Disappointed with Catholic Marriage Prep


I have been struggling with the Catholic marriage prep processing, and I don’t really know what to do. I felt like my faith was so much more solid before the processing than it is now. I was SO looking forward to formation with my husband-to-be, something that would help us establish deeper ties with our Savior, with our Church, with each other, and with our families and friends in Christ. What has happened has been a nightmare of bureaucracy. I am so sad… so sad… It’s all about rules regardless of how much it hurts people. They want to make me take a FOCCUS personality test with my fiance, ostensibly to improve communication between us. But they won’t let us take it together, and they keep the answers but we don’t ever get to see them. I’ve done some research into the FOCCUS test, and apparently it asks people the same question like 9 different times. That is the type of test that is used to trip up criminals – intelligence orgainzations use them all the time with suspects. Why can’t we just talk about things like rational human beings? Why are we treated like criminals? Is this really what Christ wants for us?

Do you know I’ve woken up to the call to pray in the middle of the night for weeks on end… would spend hours in prayer in the middle of the night, which only increased my awe and love for our Lord, which made me realize I know so little about His realities, but I didn’t care, because I was shown how strong He is and how much He loves us… And I have been attacked in the middle of the night by a slinky, wraith-like creature who was trying to get my attention… it was dark and silky, and as black as I have ever witnessed… and as I continuously turned my back on this thing and cried out to the Lord that He is my king… the God of Abraham is my God… and the thing kept trying to come at me from all sides… and I kept turning away with my calling out to the Lord… and finally the thing went away, and angels came to comfort me, and I didn’t go back to sleep but sat on the floor of the hotel room with my back up against a wall, shaking and yet comforted, praying until the sun came up… You see, that weekend, I was there to see my priest-friend ordained as a Bishop. I was with my fellow music minister… Thank God she was there…

WHERE WERE ALL THE PRIESTS TO HELP ME WITH THIS? They were too busy with the bureaucracy imposed on them by powerful people, the bureaucratic control freaks who run the Catholic Church. The Pope isn’t a bureaucratic freak, so why the hell is the American Catholic Church?

I want to go back to the Orthodox Church, where people treat me like family, but my fiance says it’s a grave sin to leave the Catholic Church. I don’t want to go to hell.

I am so sad… so lonely…

Where are the St Johns of the Cross? Where are the St Teresa of Avilas? Where is ANYONE to help me with this… ?

My fiance says that we need to be in the “right” Church. He was crying last night because he wants Christ to watch over us, and we really need to be in the Church He wants for us… I so want that too… but I am so confused… why do Church people force secular things onto the ones who just want a simple, deep, and meaningful faith life? Why this FOCCUS thing? Everyone keeps telling me “it’s fun”… you know what? That’s what most people think about sex too, but when it is forced on people, it’s called something else.

Aren’t there any people who just practice plain old-fashioned Christianity without being forced to partake in this modernist psychobabble BS? Why can’t we just talk about things like family? Why are people processed? Coming from a traditional Arab family, this is all so… demeaning and shallow.

Anyway, thanks to whomever actually finished reading my venting. lol. I actually feel better, but some helpful advice would be good too.


Dear sadPanda, congratulations on your engagement, I pray the Lord blesses you and your husband with a long and fruitful marriage. I picked up on a few different frustrations in your post. First, with regards to FOCCUS. I will start by saying that I have never taken it so can’t provide much insight. With that said, my understanding is it used as a tool to spark communication between couples looking to be married in the Church. You and your husband sound like you have a very strong faith background and are communicating well and I applaud you for that. Unfortunately, this is not the case with all engaged couples and the divorce rates even among Catholics bear this out. I have been married now for almost 20 years and can attest that communication along with prayer and worship of God are the most important tools in any marriage. As much as you love your husband you can be assured that you will be confronted in your life with many difficult situations that will stretch you both to your limit; prayer and communication will be the difference between you both growing closer to each other in these times rather than falling apart. There is an old saying of “don’t sweat the small things”, this is particularly important in marriage. Try not to sweat this FOCCUS requirement, rather discuss it with your fiance and embrace the possibility that it may help you both get to know each other even better. Remember, the Sacrament of Marriage is performed by you and your fiance, the Church will not/can not force you to abandon your marriage plans no matter what the assessment brings to light. The attached link provides some insight from others who have already gone through the process.


A couple of other notes. Your personal revelations show that the devil is always looking to pull us from our Savior. Seems to me your love for God and His Church are your strong points. The devil enjoys attacking our strong points, beating us in the areas of life that we hold sacred. Don’t let your frustrations with this FOCCUS requirement or the bureaucracies of the Church become an opening where the evil one can slip back in. Keep those angels that you experienced always near by comforting you.

The Church is made of men and women so there will always be things that frustrate us, rather than let it become a hindrance looks for ways you and your new spouse can change this. Pray for our priests and all ordained as their jobs are not an easy one.

And finally, the St. Johns and St. Teresa’s are always there for us. Pray for their intercession, I’m sure they experienced many of the frustrations that you are experiencing.

Okay, no more ramblings from this sinner trying to get closer to Jesus. My prayers are with you. God bless…


I took the FOCUS test earlier this year. This is not a personality test. This is more of a communication inventory to see if there are any important areas that you and your fiancee have not discussed priror to marriage (like views on religion, child raising, family life etc.). Our priest meet with us once the test was scored, gave us our answers and helped us go over the answers and talk about the things that we had not previously discussed (we didn’t have many). They ask you to take the test apart from one another so that they get honest answers, if you two take it together and put the same answers on every question just so they match then it defeats the purpose of the “test”.


In your post you made the following assumptions about the Church for telling you to take the FOCCUS test:

  1. The Church thinks you are a criminal and is trying to confuse you and trip you up.
  2. The Church is trying to force you into sinning because the FOCCUS test is comparable to having premarital sex.
  3. The Church is wasting your time with “modernist psychobabble BS.”

Where is the charity in any of those assumptions? Where is the submission to the Church which [rightly, I might add] has the authority to control who receives the sacraments and how they should be prepared to receive them?

Did I like the way my marriage prep was run? Not particularly. Did I think it could have been done better? Absolutely, but it is a far cry from me saying things could have been improved and me assuming that the people in charge were acting in bad faith.

By the way, my fiance and I had been in a relationship for five years before we started marriage prep, and the FOCCUS test still brought up some good discussions about things that we had never thought of. Things that definitely needed to be talked out before we got married. The time we spend in marriage prep is not long enough to cover every scenario that might need to be discussed. There needs to be a method to focus (pardon the pun) on the issues that are most important to cover with each specific couple. If the FOCCUS test is the method that the Church, in her wisdom, requires, who are we to complain.


I am sorry you feel this way.

Marriage preparation is a time of growing closer to each other, Christ, and your family. And, that has nothing to do with the premarital interviews, examination of freedom to marry, and other “beaurocracy” items that, yes, must be completed prior to marriage.

The proximate preparation for marriage is something that the two of you do with each other, not something the Church does for you.

Not exactly. The FOCCUS instrument is not a personality test. It’s not a **test **at all. It’s an instrument that indicates areas of agreement, disagreement, and discussion needed. There’s a big difference.

Of course not. You each answer the inventory individually.

This is not true. The facilitator shares results with the couple when discussing with them, and you also receive the FOCCUS on the Future book.

This is not tru****e at all. I don’t know where you got the idea that the FOCCUS test is trying to trip people up or that the Church views anyone in this manner. That’s not the purpose of the FOCCUS test, and that’s not the methodology of the FOCCUS test.

I think you’ve gotten very worked up over nothing. But, I encourage you to talk individually-- by appointment-- with your priest about your concerns.

These are things to discuss with your spiritual director.

You seem to be under the impression that all things modern are bad. There are bad applications of many sciences, psychology among them. The FOCCUS instrument isn’t one of those.

It’s sort of ironic that the FOCCUS test can facilitate discussion on the things above that you say you desire.

Fr. Groeschel, who I deeply respect and who is very orthodox, has a degree in psychology. His books on spirituality are AWESOME.

Please talk individually with your priest.


You sound like you might be happier in a traditional Catholic parish. Perhaps you can find one in your area. These parishes have the traditional Latin Mass (also called the extraordinary form) and can often be found by looking for the Mass. If you were to ask on the traditional Catholicism sub-forum here on CA people might be able to help you find one.

Some traditional Catholic parishes are not in communion with the Pope, but many are, so I encourage you to look for this. You would find people who share your dislike of modernism and perhaps you would be more comfortable.


I concur totally with 1ke's clarifications of what the FOCCUS is about.

I actually administer them about 2-3 times a year, and from about 1997-2005 or so my wife and I actually went over the results with the engaged couple (we had special training to do this but now the priests take care of it). Nowadays we administer the FOCCUS on the evening before our weekend Pre-Cana program. As they leave the couple's invariably start talking about "what did you say about such-and-such?", which is perfect as it puts them in the right frame of mind for the rest of the weekend (trust me, many couples do not relish their marriage preparation like you do).

FOCCUS is not a perfect instrument but it is very useful: I do hope you discard your preconceived notions and take it with an open heart and mind -- no couple that I ever worked with did not get a lot out of it.

I reiterate to the original poster, 1ke clarified a lot of your misconceptions and I hope you consider his/her input wisely.

God Bless you both!


They used the FOCUSS in my diocese too. It’s really not all that bad and it is NOT any sort of “test.” What it is is a series of questions that tries to help couple ensure that they have really talked through many of the issues that the Church has SEEN cause issues many times in the past. It is a really good idea, though weakened by the bureacratically implemented multiple choice format.

Bureacracy cuts two ways. On the one hand, it does tend to sterilize the feel of authenticity, especially in spiritual matters. On the other hand, it has significant potential for limiting the damage that can be caused by rogue individuals (priests or lay) who are inclined to abuse their positions (via arrogance or apathy).

Don’t worry, they aren’t going to “flunk” you. :wink: The worst that will happen is that they will ask you both to work on areas where you don’t seem to have reached a consensus yet.

As for the visions, it is time to get a spiritual director! This stuff does not happen every day. God is good, He sends help. You just need to look for it.


I agree that marriage prep is often lacking. We didn’t realize that contraception was a grave sin until I came to this forum! At the prep, they presented it merely a disfavored alternative.

However, I wouldn’t worry about that inventory. Asking the same question several ways is a common way of ensuring accurate responses–so that the wording of one question does not throw off results. After all, they are merely trying to identify areas you should discuss with your spouse, not trying to convict you!

Good luck! Keep in mind, that marriage prep is mandatory, so it must work for all kinds of Catholics and non-Catholics (likely why they didn’t more strongly discourage contraception). Consider finding a good RCIA class to take with your fiancée, or a good Catholic book(s) to read together.


I totally agree with you.Psychology ie:psychobabble is invading the Church and it is invading society as a whole more and more.
Some of psychology can have a benefit,but much of it and psychiatry is not in alignment with the gospel of Jesus Christ and how we are to be to each other and we cant serve two masters-its either serving the way of God or the way of psychology.
Some of psychology is in alignment with the bible-eg CBT-but the stuff that isn’t needs to be thrown out.ALOT of psychology/psychiatry has caused much damage to people eg:forced medicating,forced hospitalisations,families split apart and turned on each other due to psychology telling people to do thing in ways that were divisive/caused fighting and wernt in alignment with bible teachings.
Pray to God that psychology leaves the church.Only the principles that are in alignment with the bibles teachings should be kept.
Its your marriage-it should be about you,your husband and guidance to make it a lovely happy marriage and according to Gods wisdom as to what makes a successful beautiful Christian marriage.
You can see that this FOCUSS psychology stuff is causing you unhappiness,hurt,sadness and anxiety so clearly it is NOT FROM GOD.
Your right,Why can’t we just talk about things like family? Why are people processed?
I come from European family and i know exactly what your saying.Theres much more focus on family working things out in Arabic and European backgrounds.
We need family and community in society.We need to get out of this psychology,clinical processing people BS and start relaxing and being down to earth and have family,community and bible.
Happy and lasting families arn’t found and made in cold clinical psychology and words like “processing” “assesments” etc.This is all control and “worldy” based etc.Alot of psychologists cant help people because they themselves arn’t in a good place themselves.
If this test is something you dont agree with,please dont just do it because “dont worry they wont flunck you” but instead really consider if this is what you wish to do.
Its YOUR marriage-its meant to be about what you and your husband want and feel will help.IE:if you feel this test would help then it would be good to do,or if you feel this test wouldn’t help then it wouldn’t be good to do.Point is,its meant to be about YOU,what you decide and helps you.Its noone else that is getting married and it is not according to bible principles to EVER force things-anything- on people.
Pray about it to God and maybe pray if its Gods will,that He guides you to a different Catholic Church that is more in line with the gospel and hasn’t moved away.
Pray that this issue is noticed by some catholic fathers and that they speak out about this.
Pray to God that we start making more communities-more community involvement and closeness in society-eg ;community centres where people can sit around and talk and have a coffee and figure out things and problems in life and discuss many different issues plus do some fun activities like crafts eg.
Lets all pray for Catholic church to stay true to Bible and love and charity as this sure isnt acting in love.Lets pray for it to come to light that things that are more psychology then bible based have come into the church and for the end of that and only the psychology things kept that are in alignment with the bible.If this is Gods will.Lets pray God guides church leaders to see the difference between bible ways and psychology ways(which is currently really popular) and that the church remains on track with teachings of love,charity,kindness,gentleness,comfort,unity etc vs power,control,forcing things on others,bureacracy etc.

I really wish all the best for you and that Jesus Christ protects you,strengthens you and comforts you and guides you.Hold onto faith in Him through this.Pray about what you should do in regards to this test.
All the best wishes for your marriage :slight_smile:


Puh-lease. It’s causing unhappiness because she doesn’t know what it is. FOCUSS is only a tool to help a couple engage in discussion. Honestly, if they’ve discussed everything as she says, FOCUSS should reflect that.

FOCUSS didn’t exist when I got married but I’ve become familiar with it & its questions because it was used in our parish for a few years (2001-2004). It’s not a personality test but will help to show the areas where the OP and her fiancé share certain beliefs, disagree on things and areas where they need to have more discussion. That’s why they both need to answer the questions separately. Otherwise the test would tell nothing. And it’s not about what you think the right answer is, it’s about what is true for you at the moment.


Calm down and listen to yourself. This is the exact same logic people use to decide that the Church is wrong about contraception and that it is perfectly OK to go ahead and use it. (or act on their homosexual inclinations, or get the divorce they want, or…)

You don’t evaluate things based on how they make you feel. You use the Faith, Fact Feelings train.

Faith is the engine and the starting place. Look there first.
Gather the facts and see how and where the faith applies and make your decision here.
Consult your feelings/conscience as a QA/QC check or go with your conscience if it still is in the grey zone. If things don’t seem right, repeat from the beginning and look for a goof in your reasoning or education.

In this case, the FOCUS tool is not psycho babble. They don’t ask you if a cigar reminds you of a penis or how you relate to your mother… It tries to help you realize that fuzzy bunny love isn’t going to be enough if one of you expects 10 kids and the other just wants to travel worldwide through life childless. Things aren’t going to work if one wants to live in a shack and save 60% of the income to retire at 45 while the other expects to live a middle class American lifestyle. These are REAL things that people make assumptions about instead of actually talking to each other about. They are things that have surfaced over and over and over again in annulment proceedings. Why would they NOT apply these lessons to people BEFORE they attempt marriage??


OP, are you by chance confusing FOCUSS with the MMPI-2 or similar tests?


I don’t like the Focus Test either but i relaize what the church is trying to. It trying to better prepare a couple for what marriage is sot that people 20 years from now aren’t applying for annulements because they weren’t aware of what marriage means. Its not all only about love or having the same religion…there is grunt work involved in making a marriage work.

We took the test about 8 weeks ago and are about a 1/3 of the way through going over the answers with the Deacon. I too thought my fiance and i had discussed all the big stuff but some times the details can get you tripped up. Its been kind of nice being able to discuss things that we didn’t know needed to be discussed. My biggest issue in disscussing is that since you only discuss the things you disagreed on that it seems so negative all the time instead of mention any of the positives. This negativity wore on me and i cried when i went home. But then my Fiance and i discussed why it effected me and we grew closer together.

Yes we didn’t take the test together but we took it in the same room. He sat on one side and i set on the other side. We didn’t talk until after we had finished. each person needs to answers the questions honestly without their partners influence otherwise the test doesn’t work.

I don’t know who told you don’t get to see the answers. If you didn’t discuss the answers then there is no point in taking the test. As my Fiance and i have gone through the answers sometimes the disagreements was really over how someone read the question. had we not gone of the answer you wouldn’t have known that. And yes the test seems like it cathces people because it is full of double negatives. Seems someone needs to learn how to write better formed questions. And yes there are a few questions i didn’t like because they seem like to answer the question they assumed you were already intimate… But over all its not a perfect prep but a good start.

Because of the prep process my fiance and i have been brutely honest with each other and are seeing all the fine details that we didn’t before. We have had some great conversations that wouldn’t have come about without the test prompting us to discuss issues. Don’t be afriad…recongize they why the church is requiring this of you and embrace it and grow with your fiance.


BTW- The FOCCUS Test is not a Psychology test at all - it was put together by a panel of Canon lawyers, some Catholic therapists, psychologists,etc, and priests.

There is also I think a misconception that the couple will not discuss their answers - this is not true. The couple should be discussing their answers but not be getting a copy of their tests as mosts couples are not qualified to read them - the reports are kept in their in their file as proof that the counseling was done in case the couple tries to file for anullment later.

It is a Sacrament between the Christ, the bride, and the groom. This is the part where the Church makes sure as the bridegroom of Christ that you are both properly prepared to receive said Sacrament.

Stop assuming and arguing and start asking and you may get further.


Hey folks…

Ack! So much to respond to… I can’t get it in one go! lol…

OK, tough stuff in part 1, happier stuff in part 2.

To the ones who are truly trying to help, thanks for the heartfelt replies.

(To the ones who are hot to jump into a debate sans any pastoral intentions, please leave me alone.)

Anyway, back to the helpful ones… I too have a degree in psych, which is why I know so much about this subject. In fact, my BA was in honors experimental psych, the first degree of five, with the last being a PhD in physics. Only reason I am telling you this is that I want folks to understand that I don’t make these accusations lightly. (BTW, 1ke, I’m sure you didn’t mean to presume I have some deep-seeded distrust of all things modern or sciency… it’s a good lesson for all of us about what assumptions does to conversations… :-P) Anyway, as undergrads we learned how to manipualte the results of a personality test (yes, that was what we called them way back when) by careful control of the wording and order in which questions are asked. It has to do with how connections are made in the brain (like if a survey question asked you if you love your mom – if this question were preceded by others which raise bad memories with your mom versus good memories, the answer to the question of loving your mom could be affected. ) It’s very important to ask questions multiple times in multiple ways, because people who are lying on the test will have a hard time remembering what they made up. That’s why these techniques are used by intelligence officers to trap criminals (I work for the DoD, and I have seen how these tests are used.)

I do understand the need for church leaders to call this FOCCUS thing something other than a test to get people to buy off on it. The problem is that, since my fiance and I have been happy to rifle through the book of questions and use them to have all sorts of fun discussions with each other, I was really looking forward to coming home to get started on working through these questions with him, but… lo and behold, they are kept secret from us. Not only that, but we can’t even talk to each other while we take the thing to clarify what the question is asking. 1ke said this isn’t supposed to be a test, and yet in the very next line, he says “of course not” to my protest that they won’t let us work through the questions together. Well, which is it? If it’s not a test, then why can’t we work on it together? Telling me that we work on it individually is a tautology, and is unhelpful. This is supposed to facilitate our communications, and yet, they won’t let us communicate in a way that actually works for us. >< How is that loving?

And speaking of compassion… 1ke, you tell me that I am getting all worked up over nothing? Sir, this whole ordeal is trashing my faith. It’s not just the FOCCUS test – it’s the utter lack of focus of the marriage prep process on how to pray with each other, on how to fight spiritual warfare, on the responsibilities of the new husband-wife person unified in Christ to the Body of Christ… There’s no time for this sort of talk, because we are too busy learning about NFP, in spite of the fact that I’m post-menopausal. >.> So yeah, I am a little upset about this – please do not trivialize this. And trust me, I have talked to priests, deacons, and even one lay FOCCUS adminstrator who laughed at me when I told her this was hurting me. Nice.

ok … off to part 2, and the happier stuffs…


Part 2:

Manualman, thanks so much for your kind comments. Unfortunately, the worst thing that can happen is that the marriage prep processing can be bad for my relationships with both my Savior and my fiance -- which is exactly what has happened.

Mswood, Miccah, ok I guess it's a grey area to me, about whether it's a personality versus a communications test/inventory/whatever. :-P I guess to me it seems like communications styles and personality types are all intertwined. I'm used to a traditional faith in which people simply can't be reduced down to anything which can be categorized, inventoried, etc. That's why I am so bad at taking these tests, and why I desperately want my fiance with me so he can help me understand what they are asking.

Flores, thank you too for your thoughtful comments/suggestions/admonitions. You know, during the first year after I converted to Catholicism, I had found a nice traditional church and fell in love with it. I was totally naive, and when I found out they were schismatic, I was mortified. Of course I left right away, did all this self-imposed penance... oh man that was crazy. >< Thing is, the way I found them is that I had tried to find a priest -- any priest -- who could help me understand and deal with the things that were happening to me in the middle of the night. The modern priests had nothing to offer because they were so in over their heads -- although one priest did mock me by saying that only holy people are attacked -- but this group had a whole lot of them who were teaching me how to fight spiritual warfare. Still, I know better than to remain associated with a schismatic group, no matter how much I need them. So... now I am without spiritual counsel again. But... sorry, ADD again... I did take a friend's advice to go to an Eastern Catholic Church, and that has helped quite a bit. My fiance, who was also struggling with his faith in the modernist church, fell in love with the Eastern Catholic Church. It looks like this may be our answer, except... the heavy-handedness of the Roman Church is unfortunately micromanaging our tiny Eastern Church to the point where we have to do this psychobabble FOCCUS thing in spite of how Eastern Christians are more about Christian mysteries -- most definitely including spiritual warfare -- than processes which are designed with a "one-size-fits-all" mindset.

So... what do I do? I have never done well with a group of people who have tried to stuff me into a mass-production assembly line. Maybe some can benefit from this FOCCUS thing, but what if it is not good for me/us? Is this Church still going to make us do something that is bad for our relationship with our Savior and each other, under the threat of denying the Sacrament unless we submit? Is this really what Christ wants for us?

Anyway. Cam, thanks for your kind suggestions! I can see you are trying to give the FOCCUS people the benefit of the doubt, and I really admire that. I know you say that they are not trying to convict us, but the fact of the matter is that they won't let us take the test together ostensibly because they want us to be honest about it -- as if we wouldn't be honest about it in the first place. >< That's not fair to us. We aren't like that, and I don't appreciate being treated like that. My dad would never stand for this, and he taught me to live with dignity.

Beckers, your experience is one that concerns me. It's not right to focus on the negative. My fiance and I have taken some other types of these tests online, and even then the questions were so confusing that there was a HUGE miscommunication between the two of us which was very hurtful. I have enough stress in my life -- why must we invent problems when we can sit down and have a conversation about things like loving adults? I think it's terrible to assume my fiance and I would not be honest with each other. Is this really what people think like in American culture?

Jjtc... awwwww... thank you so much for your encouragement... Your friends and family are very fortunate to have you in their lives.

And... Iwinc123... you are my hero. Finally, someone who knows how to do battle. So, what is the story with all this -- is it a cultural thing, you think? I mean, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about, such as the anxiety coming from things that are not of God... the people who have protested your comments on this matter forget that simple faith is one of peace, which is much different from sloth associated with selfish behaviors such as using contraception. Iwinc123, I look forward to reading your other posts... maybe I should create another username a little more happy than "sadPanda" to continue discussions. lol. At any rate, if I knew more people like you in the Catholic Church, I can't imagine I would ever consider leaving again. Dang, I wish I knew ANYONE in a local church who understands as you do. And then there is my lovely fiance... he so wants to grow in the faith and needs male spiritual friends like you... ugh, I wish I knew how to find real spiritual companionship with people of our own sex. Right now, the only guidance I am getting on down-to-Earth spiritual friendship is from books written by Orthodox priests. Do you have any advice or encouragement for finding spiritual friends in the Catholic Church? Is it a cultural issue? The Eastern Catholic Church we are attending is very nice, and they are focused, devoted people who are very intense with their worship... I'm just afraid to start any conversations about spiritual topics with any of them because of my past experiences with people in the Catholic Church. That's wrong of me, right?

Ugh... my magnificent distraction is calling... time for dinner... so thanks to all for your helpful comments. Take care, and... I'll try to keep y'all posted.

Forever Yours in Christ,
Panda, a little less sad...


OK, it sounds to me like the issue is not the test itself but the Parish you are havin your prep done.

When my dh and I went through this - and here is what I am confident I can tell you without completely destroying the test for you:

  1. Each answer is only agree, disagree, or unkown
  2. There is no right or wrong it is just whether or not your agrees and disagrees fall in the same places as your fiancees and whether or not your agrees and disagrees raise any red flags with Church doctrine. There are some like - I am afraid my partner will grow a second head and stab me in my sleep three months into the marriage (made up for the validity of the test) that would definetly raise a red flag if you said that you agreed. Then granted there are some that after 150 questions you just pencil the wrong one. At my parish my dh and I discussed every single question that we did not answer the same way and in agreeance with the Church until we and the deacon were satisfied. Why the deacon - he has life experience being married. And he did a lot of my dh’s confiration stuff so i was cool.
  3. I completely agree you should not have gotten the blow off and I do apologize and I think I see now what the issue is - and a big part of this is that you don’t see yourself as fitting the “mold” which is causing others to quickly not see you as fitting the “mold”
  4. The biggest thing you can do for yourself is to remember that obedience is first what is required and then do extra to help your prep. The Catholic Church has been in the marriage business for a very long time. So has the Orthodox. Sometimes we can be just as lving - sometimes they can be just as cold. The problem is not the Church - the problem is sometimes the people in it.


I can see that you're aching for something real and substantial in your marriage prep, Panda. Sadly, most marriage prep programs are designed for the "least common denominator" of Catholics seeking the sacrament of marriage. Honestly, they are full of a lot of apologetics, trying to "sell" people on the Church's teachings on marriage, and then (in my experience) the rest is filled out with relationship tips.

My first piece of advice for dealing with the stuff that you think is a waste of time is to laugh it off and just do it. But it sounds like you are honestly struggling with these things and they are paining you and adding difficulties to your relationship with your fiance. So my suggestion then is to treat it as a cross, a bit of suffering, that God intends for you at this time. Who knows, you might learn something, if not from the content then from the experience of "offering it up".

I share your frustrations with the "bureaucratic red tape," but honestly it is designed to protect the sacrament and insure that the couples entering into the sacrament of matrimony are well-catechized enough to make such a decision and to live their vocation well. Perhaps it would be best for you to seek out additional marriage prep/formation through your pastor? Some one on one meetings bringing up the specific questions you have would probably benefit you much more than the "programs" at your parish.

Finally, as for the FOCCUS. I know that everyone says it's not a "test," and in some sense it's not. It's not as if you have to "pass" it in order for the Church to allow you to be married. But in another sense, it is a personality test. I know this because when my husband and I took it, they told us that in the personality test portion of it we had less than 60% "raw compatibility" of our personalities. This was an "area of concern" for them, but since we "passed" the section on marriage as a sacrament/lifelong covenant "with flying colors," they didn't make an issue of it. So yes, depending on who is going through the FOCCUS results with you, it can be treated as a test or viewed as such, even as it is not something that will probably ever prevent you from being married in the Church. :shrug:

We found the whole process to be entertaining and curious, but it didn't lead us to have deep discussions about anything we hadn't already talked about. If I recall correctly, we spent more time in our review session with the facilitator couple explaining our shared rationale behind our answers then we did explaining the answers or questioning one anothers'. Overall I am also unimpressed by most diocesan programs for marriage preparation, as they do little to help committed Catholics who are marrying for the right reasons, and perhaps even less to convince un-committed Catholics who are marrying for the wrong ones.

God bless you as you prepare for your wedding day and married life :)


Yes, I do see what assumption does to a conversation: I am not a he.

I believe it might be difficult to continue contributing on this thread in any way that would make you happy, I will be exiting now.

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