minister and the ministry moving forward.

THRIVE! ministry events are held monthly, typically open to high school, college and adult leaders. The agenda includes prayer, praise and worship, networking, focus groups, and an applied ministry topic and experience.

A student from St. Henry District High School, said of the last THRIVE!, “It was exactly what I needed!”

An adult from St. Mary Parish noted, “Wow!! Another amazing THRIVE! night. I learn so much and I love getting to meet more of this faith-filled youth-loving community … so impactful.”

Join us and help diocesan teens THRIVE! through your prayer, financial sponsorship, and personal witness. “Planted in the house of the Lord we shall flourish and bear fruit!” cf. Ps 92:14-15.

Consult the youth ministry section of the diocesan (covdio.org/youth) for specific ideas and events.

“…although it is never easy to approach young people, two things have become increasingly evident: the realization that the entire community has to be involved in evangelizing them, and the urgent requirement that young people take on a greater role in pastoral outreach.” Pope Francis, “Christus Vivit,” (Christ Is Alive!”) 202.

Angie Poat is the diocesan Youth Minister for the Diocese of Covington, Ky.

Catholic Wedding Marriage

Matrimony, sacrament of service

By Isaak A. Isaak.

The Church has long talked about vocation and sacrament. The one sacrament referred to as a vocation, a calling, has been priesthood and religious life. The sacrament of matrimony was rarely referred to as vocation.

Today, it is! Our sacrament of matrimony is indeed a true sacrament. It is an outward sign of unity only achieved through years of letting go of self for the purpose of feeding the relationship. Those years couples share are years of adjustment, struggle, joy, peace and turmoil. They are years of happiness and sorrow, gain and loss. Slowly, two become one, sometimes despite the struggle each goes through to hold on to their own individual self.

The sacrament of matrimony has the same purpose as Holy Orders; to bring people to a deeper relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. It does so in a different format, relating to specified individuals as opposed to reaching out to masses of people at the same time. Both vocations rely on modeling, setting example and being consistent in one’s own relationship with God.

Couples are charged with bringing in new life, educating that new life and reaching out to those around them with the touch and love of Christ. They are to do all this with minimum training. Oftentimes, couples find themselves asking for the manual to being married and raising children.

Today, society is struggling to maintain its balance. Marriages are breaking up at unreasonable rates, couples living together imitating marriage, society striving to redefine marriage and its purpose, attempting to eliminate God and his purpose for humankind. If society is to rebound from where it finds itself at this point, it will have to be through strong, God–centered couples intent on living out their vocation.

The basic cell of society is the family. The family has conquered difficult environments, overcome strife and deprivation, but in the midst is still able to teach new life of God and God’s ways. It is the faith and families we celebrate. It is the vocation of matrimony which holds hope for society.

It is time to regain society as God intended for us, one family at a time. Therefore, “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage.” (Heb. 13:4)

Isaak A. Isaak is co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

catechist classroom

Teachers and catechists — agents of Good News

By Isaak A. Isaak.

Again, this year, the Diocese of Covington and dioceses across the United States celebrated Catholic Schools Week a week ago.

This annual observance usually begins the last Sunday in January and runs throughout the Week, which this year was Jan. 28 through Feb. 3.

Each year, the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) selects a theme and every Catholic school across the country plans activities around this theme. In addition to special school activities for students, families, and the community at large, students also attend Mass at local parishes and sending student and teacher representatives to the local Mother Church, in our case the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.

This year’s theme for Catholic Schools Week is “United in Faith and Community.”

This is a vital and appropriate theme for all our teachers and catechists because this is what they do daily. They teach the faith in our communities. It is truly a beautiful theme. Teachers and catechists are indeed agents of teaching the faith.

When I think of Catholic Schools Week, I immediately think of our schoolteachers and catechists who teach the faith in our Catholic schools and parishes. They are the ones who stand as witnesses to the person of Jesus Christ in their classrooms. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (Romans 10:15)

Our teachers and catechists are agents of good news. They bring good news to our students in the classrooms. Christ becomes present in the classrooms. They touch the lives of all the young people who come to our schools and parish religious education programs by teaching the Word of God. They are great examples and evangelizers of the faith. And we are truly grateful for what they do on behalf of the parents, who are the first catechists of their children.

Every year, I look forward to seeing our students in their school uniforms when they come to the Cathedral to attend Mass. I especially like seeing them as they approach the altar, lining up to receive Holy Communion. They stand up and make a statement of faith by receiving the Bread of Life. Indeed, this is great statement of faith, believing that the author of life, Jesus, is truly present in the Eucharist. Of course, they make statements of faith every day in learning the faith, in serving the community, in leading and succeeding in the Catholic way of life.

To further strengthen these great and beautiful institutions of learning, the Diocese of Covington has developed a unique partnership with the Franciscan University’s Catechetical Institute. This partnership with the Institute will enable the Office Catechesis and Evangelization along with the Catholic Schools Office to provide workshop tracks at no charge, and with unlimited access to over 200 courses, to our parish and school catechetical leaders, catechists, and schoolteachers.

For anyone who lives, serves, and worships in the Diocese of Covington, Bishop John Iffert is generously providing these workshops to all at no cost. Detailed information about this will be coming soon.

It is our hope that teachers and catechists will immerse and engage themselves in these workshops so that through their own formation they will form others in our beautiful faith.

Our teachers and catechists are sowers of the seed — the Word of God (Romans 10:17). These resources will assist in doing just that. It is my hope and prayer that whenever they sow the seeds of faith, these seeds will take root in the lives and experiences of all the youth of our Diocese.

Teachers and catechists are ordinary people who perform an extraordinary duty because they teach as Jesus teaches and teach in his name. They are faithful to the author of life by dedicating themselves to deepening the faith of the present generation. They teach and live the faith just like Jesus.

Jesus — Teacher of teachers and Catechist of catechists — bless our teachers and catechists throughout this year and beyond. Amen!

Isaak A. Isaak is co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization.

Catholic Schools Week1 2024

Catholic schools grow relationships with God

By David Cooley.

Education is a ministry of the Catholic Church because there is an undeniable thread between the general pursuit of knowledge and the journey of understanding who we are in the universe. We cannot come to fully know ourselves and the world around us unless we come to know the Creator of all things.

The goal of education is not to get into the best university or to be successful at a desired career. The goal is not even for an individual to ultimately obtain his or her financial freedom. It is so much deeper than that. Education is good for its own sake. There is something innate in us that makes us want to find the truth.

And the Truth is a person. It is not enough for us to just be financially free, we long to be completely free. And we will only be completely free when we come to know, love, and serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is a foundation that is missing in secular education, and it is one of the many reasons why Catholic schools are so important.

Education cannot and should not only be an intellectual exercise. Not only must the intellect be formed, but the will must be formed as well. This is why Catholic schools put such an emphasis on a complete formation of the human person. Human beings are intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional, and social beings. We long for communion with each other and with God.

Catholic Schools Week2 2024

We are made for so much more than a career. We are made for God, and we are restless until we understand this and give over our lives, which are a complete gift, back to God. Learning about God must be part of a student’s education; however, Catholic schools are designed to not only be a place where we learn about God, but, more importantly, to be a place where we can encounter and grow in our relationship with Him.

To know about Jesus is to love him, and to love him is to serve him. Only on this path can we truly learn to know and love ourselves, and to love and serve our neighbors.

Our Catholic schools can and do prepare students for college and the work force, but they go way beyond that. Our Catholic schools do form good citizens that will contribute in a positive way to society, but that is just a happy accident. Our Catholic schools have great athletes, but they are more concerned with forming disciples of Christ and future saints than anything else. Now is the perfect time for all of us to double down on our faith, be bold and proud Catholics, and let our children know that it is way more important for them to get into Heaven than it is for them to get into Harvard.

David Cooley is co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, Diocese of Covington, Ky.

Back to School 1

Prayer and Gratitude will get you through school and life

By David Cooley.

It’s that time of the year again that’s filled with both excitement and anxiety for students, teachers, and parents alike. For most of us the summer is already out of reach, but a new school year brings with it an opportunity for a fresh start and new adventures.

Still, August and everything that comes after can be a little overwhelming. There is always so much to do and lots of pressure to get the school year off to a good start. With all the paperwork, school rules, bus routes, uniforms, practices, homework, etc., it’s important that we find balance each day. And there is only one way to ensure balance. Prayer, our ongoing conversation with God, must be our anchor in our day-to-day life if we are going to have any sense of peace.

The best way we can help our young people navigate through this life is to teach them the art of daily prayer — the importance of finding a place to be quiet and shut out all the noise — and to challenge them to find things to be grateful for every day. Prayer and gratitude, these are treasures of a Catholic school.

I don’t have to tell you that childhood today is very different than when we were growing up. But remember, it was a lot different for us than it was for our grandparents. Yet, it seems that many young people in our time are struggling with finding joy. Perhaps without all this technology it was easier to find the simple joys of life. The antidote to this problem is prayer and gratitude.

Children always have and will always need the same things. They need love and family, they need structure and recreation, they need friendship and a sense of understanding who they are in the eyes of God. They need to be humble, but also recognize they have a great purpose in life.

If we are to teach our children to be grateful, then we need to be grateful ourselves. Our gratitude and positive attitudes must be visible to young eyes. Teachers are, after all, witnesses. It is very fitting that in the Diocese of Covington, Bishop Iffert’s episcopal motto is “In all things give thanks,” (Thes 5:18). It is not easy, but it is life changing.

I want to begin this year by expressing how grateful I am for Catholic schools.

First and foremost, Catholic schools provide opportunities every day for students and faculty to encounter Christ. Our schools are at their best when they are providing the opportunity to receive Jesus in the sacrament of His Most Holy Body and Blood — what a gift!

Catholic schools are a place where we find an extended family, people who understand that we are all on this journey together to get to heaven. As the culture becomes more and more secular, Catholic schools are safe havens and beacons of light in the growing darkness. There aren’t many places left where we can trust our young people aren’t being bombarded with all kinds of unhealthy messages.

Catholic schools help our young people prioritize what is really important in life. By orienting their lives toward Christ and to serving others, things begin to make more sense. Sports, art, academics, video games, etc., all have a place, but a good school teaches children that God comes first. If a child learns early to put God first in everything they do everything else will fall into place.

Catholic schools teach children that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore every individual is unique and has an undeniable dignity as a child of God. This is important because it helps them understand more profoundly why things like bullying is wrong, why we need to respect our bodies and the bodies of others. It isn’t just, “This is wrong because the teacher said so;” it’s a lot deeper than that. Seeing the world this way, helps people learn to love themselves and others.

I could go on and on about why I am grateful for Catholic schools. I am so thankful for the many years I spent in Catholic schools myself and that I am now able to send my own children to Catholic schools.

I think if I had to sum it all up I would say that Catholic schools are a blessing because they minister to the whole person — mind, body and soul. There is a lot to unpack in that statement, and there are a lot of happy accidents in the results when you minister to children this way. Graduating from our schools we see good citizens, we see artists, we see doctors, we see famers, we see firefighters, teachers, the list can go on and on. But most importantly, graduating from our schools we see disciples of Christ, who are going to go out and make this world a better place.

Catholic schools teach us to be grateful to God for our life, for His love, and for His mercy, and they teach us to treat other people accordingly.

David Cooley is co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Social Media

Seeing and understanding

By David Cooley.

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus’ disciples ask him why he speaks to the people through parables. He answers: “… because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” (Matt 13:13) He goes on to explain that the people he is talking about fulfill an ancient prophecy of Isaiah: “You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive.” (Isaiah 6: 9-10)

Jesus’ parables are always fascinating but what’s striking in the passage above is how he refers to those who aren’t following him. What does it mean to be a person that looks but does not see, or a person that hears but does not understand? And how can disciples of Jesus today be sure to be people who truly see and understand?

I often think of Pope St. John Paul II and the world in which he grew up. Observing the horrible ways that so many human beings were treated in the first have of the 20th century had a profound impact on him. He realized early on how important it is that we understand who we are and how we ought to act in the world. His teachings on the Catholic understanding of the human person are often referred to as the Theology of the Body.

The understanding of what it means to be a human person in light of Scripture, helps us to understand how we were created, our identity in Christ and our gifts so that we may see ourselves and others the way God intended.

Today, children are growing up immersed in social media. While it’s bad enough that traditional childhood activities are set aside in order to digitally “follow” others, create Tik Tok videos and stay up to date on the latest trends, what is even more worrisome is how young people are learning to perceive themselves and others. The line between what is real and what is not real is continuously becoming more and more blurred.

Since all of creation has a message to tell, it is important that we pay attention. Since part of the mystery of God is revealed through the human body, it is important that we have a proper understanding of human sexuality. In today’s culture, young people are being formed to not see creation the way it was meant to be seen, to not see their bodies the way they were meant to be seen, and to not see others the way they are meant to be seen.

Child cell phone social media

This is all part of what it means to be spiritually blind, and Jesus is constantly inviting us to become people that see. In a fallen world we must train our eyes to see God’s plan for creation and to see that God has a plan for all of us. Only then will we be able to explore the two fundamental questions from the Catechism of the Catholic Church — where do we come from? And where are we going?

The older generations must properly lead the younger generations. Adults have a perspective about life that young people lack. They can see the bigger picture simply because they have been around longer. It seems like every year more and more studies are coming out about the increases in depression and anxiety in young people. There is a direct correlation between these findings and the rise of social media. This makes sense because they are selling themselves short and not realizing that they are made for so much more.

Those of us who have been around for a little while need to make sure that we, ourselves, are close followers of Christ and reading the signs of the times in light of the Gospel. We cannot do that unless we are on our knees praying every day and making the sacrifices that we need to make.

Secondly, we need to lead by example. Children are always watching and learning from us — how are we spending our time? We also need to make sure that the line of communication is always open and that our young people know where to go for information when difficult questions arise.

Finally, we need to at least ask the question: Do young people need to be on social media at all? It is skewing their vision of the world and their vision of themselves. It’s warping their ability to establish and grow real relationships that they will need later in life. Worst of all, it is plunging them into a society that is loud, showy, fake and often manipulative. Social media trains the person to look but not to see.

Our technology is growing so fast that we are all at risk of missing the world we were meant to see and not becoming the people we were meant to become.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Cross the Bridge for Life – Sunday, June 4, 2023

Join hundreds of participants for this peaceful, prayerful presence to advocate for the sanctity of human life. Now, more than ever, our voices need to be heard!

Please join us and bring your families. This is a collaborative event sponsored by the Diocese of Covington, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and other Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky life-affirming organizations. A great family event to share with all ages!

For more information, Click Here for Flyer or call the Diocese of Covington Pro-Life Office at (859) 392-1500.

 

True Cross 1

Relic of the True Cross to be Displayed for First Friday Veneration

Messenger Staff Report.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption will begin offering First Friday Veneration of the True Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ beginning Friday, May 5 from noon to 1 p.m. in the sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica, Covington. A relic of the True Cross will be shown for veneration in a special throne in front of the main altar for both faithful and pilgrims to venerate in prayer.

The First Friday veneration is brought to the Cathedral Basilica through the combined efforts of Father Ryan Maher, Cathedral rector, and Msgr. Gerald Twaddell, prior of the local section of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The relic has been made available by Father Jordan Hainsey, a Priest Knight of the Order and custos of Relics for the Diocese of Covington.

The relic will be shown in a new reliquary donated to the Cathedral Basilica for the monthly veneration. The cross reliquary features the traditional implements of the passion.

“People have prayed before the Cross of Jesus ever since the earliest days of the faith,” said Father Hainsey. “It is one of the oldest and most devout practices in the Christian tradition.”

True Cross 3“This is a great way for the faithful to continue to receive graces we received during Lent and at Easter,” said Father Maher. “In praying before the True Cross, we are paying the highest honor to the Lord through the instrument of our salvation. The Cross is inseparable from his sacrifice, so in reverencing his cross we, in effect, adore Christ himself.”

From the very beginning of Christianity, the cross of Jesus has been an object of special veneration. The Apostles considered it the most important object in their lives and in the life of the world.

“O precious Cross!” cried St. Andrew as he was being martyred, “How long have I desired thee! How warmly have I loved thee! How constantly have I sought thee!”

Saints throughout history have all identified the cross as the only path to salvation. “Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we get to heaven,” wrote St. Rose of Lima.

St. John Vianney, patron of priests, observed: “Everything is a reminder of the Cross. We ourselves are made in the shape of a cross.”

Even St. Paul, patron saint of the Diocese of Covington, wrote to the Galatians: “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Gal 6:14).

“The cross is the symbol of our Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but more importantly, the cross is at the center of our faith,” said Msgr. Twaddell. “Whether one is able to spend five minutes or the whole hour praying before the True Cross, we hope people will come and take advantage of the opportunity to get closer to the Lord.”

The relic to be used in the First Friday veneration is from the same cross found in 324 A.D. by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine. Tradition holds that she found three crosses buried at Golgotha but didn’t know which was the one on which Jesus had been crucified. To test and see which was the true cross, members of her courtiers searched for a leper at the outskirts of Jerusalem. Once one was found, they returned to the site of Golgotha, where the leper was instructed to touch each of the crosses one by one. He touched the first one and then the second, but nothing happened. When he touched the third cross, the leper was instantly healed of his leprosy. From that time on, the cross was known as “The True Cross.”

As the years passed, tiny fragments were distributed to the care and protection of many Catholic churches around the world.

“The First Friday veneration will be held at the same hour as we have confessions,” said Father Maher. “I’m so pleased we can provide this opportunity for people to partake in both the Sacrament of Confession as well as be able to pray before the True Cross where they can unite not only their sufferings with the Lord, but also their joys and hopes.”

True Cross 2

Fr. Jordan Hainsey

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’s Toes

By Brad Torline.

If you have never Googled Mother Teresa’s toes, do it. You’ll be shocked.  Gnarled, crooked and folded over each other, it’s a wonder she was able to stand on them at all.

The story goes that she would rifle through all the shoes donated to the Missionaries of Charity and choose the worst ones for herself. Years of doing this resulted in horribly deformed feet.

What made me think of her toes the other day was a reflection I was reading during morning prayer. I have been meditating, for years now, on a remarkable book entitled “Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word.” The author, a literature professor turned trappiest monk, draws on his vast literary and spiritual experience to produce pages of commentary on just a few short words at a time in the Gospel of Matthew.

One such reflection is on the Lord’s striking admonition that if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better to lose one member of the body, than the whole body be cast into hell.

Father Simeon’s reflection is: “The Lord suggests that the Christian life is a battlefield. Only the squeamish and cowardly return untouched and ‘whole’ from the battle. Wounds make the hero. He who does no violence to himself is either spiritually dead, apathetic, … or narcissistic … this body of ours has been given us to engage it in adventures, odysseys, in warfare and in heroic deeds for the common good.”

Of course, neither the Lord nor Father Simeon (nor I for that matter), want you to hurt yourself. But we also don’t want you to overemphasize the role of comfort or “wholeness” in this life.

Our current culture believes that there is no God, there is no life after death, there is only nothingness which we are hurtling closer to each and every day. This life is all we have. These feeble bodies and their pleasures are all we have. Ergo our “wholeness” needs to be preserved at all costs.

Following this logic, you get the mindset that you need to care for yourself above all else. Don’t try to fix your strained relationships, just flee from them lest they cause you mental strain. Don’t go to Mass on Sunday mornings, go to the gym. And, good God, whatever you do don’t get married or have children. The lack of sleep, increase in stress, etc. etc. will surely put you in an early grave.

This last point is why this meditation hit me so hard. In the middle of praying, I looked up from Father Simeon’s book and caught a glimpse of my wife on the other end of the couch. She was also doing her morning prayer, reading a book about Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa Toes

 

My wife has given us two children in the last three years. All while launching a new career and working 12-hour shifts in the hospital caring for the sickest of the sick. She does not get much sleep. She rarely gets to run or exercise anymore. She had told me a few days ago that it was starting to bother her. The Lord had given me, through my prayer, some words of consolation to her.

Yes, we should strive for virtue, to have temperance, to care for our own health. But not for its own sake. The body must be preserved only for the sake of sacrifice, only so that we can offer more and more of it for love.

The mantra of the world is “My body, my choice.” The mantra of the Christian is “My Body, given up for you.”

Life is good and we should strive to preserve as much of it as we can — not for its own sake, only so that we can have more of it to give. And, ironically, paradoxically this is the secret to a happier, fuller life. How much better a life spent giving and spending itself out in love rather than stressfully, anxiously, frantically trying to preserve itself at all costs.

This reminds me of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s famous sermon on how Christians should be having more fun than atheists. He likened life to playing with a tattered old beach ball on a summer holiday. If we thought this old beach ball is all we will ever have, we will play with it less, be more careful with it, horde it, hide it. Conversely, if we know that when we are done with this tattered old ball, we will be given a new and better ball, we will play more recklessly, more joyfully with it. We will have more fun and be less anxious.

He who seeks to save his life, shall lose it. He who loses his life out of love, love of God most of all, will save it. The Christian life is a battlefield. It is an adventure. If you don’t want to scrape your knee, then this life is not for you. In this life, wounds make the hero. They are the marks of the saints.

In heaven, Christ still bears the marks of his crucifixion. They are his glory. Perhaps Mother Teresa will still have her gnarled toes. Perhaps mothers will still bear the marks of the sacrifices they made.

In heaven it will be the exact opposite of how it is here. In heaven the marks of our sacrifices, our wounds will be our glory. And any lack of them will be our shame.

 

Brad Torline

Brad Torline is executive director for The Angelico Project, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Marriage

Faithful families begin with ‘purposeful, persuasive, encouraging’ marriage preparation

By David Cooley.

At the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in Rome has prepared a document called “Catechumenal Pathways for Married Life,” which was recently translated into English. This document is an important step for the universal Church in moving toward a marriage preparation process that rises to the challenge of equipping couples with the tools they need to maneuver through modern trials. Additionally, this new approach comes with a recommendation for a process where members of the local Church and parish community continue to walk with newlyweds as they build their life together during the early years of their marriage.

Currently, many young couples spend far more time and effort preparing for their wedding day than they do preparing for their marriage. The consequences of that are often painful and can be disastrous. We can see that today’s “hedonistic mentality, which distorts the beauty and depth of human sexuality; a self-centeredness which makes it difficult to espouse the commitments of married life; a limited understanding of the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage, the meaning of spousal love, and its essence as an authentic vocation” has created a fragile state for marriages in society as a whole, “which puts at stake the personal fulfillment and happiness of a great many lay faithful around the world” (CPMF #3).

A loving response from the Church is to recognize all of this, instruct young couples properly, provide the means for a more thorough and Christ-centered preparation for the sacrament marriage, and accompany them as they begin to live out their life-long vocation.

While it is exciting that the Holy Father is asking dioceses all over the world to develop their own pastoral approach to marriage preparation — an approach that is “purposeful, persuasive, encouraging, and fully oriented toward emphasizing the good and beautiful aspects of married life” (#20) — the development and implementation of such a robust catechumenal model will take some time and a great deal of effort.

One of the first challenges will be changing the hearts and minds of young adults about the importance of the sacrament of marriage and recognizing it as a vocation — a path to holiness that encompasses a person’s entire life. If the prospect of marriage is taken seriously, we can help couples invest the proper amount of time, consider what they need to consider, and reflect on what they need to reflect on before taking sacred vows. I have witnessed too many couples and their families simply looking for the quickest and easiest way of satisfying “bureaucratic” requirements to get married “in the Church.”

Another challenge will be the flexibility needed to allow at least a full 12 months for the catechumenate model. More time will need to be invested in the spiritual preparation for marriage and the building up of the couple’s relationship with Christ. While this will certainly be difficult — asking couples to consider a longer engagement period — it is necessary if we want to see any real change in how people live out married life. Couples coming to the Catholic Church to be married are always coming from many different places on their spiritual journey and we have to meet them wherever they are; but we must challenge them to move closer to Christ and remind them of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s words: “It takes three to get married.”

Before the release of “Catechumenal Pathways,” at the June 2021 Plenary Assembly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved and published a document “Called to the Joy of Love,” which lays out a national pastoral framework for dioceses to start moving forward to better serve and assist couples discerning the sacrament of marriage. These two documents complement and reinforce each other.

Marriage preparation is an issue that should matter to all of us. The future of the family is the future of the Church. We need strong marriages to have strong families. We need strong families to spread the faith. We need families to spread the Gospel and build up the Church if we are going to be any help to the world. Pope John Paul II said, “The future of humanity passes by the way of the family.” It is time to double down on the importance of family life ministry and marriage preparation.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.