The testimony of Paola and Felice Raineri, European managers of Marriage Encounter with Ralph Schmeder
In recent days, Indonesia has been the focus of all the media’s attention due to the G20, where the presidents and prime ministers of the 20 most industrialized countries in the world have met and sometimes clashed. Also in Indonesia, almost on the same days, the World Council of Marriage Encounter was held. The media ignored the event, and yet Marriage Encounter has been one of the major lay movements within the Church for over 50 years.
The goal that animates the Movement is to re-evaluate the sacrament of marriage for spouses, and the sacrament of Holy Orders for priests. Marriage Encounter can rightly be considered as one of the fruits originating from the Second Vatican Council. Born in Spain, thanks to the intuition of a diocesan priest, Gabriel Baldthen quickly spread to the United States thanks to the foresight of Father Chuck Gallagher and some married couples, and from there it spread throughout the world. Today there are more than one hundred countries in the world where couples and priests/religious identify with the Movement. In Italy the Movement is better known under the name of Encounter Marriage. Once a year the leaders of the five continents (married couples and priests) meet to take stock of the situation, evaluate critical issues and dream together for an ever better Movement in step with the times.
Thus, after two years of online meetings, due to Covid, the world team (the Spaniards Susana Pradera Salasar and Jose Luis Mata with Father Jun Carmelito Limbaga from the Philippines) were able to welcome the teams responsible for North America, Latin America, of Asia, the Pacific, Africa and of course Europe.
The style of the meeting was typical of Marriage Encounter: sobriety, welcome, mutual listening, dialogue, prayer, but also happiness, joy and great satisfaction in seeing how the pandemic has not extinguished the enthusiasm of the many communities scattered around the world. Why are we talking about Community? In reality, it is a question of a somewhat special community; therefore not of people who live together, but of people who use the same “working method”, believe in dialogue, encourage each other, and share an ideal of marriage based on an intimate and responsible relationship of spouses. Priests who experience the specifics of their sacrament in relationship with people close to them also share something similar.
What is the secret why Marriage Encounter has been so successful around the world? There really isn’t a secret, and if there is, it’s an open secret! As long as you’re in love, dialogue and confrontation as a couple aren’t that necessary, looks and physical contact are enough, we like everything about each other and we accept everything to please each other. Unfortunately, or fortunately, falling in love inevitably has a deadline: sociologists talk about three years at most, but our experience also tells us much less! Once the falling in love phase is over, the couple finds themselves alone in facing the harsh daily reality, they find themselves painfully discovering the differences of the other.
It is in this delicate phase that the spouses discover that they do not know how to talk! They discover that no one has taught them how and why to talk! In the same way, the seminarians dream of their life as priests, their apostolate, but when they arrive in a parish they discover that the roof of the church is leaking, the oratory’s electrical system is not up to standard, … they collide with the lay people who have always been in that parish … and you need to know how to dialogue with them.
Here is the secret of Marriage Encounter, teaching why and above all how to dialogue! Therefore Marriage Encounter can be considered as a real school of dialogue. A crash course to teach husband and wife to communicate well with each other, priests to communicate well with others, confreres and laity. How long is this course? In reality, the duration of the course is really short: from a Friday evening to a Sunday afternoon!
It might seem strange, but this weekend has transformed the lives of millions of couples, has avoided many marital crises, has prevented many divorces and above all has taught couples how to argue and how to argue well! He has helped many priests to find themselves and deal more serenely with the parishioners. This is the secret of Encounter Marriage.
We live in a world where every item we buy has a multi-page instruction booklet, and every item requires ongoing maintenance. On the contrary, there is no instruction booklet for marriage and the sacrament of Holy Orders, much less the possibility of doing even minimal maintenance from time to time. Yet marriage and the family are universally recognized as the foundation of a person’s life and as the cornerstone of our society!
The sacred order is at the basis of the Church! The Weekend that Incontromatrimonial offers to all couples and priests is just this: a special, serious, even demanding moment, which serves to re-motivate them, to make them rediscover that married life and the priestly ministry are not a ball and chain. or the grave of love, but they are a wonderful adventure and a calling to which we are all called.