For sacramentally married couples
It is mostly sacramentally married couples that participate in Encounters of Married Couples programmes. Participants in our retreats include people of different age and length of marriage, as well as a different level of knowledge and religious commitment, with a whole gamut of emotions that join or divide the spouses. Both so-called “good couples” and couples in serious conflicts may attend these weekends, often even at the stage of divorce talks. There have been many couples participating who wanted to join again after separation. We invite every married couple who want their life together to grow continually. We set no formal barriers to participants. The Encounters of Married Couples strengthens marriage from within, and parents’ relationships with their children, with extended family, and other people depend to a large extent on the relationship between husband and wife. If there is love at home, and it radiates from the family, its spirit spreads to others.
For couples in civil or informal unions
Couples in civil unions with no diriment impediment to marriage, and also those living in informal unions, are welcome to take part in our Retreats for Married Couples. We are open to any couples consisting of a man and a woman who, in good faith, seek better communication between them and sense in their life together. People in such unions who want to come to the Retreats know that these are conducted by married couples and a priest, and sometimes also by a religious sister, according to Catholic Church teaching.
For couples in second unions after divorce
The Encounters of Married Couples offers a specific type of retreat for people in second unions following divorce. In those countries where no such specific retreats are offered, couples in such unions may take part in regular Basic Retreats for Married Couples.
[Note: People living in informal unions, and civilly married couples with no diriment impediment to sacramental marriage, are invited to regular Retreats for Married Couples.]
During this special retreat, couples in civil unions can experience the very deep truth that God also places love signposts on their path. We do not offer ready patterns or easy solutions. The situation of each couple in a second union after divorce is very individual and unique. This is why we encourage the couples to reflect individually on their lives during the retreat. This is inspired by a priest’s short talk and testimonies given by married couples who had had a divorce experience and later reconciled with God.
For couples preparing for marriage
Evenings for Couples in Love and Retreat for Engaged Couples programmes are workshops preparing for the sacrament of matrimony. They are aimed at:
– couples in love (a boy and a girl, or a woman and a man) who have not yet decided to marry but are serious about their relationship. Participating in the Evenings for Couples in Love enables them to see if their relationship is mature enough for them to decide to marry. Their decision – to get married or to part – is then free and does not require undoing preparations for marriage proper for engaged couples.
– engaged couples, who have already taken the decision to marry and for whom the Evenings for Couples in Love are part of preparing for the sacrament of matrimony. The Evenings for Couples in Love cover the part of preparation usually called in dioceses “premarital conferences” or “premarital catechesis”.
The participants work in their pairs. They can get to know better their own and each other’s personality traits, and settle the hierarchy of important things in their life together. They also learn how to resolve conflicts and build their union’s autonomy. They discover what the sacrament of matrimony is really about, and recognize the place faith takes in their lives. They learn basic issues from the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and family.
The Evenings for Couples in Love involve 9 meetings about three-hours-long each. The meetings are conducted weekly at parish premises or in pastoral centres. The Evenings for Couples in Love fulfill the Catholic Church’s requirements as to premarital catechesis. The participants obtain relevant certificates that are required when submitting documents to the parish office before getting married.
The Evenings for Couples in Love are open to any couples, no matter what their education and the environment they come from. Couples in informal unions, especially those living together shortly, can take part in the Evenings for Couples in Love as well. Their intention of participating in our programme means that they are getting closer to God and choose the Evenings for Couples in Love as a path to possibly entering into a sacramental marriage. Couples living without the sacrament of matrimony for a long time, and all couples having children, are invited to our Retreats for Married Couples. In their case, participating in marital retreats may be treated as direct preparation for the sacrament of matrimony. Many such couples have taken part in our Retreats for Married Couples.
The Retreat for Engaged Couples is an away-from-home shortened version of the Evenings for Couples in Love. It starts at 5.30 p.m. on Friday and ends about 6 p.m. on Sunday. Generally, the Retreat for Engaged Couples is treated as a supplement to other forms of preparation for marriage. The attendees obtain certificates of participation.
Occasionally, participants in both forms of preparation decide to part or postpone their decision to get married. This may indicate a deepened personal maturity of a given couple and their greater responsibility for their decisions
For Catholic couples, but not only
All forms of our work are generally aimed at Catholic couples. They have an opportunity to reach the essence of the sacrament of matrimony as experienced in everyday life. But also invited are couples not closely related to the Church. After our retreats, many of them have looked – as they themselves say – in a new way at God and the Church. We are open to all those seeking, and those religiously indifferent. These couples are not obliged to attend Masses said during the retreat. They only have to accept the fact that there is a Catholic priest in the team conducting any form of our activity.
Our retreats may be attended by couples of other denominations, as has already happened many times.