Our first marriage prep meeting was in the deacon’s office of the large parish where we were to be married. As we sat facing his desk, we noticed the shelves facing us; they were filled with binders labeled ‘Annulments A-Ba,’ ‘Annulments Ba-Ce,’ ‘Annulments Ce-Di,’ and so on. As we stared at the bewildering number of annulment binders, the deacon informed us that, as twenty-somethings, the odds are against us: statistics show married people in our age bracket are more likely to end up divorced.
We left our first meeting discouraged, our second underwhelmed, and our pre-Cana retreat scared. We desired to make our marriage preparation worthwhile, but all of the support offered by our diocese and parish left us feeling more lost and confused than ever. As an engaged person, it is often difficult to find the all-encompassing resources to feel spiritually prepared for marriage.
If you are already married and feel as though your marriage preparation was lacking, there are resources available for married couples. You can still seek a deeper understanding of this wonderful sacrament.
Although our diocesan-level preparation lacked convicting formation, we did not advocate for stronger pre-cana support for ourselves because we did not know what questions to ask. After reflecting on these shortcomings over the past year, here are some of the questions I wish I had asked in the deacon’s office.
What have been the best ways that you have seen couples prepare for marriage?
Maybe the Pre-Cana retreat in your diocese is not up to scratch, but your parish may have an excellent sponsor couple program. Working with a mentor couple who has many years of experience in marriage and marriage preparation can provide trusting relationships and additional ideas during your engagement. Ask around to friends and family as they may have recommendations as well.
What resources are available to us?
Little did we know, there is a fantastic office full of Catholic marriage counselors down the road from our parish. We never heard about these services while we were preparing for the sacrament of matrimony, probably because we never asked. Every diocese has its own resources, and there are many more online. The right resources are often hard to find, but the first step is to ask the right people in your community.
What books can you recommend?
Ask your married friends for helpful books from their engagement. Ask priests or religious sisters for books to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the sacrament of matrimony. Consult blogs and articles for recommended readings. With your beloved, consider the options and discern which resources you want to dive into together. Even if there are not many formal resources available in your area, you can form a self-guided marriage prep course with the help of a good reading list.
Are there any ministries geared toward people who are already married?
Marriage preparation is only one part of the equation. Marriage is not an easy vocation; husbands and wives need all the support they can get in a world that consistently tears down the call to marriage and family life. Are there any groups in your parish or in your diocese which can connect you with others trying to live the vocation of marriage?
There are many resources to help you prepare for your lifelong marriage, and many people who aspire to share their wisdom--and your excitement--in your preparations. Do not be afraid to ask for the things you need, both in your desires for more and in the midst of a struggle. As Matthew 7:7 reminds us, “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
About the Author: Ada Pimentel studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She married her college best friend in November 2017. When she is not teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.