Dissatisfied with Marriage Prep

I have a question that encompasses a few different things. The first question is 'was our marriage prep valid in the eyes of the Church?'
My fiance and I are living 250 miles apart from each other and have been doing our marriage prep long distance. The priest we asked to do our marriage prep was someone I thought would not be afraid to bluntly ask us questions about our thoughts and actions towards marriage (i.e. have we ever slept together, do we plan on using contraception, etc.). It seemed that he took it all very lightly and my fiance has expressed her deep dissatisfaction with the whole experience. The priest doing our prep asked us to use the website 'catholicmarriageprep.com' which covered everything sexual in detail and then did a very brief overview of our financial habits, psychological health, etc. The priest did not bother asking too many other questions about us and although he knows me pretty well, my fiance feels that he did not even try to get to know her and her background, beliefs, etc. We met twice with the priest, did the online prep course, and then he told us that he would give his consent saying we had his approval to get married. Is this still going to be valid? Also, we are getting married in one Diocese and the priest doing the prep is from another Diocese. We did get permission from the Church where we will be married to have the aforementioned priest to do our prep.

2nd Question: Is my fiance overreacting? or am I not giving this the attention that it deserves?
I realize this is hard to determine just by reading about our circumstances, but I am hoping for some helpful input/observations. My fiance feels that we are not prepared enough for this huge change in our lives because of the seemingly lax marriage prep we received and she would like to postpone the wedding (6 months to a year). I was also disappointed in our prep experience but feel that God has called us to marry each other and that we have a very good foundation from which to start this journey. I think that postponing the wedding to do a more in depth marriage prep seems unreasonable and a bad idea. We are planning on getting married this August and will have been together for 14 months. I think we know each other well enough (as well as we can without being married). I definitely plan on praying about this but should I be more concerned?

Thanks for any input and/or advice.
God Bless,
Joe

If you’re only 250 miles apart from one another, could you both meet personally with whichever priest will marry you? 250 miles is less than five hours of driving. Yeah, it isn’t ideal, but to put it into perspective my boyfriend drives 4 1/2 hours each way every few weeks to see me, and I fly down to see him periodically, too. Would this be a lot easier if we lived in the same town? No argument at all there! But we’re both discerning marriage to one another, and for us, traveling is part of that. I think that unless you have some unusual circumstances, the two of you could probably still meet with a priest in person to do this kind of marriage prep. You’ve still got 6 months, right?

From the sounds of it, I can understand why your fiance is less than happy about this. Online sites, like the one you describe, are good for getting some of the basics out of the way, but there are some topics that are much better covered in person rather than by filling out a form. In-depth discussion of a LOT of things–or at least evidence that you two have discussed them–is crucial for marriage prep.

The fact that you only met twice with this priest–and that he isn’t the priest who will marry you–makes me extremely twitchy on the validity thing. (In fairness, there are instances when this is perfectly reasonable; if the priest who is marrying you is, say, your or her brother, the sex talks could be really uncomfortable.) If the respective dioceses have given their OKs, well, great…but it certainly isn’t ideal. Does the priest who is marrying you know you both well?

Finally, how is your communication? Have you talked about things like:
–contraception (I presume you both realize that it’s immoral?)
–NFP
–finances
–whether you’ll try for children right away
–when you have children, will mom stay home?
–philosophies about raising/disciplining children
–any debts you might have
–whether you’ll buy or rent initially
–any family issues on both sides (alcoholism, dysfunction, etc)
–If either of you has ever had sex with someone, has the person in question been tested for STDs? I don’t suggest you share the details of the, er, encounter, but a future spouse certainly has a right to know about things like HPV or what-have-you. Hopefully this isn’t an issue at all, but in today’s world…sigh
–any mental or serious physical illness problems
–how to argue

Believe me, this is only a short list. I’m sure there are other hot-button topics, but I’m trying to think of the major ones.

If you are both devout Catholics and have discussed these things (and others) in detail and have been honest with one another, then you’ve probably got a great foundation for marriage right there. It helps, though, to have a good and holy priest who can review the situation; he’ll see things that the people involved might not.

To answer whether marriage prep was valid in eyes of Church, I really don't think "valid" or "invalid" apply to preparation, only to the Sacrament. Organized marriage prep programs are a relatively new requirement. They are to help you learn more about what you are undertaking, not to have the priest get to know you better. In fact, the marriage program we participated in (Engaged Encounter) involved listening to speakers and sharing things we wrote in notebooks with just each other.

I'm not sure why you want/need a priest to ask you personal questions. You should be following what the Church teaches regarding morality (and if you are unsure about what the Church has to say, you can ask said priest!). More specifically on the example questions that you hoped the priest would ask: if you have had premarital sex, stop. If you are planning on using artificial contraception, then your marriage would not be valid since you'd be lying during the ceremony. You are the one who needs to know her background, beliefs, et cetera as you are marrying her, not the priest.
Preparing for marriage is your responsibilty. Reading Theology of the Body for Beginners was great preparation for us, and also reading anything else pertinent about marriage (Handbook for the Engaged and Newlyweds was pretty good and I'm currently reading Fulton J. Sheen's Three to get Married).
Your wedding is not tomorrow...august is a while away. You still have about 5 months and a head start on preparation! Most diocese require just 6 months preparation so that seems adequate as long as you are taking this time seriously. In fact, long engagements don't seem adviseable for many reasons (especially since I imagine a long distance relationship adds strain). Use this time prayerfully. Maybe you could open the lines of communication with your fiance and be pro-active about creating your own marriage prep. Pray for her. Pray with her. And listen to her fears and reservations.
I hope at least one thing in this post helps you in some way. God bless you and your future wife.

My marriage is the product of a LDR. I know the difficulties.

We met with the priest a couple times. One of our visits had us separated and answering questions about each other. When we were back together again he told us, "You passed. 100% agreement." I don't remember exactly what he asked, but it was a way of gauging whether we really knew each other well.

We went to the mandatory Engaged Encounter weekend. That was a big bonus. The facilitator couples' presentations were not too good, the priest's presentations were okay. But the workbook was a great tool. After each talk, we were separated to answer the questions in that section. Then we reunited, handed our book to the other, and read the responses. They told us to read the answers at least twice before we said anything. Then discuss anything that jumped out at us. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised at how many of our answers were identical. We had, as an example, the same answer for the question, "What was your most memorable date?"

When my Brother and Sister In Law went, three couples called it off. At our retreat, I heard a couple guys discussing their poker game Saturday night. One guy got cleaned out, playing until 4 AM! His fiance looked really upset the next morning. Can you imagine not being able to go from 6 PM Friday to 4 PM Sunday without gambling? Red flag isn't strong enough. One of my coworkers went to his retreat and said a couple had a huge fight that carried over into the meeting room. Two of us who had gone to these retreats had told him about it and said, "The whole point of the retreat is to make you break up." He thought we were lying, until he came back and told us about that fight! But it's a whole lot easier to call it off before the vows!

If you think you need more prep, cancel the plans and reschedule for a later date. Even if you lose a few deposits, it will be money well spent if you later decide that you shouldn't be married to each other.

[quote="jmay2856, post:1, topic:275364"]

2nd Question: Is my fiance overreacting? or am I not giving this the attention that it deserves?

[/quote]

I think she's overreacting. From what you said about her complaints, it sounds like she already knows what is expected of her. Marriage prep, among other things, is supposed to educate the couple as to what is expected of them from the Sacrament, and both of you seem to have a handle on that aspect. The priest is trying to accomodate you in your situation. And you have the permission of the marrying priest, who said it was fine to use him for the marriage prep. With the climbing prices of gas, and the time factor, I'd appreciate their willingness to do a long distance class. Some priests may not be that empathic and require a whole lot of commuting.

[quote="jmay2856, post:1, topic:275364"]

I realize this is hard to determine just by reading about our circumstances, but I am hoping for some helpful input/observations. My fiance feels that we are not prepared enough for this huge change in our lives because of the seemingly lax marriage prep we received and she would like to postpone the wedding (6 months to a year).

[/quote]

In what does she need more preparation specifically. Does she not know the answers to these questions, or does she need affirmation and encouragment?

[quote="jmay2856, post:1, topic:275364"]
I think that postponing the wedding to do a more in depth marriage prep seems unreasonable and a bad idea. We are planning on getting married this August and will have been together for 14 months. I think we know each other well enough (as well as we can without being married). I definitely plan on praying about this but should I be more concerned?

[/quote]

To be honest, without knowing more, I'd say that she is not ready and needs more time. Marriage prep, like any other class, is what you make of it. If you feel the direction is lacking, then do your own research. Start with the Catechism, and Humanae Vitae, and even Theology of the Body.

[quote="jmay2856, post:1, topic:275364"]
I realize this is hard to determine just by reading about our circumstances, but I am hoping for some helpful input/observations. My fiance feels that we are not prepared enough for this huge change in our lives because of the seemingly lax marriage prep we received and she would like to postpone the wedding (6 months to a year). I was also disappointed in our prep experience but feel that God has called us to marry each other and that we have a very good foundation from which to start this journey. I think that postponing the wedding to do a more in depth marriage prep seems unreasonable and a bad idea. We are planning on getting married this August and will have been together for 14 months. I think we know each other well enough (as well as we can without being married). I definitely plan on praying about this but should I be more concerned?

Thanks for any input and/or advice.
God Bless,
Joe

[/quote]

If your fiance wants to postpone the wedding, please listen to her.A really poor way to begin married life would be 1/2 of the couple feeling rushed/unprepared/not ready for such this massive lifetime commitment. You feel ready to get married and she doesn't; you have to respect that.

From what you're saying she doesn't want to call off the wedding, just delay it for a few months. Spend that time getting additional marriage preparation and counselling, praying for your marriage vocation, and getting to know each other more.

It's much, much better to delay your marriage for a year and both of you feel ready to begin your vocation together then to marry when one person still - for whatever reason - doesn't feel prepared.

Luna

My gut impression is that your fiancee is having doubts about how ready she is to marry and is using your poor pre-cana experience as her excuse. But of course, I don't know her at all.

The Church is responsible for preparing Catholics to receive the sacraments but we are responsible for ourselves as well. Why not make your own premariage preparation? Commit to reading Castii Connubi, Theology of the Body, and other marriage prep books together. Talk about finances, chores, children, and your childhoods more in depth. See if you can meet with a priest together for spiritual direction, or ask her to start meeting with a priest for spiritual direction herself.

Pray. It sounds like she's scared. I was scared during my engagement too.

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