Resource Page for Teachers
by Lynn and Bob Gillen
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Curriculum Connections -
This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in:
Family Life – the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage
Glossary of Basic Terms
Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of names and terms relating to this month’s article. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the resource guide.
Lack of due discretion
Trial by tribunal
Idea One – What makes a marriage?
Appreciating the sanctity and seriousness of marriage
Before undertaking a discussion of marriage annulment, you may want to work with your students on the importance of preparation for marriage. The Church in its role as teacher offers support for married couples at every step leading up to and within marriage.
- Becoming a fully human person
For preteens and teenagers discovering their own sexuality and
their interest in the opposite sex, and for young adults beginning
to find their place in society, nothing can be more important
than developing their own unique character, their own value as
a person. This will include forming internal cues to find a life
partner, to marry for the right reasons, to bring to a relationship
the qualities necessary to build a permanent life together. Some
even say that preparation for marriage begins in the cradle. Certainly,
working at developing a solid, mature personality is one of the
best ways to prepare for life and for marriage.
Related to this are several Web sites that seek to promote early
growth in children and teens. At http://www.kidsnet.org,
your students can access a national resource for children, teens,
families and educators which offers guides to media which promote
a healthy awareness of self and others. You can find here media
news and study guides which address critical thinking, conflict
resolution, motivation and self-esteem, an understanding of multiculturalism
and pro-social behaviors. One example is their discussion of soccer
diplomacy, a treatment of how to deal with sports from a pro-social
perspective. Your students can also connect from here to the "ABC
Classroom Connection" at http://www.ABCclassroom.com
for material on teens and their future. You can also see http://familyeducation.com
for reference to the PBS program, "In the Mix." This
weekly PBS teen program has some of its shows on teen issues available
You may also want to discuss the different communication styles
that both men and women have, and how those styles can affect
relationships and their means of communicating.
The Church offers the Sacrament of Confirmation to young people
who are ready to take a major step toward adulthood, to strengthen
their life in the Spirit. Often received midway through the high
school years, Confirmation can help a young person tap into her
or his true feelings and convictions, and avoid the trap of exhibiting
and relying on societal or peer group pressures when it comes
to building relationships. You may find it helpful to discuss
with your students how the Spirit leads us through the different
stages in our growth, and how we can open our hearts to the direction
of the Spirit.
- Immediate preparation for marriage
Ask your students to prepare notes and thoughts on what kind
of preparation goes into marriage. First thoughts will probably
focus on the engagement ring, the dress and tuxedo, the wedding
plans, who will be in the bridal party, who will be invited to
the wedding. This is certainly the major focus of bridal magazines
and wedding consultants. But a further discussion will lead to
the importance of the couple getting to know one another better
before they make a commitment in marriage. Many topics and subjects
need to be talked through. Where will they live? How will they
arrange their finances? What about future children? How will they
handle career changes or job relocations? How will they handle
The Church offers support at this stage, as couples begin serious
preparation for marriage. Many parishes offer conferences to assist
couples in their preparation. Once a couple approaches the Church
to arrange wedding plans, they are encouraged to take part in
a one-day Pre-Cana Conference to develop in their relationship
a foundation of mutual love and respect. Your students can search
the Web under "Pre-Cana" for many references to parish
programs throughout the United States. Ultimately, however, each
diocese sets its own standards for marriage preparation. One example
is St. James Parish in Lakewood, Ohio. See http://www.rfwm.com/St.James/groups-and-orgs/precana.htm.
Another pre-marriage program available to engaged couples is
the Catholic Engaged Encounter. See http://www.catholic.org/engaged-encounter/about.html.
This program centers around a couple’s communication, spiritual
and personal needs.
- Direct support for married couples
Your students will probably be aware of some support mechanisms available for a married couple. The spouses can rely on family for encouragement or even financial support. They can call on friends to help them through difficult moments with humor or a different point of view. They can certainly use prayer as they seek the strength and openness required of any relationship.
With research, your students can also find other means of support provided by the Church. There are programs such as Marriage Encounter, a nondenominational weekend program intended to improve communication between spouses. See http://www.encounter.org/me.htm for a description of this popular program. Parishes also offer retreat programs for couples as well as for wives and husbands individually.
The Church also offers the Retrouvaille program (http://www.retrouvaille.org) for couples who are struggling in their marriage to heal and renew their relationship.
When a couple experiences substantial difficulties, divorce is not always the first recourse. There are individuals, trained counselors and small firms specializing in mediation. We’re used to seeing this in union negotiation situations or perhaps as an alternative to small-claims court. But these services are now available more widely to individuals who need help in settling divisive differences with friends, family, neighbors or spouses.
Mediation is a constructive step toward resolving differences. It offers a couple a resource that will at least slow down any deterioration in a relationship and bring in an objective third party to help sort out problems.
More traditional, counseling is yet another alternative. This will, of course, take different forms. A couple can speak to a priest trained in counseling, seek a family or marriage counselor or talk to a personal therapist or psychiatrist. Here, too, the intent is to slow down the pending breakup of a relationship to ensure the opportunity to understand clearly just what is happening and seek solutions other than divorce.
Idea Two – Understanding and appreciating the annulment process
Ever since the 1997 release of Sheila Rauch Kennedy’s book on the annulment of her marriage, the Church’s annulment process has come under the media’s microscope. So, what happens if a marriage just doesn’t work? What if a couple has already divorced and now one of them would like to remarry another partner in the Church? Where does a couple go to seek help? Is a divorce lawyer the first step?
The Church recognizes that this is an imperfect and flawed world. Marriages will not always work. This month’s article walks us through what an annulment is and how the process works.
If you were someone in a difficult marriage and you needed information on annulment,
where would you start? For a good example, the Catholic Archdiocese
of Perth, in Australia, offers a clear outline of the steps an individual
can take to start the process. See tribunal
office of the Archdiocese of Perth, Australia.. The Perth
Archdiocese begins from the stance that the Church wishes to reach
out to the pain and hurt of a divorced person while also upholding
the principles of the permanence of a valid marriage.
See also the online publication, Spirituality For Today, for an entire issue devoted to marriage and annulment: http://www.spirituality.org/issue23/pg05.html. This site is edited by a priest from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Reviewing this month’s article will show your students that, with the annulment process, the Church offers individuals an opportunity to start over again when the first marriage is proven to be invalid. With study and investigation by Church lawyers, a marriage can be declared not legally binding for several reasons. Lack of due discretion, defective consent and psychic incapacity are principal factors that can interfere with a marriage commitment, perhaps to the point of rendering the union invalid.
A failed marriage occurs for many reasons. Stressing personal growth and development throughout childhood, the teen years and young adulthood can certainly go a long way toward avoiding such failures. And when the failure is unavoidable, the Church is still with us to help, wherever possible, open the way for a new start.
Further Print Resources
Why the Church is Granting More Annulments, Jeffrey Keefe, O.F.M.Conv., Catholic Update, October 1980 (C1080)
Marriage: Supernatural and Sacramental, Jim Auer, Youth Update, March 1989 (Y0389)
Sacrament of Marriage: Sign of Faithful Love, Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., Catholic Update, May 1996 (C0596)
The Spirituality of Marriage: Becoming Signs of God’s Love, Carol Luebering, Catholic Update, May 1997 (C0597)
Marriage and the Spirituality of Intimacy, Leif Kehrwald, St. Anthony Messenger Press
Six Skills for a Happier Marriage, Michael E. Cavanaugh, Ph.D., Catholic Update, March 1983 (C0383)
The Sacrament of Marriage, Mary and James Kenny, Catholic Update, September 1979 (C0979)
The Good Marriage: How & Why Love Lasts, Judith Wallerstein.
Further Online Resources
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site's archives.
http://www.nytimes.com/ - The New York Times
http://www.latimes.com/ - Los Angeles Times
http://www.time.com/ - Time magazine
http://www.cnn.com/ - CNN
http://www.msnbc.com/ - MSNBC
http://www.pathfinder.com/ - This site will take you to a number of online publications.
http://wire.ap.org/ - The Associated Press
http://www.chicago.tribune.com/ - The Chicago Tribune
http://www.people.com/ - People magazine
http://www.washingtonpost.com/- The Washington Post
http://www.herald.com/ - The Miami Herald
http://www.closeup.org/ - The Close Up Foundation
The links contained within this resource guide are functional
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