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Marriage Encounter

MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER

Marriage Encounter, both a program and a movement, is an opportunity for married couples to explore their lives in the presence of God. Although the term "encounter" signifies a confrontation or even a clash, Marriage Encounter (a literal translation of the Spanish Encuentro Conjugal ) means "to rediscover" or "to meet again." The program, which usually takes place on a weekend, helps couples to search for and rediscover their vision of love. With this program, God's presence is essential, because the gift of love given by the couple becomes fruitful only in God's presence through the discovery of the place of God within their lives. This belief, then, underlies Marriage Encounter's conviction of the sacredness of the covenant, the Sacrament, of marriage. Fr. Gabriel Calvo, the founder of Mariage Encounter, puts it this way: "There is within each couple a divine energy of love. It has to be released by a deep sharing between husband and wife, through the communication of their feelings and of the whole of their lives together. It cannot be done in just one moment."

The Marriage Encounter weekend provides the first moment for this release of the energy of love. During the weekend, the couples have the opportunity to search their own lives for their feelings, dreams, and desires. As they share, the Lord's presence enables the release of the energy of love. Also, as they share, they come to the discovery of God's vision for marriage, which, simply stated, is a call to become united with each other and with God.

Marriage Encounter has its origins in Spain in 1953 through the combined efforts of Fr. Calvo and several married couples (Mercedes and Jamie Ferrer; José and Marguerite Pick; Diego and Fina Bartimeo). The inspiration of the "Marriage Teams of Pope Pius XII" came from the weekly talks then being given by Pope Pius XII to newly married couples in Rome. Fr. Calvo and the couples would first read the pope's talk, along with several verses from Scripture. Then, after searching their own individual life's experience, each couple would meet to share their reflections. Afterwards, the couples would meet as a group and share these common reflections to deepen their commitment to marriage and the family. The papal talks and the reflections that flowed out of them eventually became the core topics for the presentations that are still given on Marriage Encounter weekends. The first Encuentro Conjugal was held in Barcelona in 1962. The program began in the U.S. in 1967, under the aegis of the Christian Family Movement. Marriage Encounter has also spread in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Oceania and Asia.

Within this initial group was also developed the method of communicatinga presentation based on the experience of life, a reflection on each individual's life experience, followed by a mutual sharing of this individual reflection. This is the method of dialogue as it is now practiced within Marriage Encounter, as well as such other offshoots as Family Encounter, Retorno, Priests' Encounter. The method is best summarized in another statement of Fr. Calvo: "There is no unity without reconciliation. There is no reconciliation without communication. There is no communication without first encountering (discovering) oneself."

Marriage Encounter has had a powerful impact on thousands of couples and enabled them to renew their commitment to marriage as a ministry. Because of Marriage Encounter, these same couples who in the past saw their lives more as confusion, now see their marriages as the means for grace and life for themselves and others. Inspired by this vision, they acquire a new understanding of the Gospel and its meaning for everyday life. Ultimately, however, the final goal of Marriage Encounter is much broader than the couples themselves. There is a natural outflow of love from the couple to family, relatives, friends and, finally, to the larger communities of Church and society. Through the gift of self, there occurs an inner conversion both in the individual and the couple. This conversion becomes the basis of understanding and acceptance, out of which flows the unity of love. Marriage

Encounter presents its method as a free sharing which can be accepted or rejected. Marriage Encounter helps a couple to explore their experience of life. As they share this individual experience, they begin a journey, a search toward unity with each other and with the wider community in order to build together the new creation promised by Jesus Christ. Together, couples and their families join in a new Exodus toward the promised land which will be built on the foundation of love they have rediscovered.

See Also: worldwide marriage encounter.

[t. hill/

j. j. kaising]

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