" O Mary, what must you be yourself, when your very name is so lovable and gracious! "
St. Alphonsus Liguori
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Fr Andrew Burns on his work with Worldwide Marriage Encounter

 (This article was first published in the July 2019 edition of BE Alive, Bishop Eton's monthly magazine)

lighthouseprojectSomeone said to me the other day, ‘You’re so busy coming and going that one day you’ll meet yourself coming back!’ Others say, ‘How long are you back for this time?’ And it is true. Last year I was in Belgium twice, in Italy, Hungary, Ireland, and Madrid five times and yet didn’t have a holiday. What’s all that about?

You should’ve picked up along the way that I am deeply involved In Worldwide Marriage Encounter, WWME, a Catholic movement that promotes and supports the Sacraments of Marriage and Priesthood. For the last two years, I have been the priest member of the leadership team for Europe. Marriage Encounter is present in 12 countries of Europe: England, Ireland, Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Hungary and twice in Belgium, in Flemish and French Belgium. Three times every year, the national leadership teams (a couple and a priest) meet together in each of these countries in turn. Together with the European Team, we try to respond to the challenges to married life and life in the church from the modern world. As you can imagine, these challenges are huge. Even in so-called Catholic countries, the spirit of the age militates against things we consider to be the bedrock of our society, the Church, marriage and family life.

In all these countries of Europe, Marriage Encounter has started to implement the Marriage Encounter Lighthouse Project 2033. We have set ourselves a long-term target, the 2000th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the foundation of the church. By that date, we want WWME to be a shining Lighthouse that will encourage couples and priests to believe in the value of their sacraments as a means for the continuing evangelisation of the world, and to live this vision with confidence and joy.

marriageencounterAll over the world, people are fascinated by fairytale weddings. When I was in the States recently everyone was wanting to know about the new royal baby. They want to dream about romantic love and how it may be experienced today. Even the desire of gay couples to marry and have children, is in someway, a backhanded compliment to what we believe about marriage as a lifelong commitment of life and love. But so many people experience something very different, in broken relationships, divorce, neglected and abused children. What are we going to do about it?

WWME, through an initial weekend experience of love and communication between individual couples and priests, enables those who participate to explore and deepen the meaning of their relationships and to realise how important it is to keep that relationship at the centre of their lives. The best gift you can give to your children, as their parents, is the love you have for each other as a couple. It’s easy to say. It’s not so easy to continue through all the ups and downs, sorrows and joys of every day life. We need support. You need it for your couple relationship, just as I need it for my priestly life and commitment. And for this, WWME offers an ongoing community life with like-minded couples and priests who want to work on and deepen their relationships as the weeks and months go by.

Marriageencounterweekend

WWME has been offering this experience for over 50 years. It is now present in almost 100 countries around the world in every continent. In the last few years, every year, about 20,000 couples and 500 priests have lived a Marriage Encounter Weekend. These days the Church’s centre of gravity has shifted. While here in Europe and North America, the Church is growing old and tired, in the developing world, especially in Asia, there is life and growth. Let’s believe that the Holy Spirit is still at work and that God has not abandoned us.

Although we face many difficulties in our society today, we all have needs that have to be nourished. We all need to experience love and acceptance if we are to be alive; we need to have a sense of self-worth, to feel respected and valued; we need to feel that we belong. When these needs are fulfilled we are able to feel that we are truly unique, wonderful persons. We have a purpose for living. Essentially, these needs are fulfilled in our relationships, with God, as couples, as families, as priests in our religious and parish communities; in the Church.

WWMEpriest

WWME believes that God is love and God’s love is revealed in the love of a husband and wife, in the love of a priest or religious for the community of the Church. The Sacraments of Marriage and Priesthood are living witnesses that the power of our Risen Lord is present among us as we ‘love one another, just as I have loved you’.

For more information, ask me, if you can catch me! Or, www.wwme.org.uk

Father Andrew Burns, C.Ss.R

If you click on the Marriage Encounter images above you will be able to download the associated leaflet or poster.