Growing in Faith Together - for Engaged and Married Couples (4 weeks)

For engaged couples who have completed their marriage preparation course and want to continue exploring their faith together, and for married couples to enrich their friendship and love.

Four sessions about happiness, prayer, the Mass, and the meaning of love. With special discussion questions that allow couples to share and reflect together.

Why join the course?

This new Sycamore course has been designed to help couples reflect together on the deeper questions of life and on their love, in light of the Christian faith. How can couples achieve lifelong happiness and a sense of balance in their lives? How can they learn to pray together and support each other spiritually? How does God call couples to live out their faith in the family and society?

This 4-week course is recommended first of all for engaged couples who have completed their formal marriage preparation, and married couples seeking to build and develop their relationship.

The course is not a marriage preparation programme, and it does not directly explore the meaning of the sacrament of matrimony, but it can supplement or follow on from marriage programmes that are already taking place.

The course will be helpful for each and every couple – even if you are at very different starting points. It doesn’t make any assumptions about where you are as a couple, and it doesn’t put any pressure on you to pretend you are someone you are not. It gives food for thought, and opens up space for you to share and grow together. Don’t worry if you feel that your faith is not very strong, or if you have lots of doubts and questions, or if you find it hard to talk about faith as a couple. This course is exactly for you!

Pope Francis gives encouragement to all engaged and married couples in this beautiful short video (2 minutes watch time):

Tips for leaders

This course has been designed in collaboration with the Marriage and Family Life Team in the Archdiocese of Southwark. It can work very well as a follow-on course when a formal marriage preparation course has finished, so that couples who wish can continue to explore faith together and become more rooted in the life of the parish community. The best thing is to advertise the Sycamore course at the end of the marriage preparation course, to invite people personally, and if possible to have a newly married couple speak about how helpful the course has been for them.

If a number of couples come together for the course, it gives them a chance to meet other couples and grow in faith together. You may wish to run one course for engaged couples, another for married couples, or a single course mixing the two groups.

The discussion periods can be run in two ways. (i) In one model, each couple discusses the questions together privately, without any group sharing. (ii) In another model, couples can talk in small groups with other couples – e.g. in fours or sixes. Sycamore leaders will need to decide which model will work best before the course starts, and be clear about how the course will be run and how the discussion will take place.

Either way, the social time at the beginning and end of each session gives an opportunity for couples to meet each other and grow in friendship and community. And the experience of being involved in the parish helps a couple to feel more at home and supported by their parish community.

Diocesan leaders may wish to propose this course to their parishes, as a helpful resource to supplement the marriage preparation that is already taking place within the diocese. The course will be especially helpful for parish teams who want to support couples as they begin the adventure of marriage, with the hope that couples will get to know people within their parish and have a sense of belonging.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Please note that there is a special set of discussion questions for this course, different from the questions that appear on the videos. These questions can be found below at the bottom of this webpage.

 

Titles and links for each session

(1) THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS [“Film 1” in Series: click here to view]

Main themes: The impossibility of sitting still. What is happiness? How to press the pause button.

 

(2) THE POWER OF PRAYER [“Film 8” in Series: click here to view]

Main themes: What is prayer? Does prayer make a difference? How to pray.

 

(3) THE HOLY EUCHARIST [“Film 15” in Series: click here to view]

Main themes: The meaning of the Mass. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

 

(4) THE MEANING OF LOVE [“Film 10” in Series: click here to view]

Main themes: What is love? How to love your neighbour. Knowing the love of God.

 

EXTRA SESSIONFor couples to watch at home or as a follow on session for the whole group

(5) THE CHRISTIAN VOCATIONS [“Film 17” in Series: click here to view]

Main themes: The meaning of vocation. Marriage and family life. Ordination and consecrated life.

 

Please note that the accompanying “Film Number” (e.g. “Film 13”) and Session Number (e.g. “Session 13”) refer to the complete list of Sycamore films and not to the order of each module in this course.

You can find the complete list of Sycamore films here and the complete list of Session Guides here. The “Film Number” and “Session Number” is a fixed code number so you know which film is being referred to, even if it appears in different places in different courses.

If you are using Sycamore as a central part of your sacramental preparation and catechesis, see the page here about Sycamore and sacramental preparation.

If you are using the YouCat readings as part of your course, see the page here about using the YouCat.

INTRODUCTION BY FR STEPHEN WANG: This short video can be used with groups as an introduction to their first session together.

[DOWNLOAD this video from the Vimeo page here]

 

FINAL THOUGHTS BY FR STEPHEN WANG: This video can be used with groups at the end of their final session together.

[DOWNLOAD this video from the Vimeo page here]

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – SPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR ENGAGED AND MARRIED COUPLES FOLLOWING THIS COURSE

Please use these discussions questions during the sessions, instead of the ones that appear in the videos. There is a big selection of questions here, so you may wish to suggest one main question to focus on with each part, or to let couples work through them all in their own time.

You can print out the questions beforehand and distribute them to participants; or you can prepare your own slides with the questions on and display the slides for the group at the appropriate time; or you can share this webpage so couples can find the questions on their mobile phones.

  • The first question in bold is the main one to focus on.
  • The questions that follow are there if you need some extra discussion

 

(1) THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS [“Film 1” in Series: click here to view]

Part A:

  • What are your happiest memories from childhood?
  • What brings you happiness in your life today?
  • How has your sense of happiness changed over the years?
  • What can help a married couple achieve happiness together?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part B:

  • What do you think people are looking for most in their lives?
  • If you knew the world was going to end in one hour, what would you do?
  • What do you think the gift of children can bring to a marriage?
  • How can children affect the way that husband and wife relate to each other and to God?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part C:

  • What helps you personally to relax and de-stress?
  • How can you make time for rest and reflection as a couple?
  • What will help you both to have a better work/life balance and give priority to your relationship?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

[Part D, Optional – after the final testimony by Fiona Whitehead]

  • What questions would you have if someone told you they were totally happy with everything?
  • What things strike you from this testimony by Fiona Whitehead?

 

(2) THE POWER OF PRAYER [“Film 8” in Series: click here to view]

Part A:

  • What religious beliefs did you grow up with individually? What beliefs do you have in common as a couple? What are some of the differences?
  • What does prayer mean to you?
  • Many Christian couples pray together and find it helps to strengthen their love and understanding. How would you feel about praying together as a couple? What simple ways of praying could be possible and helpful for you?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part B:

  • Do you think that prayer can make a difference to people’s lives?
  • If God is all powerful, why do you think he sometimes seems to ignore our prayers?
  • Do you think there are benefits from praying together as a family?
  • Which traditions of family prayer could be helpful and manageable for you? (For example: morning prayers, grace before meals, the rosary, night prayers, visiting a church for family prayer)
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part C:

  • Why do you think many people find it hard to pray?
  • How could you help each other to pray more and to pray better?
  • Do you have any positive experiences of praying with others or praying in a prayer group?
  • Do you know any prayers groups or support groups that could help you as a couple in your local parish or elsewhere?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

[Part D, Optional – after the final testimony]

  • What things strike you from this testimony?

 

(3) THE HOLY EUCHARIST [“Film 15” in Series: click here to view]

Part A:

  • What is your experience of going to Mass or attending other religious services?
  • Which parts of the Mass, or which symbols within the Mass, do you find most interesting or helpful?
  • How can children be helped to appreciate and understand the Mass?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part B:

  • When are the times you feel closest to God?
  • Have you ever experienced God’s presence in Church?
  • How could being at Mass together help your love to grow as a couple?
  • What impact could the birth of a child have on your Sunday Mass routine?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part C:

  • Can you give some examples of when you have made sacrifices for others, or others have made sacrifices for you?
  • If you discovered that someone had died to save your life, what difference would it make?
  • What difference could it make to know that Jesus died on the cross for you, to take away your sins and bring you salvation?
  • If love always involves sacrifice, what could you learn from Jesus about how you could deepen your love for each other?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

[Part D, Optional – after the final testimony]

  • What things strike you from this testimony?

 

(4) THE MEANING OF LOVE [“Film 10” in Series: click here to view]

Part A:

  • What is love?
  • How would you describe your love for each other? How has it changed over time?
  • How can love be sustained over many years when people change so much?
  • What’s the difference between “falling in love” and “being in love” and “loving someone” and “promising to love someone”?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part B:

  • Who is the most loving person you have known personally and why?
  • When is it hardest to love your spouse or your children? What helps you to keep going?
  • What effect can children have on a married couple’s love? What blessings and challenges are there?
  • Which is stronger: the love of husband and wife for each other, or the love of parents for their children, or the love of children for their parents?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part C:

  • In what ways can your married love reflect God’s own love?
  • How can God’s love help your marriage and family?
  • What do you think of the idea that God loves us and wants us to love him in return?
  • What part can forgiveness play in married love?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

[Part D, Optional – after the final testimony]

  • What things strike you from this testimony?

 

EXTRA SESSION: For couples to watch at home or as a follow on session for the whole group

(5) THE CHRISTIAN VOCATIONS [“Film 17” in Series: click here to view]

These are the same as the normal questions that are displayed in the videos.

Part A:

  • Have you ever felt called or inspired to do something?
  • What vocation do you find most inspiring and why? Can you think of some Christian saints and what vocations they each followed?
  • How did you discover your own vocation or way of life? What “signs” spoke to you along the way? Where did you look for guidance? Or what are you looking for now?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part B:

  • What things help to make a good marriage and a happy family?
  • Can you think of any couples who have been a good example of marriage for you and why?
  • What are the most important values for family life? What can make family life difficult? What can help families rediscover healing and peace again?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

Part C:

  • Do you know any priests or religious brothers, sisters, monks, nuns, etc?
  • What do you know about their way of life, their work, their prayer?
  • What gifts do you think they can bring to the Church and to society?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

[Part D, Optional – after the final interviews]

  • What things strike you from this interviews?

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