ZENIT news recently chatted with a few leaders of marriage preparation courses in the U.S. who are seeing powerful fruits from incorporating John Paul II’s Theology of the Body into the courses. This is something that Socon or Bust has been advocating for quite some time for Canadian parishes. It’s desperately needed! The Canadian bishops need to take advantage of their Plenary to move in this direction.
Sister Mary Elizabeth Wusinich, of the Sisters of Life, spoke of the success of the Theology of the Body in the Archdiocese of New York:
“We found it very effective,” the nun said.
She explained: “We actually expanded the marriage preparation program to include a second day that was infused with the theology of the body, and culminated at the end with a full presentation of natural family planning, a type of intro session.
“And we found in the evaluations that the number of couples that were open to actually taking a class of natural family planning, or were open to think about using it in their marriage, was over 50%, which was a marked change from the past.”
That’s a wonderful development. The teaching is so penetrating that it prompts people to take a fresh look at sexuality and to rethink its meaning in their lives:
“We then invite them to look within their own experience and verify the truth of what we’re saying in what they have seen.”
Of course, she added, “there’s always a section of the population that isn’t going to be open to the message, or at least doesn’t seem to be.” This sometimes discouraged the ministry team, the nun observed.
Nonetheless, she reminded her team that “in marriage preparation — because most of the couples were not practicing the faith — it really wasn’t a moment for deep catechesis, but rather for evangelization, for conversion.”
The last two paragraphs are important. Even Jesus couldn’t convert 100% of his listeners. Sadly, there will always be people who will reject the message. We shouldn’t get discouraged by that. Instead, we should focus on the increased success rate that this approach has had while remaining confident in God’s grace to convert the ones that are initially reluctant.
In the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Jake Samour, the current director of Marriage and Family Life, has also seen great results:
“Everybody wants a great marriage.”
Thus, the ministry team tells the couples, “We’re here as a friend, to let you know what is going to make your marriage not become a statistic.”
Samour said that the theology of the body has played “a great part” in the marriage preparation.
“We use ‘God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage,’” he said, “which provides a great outline for a retreat or for a talk, using the outline that the Pope gave us,” and teaching them about “God’s plan for marriage and how it has been distorted through sin.”
So many baptized Catholics are distant from the Church and ill-informed about the Faith. Samour found that the Theology of the Body offered a great opening to reach these so-called baptized non-believers:
“This is very true for Hispanics,” said Samour, himself an immigrant from El Salvador who now works in part with the Latino population.
“They are all Catholic,” he said. “Most of them that come from a Latin American country have been baptized in the faith, but they don’t know who Christ is; they don’t have a real relationship with the Church; they don’t know what it means to be a disciple.”
This program “is great,” he added, because “not only does it allow us to speak to them about the truth of marriage, love and sexuality, but we can in the same stroke bring them Christ, or at least introduce them, not by imposing anything but by an invitation to ‘come and see,’ and open their eyes to something new.”
“That’s what John Paul is trying to do is,” Samour affirmed, invite people to “taste and see the Church in a brand new way.”
I pray that our bishops will hastily reform marriage prep courses in Canada and incorporate a good dose of the Theology of the Body.
Learn more about by visiting the Theology of the Body Institute.