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.
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Great thanks Damien
Yes +Francis document very helpful
Greetings from this end. I hope you are doing well. Thanks for the feedback. I really found helpful Amoris Laetitiae of pope Francis and his invitation to a shift of paradigm, the focus of pastoral and missionary conversion involving change of attitude to listen, accompany and discern starting wutg the fundamental joy of the Gospel of love and family. Thanks again. Fraternally
tres bein Damien. Very helpful and pastoral advice. Here in Australia there are many infer-faith and an increasing number of inter-race marriages- which add a further dimension to a marriage.
Greetings and regards from this end. Thanks for your words. In a world of mobility, travels and encounters, the happiness of love "amoris laetitiae" will happen. Thank God. Though beautiful, it's challenging and may get us all out of our comfort zones. May we trust the Spirit that formed the Messiah in the womb of Mary present in the hearts of those binding themselves in comnunity of love and life.
thanks, Damien ... a very thoughtul and practical reflection ... you bring back happy memores of preparing a wide range of couples in London for marriage ... opennenss, listening and focusing on the essentials, as you stress, seem to be the key features ... may you continue to find inspiration and nourishment in this accompaniment of people at a key moment intheir lives, bulding a future that will benefit all of us ...
Thanks Paul for your inspiring remarks. I am happy and thrilled by the Marist mission evangelizing through word and action, journeying with meaning seekers.
Email, from Justin Taylor: "Very interesting and helpful. In the 1960s I officiated at an inter-faith (Muslim-Catholic) wedding. It would have been very useful to have something like Damian’s reflection to guide me, and not just the Church’s requirements for obtaining a dispensation from ‘disparity of cult’. It was helpful that the Muslim groom was a personal friend. The marriage has lasted, and I’ve kept in touch with the couple over the years. Blessings, Justin"
Thanks Justin. I am glad and grateful to earliery generations and pioneers who opened in challenging times doors and windows allowing us to breatht and see far, hoping brighter horizons.
Christian-Moslem mariage really an up to date reality. I have some friends who didn't get married simply because they were both from these two different religions. I think it's worth important to note that, especially in the African context ( for the case of Cameroon which I know abit more), the family of both partners have a great influence in the choice of partners. Most Christian parents will tell their children that they will not accept their child to get married to a Moslem, and it is also the case for the Moslem parents. And when we look at this situation closely, we realise that one of the reasons for such behaviour is lack of information from the part of the parents and the couples. They are not aware that the Church has thought of how to go about such cases. It is also rather unfortunate that some priests and most Christians are not aware of how to go about it.
Thanks father Damien,sm
Thanks a lot for your remarks very relevant in an African context where the communities, made of friends, relatives or neighbours of young couples are often influential and even obstacles to their growth and development, forcing fidelity to obsolete traditions and preventing creativity. In pastoral life, in the light of Amoris Laetitiae and with the policies developed in local churches, we must accompany them to foster communion and give no place to the nocive intervention of outsiders. Thanks again, my dear brother.