In a recent Inter-Religious Dialogue on-line Meeting we listened to Fr Damien Diouf sm [Senegal – London], share on his experience of preparing engaged couples, one party Christian, the other Muslim, for marriage.
Damien shared that his own parents were Christian, then, when his father died his mother married again – this time to a Muslim, from whom Damien now has 4 siblings. So he has a solid personal experience to work with inter-faith relationships.
It is important, he says, to start from human experience: how did the couple meet? How did their relationship grow? How do they experience the Mystery of Love? On this last question, he says, he is grateful for the papal document Amoris Letitia [Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family], which speaks powerfully of the mystery of Love. It is important to start with this, and not with doctrinal or dogmatic imperatives which easily become conflictual and prevent a way forward.
It is important not to begin with dogma, when searching on what will help them in their married life. It is important to focus on what gives them energy, and what gives them life, and then work them them to plan a vision for their future together. It is helpful if they write a text of their own values, to which they both agree, sign, and review regularly. The basis is communion of persons and dialogue. They can be helped to articulate their Dream for each other, and their life together; the Values they wish to live and pursue in their married life; the Freedom they wish to live together, and which they want for each other; how they will for a community of the Family, and how they hope to engage in each other's Faith Community.
The compass for inter-faith marriage will change according to the cultures the couple come from, and the culture in which they marry and live out their married life together. The French Bishops Conference, Damien noted, had written a fine document for pastoral accompaniment of inter-faith marriages – which he himself drew help from in his work with inter-faith couples.
During and after Damien's Input, other members asked different questions: What do you do about Baptism of the children? - 'Don't give an answer immediately – but dialogue openly, with no exclusion of the beliefs and commitments of either party'. What happens if the husband says yes to one wife at the time of marriage, then after some years he decides to take another wife, or two? – 'Look at the values in their written document at the time of marriage, if this choice violates their marriage agreement then there is always the option of the Petrine Privilege'.
One member shared that in Senegal, in his Parish, in a family he knows, the Muslim children accompany their Catholic mother to Mass. Another shared that in Japan non-Christian couples can come to the Catholic Parish to ask for a Christian-styled Liturgy for their wedding – this is a pastoral opportunity, and one can be surprised and enlightened by the values of the couple, their dreams, and the ambience in which they desire to commit themselves to one another in marriage.
Fr Damien emphasized, that when the couple are drawing up their commitment to each other there are 4 key foundations which he recommends to include: Liberty, Fidelity, Community, and Indissolubility.