40 Years of Marriage Encounter
After 26 years of marriage, we want more than at the beginning

Author: Margarita García | Source: Mission Magazine

Encuentro Matrimonial (EM) celebrates forty years of service to couples and couples; of priests and religious. Yes, because, despite being a meeting especially thought for marriages, it also helps consecrated persons. "We all live in relation to someone," say  coordinators in Spain, and it is in the relational aspect of our lives that EM intervenes to fill them with meaning.


Josico Mata and Susana Pradera had been married for six years, had two daughters and their marriage was in apparent good condition when a priest friend invited them to participate in the Marriage Encounter Weekend. "We argued, but we did not have big problems; However, the steps we’ve taken after that encounter have made us achieve a depth in our marriage that, otherwise, we would not have achieved, " said Pradera. But what is the Weekend that they talk about so enthusiastically? What is the charisma of this public association of the faithful born in Spain and present today throughout the world?


Relational beings

All part of the conviction that being married and being happy is possible, it’s more, "is the dream that God has for us as a couple," says Mata, "and the difference between being happy in marriage and not being married is knowing that, as in many other things, you can learn to use tools with which to deal with the problems that arise when trying to manage discrepancies. "


In the beginning, this movement starts from the human fact of marriage and, in the case of consecrated persons, the need to relate. It is in this aspect that the precursor of EM, Father Gabriel Calvo, observed that there was a certain lack: in the Church the relational aspect of marriage was not approached from faith; that is, the family was not helped to take care of their relationship, no concrete guidelines or communication tools were offered that would guide the spouses to love and help each other better.


"Marriage Encounter wants to cover the relational aspect of marriage because, sometimes it happens that married couples join in the routine and the relationship ceases to be the first, and, according to our experience, we have discovered another dimension in the relationship. Thanks to that, we have learned to communicate our feelings, we have managed to put ourselves in the place of the other, to think before in our spouse that in ourselves ", recognizes the happy couple. Regarding father José Antonio Sánchez, the priest who completes the ecclesial team that coordinates EM in Spain, concludes that "in Christian, that is what conversion is about: doing things for the sake of the other, which is Christ".


For Father Sánchez, participating fifteen years ago, on the weekend was also a transformative experience, as it is for all consecrated people since "you return to your parish or community with a different quality of relationship," he says. For priests, it is not easy to identify feelings; neither is communicating them, and less if they are negative. Encuentro Matrimonial makes it easy for me to speak from my personal experience. Even when I preach, I speak more as a witness. "


EM Weekend

Because of this very human and rational origin, this movement is designed so that both believing and non-believing couples benefit from it; those who have children and those who do not, even those who are not married, "although our desire, and this has happened with some couples, is that they should consider Christian marriage," says Pradera. The only requirement to participate in the Weekend is that the couples have shared a time of life in common on which to work. "The Weekend experience is fundamental", insists Mata. This takes place from Friday night until Sunday afternoon in a house of spirituality. The content of the Weekend is presented by two or three couples and a priest members of EM.


The dynamics that take place during the Weekend is that of speaking from an experiential point of view: "From our experience, we work with the couples the encounter with oneself, the internal communication, the identification of aspects of each one, because, otherwise, it is difficult to relate to the other, "explains Pradera. The next thing is to meet with the spouse or, in the case of the priests, "with our parish community; with the person with whom, as a priest or religious, we have more treatment; with the priest parish companion ", adds Father Sánchez. Once the" base relationship "is identified, that is, the person with whom you communicate more directly, it is about building with her and helping her to rediscover the meaning of marriage or from the priesthood ... And, from there, from their vocation, to see how each person is called to be a reflection of God's love.


This process is carried out in thirteen experiences that together expose the marriage and the priest, followed by a work proposal where the couple reflects privately, without putting it in common with the other participants. "For us, verbal and profound communication is the basis of a happy marriage," explains Mata.


Throughout the weekend, the team transfers the evangelical teachings of Jesus to married life because "in Him, we see a model of communication, of love" and marriages, at the end of the encounter, deduce, for themselves, that, behind everything, there is a love with capital letters. "There are couples who rediscover the Church or even recover faith; they know the God from whom love starts and who invites us to be a sign of their love on Earth. "



A team of three

Josico Mata, Susana Pradera and Father José Antonio Sánchez form the ecclesial team coordinating EM in Spain. The peculiarity of this team is that the relationship established between them is of such intimacy and depth that "it goes beyond the family itself". The priest is enriched by seeing the commitment of marriage, how they strive with their children: "It stimulates me in my priestly life, so that it is not anodyne." For his part, Josico and Susana admire the charisma of consecration of Father José Antonio. You could say that the three are witnesses of each one's love story.


Encuentro Matrimonial was born in Barcelona as a result of the Second Vatican Council. It was the "great inspiration" of Father Gabriel Calvo, who, observing that there were marriages that got along better than others, began to work with a group of Christian couples to improve their communication skills. The American Jesuit priest Chuck Gallagher was captivated by the proposal of Father Calvo and it was he who gave it the final form and structure of Weekend and then return to Spain forty years ago. Since then, the movement has spread to more than a hundred countries around the world thanks to the commitment and dedication of people who discover, in this movement, a true gift for the Church and for their lives.

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