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” may signify a confrontation or even a clash, Marriage Encounter (a literal translation of the original 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 couple’s gift of love becomes fruitful 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 Marriage 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 step 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 energies of love. Also, as they share, they come to the discovery of God’s vision for marriage, which is a call to become united with each other and with God.
Marriage Encounter started in Spain in 1953, through the combined efforts of Fr. Gabriel Calvo and several married couples. The inspiration of the “Marriage Teams of Pope Pius XII”, as it was originally called, came from the weekly talks then being given by the pope 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.
In 1962, Fr. Gabriel Calvo brought together 28 working class couples for the first Encuentro Conjugal. The movement grew within the structure of the Christian Family Movement. In 1966, The Marriage Encounter spread to Latin America through Mexico. The following year, the Marriage Encounter was brought to Miami, Florida, U.S.
During the summer of 1969, Luisito and Asuncion Sison were delegates to the convention of the International Confederation of the Christian Family Movement at Southbend, Indiana. They attended a Marriage Encounter weekend a week later. Meanwhile, Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. joined another ME weekend in Michigan, U.S. The three of them brought the Marriage Encounter to the Philippines.
Today, it is estimated that more than five million couples, in more than 100 countries, have attended a Marriage Encounter weekend.
The Outflow Of Love
Marriage Encounter has had a powerful impact on thousands of couples, enabling them to renew their commitment to marriage as a ministry. Because of Marriage Encounter, these same couples who saw their lives and marriage in a state of 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.
Marriage Encounter helps a couple 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 that is built on the foundation of the love they have rediscovered