Simcha Fisher looks at what is going on with Catholic marriage preparation these days — and finds a lot that’s lacking.

I know what she means.

Time and again, when I’ve handled annulments in my diocese, I’ve found one continual thread: many of the marriages collapsed and failed  because the couple genuinely didn’t know what they were getting into — and most of those husbands and wives came from failed marriages and broken families themselves.

These couples often married young — and very often, to get away from home. They had never seen a healthy marriage modeled for them, and never knew how to solve problems, fight constructively, mend fences, collaborate, or just listen and hear what the other person was saying. Far too often, alcoholism or drug abuse plays a role — and that, too, is often part of what one of the spouses knew while growing up.

These things tend to run in cycles, and the cycle can be difficult to break.

But, amid talking with experts on the subject, Simcha hits on something vitally important:

Ultimately, there is no substitute for community. If simply making marriage preparation louder and slower won’t improve the situation, then what will?

Father Robert Krishna, a Dominican priest in the archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, suggests something that he knows is a tall order: “Fixing parishes as a whole, so that the parish becomes a genuine community.”

“People need so much more than simply information,” he said. They need help and guidance from other people.

Essentially, marriage preparation as it exists today cannot do the job of a robust, supportive family, community and parish life. These types of strong communities—and not workbooks, questionnaires and seminars—ideally should be teaching Catholics from a young age what marriage ought to look like. They should be modeling fidelity and forgiveness, demonstrating how cooperation and mutual submission work in real life and revealing how normal it is to face and work through times of trials and suffering. And they should be supporting them when the inevitable times of confusion and difficulty arise.

Couples need role models: real-life examples of Catholic marriage, so they understand what they are getting into; and they need support while they are undertaking it—and sometimes they need support in getting out of it.

Read it all. Good stuff here. Very good.