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Catechumental Pathways for Marriage is both the title and a strategic emphasis of Pope Francis’s pastoral guidelines for local churches issued by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life last summer.
The catechumenate of the early church was a 2-3 year baptismal class “with an attitude.” It was an acknowledgment that gentiles needed more than catechesis to prepare them for full initiation into the Church. They also needed to be detoxed (i.e. exorcism) and re-socialized (taking anywhere up to 2-3 years and involved moral and spiritual “scrutiny”).
Now the Pope is suggesting a similar and necessary catechumenal process to prepare a generation or two of ”un-marriageable” couples, resulting from a generational retreat from the vocation of marriage and the denial of the underlying nuptial character of human life.
Within the Church’s life, catechumenal habits of thought and practice have always been the domain of mission and evangelization. Marriage and family life were seen to be under the domain of pastoral care. But that division of labor was the result of the success of the Church’s conversion of Europe (and other pagan strongholds), resulting in Christendom or Medieval Christianity.
This new papal document exhorts us to a simultaneous recovery and resistance, echoing John Milbank’s formulation:
“Every Family is a surviving medieval polity. An anachronism producing order and future out of differentiated relationships and love, not out of roles and safeguards. This is exactly why liberalism seeks to abolish the family order. Resistance means extending it to everything.”
The Benedictine College Center for Family Life exists for this sole purpose: to create the tools and learning experiences necessary to both recover and extend everywhere the family order that is the source of love in our society.
The Center will be hosting a one-day nuptial charity retreat on October 14, 2023 that will explore themes related to how married couples can respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to make their marriage spiritually fruitful.
To register for the marriage retreat or find out more, visit benedictine.edu/NuptialCharity.