We thought we were just checking the box of official requirements for a Catholic wedding ceremony. And looking around the room at the 52 other couples, it was obvious many of them did too.
We were all undergoing what priests call “Pre-Cana,” some kind of mandatory workshop on preparing for marriage. My fiancé and I didn’t know exactly what that entailed; but we knew this one took a single Saturday, while others spanned multiple weeks or at least a weekend. So with three months to go before our wedding, here we were.
From 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., we dug into the nitty-gritty of married life: managing our expectations for finances, children, chores and the inevitable disagreements. We were given organizational tools ranging from worksheets to checklists to red and green slips.
The slips were especially interesting. We couples would stand with our backs to each other, and the leader would ask questions. We’d raise our red and green slips to show our agreement or disagreement. Then we’d turn around to face each other and see if our slips matched on issues like whether we’d occasionally have a drink at day’s end, or whether we expected to get along well with our in-laws.
Faith and marriage
Suddenly I realized: This is a moment for committing not just to another person, but to our faith as well.
All of this was extremely practical and useful.
But there were certain questions that were never directly asked. Questions about our beliefs — and the practice of them. Like is attending Mass important to us — and how often? Are our future spouses on the same page? What about when we have kids? Would we want them to grow up attending church, going to catechism classes, or even attending Catholic school?
Faith-wise, what would we want to do for holidays? Not to mention facing the deserts of life — illnesses, job losses or deaths in the family. Would turning to God figure into how we coped with such painful blows?
A lot of us coast — or outright struggle — through our twenties on the religion front. Long brunches, sports training or just sleeping in fill Sunday mornings that used to be taken up by church when we were kids. I’d allowed activities both active and lazy to take me away from Mass on many a weekend, too.
Suddenly I realized: This is a moment for committing not just to another person, but to our faith as well. Wedding time is the ideal time to think about what aspects of our faith we might want to revive, or pass down to our own children.
For instance, it struck me that if we don’t currently say grace before meals at home with our future spouses because it seems too formal, it might be the moment to break through that awkward feeling and establish a habit we’d like our family to have down the line.
If just reciting the standard “Bless us O Lord” seems too rote or old-fashioned, as it did for us, we realized we could add our own line at the end, or just pause for a moment in case we wanted to add other special thoughts or intentions.
Checked in again
The church leaders were smart to make the Pre-Cana class mandatory. We were actually glad it was required! And they didn’t shove religion down our throats. They let faith become the question we asked ourselves — and each other.
After our daylong course, we had a Mass. (In another canny move, church officials designed the program so that completion certificates were given out immediately after the service, so everyone had to stay for it.)
I noticed one couple that didn’t seem to have been to church in a while. They were silent at first. Eventually he, and then she, started giving the spoken responses. By the end they were both singing. Clearly, they’d checked in again with their faith — and that’s one major thing marriage preparation is all about.