A new marriage preparation program in the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh aims to help engaged Catholics on their path to marriage by rediscovering beauty, value of the sacrament. “I hope this new initiative will create happy and holy Catholic couples — it’s as simple and as exciting as that,” Archbishop Leo Cushley of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh said Oct. 19. “What we are proposing is a rediscovery of the beauty of traditional Catholic marriage and its value but to do that in a very positive, contemporary and open way through this new programme which I am delighted to endorse.” The marriage prep program begins when an engaged couple contacts their local priest or deacon. The couple takes an introductory questionnaire to identify their relationship’s strengths and to find areas where they can grow. They then attend a series of classes with as many as eight other couples, before meeting with a priest or deacon to make final preparations for their wedding. The program was launched at a Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church in Falkirk, which included a special blessing for those preparing for marriage, and the renewal of marriage vows for married couples. Lisa Rice, a 26-year-old from Stirling who is engaged to be married, attended the Mass with her fiancé, Ross Cavanagh. Lisa said the sight of older couples renewing their vows “gives us something to look up to and something to work towards.” She hoped the marriage preparation course “will make us a bit stronger as a couple and to know exactly what we’re getting into when we get married,” and Ross added that “it just shows you that many marriages do work.” Sally McElroy, the archdiocese’s Marriage and Family Life coordinator, said she hopes engaged couples in the program will find “something important and relevant to them” as they advance towards marriage. She also hopes they can learn more about “what it means to make the big decision to get married in the Church and to set out in Christian married life.” The program’s teachers will include married couples such as John and Louise Smith of Edinburgh. They have been married for 35 years and have two children. John believes that “this programme will make young couples aware of what a great benefit the Church is to those who are married.” “The Church is like a treasure trove of riches, all there to be utilized,” he added. Louise said the program will discuss spiritual aspects of marriage and provide practical advice about communication and dealing with problems. “The couples seem to get a lot out of it and we find it really rewarding being involved.” The new marriage prep program replaces a course “which, it was felt, did not provide a strong enough catechesis on the Sacrament of Marriage,” according to the archdiocese. The archdiocese has also launched a couples counseling service called Archways. “The two initiatives are really two sides of the same coin,” McElroy stated. “Whenever we say as a Church that we support marriage? Well, this is us actually doing it. Whenever we say we support family life? This is us actually doing it.”