This is the second of a series of posts during this National Marriage Week.
By: Rev. Christopher Vaccaro, chaplain at the University of Mary Washington
“‘The love between husband and wife should ultimately be to help one another get to Heaven.’ These words have forever filled my heart with purpose. These words have renewed my faith, both in good times and in bad. They have helped me understand the significance between my love for Christ and my love for my husband. These words ultimately became the best advice Father Vaccaro could have ever given my husband and I as we prepared for our marriage in 2009.”
That is a quote from one of the individuals I was blessed to prepare for marriage. When I was asked to share some insight concerning my role working with couples in preparation for marriage (commonly called Pre-Cana), two main thoughts came to mind. I consider these two things the hallmarks of preparation because they help to build a foundation that lasts for a lifetime.
First, I firmly believe that God’s Providence allows me to walk with the couples that meet with me in wedding preparation. The aim of this walk is the holiness of a life lived out in the sacred vocation of marriage. I often tell the couple early on in the preparation that it is no coincidence that they are sitting in my office. Even if I have never met them before and know nothing about them, God in His Goodness has allowed us to be together for the duration of the preparation time before their marriage. Hopefully I will assist them in some way to live a holy and happy marriage. At the same time, they will hopefully help me to be a better priest.
Second, each couple is different. Therefore, each preparation I do is individually planned. People come from various backgrounds and have different understandings of the Sacrament of Marriage. For that reason, as I learned with my first Pre-Cana couple after years as a priest, I need to tailor the wedding preparation (the number of meetings, the topics discussed, the approach used in discussing the topics, etc.) to the individual couple. Sometimes this means meeting with a couple for 12 or more hours over the course of a year, and other times it means spending an entire meeting talking about a single topic like “sacrifice” or “what prayer as a couple can look like in a marriage.” Although at times this may seem tedious to me, if the time together spent in this way helps the couple to live a happier, holier marriage, then I am happy to do it! No couple is the same, so no preparation for marriage is the same.
No couple is the same, so no preparation for marriage is the same.
The greatest gifts I receive from couples are the notes they write after the wedding telling me that the preparation was beneficial and letting me know they are happy as they take their first steps living the vocation of marriage. For isn’t this the role of the priest in marriage preparation, to help the couple live their vocation well and in a way that is aimed at glorifying the God who called them to that noble vocation? When I hear they are living this way, I thank God for allowing me to help lay that foundation!
Rev. Vaccaro is currently assigned as chaplain at the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg. He was previously assigned as a deacon at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, as well as at Holy Spirit Parish and Our Lady of Angels. At each of these parishes, he worked extensively with the young adult communities. He has prepared dozens of couples for marriage during his seven years as a priest.