For several decades, the Church has been concerned with Pre-Cana, the practice of preparing engaged couples for the theology of marriage. Whether through Engaged Encounter or similar programs, many parishes encourage their engaged parishioners to attend a seminar to prepare them for married life.
In researching Pre-Cana programs, Witness to Love authors Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret discover that many of the programs, while well-intentioned, fail their participants. And it is not always the programs’ fault. A majority of churches work with engaged couples to prepare for their marriage and the ceremony, but then many churches do nothing with, or for, the couples afterward. Thus, many newly wedded couples “fall between the cracks.”
If a couple participate in a Pre-Cana class, at the beginning of their preparation they have someone to talk to about their marriage. However, without a support system in place to help after marriage, many new marriages fail.
In Witness to Love, the Verrets share their discovery that post-marriage-ceremony support is vital to a new marriage. This is what they encourage with their new program that is faithful to Catholic teaching. Here, dear reader, is where you come in. Their tagline shows how other married couples can help: “Giving Couples Lifelines to Hold Onto Not Hoops to Jump Through.”
Witness to Love describes a process in which more experienced couples support and encourage newly married couples. No one ever tells the newly engaged that there will be times when one spouse feels unable to talk to the other or that things are so horrible that the only answer is divorce. Many examples of each of these scenarios are played out in the pages of Witness to Love. The Verrets call on those older, wiser, been-through-the-fire couples to be like parents of a newborn relationship.
Don’t stop reading here. They are not discussing “perfect” couples. They want you and your spouse to share your life stories, not only of struggle and disappointment, but also of hope and redemption, and above all, your belief in the sacrament of marriage.
Full of book recommendations, online statistics, and papal quotes, Witness to Love provides guidance for marriage, showing not only how to make marriage stronger, but also its vulnerability to the newly married couple.
After reading this book, you will come away armed with knowledge for helping other marriages. When you do, give this book to your priests and deacons. Ask them to consider trying the program, and using experienced married couples in Pre-Cana ministry to help both young engaged couples and those newly married.
Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation Build Marriages That Survive and Thrive, by Mary-Rose Verret & Ryan Verret; TAN Books; August 1, 2015; 196 pages; $14.95 (paperback)