The name Advent (from the Latin word Adventus, which signifies a coming) is applied to the time of year during which the Church requires the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Christmas — the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The season of Advent lasts for four weeks and the preparation for the coming of Christ must be taken in three different contexts:

  • the birth of Christ at Christmas,
  • the coming of Christ into our lives in the Sacrament of Holy Communion
  • the coming of Christ at the end of times

The color purple used during the season of Advent symbolizes penance, preparation and sacrifice, except in the third week of Advent (Gaudete Sunday, which means Sunday of Joy or Rejoicing). That is when the color purple is replaced by the color rose that symbolizes the joy of Christmas that is about to come.

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

  • The circular shape of the Advent Wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of God; He has no beginning and no end.
  • The four candles symbolize the four Sundays of Advent.
  • Three candles are purple and one is rose — that is the candle that is lit on Gaudette Sunday.

Advent and Marriage Preparation

Advent is the season of hope, the season of preparation, the season of getting ready for what is to come.

In Advent, we experience the anticipation and the excitement of preparing for something that we enjoy. It is something that we have been expecting.

In many ways, marriage preparation is like the season of Advent. It is the anticipation, the getting ready, and the preparation that takes place ahead of time.

The time we dedicate to marriage preparation is filled with expectation and anticipation for the wedding ceremony. It is also for the new life that the couple will start together as a family.

Every time you complete your marriage preparation sessions or online segments, it is like lighting a candle in the Advent wreath. You feel that sense of accomplishment and the feeling that the big day is getting closer!

As you advance in your marriage preparation, you start feeling the anticipation of the new married life you are about to begin. In the same way, our journey through Advent brings us closer and closer to the birth of Jesus Christ and his coming into the world — making everything new.

Have A Blessed Advent

It is our hope that this season of Advent will help you to reflect more deeply into the real meaning of Christmas and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into our lives.

Let us rejoice in the fact that He wants to come into our lives and make everything new! Let us prepare our hearts to His coming and let us love in the same way He loves us.

There are many beautiful places where a couple may want to celebrate their wedding. Some of these places may even have a special meaning to that couple. Maybe that’s the place where they met, or maybe that’s the place where they dreamed of going together as a married couple. Whatever the reasons why the couple may want to celebrate their wedding at a place that is not a Catholic church, it is important for the couple to know the Church’s position on the celebration of weddings at places that are not a Catholic church.

The Wedding and The Marriage

In order to address this question properly, we need to remember that a wedding ceremony has so many spiritual, theological and ecclesiastical implications that tend to be forgotten when we focus our attention in the beauty of the physical space, such as the floral arrangements or the decorations of the “wedding.” In other words, a couple needs to maintain focus on the Sacrament of Marriage, not just the physical details of the wedding ceremony.

Let us remember that a Catholic wedding is the ritual through which a Sacrament takes place; the Sacrament of Marriage. This is the reason why the Church requires that the ceremony be held in a proper space; a Catholic parish. Christ, who honored the wedding at Cana with his presence, is also present in the Eucharist when the wedding ceremony takes place inside the church.

Outside Wedding

The Code of Canon Law says, “Marriages are to be celebrated in a parish where either of the contracting parties has a domicile… With the permission of the proper ordinary or proper pastor, marriages can be celebrated elsewhere.” (Canon 1115)

It looks like the Code of Canon Law may allow the wedding to be celebrated “elsewhere,” with the authorization of the local bishop, but it is almost impossible to obtain such authorization. Bishops are very reluctant to grant authorization for outdoor weddings by a Catholic parish, because they are concerned with maintaining a sense of the sacred, which is precisely what happens at a Catholic wedding ceremony — it is a sacred sacramental occasion.

The reasons why a local bishop may grant authorization for a catholic wedding to be celebrated elsewhere include political, cultural or even for safety reasons. One example may be when a church building planned for hosting the wedding ceremony has suffered structural damage, due to earthquakes or other natural disasters. As we stated previously, these circumstances are highly unusual.

A wedding is a special moment in the life of the new family that is beginning. We encourage you to focus all of your attention and efforts in making it a memorable event that will emphasize the sacredness of the occasion through the exchange of the promises that will make this an everlasting covenant.

Marriage preparation? What is that? What’s the point?

“My fiance and I have decided to get married in the Catholic Church. Why are we being asked to take classes?”

These are all real and legitimate questions that many couples ask when they learn that they need to complete a marriage preparation program (Pre-Cana) in order to get married in the Catholic Church.

Let us examine some of the reasons why the Church asks engaged couples to take classes before they get married.

Why Is It Required?

Everything in life takes formation, preparation, and getting ready. Before we go on a trip, we pack our bags, we look at a map, we purchase airline tickets, etc. Before we graduate from college, we have to study and pass several classes — it takes years!

Important things in life take a time of preparation and formation in order for them to be successful. Same with marriage! It is a very important decision; one that will change the way we live our lives. Therefore, it is a decision that requires an important period of formation and preparation, both individually and as a couple.

First, let us look at the sacrament of marriage in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Marriage or Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church, together with Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. Two of these are considered the sacraments of service (Marriage and Holy Orders). The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions them:

“Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God.” (CCC1534)

There is a connection between marriage and service that we usually miss or that nobody explains to couples preparing for matrimony. Marriage consecrates us to serve others: our spouse and, if we have them, our children, and the rest of the community. Marriage is a ministry — our first ministry — and it is in their marriage where the spouses serve each other. Together, they serve their family and the whole community.

This is the reason why the Church takes so seriously the preparation for these sacraments. Priests have to study for years (six to eight years) before they receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Husband and Wife also need to prepare themselves to become fully informed of the commitment and the responsibility that comes with marriage.

Why Is It Important?

Marriage preparation is not only learning about the religious, spiritual, or theological aspects of the sacrament of marriage (even though these are important elements that are present in every marriage preparation course).

Preparation for marriage also includes practical elements that will help the couple in those “day-to-day aspects” of forming a new family. Family of origin, money matters, conflict resolution, intimacy and sexuality, and several more are important topics that will help the couple deal with important issues that we often forget to talk about before and during marriage.

Therefore, how can we answer the question that many couples ask, “What’s the point of doing marriage preparation?” We understand that, because it is a sacrament and commitment for a lifetime that moves us to serve others, we need an appropriate period of preparation to be fully informed of what that entails. Also, the Church sees the time of immediate preparation (approximately six months before the wedding) as a time of discernment; a time to think and reflect on what the new life that a husband and wife are beginning together will look like.

Immediate preparation for marriage should include not only marriage preparation classes, but also a personal time of preparation. It is wise for each individual to take time alone to think and reflect on the important step that they are about to take. Take time to pray and talk with God about the future family about to be formed.

What’s the Point?

So, what’s the point of marriage preparation? The points include:

  • Prepare yourself to serve your spouse
  • Prepare yourself to serve the family
  • Prepare yourself to serve the community
  • Time to talk to God
  • Time to think and reflect

It is our hope that this time of preparation for matrimony will be a joyful experience in your life and that, through this time, you learn to discover the beauty and wonder of the sacrament of marriage. Be blessed!

You are getting married in the Catholic Church. Congratulations!

Now that the big decision is made and you have decided to begin this process, you may have heard about “Pre-Cana” and you may be wondering what it is and how will it benefit you and your future spouse.

First, what is Pre-Cana?

Simply put, Pre-Cana is a marriage preparation course, class, or consultation for couples who will be married in a Catholic Church.

Let us take a look at the first miracle that Jesus performed; it actually happened at a wedding. The town where this wedding was celebrated was called Cana and Jesus, his mother, and his friends were invited.

So, this is where the word Cana comes from; the town where Jesus performed his first miracle and it happened at a wedding. For this reason, the preparation offered by the Church to engaged couples is called Pre-Cana. In other words, “before the wedding.”

Pre-Cana programs are organized and/or approved by either a diocesan office or a parish and they can be presented in different formats.

What Happens During Pre-Cana?

In a “Pre-Cana” experience, you will prepare for the sacrament of marriage. You and your future spouse will have an opportunity to discuss very important topics, including Family of Origin, Spirituality of Marriage, Money Matters, Conflict Resolution, Intimacy and Sexuality, Theology of Marriage, and more. It is important that you reflect with openness and honesty about these topics and that you share your reflections with your fiancé(e). Pre-Cana events will provide you with opportunities for prayer, reflection, and sharing with your fiancé(e).

The Pre-Cana program that you experience will likely be one of the following formats:

  • A series of weekly meetings with a sponsor/mentor couple, oftentimes at their home
  • A weekend retreat with other engaged couples
  • An online course
  • A series of meetings with your priest or deacon

All of the organized and systematic experiences that help you and your fiancé(e) to prepare for marriage are collectively called Pre-Cana. The church offers them to you as a tool to help you and your fiancé(e) better prepare for marriage.

The Marriage Group is excited to provide you with an online Pre-Cana experience that is flexible, on-demand, current, and fun to use! Our online courses offer you the same course content that is covered in the other Pre-Cana experiences, but in the comfort of your own home.

If you have already completed our courses, we hope you will share your experience with others. If you are planning to use our courses, it is our hope that you will enter into this time of preparation and formation with your fiancé(e) with an open heart and mind.

Be assured of our prayers and support for your future marriage!

An important aspect about preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church is finding and selecting the priest who will preside over the celebration.

Couples usually find the church first and, therefore, the priest who is at that particular church will celebrate the wedding ceremony. This is perfectly fine. It is important for couples to have a relationship with the priest or deacon who will preside over their wedding ceremony, whenever possible.

Oftentimes, couples chose a priest they already know to preside over their celebration. They may have a favorite priest, a friend, or a family member.

While finding the right priest to preside the celebration is very important, it is also important to know that the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the bride and the groom. Yes! The most important people in the sacrament of marriage are the ones who are entering into this covenant union we call marriage.

This is different from the other sacraments of the Catholic Church, where the minister is always a bishop, a priest or a deacon (an ordained minister). For the sacrament of marriage, the ministers are the contracting parties (bride and groom) because they are giving each other promises or vows and the consent.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.” (CCC 1623)

That’s why during this part of the ceremony, the priest asks the couple to stand facing each other and exchange the promises or vows, symbolizing that they are giving each other the consent to enter into this union forever.

This shows us how important and how unique this sacrament is in the eyes of the Church. The bride and the groom actively give each other the promises in what is considered the most important part of a Catholic wedding ceremony.

It is very important for the couple to be aware of this moment, which represents the essence of the Catholic wedding ceremony. If you are getting married in the Catholic Church, it is also important to know that, as the ministers in this sacrament, it is very important that you are well formed and prepared for this sacred duty. That’s why marriage preparation is so important and that’s the reason why the Church encourages you to take marriage preparation seriously.

It is our hope that through this process of marriage preparation, you will grow in your understanding of the sacrament of marriage and the importance of the role you play in the ceremony as a minister of the sacrament.

We wish you all the best!

In 2018 alone, over 5,000 couples from around the world enjoyed our online marriage preparation experience!

Having served more engaged Catholic couples than any other provider, we have learned a great deal about the couples themselves, how they found us, and their experience from start to finish.

We are excited to empower you with this knowledge as you minister to today’s Catholic couples!

The Average Age of the Bride and Groom on their wedding day is: 

  •  29 years old for the Bride
  •  31 years old for the Groom

According to the US Census Bureau the national average is 27 years for women and 29 for men. From this we can learn that Catholic couples are waiting almost two years longer than their peers to get married, showing that these couples are taking this important decision and Sacrament seriously.

The average length of engagement for couples who experienced our online program is 15 months.

On average, our couples began the course 106 days before getting married.

From there, the spent an average of 21 days navigating through the course:

  • 69% of them in the same location
  • 11% of them separated by distance
  • 19% of them – a combination of both

This is interesting, considering our program exceeds the 8-hour minimum and required topics as prescribed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Furthermore, based on the knowledge we have gathered from the thousands of Catholic couples who enjoyed our marriage preparation experience, the average time spent from start to finish was 21 days. This infers that our couples desire a more in-depth, immersive, and intentional marriage preparation experience.

Most couples are experiencing our program together in the same location, allowing them to pause the videos and have conversations as they are working through their marriage preparation. Couples regularly state that the “pause and discuss” feature has the most valuable benefit of allowing them to dive deeper on a given topic, and opens up discussions that would not normally take place in an alternative marriage preparation program, that is merely “meeting the requirement”.

We asked our couples, “What was the primary reason for choosing our program?”:

  • 69% indicated that it was the convenience of the online experience due to their challenging schedules
  • 16% indicated that they live far apart from each other
  • 7% indicated that we were the only available program that met their needs
  • 5% did not indicate any particular reason
  • 3% indicated that they enjoyed the privacy of having these discussions together, without an audience

This is interesting because more than half of the couples who chose our online course for marriage preparation did so due to their schedules making it difficult to attend a gathered event.

We also asked our couples, “How did you find us?”:

  • 61% were referred by Marriage Ministry Leaders, like you, either at their parish or diocese!
  • 31% found us by searching for “Online Pre Cana”
  • 8% had a friend refer them

By a landslide, couples found out about our course from you, more than any other avenue!  We appreciate your continued support and friendship!

For more information about couples in your region, and about how our programs are a powerful tool in your ministry’s toolbox, in addition to your existing traditional marriage preparation options, we would love to connect with you, and send you an informational packet in the mail!

First of all, congratulations on your engagement and soon coming wedding! What a very exciting, sacramental, and beautiful event in your life. Standing before God and man reciting your vows to your beloved is one of the most profound moments you’ll experience in your entire life. Along with all of the excitement, often times while planning a wedding, things can get pretty stressful. Most notably stressful would have to be, in my opinion, finding the right date to have your ceremony. One of the most common questions about the date of the ceremony for Catholics is, “Can we get married during Lent in the Catholic Church?”

The short answer? It all depends on your Parish and/or your Diocese.

Years ago, having a large ceremony with everything included during Lent was not very accepted by most Parishes and Dioceses. Due to the solemn nature of the Season of Lent, as well as how much happens during the liturgical seasons, a ceremony such as a wedding placed into the mix might have made things a bit more complicated.

The last thing you want is something as solemn and holy as the celebration of a Marriage to be indirectly regarded as not as important as it should be due directly to the business of the season.

However, in recent years, more Parishes have been open to celebrating a wedding during special liturgical seasons (not just Lent, but Advent, also).

As with every other important and/or unique question, we always err on the side of caution: talk to your Priest or Deacon before assuming anything. That’s what they are there for.

Even if you know that you can get married during Lent at your church, it’s always best to still ask about the ceremony because your church might have some unique rules surrounding the ceremony.

For instance, they might want you to have minimal or almost no flower arrangements. They might let you have the ceremony, but they might not allow a full Nuptial Mass. The point is, it’s always best to seek the counsel of the Clergy before jumping in with both feet to something that might have restrictions, or worse, not allowed at all. You don’t want to fully plan something that might not be able to happen due to the season!

Again, I wish you all the best during one of the most important and beautiful seasons of your lives together, and I pray that God would bless you more abundantly than all you ask or imagine.

‘Tis the season…Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season are upon us! No matter what your religious affiliations or beliefs are, have you ever wondered or needed a fresh description of what it all means and its purpose? If your answer is, “yes”, don’t worry–you’re not alone. In brief, here are some answers:

For starters: what is Ash Wednesday?

Although ‘Ash Wednesday’ was not exactly written about in the Bible, the mentioning of “dust” and “ashes” was sprinkled throughout it; for example: Esther 4:1, Job 42:6, Jonah 3:5-6, and Daniel 9:3-4.

Ash Wednesday may be a day of holy commitment for Catholics, however, it is not for the rest of Western Christian society. Roman Catholics attend Mass on this day to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. Worshippers of this day attend Mass to show sorrow for their sins, as well as to prepare for the holy crucifixion and resurrection, receiving a mark of the cross with ashes on their foreheads. As their priest places the ashes, he likely says, For dust you are and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19). The blessed ashes that are used come from the burned palms from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday.

What is Lent?

Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday, is the 46 days before Easter Sunday. The 46 days equals to 40 days of ‘fasting’ and 6 Sundays of ‘feasting’. The Lenten season is for believers in Christ to grow in their obligation and gratitude of the sacrifices of Jesus. This is done by a thorough self-analysis, prayer, abstinence, and repentance.

What to abstain from?

This is a very interesting question. Christianity Today has reported the following statistics: “3 in 10 Americans with evangelical beliefs (28%) say they observe Lent; of these, 42 percent typically fast from a favorite food or beverage while 71 percent typically attend church services.

Catholics remain the most likely to observe Lent (61%), with 2 out of 3 fasting from a favorite food or beverage (64%).

Overall, 1 in 4 Americans observes Lent (24%), according to LifeWay. Most American observers fast from a favorite food or beverage (57%) vs. a bad habit (35%) or a favorite activity (23%).

Hispanics were the most likely ethnic group to observe Lent (36%), and were more likely than whites to abstain from a favorite activity (34% vs. 17%) or a bad habit (50% vs. 30%).

In 2014, it was found that 17 percent of US adults planned to fast during Lent, including 63 percent of practicing Catholics and 16 percent of practicing Protestants. Most were giving up a food item, including chocolate (30%), meat (28%), soda (26%), or alcohol (24%).”

To conclude; I like to think that Isaiah 58:5-9 says it best: Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself? To bow one’s head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?

Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”

We are offering a free eBook on how to effectively communicate with your parishioners and attendees outside of the Church.

Based on our previous blog post, you will learn to use Social Media, Email Newsletters, Surveys, Videos, and Live Streaming to meet today’s churchgoers where they are: ONLINE.

Enter your email address below to get your copy now!

Truly meeting today’s churchgoers where they are should never mean compromising your message in order to be “hip” and “cool” (oh, how cringeworthy those buzz words are…).

That being said, we cannot deny that times are changing, especially when it comes to technology. If we can adapt to the advancements of technology, and understand that utilizing technology to our advantage does not mean the death of tradition, we will be able to reach a lot more people with the Good News.

Here are a few ideas to help:

Social Media

Let’s just talk about the “big one” for now. As of March of 2017, nearly 2 BILLION people use Facebook.

2 BILLION people!?!?

I think it is safe to say there are several users right in your own congregation. The first thing that you need to do is make a public Facebook Page for your church.

Let your congregation know that you have made a new page, and encourage them to go “like” and “follow” the page.

From there, you can post encouraging thoughts and general insight into your church.

A great addition to the public page would also be a private group for your parishioners to join. That way, you can share much more detailed information with your faithful members. For instance: prayer requests, especially if you want to keep the information given safe within your Parish Family.

Reach out to your parishioners and attendees for five star reviews, too. Don’t shy away from specifically asking for five star reviews, either! You are not being pushy; you are positioning yourself to receive some great feedback.

You can also use Facebook to inform your community and parishioners about upcoming events and outreach programs. This helps to get a good idea on head counts, as Facebook users can indicate if they are “going” or not.

Surveys

Arguably the easiest, most “user-friendly” survey platform out there is Survey Monkey.

Create surveys for every bit of feedback you would like to have, for instance:

  • Pre-Cana attendees – what they liked and what suggestions they have for the class.
  • Special events.
  • General thoughts on your Parish.

This is all vital information that will surely help you understand where today’s churchgoers are at!

Newsletters

MailChimp is a great option for sending out e-newsletters. You will not only save money on having to print and mail physical newsletters, you can also learn from great analytics using the dashboard.

E-newsletters are perfect for sending out quick and encouraging thoughts, prayer chains, and exciting news to keep your congregation well-informed.

Videos and Live Streaming

Finally, any and every moment you are able to record video, do it.

Record your homilies or quick teachings as resources for your Parishioners and Attendees. These don’t have to be Hollywood-style productions. People today desire authenticity.

Live stream your Masses.

The biggest apprehension that I hear all the time that Parishes have about live streaming their Masses is, “What if nobody physically shows up anymore and they just watch Mass from home?”.

You have to look at live streaming in a different way.

Folks will be able enjoy Mass anywhere. It opens up the option to those who might not normally be able to make it to the physical building and gives them the gift of their Home Parish right where they are. People with disabilities, people in nursing homes, people from out of state, young people who are away at college…

The list goes on and on.

Instead of worrying if you’re going to not see as many faces at Mass, think of all of the people from all over being able to enjoy Mass who, again, might not otherwise be able to make it to Mass physically.

As an added bonus, you can keep each live stream in an archive of videos, so your parishioners and attendees can reflect back on a particular message that resonated with them.

These additions to your ministry’s toolbox will make a substantial difference in truly reaching today’s churchgoers where they are. Your parishioners and attendees will feel empowered and that they really are a part of something great.

Again, as I have mentioned before, keeping with the times does not mean the death of tradition, nor does it mean you are compromising your beliefs. You are simply using today’s methods to further advance your message.