I have three daughters who are marrying age. Weddings are a hot topic at my house as we get invitations monthly to attend their friends’ weddings, cousins’ weddings and my friends’ children’s weddings. We discuss dresses, decorations, food, and marriage preparation. Say Yes to the Dress is a television staple at my house.
“How do you know that he’s ‘the one’?” they ask. “What if he seems perfect and you find out later you disagree on important things. Isn’t pre-Cana class too late to find out all that, especially when you have put time and money into planning a wedding?”
As a pre-Cana instructor for over 15 years, I would have to say that their points are valid. We have had couples who did not realize how unsuited they were for each other until their pre-Cana experience. It is heartbreaking to walk them through that discovery process and witness the hurt and embarrassment that ensues.
Pre-marriage preparation should ideally begin at home, but sadly too many of our couples come from non-practicing, un-catechized, unhealthy, or broken homes. Add to that the messages of society that go against not only Catholic teaching but common sense, and you do not have an ideal environment for healthy marriage preparation.
Karee Santos, founder of Can We Cana and co-author of The Four Keys of Everlasting Love, puts it this way, “In real estate it’s all about location, location, location. In finding who you’re meant to marry, it’s all about vocation, vocation, vocation! Keep bringing your decision to prayer and the still, small voice of God in your soul will let you know the right choice to make.” Yet how many of our young people have been raised in an environment where this important lesson is being taught?
Recent synods on the family have explored an idea that St. John Paul II expressed in Familiaris Consortio, on the model of marriage catechumenate. This model would encourage a marriage-ministry, including mentoring and inclusion in strong Catholic marriages, rather than just a generic parish-run pre-Cana program.
“The preparation for marriage should become an integral part of all the sacramental procedure of marriage as an antidote that prevents the proliferation of null or inconsistent marriage celebrations.” – Pope Francis
Considering that Catholic couples divorce at rates near the general population (approximately 30-40%, according to most data), we should seriously explore new ways to help preserve marriage. My interest in divorce and Catholics comes out of my own difficult experiences with a failed first marriage, so I can speak on this pain with some clarity.
Because Christian marriage is a sacrament, the Catholic Church wants couples to be well-prepared. Dioceses and parishes offer marriage preparation to help couples develop a better understanding of the sacrament; to evaluate and deepen their readiness to live married life; and to gain insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple.
Marriage preparation programs take different forms. Some couples attend a weekend retreat; others are matched with a “sponsor couple”; and others participate in a series of marriage preparation classes offered by their parish or diocese. The important thing for engaged couples to keep in mind as they check numerous items off their pre-wedding “to-do” list is the well-known adage, “Your wedding lasts a day, but your marriage lasts a lifetime.” The Church encourages couples to invest time and energy into the all-important work of preparing for their married life together. –United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
In an insightful article on marriage preparation, the need for true maturity to assess readiness for marriage is noted.
“Maturity means knowing who you are:
- Your talents
- Your weaknesses
- Your interests
- The things you hate to do
- The values that you will not compromise
- The preferences that you are willing to bend on
- What you want out of life and marriage
Out of this self- knowledge comes the possibility of giving oneself freely to your beloved.”
Many of these qualifications are explored during the pre-wedding evaluation done through many dioceses. I have been involved in the Focus program and Fully Engaged. However, having a similar pre-engagement evaluation with a facilitating sponsor/mentor couple to go over the results may be a great tool for couples considering engagement.
Consider the success of online dating evaluations that start relationship connections through assessing commonalities prior to meeting the prospective dating partner. Putting a similar tool into discerning engagement and marriage may be beneficial.
With the lack of strong foundation we witness in families, and too often faith, perhaps we need to find ways to better prepare our young people for relationships.
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Copyright 2018 Mary Lou Rosien