Marriage boot camp at St Charles Borromeo Church

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More than 100 fresh "recruits" gathered inside St. Benedict Hall in Arlington Feb. 2 for the second session of Marriage Boot Camp, a new faith formation series sponsored by St. Charles Borromeo Church. Unlike what the title suggests, there is no drill sergeant demanding endless push-ups from young couples on their way to the altar. But just as the Marine Corps boot camp prepares young Marines to face flying bullets, this faith formation series gives participants the tools they need to face one of life's biggest challenges - marriage.

"I want to invite everyone to this," said Angelus Virata, St. Charles director of adult faith formation. "No matter what your relationship status is - single, dating, engaged, already married, young or old - there is something in this boot camp for everyone." She said that the talks are especially good for single adults because, "It will give them a guide to follow once they do wish to enter a relationship."

Over the course of 14 Monday night sessions, this "boot camp" not only covers the spiritual side of courtship and marriage, but also delves into post-marriage finances and even parenting.

Mary Stanford from Christendom College kicked off the series with the first of a three-part series on St. John Paul's book, Theology of the Body. At the first talk, Stanford guided participants through the first session and shared reflections on the famous text interspersed with funny personal antidotes.

"The Theology of the Body is first and foremost a way to understand the human person," said Stanford.

Carolyn Fridley, a St. Charles parishioner, was grateful for the opportunity to examine St. John Paul's famous work. "You don't really get the chance to study the Theology of the Body outside of a Catholic school setting, so this is a great opportunity," said Fridley.

The idea for marriage boot camp came when Father Donald Planty was head chaplain at Christendom College in Front Royal.

"I developed Marriage Boot Camp as a response to a pastoral need," said Father Planty. "I knew the majority of Christendom College students would likely marry and have a family, and the college curriculum only offered a few hours of lectures to freshmen on the sacrament of marriage and on the Commandments regarding family life. When I came to St. Charles, where the majority of my parishioners are single young adults, I thought it would be good to offer Marriage Boot Camp again."

"Given the signs of the times, good formation regarding marriage is crucial: It's something we have to get right and live right-that is, well," he said.

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Email Angelus Virata at or 703-527-5500 x13.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015