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Neela Kale Answers:
Marriage in the Catholic Church is different from civil marriage. It is no mere legal contract, easily made and easily broken; rather, it is a covenantal relationship in which a man and woman commit their whole selves to each other, in love and fidelity, for the rest of their lives. The Church recognizes marriage as a sacrament, a special sign of God’s love in the world for the couple and for those around them, especially any children that they are blessed to have. In short, it’s a big deal. So the Church wants to be absolutely certain that couples enter into marriage only after the proper preparation that, with God’s grace, allows them to freely make this commitment and be true to it for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. The structure of marriage preparation varies; some couples participate in weekend encounters while others attend classes and discussions over a period of several months. But either way this preparation is essential and allows the couple to grow in their relationship and deepen their understanding of the sacrament of marriage. Marriage is one of the most significant commitments that a person makes in his or her life, and helping a couple take the time to prepare properly is the least that the Church can do to support them in their lifelong vocation as husband and wife.