During our engagements season, we were required by the Catholic Church to participate in/complete several different programs. Each program helped us grow in our Faith and in our relationship with one another in different ways. We are posting our experiences here for those who would like to know what to expect from each program.
Marriage Prep Course
The marriage prep course we took was recommended to us by our really good friend and mentor from the Academy. It was an online course run by Chritian and Christine Meert in Colorado Springs. The course really helped us explore the roots of marriage and helped us build a solid foundation of the theology behind marriage. After setting that foundation, the course explored the practical aspects of marriage in light of the Church’s teaching. It covered topics ranging from the institution of marriage as a Sacrament to the sacredness of sex in marriage; from why artificial contraception is against the Church’s teaching to proper financial management tips. During each of the nine courses, we were given an assigned reading, after which we were required to answer anywhere from 15-40 questions. Each question stimulated discussions that helped continue to build the foundation on which our relationship is founded. We were also assigned a “tutor couple” who went over our responses to the discussion questions online. They were very quick to give us feedback on our responses, providing us with a new perspective from which to see many of the Church’s teachings. We HIGHLY recommend this course for anyone preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony, especially those who are not in the same state for most of their engagement.
The FOCCUS Questionnaire
The FOCCUS engagement questionnaire was a multiple choice worksheet administered to each of us by our deacon at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It’s a tool that the Church uses to ensure that couples getting married have already talked about all the potential obstacles they may have to overcome during their marriage. It has over 200 statements such as “I am concerned about my partner’s spending habits,” to which a response of “I agree”, “I don’t know”, or “I disagree” is selected. The questionnaire provided us with quite a few hearty laughs, as confusion in the answer sheet led Kamaya to believe that I was concerned about her “drinking problem,” among other things. Her face was priceless as she sat puzzled at the other end of the table, racking her brain as to the last time she had drunk more than a single drink. All confusion and hearty laughs aside, it offered us the opportunity to look at our relationship from our partner’s point of view.
Engaged Encounter is a weekend retreat that is offered by parishes all across the United States. Two couples lead the retreat – they read from a personalized pre-prepared script about their experiences with the topic being covered. After finishing the reading/talk, each couple is given time to write their own thoughts individually (men and women are separated for this part). After about 15 minutes, the couple meets up in a dorm room and discusses what they have written. We found the format of the talks to be a little impersonal at first, but realized that it helps provide uniformity and makes leading the retreat more accessible to the average, experienced Catholic couple living according to the teachings of the Church. The couples that were on the retreat with us came from all walks of life, and it was awesome being able to hang out with them and share stories. An advantage to the retreat is that it is not dependent upon the other couples taking the retreat with you. Each couple gets out of the retreat exactly how much they put into it. We found that even though some of the discussion questions might not apply, other questions could be taken to a deeper, more intimate level that could spur very fruitful discussions as a couple.
Complete training in the Art of Natural Family planning is given through four, two hour classes over the course of four months. The four month time span allows the couples to start/get practice charting so that they are ready to live NFP by the time the wedding comes around. Unfortunately, Maic was only able to attend one of the courses because of our distance during the engagement season. This being said, however, he diligently went over the readings and helped look at the charts and analyze them as we were going through the training. This helped us maintain the mindset that living NFP is BOTH of our responsibility, not just one person’s.