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March 27, 2008
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Planning My Wedding and Searching My Soul, Part 2, by Kristen Glenn
Part of me is happily ordering invitations  and selecting bridal attire; the other half is picking apart my relationship with Michael, and contemplating the haunting advice of my well-meaning mother: 'Don´┐Żt get married. Marriage is hell.'

FOCCUS
An "internationally used inventory designed to provide engaged couples and those working with them a personalized profile of what is needed in their marriage preparation process."

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Planning My Wedding and Searching My Soul, Part 1.

I put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth. That´┐Żs when the worries started: Was I getting married because my fertility was slipping away? Because I was tired of being chaste?

Godspy


Last Thursday Michael and I meet with Fr. Sylvester for our first real Pre-Cana counseling session. Fr. Sylvester is a young priest; his love for the Faith, for the priesthood, radiates on his smiling face. He's witty and fun to talk to, but there's no denying that behind his charm and congenial manner, there's a no-nonsense vein running through him. He's dead serious about marriage and we better be too´┐Żafter all, this is a one-shot deal, right?

While Michael was taking the FOCCUS test, a pre-marital questionnaire to assess our compatibility, Fr. Sylvester interviewed me. The first order of business: place my hand on the bible and swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth as God as my witness. This really was serious.

Fr. Sylvester: "Are you free to marry?"

Me: Good, an easy question. I felt confident. I reply, "Yes. I have never been married." No husbands hiding in the closet.

Fr. Sylvester: "Will you accept children into the marriage?"

Me: Enthusiastically I say, "Yes." (Lots!´┐ŻI think to myself´┐ŻIf my biological buzzer doesn't beat me to the church.)

Fr. Sylvester: "Do you have any reservations about this marriage?"

Me: I hesitate. "Well..." my shaky voice says.

Now the difficult questions begin. But if I spill out all of my worries, maybe he'll refuse to marry us?
Now the difficult questions begin. If I spill out all of my worries, maybe he'll refuse to marry us? Besides, my concerns seem to blow with the wind´┐Żsometimes they're calm, and other times there's a tornado of ugly looking worries twisting and turning in my brain, raising all kinds of blinding bits of dust. Michael says I worry too much, that I'm high strung´┐Żthat everything will be okay. "We're meant to be together," is always his response. He has a calming effect on me.

Fr. Sylvester: "Kristen, in the 'free,' 'total,' 'faithful,' 'fruitful' that's needed for a good marriage, I see that you may be lacking in the 'total' area," he says pointedly, but with kindness.

Prior to our getting engaged, Michael and I met with Father on three other occasions to talk about some of the obstacles in our relationship. He's tried to help (primarily me) discern God's will, regarding marriage.

Me: "Father, you know my concerns´┐Żreservations?" I proceed to tick off the most troublesome: "I have reservations that Michael is not Catholic. I feel fear that maybe the marriage will not work out." I let out a sigh "I am 35 years old. It's scary to think about taking such a big step. I think it is easier for twenty-somethings to get married. Don't you?"

Fr. Sylvester: "Perhaps, but I don't usually see this much hesitancy."

Me: "Yes, I have reservations. But I love Michael. For the last two years we have spent almost every waking minute together outside of work. Sophia (my seven-year-old daughter) and I are attached to Michael. I know that the 'total' doesn't seem to be there, but once I make the commitment, I'll be true to my word," I say firmly. Father seems satisfied with my answer.

Fr. Sylvester: "Okay. Let's move on. Are you getting married out of fear? Are you afraid Michael is your one and only chance to get married?"

Me: How do I answer a question like that! For goodness sake I am under oath. My mind races. "No." I wonder... did I lie?

Fr. Sylvester: "You hesitated again."

Me: "These are serious questions... I think I have a few good years left in me. After all, Michael is not the only guy that has ever wanted to marry me."

Fr. Sylvester: "Really?"

I was tired of being abstinent. Holding hands and friendly kisses were not going to cut it much longer.
On the hour drive home I wondered again if I lied under oath... Was I really getting married out of fear? I can certainly feel my fertility slipping away from me´┐Żwhile my baby hunger continues to grow. Was I getting married mostly because I wanted children? Of course, I am, partly. What's wrong with that anyway? It's normal. After all, God put Michael in our lives. He gave me the natural desire to want to have babies, to desire companionship and intimacy. I like the idea of having a Michael Jr.´┐Ża baby boy that looks just like him. I imagine holding baby Mikey in my arms: I can almost smell the wonderful scent of his fat satiny cheeks, feel him nuzzled against my milk heavy breast.

I started to think about the other reasons I wanted to marry Michael´┐Żhigh on the list was sex. I find Michael to be incredibly attractive. I am constantly drinking in his chiseled features, his blue-green eyes (the color of a Husky dog), his broad shoulders. I'm tired of being abstinent. I couldn't go on dating him another two years without physical intimacy. I'd shoot myself. Holding hands and friendly kisses were not going to cut it much longer. Surprisingly, being chaste is easier for him than it is for me.

I also enjoy being with Michael. Our companionship is priceless. We feel comfortable around each other. He never gets angry with me. Granted, we're not kindred spirits, but if I wait for my 'soul mate' to come along, will I be throwing away the best man who has ever entered my´┐Żour´┐Ż lives?

Sophia´┐Żshe's another big reason I want to marry Michael. I can see that she loves him and he loves her. Having Sophia in the mix clouds things considerably.

Michael and I are attached at the heart, but my mind sometimes whispers to me in the quiet of the morning that this relationship has too many problems. I've pretty much stopped praying about our relationship´┐ŻI just worry. I prayed and prayed in the beginning. I asked God to take Michael away, if it wasn't His will that we be together. Sophia and I prayed a 30-day Novena asking the Blessed Virgin to intercede to help me know if Michael was the one. I asked friends and strangers to pray for us. I never got a clear cut answer´┐Żor maybe I didn't listen. I took the peaceful silence to mean, "yes".

I worry that I've never met his family. Michael has an estranged relationship with his mom, his only living parent. He doesn't even plan to invite her to the wedding. He is afraid that she will try to run his life, our marriage. His desire to get away from his family propelled him to move thousands of miles away from his childhood home´┐Żotherwise we would have never meet. Eligible bachelors don't usually move to rural Pennsylvania.

My mother´┐Żs words sometimes echo in my head, ´┐ŻKristen, don´┐Żt ever get married. Marriage is hell."
I feel a gaping hole in our relationship, which faith could fill. I desire more than anything to share my Catholic spirituality with Michael, but he prefers to keep religion private´┐Żthough he respects my love of the Church. I feel lonely when he doesn't come to Mass with us. I stopped asking long ago´┐Żthough sometimes he surprises me and offers to go with us. Sometimes I feel resentful. I fume about his sleeping in because he spent the night refereeing and is sleeping late instead of praying with us.

My mind and my heart aren't in full communication´┐Żcommunion. I see the problems, but I'm entangled in his love, his strong comforting embrace, his love of my daughter.

I wonder´┐Żam I supposed to be 100% sure that Michael is the man I should marry? Can anyone be 100% sure? What about divorced couples? Weren't they 100% sure´┐Żwithout a doubt?

I also question whether I fear commitment. It's scary and wonderful to think about sharing my life with one man. But if I find that my worries were real, will I be strong enough to endure the rough patches? Will he? After all, Michael's dad walked out on his mom and two brothers when Michael was a toddler.

My parents stayed together, but it wasn't a match made in heaven; their marriage difficulties (particularly when I was a child) have left an ugly scar on my memories. I fear the pain marriage can cause wife and husband. My mother's vehement words sometimes echo in my head´┐Ż"Kristen, don't ever get married. Marriage is hell"´┐Żas if I were eleven-years-old again.

I used to take my mother's side, but now I see that my parents were poorly matched; there was no finger to point, no blame to cast on one more than the other. They make due, but I want more than to just make due. I want to be drunk with love and happiness.

I'm both excited and a little anxious for our next meeting with Father. When I call him to set up the appointment to go over the FOCCUS test results, I ask jokingly, "Did we fail the test?"

"No," Father replies. "No you didn't."

(To be continued.)

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April 20, 2004

KRISTEN GLENN is currently working on her memoirs, entitled "Cheers to Providence."

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READER COMMENTS
07.22.04   alexander caughey says:
Our friend the deacon, has impressed me with his contribution, knowing that a further bravo for our church, is always an incentive for those who devote so much of their time to helping all who need the sort of help that will assist them on their journey into married life. That the process of acquainting potential marriage partners with the wherewithal, per the requirements of our church, is an admirable attempt to ensure that a couple are made aware of their responsibilities to wards each other, should not stop us from emphasising the need for the couple to ensure that in the final analysis, they, and not the church are the factors that will determine the success or failure of their marriage. No church process or ceremony can make a marriage work and it is with this thought that I salute our church for trying to ensure that couples take a lot more responsibility for their own happiness, for happiness is found in Heaven, when the couple enter Heaven, by living according to the words of Christ, to live in service of all.

07.12.04   deacondog says:
As a deacon in the Latin rite of the catholic church, I perform the same tasks as the priest does in the marriage preparation process. What Fr. Sylvester is doing and what I do is not acting as a marriage counselor or psychologist. What we do is to prepare the bride and groom with information regarding the requirements to be married in the catholic faith. The church views each sacrament as so important to the spiritual life of the individual, and in this case couple, that we want to make sure that they are intimately aware of each person's responsibility in the marriage. The questions that the priest is asking is part of the freedom to marry questionaire. I am not certain why the groom wasn't mentioned in this process. He is required to take this questionaire under oath as well, even if he is not catholic. The purpose of this freedom tp marry is to be absolutely sure their are no impediments for the couple to be married in the church. I have done many of these interviews and it is quite amazing how many people are confused about whether they have been married or not. This may sound unreal, but a recent couple of mine there was a 19 year old who was married and divorced within the same year somehow thought that the marriage he perviously was in somehow didn't count. So when I had asked him in the begining of the process if he had ever been married he said no! The other part of the process is the FOCUS. This is a 175 question inventory the reviews viewpoints and attitudes about important issues in marriage as well as asking the couple questions surrounding their intimacy, communication skills, preparedness to be married, friends, spiritual life and sexuality. Once I get the results back I sit down with the couple and provide the results of the answers. There is no passs or fail. I have had couple that disagreed on 50% of the questions who were wonderful for each other and I have had others who disagreed on very few who were a disaster for each other. As far as the comment that a priest is not qualified to handle this area of expertise. I hope that with the information that I have provided that Alexander will see that what the church provides is spiritual guidance and sacramental information for our faithful. We are certainly more than qualified to do that. Rev. Deacon PW

05.17.04   alexander caughey says:
If marriage is the indicator of success in any loving relationship then best not get married. For with some sixty per cent of American marriages ending in divorce (or annulment) it would be premature to enlist the assistance of a RC priest as an assessor and adviser in an anticipated marriage, when the self-same adviser has taken a vow never to marry and to remain celibate. Further, that the priest in question is young, might indicate that the approaching marriage is best left to the experience of the prospective marriage partners and their willingness to understand that with the best will in the world, even marriages "made in heaven" are prone to an end not far removed from hell. No marriage can be guaranteed and despite the attempts by many well intentioned people (bravo for our Church)there is no known formula for assessing the prospects for a successful marriage. That the couple in question are mature in age and I presume experience of life, is an ingredient that will assist the couple to weather the storms that beset all marriages and hopefully will be enough to ensure that the relationship, soon to be blessed in Holy Matrimony, will be the "glue" that will fix some of the problems that all marriages experience, when people expect Heaven, after the Church ceremony. The essentials of any fruitful relationship are patience, gratitude, understanding and forgiveness, always bound together in a bouquet of love of all that two human beings, living together in love of all that they experience, can ever offer each other. That problems will occur, is but the growth of the partners and their respective relationship. That the marriage ceremony will confirm that which is already in flower, would suggest that there should be no fear in getting married, for the outcome will be the same, whether marriage intervenes or not.

05.17.04   sem says:
looking forward to Part 2...

04.19.04   Godspy says:
I put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth. That´┐Żs when the worries started: Was I getting married because my fertility was slipping away? Because I was tired of being chaste?

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