What can a priest who can’t date or marry teach us about marriage? A lot, as it turns out.
Since starting my pre-Cana coursework, I have frequently wondered why my priest is so good at giving relationship advice despite being unable to marry or date. Is it because of his vast theological knowledge? Experience speaking with unsatisfied couples? Could it even be Divine intervention? Whatever the reason is, his ability to counsel my fiancee and me through the stressors that go along with being engaged has been nothing short of a blessing.
MORE TO READ: Seeing children pray out loud in school changed me
Many friends and couples who I have spoken to are apprehensive or uninterested about attending pre-Cana courses. Some are going only to reserve their childhood church for their wedding, while others are forced to go by their significant other. Whatever the reason, their negative perspective is preventing them from receiving the true value pre-Cana has to offer.
My fiancee and I have been extremely proactive in our preparation for marriage. Since the day we got engaged, our philosophy has been that we will put in as much time into preparing for marriage as we will planning our wedding—which, of course, is a lot of time.
We have read countless numbers of articles and books. With that said, I can state with confidence that we wouldn’t be anywhere close to being prepared for marriage if it weren’t for a few of the critical things we learning in pre-Cana.
1. Family planning as a shared responsibility
Planning a family is my favorite topic covered in pre-Cana. My fascination with how incredible the fertility process is for women surprised my fiancee a little, but mostly I was extremely interested in all of the benefits that come from using Natural Family Planning.
I understand that most men and women will not share my enthusiasm for NFP, but that’s not why learning about it is important. Not only is NFP the only approved by the Catholic Church to space out pregnancies, if done correctly, it is also a way to increase intimacy in a marriage by encouraging a couple to collectively understand the process of creating new of creating new life together.
During our introduction to NFP in pre-Cana, our priest said, “there will always be a reason you don’t feel prepared for having kids, but you still shouldn’t wait.” This statement really made a lot of sense to us. We will probably never feel that we have the right amount of time, money, or space in our home to have children, so why wait? Part of what makes marriage great is coming together and adapting to different commitments and shared responsibilities, and there is no greater commitment or responsibility than having a child together.
My recollection of what our priest told us doesn’t really do his point justice, which is why it’s important for other couples to go to pre-Cana themselves and take the process seriously. That’s why they can gain a better understanding of NFP and why having children is so important.
2. We are not our parents
The most beneficial knowledge and counsel my fiancee and I received from our priest in pre-Cana is advice on how to handle some of the issues that stem from our families of origin. Every couple has issues that stem from the ways in which they grew up. Both of our parents have had their own marital difficulties, but my fiancee’s have happened to be going through a very trying time during our engagement, which has made wedding planning a little harder on both of us.
Pre-Cana gave me the opportunity to discuss at length with my priest how to best handle some of the issues that had been coming up, especially the ones where it seemed like there was no obvious choice on how best to handle them.
He was great at reminding us of what’s most important and that our parents’ difficulties aren’t a foreshadow for our own. Thanks to him we have started looking at the benefits of seeing our parents struggle at times, such as the ways in which it brings us closer and thus feel more confident in our decision to get married to each other.
My fiancee and I are not alone. Families of origin will have an impact on any couple, no matter how perfect someone’s parents seem. That’s why it’s so important to have the counsel from a priest to always keep this in perspective.
3. Men need to play a leadership role in their family’s faith
Today, marriage and the Catholic faith are constantly under attack, so it was no surprise that a major topic in pre-Cana was how to keep faith in your family. Much of what was discussed were things that we already knew, such as that it’s important to have a space in your home that is obviously dedicated to prayer, or to make sure you and your children go to church every Sunday. However, some of the other aspects related to keeping your family faithful were unexpected.
Perhaps the most important of these issues was that the father will by far have the greatest impact on whether or not children will practice their faith as adults or not. This is why it’s especially important that men don’t find excuses for skipping Mass, and should often be the ones who lead prayer before a meal, even though they are the ones who are more likely to be “bad” at praying.
This knowledge helped my fiancee and me a lot. Previously, when we prayed together, a point of contention had been who would lead. She typically had pushed me to lead prayer, which I often protested. However, after pre-Cana my defensiveness did not seem reasonable any more. Now I am much more willing to lead prayer, even if I feel slightly embarrassed sometimes, because I want our future children to also have a committed relationship to God.
All of this is advice that other couples need to hear as well. I have shared a few of the things that I learned that resonated with me the most during pre-Cana, but I am confident that other couples with have different things that resonate with them more.
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