The CatholicMatch Institute spoke to Christian Meert, founder of CatholicMarriagePrep.com and director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. We discussed Holy Hour for Marriage, CatholicMarriagePrep.com, and National Marriage Week.
How was CatholicMarriagePrep.com established?
In 1998, the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput, invited the French Community of the Beatitudes to start a house of prayers in Denver, and he asked the Community to do something for the families of the area. The following year my wife, Christine, and I led a small group of brothers and sisters and started a new Marriage Prep Program. This program is centered around Christ and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church and John Paul II Theology of the Body.
In 2004, the Archdiocese of Denver asked us to help engaged couples who were unable to attend classes. This led us to launch the Online Agape Catholic Marriage Prep program, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.
What is the goal of CatholicMarriagePrep.com?
CatholicMarriagePrep.com wants to help engaged couples start their marriage on the right foot!
Our goal is to give them the opportunity to dig deep foundations for their marriage with Christ at the center. Couples nowadays have lost their compass. We want to return their compasses by giving them a deep understanding of the teachings of the Church and knowledge that these teachings are for their happiness. These couples are the future of the Church and we want to equip them to help build the Civilization of Life that was so dear to the heart of Blessed JPII.
We also want the couples to understand what it means to receive the Sacrament of Marriage and how Christ will be helping them big time, if they let Him! Marriage Prep is a window for conversion. Finally, we want to give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions at a deeper level, and to discuss topics they might never have touched. We want to give them a chance to know each other’s heart and mind better and more deeply.
How can married couples begin to have a more Christ-centered marriage?
Prayer, prayer, prayer! Pray together and for each other, and study the teachings of the Catholic Church, read the Bible, practice the Sacraments and you have a good start.
How will the Diocese of Colorado Springs be celebrating National Marriage Week?
The Holy Hour celebrated on Saturday Feb. 8th launched National Marriage Week here in the Colorado Springs Diocese. After that, it will be up to the parishes and different marriage organizations to celebrate in their own ways, mainly with dinners and dances for Valentine’s day. We will have a Marriage Encounter weekend Feb. 21-23 and a Retrouvaille weekend, as well. We’ll also be sending out a newsletter to all Catholic Marriage Prep alumni to give them resources to celebrate the week. This will include links to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the CatholicMatch Institute, PrepareEnrich, and more.
Why did the diocesan Holy Hour for Marriage get started?
The Holy Hour for Marriage was started four years ago in our diocese. Greg Alexander, who is the founder of Alexander House (a worldwide marriage apostolate headquartered in San Antonio, Texas), told us they were going to hold a Holy Hour for Marriage in their diocese. We saw that marriage was being attacked, so we immediately adopted the idea. Our Bishop, Michael J. Sheridan, launched it right away as a diocesan event. We are witnessing a worldwide spiritual war on marriage and family. We have to use our spiritual means to fight back and beg the Lord for help.
Why is it important that couples pray together, especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
When couples confer the Sacrament of Matrimony on each other, they invite Christ to be part of their marriage. Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, it takes “Three to get Married.” You can’t leave one of the three out of the marriage, right? As Bishop Sheridan told the Colorado Catholic Herald in an article about Holy Hour for Marriage, “It is God who strengthens marriage by the outpouring of his grace. … One of the most important ways of entering into union with God is through prayer before his Son in the Blessed Sacrament. It is the Lord himself who calls us to be with him in the sacrament of the altar. Can we ever really be too busy to accept that invitation?”
Do you have any stories that show how powerful this is for married couples?
In an article in the Colorado Catholic Herald, Chris and Mary Watson of Corpus Christi Parish, Colorado Springs, said: “going to Eucharistic adoration helps a married couple by emphasizing that our faith and devotion to Christ is the most important thing in our life and vital to a self-giving marriage.” Mary continues, “Life moves fast, and trying to live an intentional life and avoid the magnetic pull of the culture requires effort.”
While my wife, Christine, and I were members of the Community of the Beatitudes, we went to adoration daily for 15 years. Sometimes the slots were in the middle of the night — 2-3 a.m. During these nights, it was just the two of us and Jesus and we could talk to him out loud. These were very blessed times for us as a couple.
The marriage of our friends Joe and Julie was also profoundly affected by adoration. One early morning, they came to us and said Julie had had an affair. Joe’s first words were: “I kill her or I leave her.” Julie was so ashamed that she felt there was no turning back. She was to lose her family and be condemned forever by the Lord.
After a moment of discussion, the four of us went in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There Julie encountered her Living God and realized that He was not condemning her forever. Joe also realized he wasn’t without reproach. From there, they left together to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
That was the start of a long and painful journey that kept them and their family together, and forged a renewed and stronger love for each other.
Have you seen the fruits of National Marriage Week in the diocese?
That’s a difficult question to answer. What we have seen in our diocese is kind of in contradiction with the national trend. In a mainly Protestant area, we have still seen an increase in number of couples getting married in the Catholic Church.
I don’t know if this is a result of the National Marriage Week or of the new diocesan marriage preparation requirements that are a bit more in depth than most dioceses. In our diocese, we require a one year marriage preparation program, including premarital inventory, a minimum of 20 hours of CatholicMarriagePrep program, complete NFP Training, meetings with the Clergy, and engaged couples retreats.
Are you working on anything new for marriage building that you would like to share?
We are developing enrichment programs for married couples. One of these is Ministry to the Newly Married, which is a parish-based program for couples who have been married 1 to 5 years. Each newly married couple is mentored by an older married couple for one year, then the year after they have another mentor couple and so on for five years. All couples involved in this ministry meet once a year together at their parish with their pastor.
We are also working on the CatholicCommunicationCure.com. This website is an awesome communication tool for developing greater and deeper intimacy, to learn to open up as a couple, and also as a family.
In the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Bishop J. Sheridan has decided to have a diocesan Year For Marriage. It will start in October 2014 to coincide with the start of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome and run until October 2015. This will be a year long program for Clergy and laity to learn more, encourage and enhance Marriage within the Catholic Church.