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.

How often do we remember to give thanks for the acts of love and kindness we constantly receive? How many times do we take for granted the love that surrounds us? The celebration of Thanksgiving comes into our lives once a year as a reminder to be thankful, not only for the material things that we have, but also for the spiritual gifts we constantly receive.

Be Thankful for Your Engagement

If you are an engaged couple preparing for marriage, you are probably used to the constant expressions of love to one another. That is a very good thing! God created us to love Him and to love one another:

“I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) 

This is the time to learn how to be thankful for the love God has given you in the person who is now your spouse-to-be. In your prayers, remember to thank God for the love you receive from this person!

Be Thankful for Your Marriage

If you are an already-married couple, you may be noticing that the expressions of love are decreasing as the years pass. It is important to go back to the beginnings of your relationship to rekindle the love that brought you together in the first place.

Remember the expressions of love that you gave one another and start doing those things again. Be thankful for the presence of your spouse in your life. God is leading you to heaven through the presence of your husband/wife in your life journey. This is a reason to be thankful.

Be Thankful for Your Ministry

If you are a ministry leader in a diocese or parish, there may be times when you feel that all the work you do is not appreciated or even noticed. The expressions of love and appreciation may not always be there, but your desire to serve with love is always there. That is a gift you have received from God. Be thankful for the opportunity and the call you have received to serve others in the ministry that you do.

Being thankful is not only the right thing to do, it is also what builds relationships with family and friends. Developing an attitude of gratitude brings peace and joy to the heart. In every situation, in every circumstance, let us remember to always live our life with that attitude of thanksgiving to God for everything He gives us.

From all of us here at The Marriage Group, we wish you a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

On October 8th through the 10th several new Diocesan Directors of Family Life gathered at the Washington Retreat House in Washington, DC for an orientation that was put together by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family and Youth.

The goal of the orientation was to introduce the Diocesan Family LIfe Director to the different offices and ministries that the USCCB provides, but also to expose the attendees to best practices, resources and networking.

I was able to attend this orientation and to  represent The Marriage Group at  this important event where I had the opportunity to introduce our online and on-demand courses for Pre-Cana and NFP to the Diocesan Family Life Directors from around the country.

Several Family Life Directors manifested their interest in our online programs. We all agreed that the church needs to serve all couples that come to us seeking the sacrament of marriage. Sometimes, special circumstances prevent couples from attending gathered diocesan or parish events. That’s when the online option becomes so important.

We also recognized the fact that younger couples feel much more comfortable with technology, making the online option the perfect fit for them. This requires that the ministry leader be open to try new ways to reach out to younger generations.

The Marriage Group is always excited to assist priests, deacons, and Family Life Directors, leading the way with comprehensive online and blended learning experiences. If you have questions, we welcome you to connect for a conversation about how our courses work so well in your ministry to today’s engaged couples.

In my role as a Family Life Director for the Diocese of Dallas, I attended the NACFLM Conference every year and it was always an opportunity to reconnect with my peers, learn something new, discover new materials and make new connections.

This year I was blessed to attend the 2019 NACFLM Conference in Denver, CO but now in a new role, as the Director of Catholic Programs for The Marriage Group.

Attending the conference as a participant was always a good experience, but this year, attending the conference as a part of a team that provides a ministry tool to those attending the conference was a completely different experience.

It was exciting to see old friends, people who have been my peers, my mentors, my companions in this beautiful and challenging ministry in our church. I also had a chance to make new connections, make new friends, people who are either new to marriage and family ministry or people I had never met before. We quickly connected and the conversations were absolutely inspiring!

I had the opportunity to share my passion for marriage ministry with people who share that same passion. We talked about their struggles, their successes and their joys and sorrows. It was a privilege to be able to offer my experience of seven years as a Director of Family Life in a diocese to those who are exploring new and exciting ways to do marriage ministry in our church today.

It is my hope that this conference serves all of us as a way to reconnect, and that we will be able to continue the exciting conversations that we started in Denver. I’m looking forward to continue being of service to everyone I encountered.

Claudio Mora
Director of Catholic Programs
cmora@themarriagegroup.com

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel with my eye upon you.”

There has never been a doubt in my mind that God has been guiding my steps throughout my life. His presence has been so clear and at the same time so amazing that I can only give thanks for all the wonderful things that have happened to me.

I was the Director of Family Life in the Diocese of Dallas for seven years, a ministry that I loved and enjoyed in the same way that you love and enjoy your ministry. Today, my life is taking a different direction, and again I’m convinced that the Lord is guiding me and directing all my steps.

I have accepted a position as a Director of Catholic Programs at The Marriage Group, a ministry and a company that is not new to me. During my time as a Director of Family Life in Dallas, I not only recommended online marriage preparation courses from The Marriage Group to the couples that needed it, but also developed a close working relationship with the amazing group of professionals behind the courses.

I would like to reflect on what it meant for me, as a Director of Family Life, to collaborate and partner with a group of people who share the same values and passion for marriage ministry.

Often, Family Life Directors at the parish and at the diocesan level are faced with challenges from couples, such as, “My fiancé is in a different country/city/region and we can’t attend the parish/diocesan marriage preparation course,” or, “We work opposite schedules, so our work shifts won’t allow us to attend a marriage preparation class at the same time.” And then the big question coming from these couples is… “What can we do?”

This is when we as ministers in the church need to look at the reality with a different set of eyes, and look beyond the traditional methods and programs to offer new and innovative options to people who otherwise may feel that the church is not responding to their needs. Online marriage preparation is that option and The Marriage Group has been doing this — successfully — for the last 10 years!

It is my hope that my experience in a diocesan office will help other Family Life Directors to realize that, as ministers, we are called to spread the Word of God to everyone and in every situation, even if that means trying new methodology.

Here are some learnings of my seven years as a Director of Family Life:

The Marriage Group and the online marriage preparation courses helped me as a Director of Family Life in a Diocese to reach out to those couples that, for so many different reasons, could not attend the diocesan sponsored marriage preparation initiatives. I was so glad to be able to offer an alternative to those couples who were struggling with issues like distance, time conflicts, changing work shifts, etc.

The content of the online courses for marriage preparation is to the level that I was expecting and more. I was very satisfied with the information presented to the couples, and I was at peace knowing that even if those couples were not able to attend a live marriage preparation event, they were still receiving great formation through the online experience. The optional Natural Family Planning course is excellent and it offers a great introduction of the Church’s teaching on how to achieve/postpone pregnancy and about the true meaning of human sexuality.

The Marriage Group worked closely with me in putting together a personalized web page for the Diocese of Dallas that welcomed the pastors, the marriage coordinators and the couples every time they accessed the online courses. This personalized experience gave people the confidence that they needed; they realized that this course was not only “approved” by the diocese, but also recommended to couples who were experiencing special circumstances. The personalized experience also included a certificate that looked exactly like the certificate that the couples who attended the diocesan marriage preparation event would receive.

Some pastors and even some parish leaders asked me, “How can I make sure that the couples doing online marriage preparation are actually doing it and not just lying to me?” My answer was, “How can you make sure that the 50-60 couples that attended your last diocesan retreat for marriage preparation really paid attention and participated fully in the course?” Online learning has many advantages:

  • A more comfortable learning environment (the couple choses where and when they access the course)
  • Convenience and flexibility (the couples that are separated by distance can access the courses and discuss the materials at their convenience)
  • More interaction and more ability to concentrate (couples can discuss the topics provided and read the content as many times as they want without distractions).

These are only a few of the many positive experiences that I had while working with The Marriage Group and the online marriage preparation courses and these and much more are what I hope to bring into the conversations that I would love to have with you, my fellow leaders in marriage ministry.

I am convinced that our faith process is a spiral that takes into consideration our past to bring us into the future with a renewed energy. That is exactly what I am offering to you now in my new role at The Marriage Group. I offer you my experience as a Family Life Director to become the platform from which you can project your ministry efforts into the future; use it, take what you need and what is useful to you and leave the rest!

I will be happy to talk to you about these experiences and about the challenges and joys that you encounter in your ministry. Please know that I’m here to walk with you and to be your companion in the journey.

In Christ,

Claudio Mora

In 2009, together with two friends that became business partners, I set out to bring a comprehensive marriage preparation experience online, where today’s couples are most comfortable. Although we were confident that our services would be well-received by couples and clergy alike, I am amazed by how far we’ve come.

In ten years, we have been fortunate to serve more than 25,000 couples — FIFTY THOUSAND PEOPLE! It has been such a joy and pleasure to interact with so many couples during their most exciting chapter of life; those precious months leading up to their wedding day.

What began as an idea to create a better experience for engaged couples, we quickly learned that our web-based courses solved several challenges for ministry leaders who were struggling to serve couples for whom the “traditional” course offerings were not ideal. Whether the couple was separated by distance, juggling hectic schedules and commitments, or simply learned more effectively in a private setting, diocesan and parish leaders embraced The Marriage Group as a true partner in their ministry.

Our team has worked to earn the trust and build relationships with hundreds of priests, deacons, Directors of Marriage & Family Life, and Natural Family Planning coaches. We have served couples representing all 50 states and dozens of other countries. We have worked in collaboration with various dioceses, parishes, sponsor/mentor couples, speakers, authors, and relationship experts to continually produce new programs and course offerings, always with the same goal.

We help today’s marriages start and grow.

-Matt Brooks, Founder of The Marriage Group

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!

The Marriage Group is excited to announce a brand new Money Matters segment to its popular online marriage prep class, Living Our Faith in Love™!

Introducing Michelle Shepley, Vice President and Senior Mortgage Sales Manager of a regional bank. Michelle shares relevant financial advice for today’s engaged couples, while reflecting upon her own personal financial journey, celebrating achievements and opportunities learned from bumps along the way.

Topics within this finances segment include:

  • Checking and managing your credit
  • Debt management
  • Strategies for managing money as a married couple
  • Spending habits
  • Budgeting
  • Long and short term savings
  • Dealing with unexpected changes in your financial plan

Michelle Shepley was raised by accountants and has worked in the banking industry for several years, most recently in the mortgage division. Michelle and her husband have been married nearly 30 years and own a small business together.

The Marriage Group continues to share the Good News of God’s plan for sacramental marriage to thousands of Catholic couples every year. Living Our Faith in Love is an ever-evolving course, following our commitment to remain relevant and accessible to modern couples. Online marriage preparation meets today’s couples where they are!

Ministry leaders are invited view this segment, by contacting us for a free demo account.

Merry Christmas to our parish and diocesan partners all around the country!

We just wanted to send out a quick reminder about one of the challenges and blessings during the Christmas/Advent season as it relates to preparing engaged couples for marriage.

We serve thousands of couples with our online marriage prep courses from all 50 states and nearly 60 other countries each year. One of the things we’ve learned is the week between Christmas and New Years is a really busy week for registrations. Through our surveys and talking directly with couples, we found the reason for the surge in registrations to be because couples where one or both of them have moved away from home (either because of the military or a new job), they come back together during the Christmas season, have a limited time frame to get their marriage preparation class completed (usually just that week of Christmas), and the online option is usually the only option available.

Often, traditional Pre-Cana is not available during that time.

This is just a reminder of the tool that is in your ministry’s toolbox – online marriage prep from your friends here at The Marriage Group. In these next couple of weeks during the Advent season, as you see individuals attending Mass that you may have not seen in a while (if they moved due to attending college, joined the military, etc), and they need to complete their marriage prep in a meaningful way, we encourage you to direct them to our online, on-demand program.

We hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year! – The Marriage Group

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!