A message from Rob Ruhnke, C.SS.R, author of "For Better and For Ever – A Resource for Couples Preparing for Christian Marriage
"I have been involved in the design and implementation of marriage preparation for Catholics since my ordination as a priest of the Redemptorist Order in 1966. In 1970 I was assigned to the Redemptorist community in Houston TX and volunteered to help with the diocesan Pre Cana programs. When I was asked to become the Family Life Director for the Diocese of Galveston-Houston in 1975 I already had the experience of setting up the RCIA process in our parish and I think this influenced my intuition that preparation for Matrimony should be a formation process similar to the RCIA. 34 years later, I think these are the key elements of an effective "RCIA for Matrimony: It is parish based. Pre-Cana and Engaged Encounter developed as diocesan or deanery experiences apart from the local parish, but we now know that preparation for all the Sacraments (including Matrimony) is rightly provided by the local Church (the parish). There must, of course, be diocesan oversight to assure the quality of parish based programs.
The content to be taught. Until 1998, the content of marriage preparation programs was so flexible (because every priest/parish could design their own program) that no "Catechism for Matrimony" (approved text) had ever been produced. In 1998 For Better and For Ever, Unitas and Perspectives on Marriage were the first programs to publish a text that included the appropriate content to be taught. In addition, For Better and For Ever has as on-going process for collecting feedback from sponsor couples and engaged couples and uses this feedback to improve the content with each new printing. In addition, the web site at provides additional content, email addresses and phone numbers for support and/or clarification about the content (this service is free).
The work of the engaged couple. For Better and For Ever puts the engaged couple to work learning the skills of livelong marriage, especially how to dialogue with one another. The "homework" is a critical part of the process. Successful marriage is the result of the daily efforts ("homework") to serve one's spouse and children.
Using sponsor couples of the parish. It is exceedingly "Catholic" to assume that the best teachers of Christian marriage are married couples of the parish who are willing to "sponsor" engaged couples. Sponsor couples are not perfect couples; they are couples of the local parish who are committed to the lifelong project of living the Vocation of Christian Marriage and are willing to share this reality with engaged couples.
The importance of follow-up. Sponsor couples are willing to establish a relationship that will continue beyond the wedding day into the first year(s) of marriage. This is a critical element (like mystagogia) that has mostly been ignored by marriage preparation programs. Today sponsor couples are trained to make this follow-up a real priority. Robert A. Ruhnke