We’re engaged, tell us about marriage prep

A Q&A with CatholicMarriagePrep.com co-founder Christian Meert

Q: Why is it important for couples to go through marriage preparation?

A: Each engaged couple is unique and their situations are particular to each case. Some come with a strong religious background and with full support from their families and parish communities. For these couples, the course is a great refresher. These couples are the exception. Most engaged couples have a desire for the truth but for many reasons don’t have the full knowledge of what a sacramentally valid marriage means. In these cases, the course is a time of evangelization and catechesis. For every couple marriage preparation is an opportunity for conversion and a deeper understanding of their faith.

Q: The Denver Archdiocese offers four different marriage prep programs, including yours, CatholicMarriagePrep.com, which is offered both in live classes and online. What’s covered in your program?

A: The program began 15 years ago in the Archdiocese of Denver. Ten years ago we launched the online version.

The course is anchored in St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, Scripture, the teachings and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and encyclicals. Every live session begins and ends in prayer. A specific prayer is suggested for the couples preparing online as well.

The couples embark on a profound spiritual and human journey that begins with Genesis and God’s plan for humanity. They learn about the sacraments, specifically the sacrament of matrimony, and the theological reasons behind natural family planning. The last session is dedicated to prayer and life skills. The archdiocese has asked us to hold monthly classes at the St. John Paul II Center, starting in July. Couples can register at www.archden.org/eflm/marriage.

Q: What is the secret to a lifelong marriage?

A: A Christ-centered marriage. The couple needs to have a strong prayer life, they should pray together and for each other, and participate in the sacraments and their parish. Spouses need to learn how to live a selfless, self-giving life, and the importance of forgiveness. They should support their marriage by going on spiritual retreats. They should never take each other for granted. Finally, they should revise their expectations on a regular basis.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

A: The commonly accepted statistic for divorce is around 40 to 50 percent (the latter being much cited by the media), but it’s much lower for Catholic couples, just 28 percent. This is still too high, of course, but for Catholic couples practicing their faith and natural family planning, the divorce rate is under 5 percent. Today the majority of the engaged couples don’t realize that cohabitation (80 percent of engaged couples cohabit) and pre-marital sex (90 percent of engaged couples have pre-marital sexual relations) are grave sins, but when they hear the truth and after they have completed the CatholicMarriagePrep.com (live or online) program, 80 percent of the couples decide to abstain from sexual relations, while 18 percent say they wanted to discuss it further. That shows the importance of marriage preparation.

Marriage Preparation

To find out more about how to prepare for marriage in the Denver Archdiocese:

Visit: www.archden.org/eflm/marriage/

Call: Carrie Keating at 303-715-3259

Email: carrie.keating@archden.org


COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.