This past year has been one of the greatest years of my life. While the New Year began with its usual resolutions: get in better shape, eat better, etc., everything changed at the end of February, when I got engaged to my beautiful fiancé, Alissa. The joy and anticipation we felt were like nothing I had ever experienced in my entire life. We were so excited to dream, not only about the wedding day, but also about what married life would look like for us.
We also knew that while planning the wedding was important, we needed to ensure that it did not consume us. Below are some highlights and my thoughts from this past year in my experience as an engaged man in ministry. Those of you who are discerning a vocation to marriage may find this helpful as you pray through where God is calling you. For those of you who are currently engaged or married, feel free to comment below and add your own thoughts and experiences.
It is essential to maintain an active prayer life, especially while being engaged. Now, I must admit, this was more difficult than I thought it would be. In ministry, there is already a lot to do, and when you add planning a wedding into that mix, it can be easy to cut your prayer time. But, this can’t happen, and we needed to do everything we could to be sure to spend time in prayer on our own and together. After all, it was prayer that led us to this vocation. Whether taking time for a Holy Hour, Daily Mass, reading scripture, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we knew that our relationship with God must come first for our own hearts and our relationship.
I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to this especially since our Diocese had just moved to a minimum 9-month marriage preparation process. As someone who has worked for the Church for over 10 years, it was tempting to take the easy way out and see if I could use some connections to speed the process up. I am so glad that we chose to be obedient to what the Diocese asked because marriage prep was absolutely amazing! Here are a few of the highlights:
Mentor Couple Meetings
Every month we met with a mentor couple, who has been married for 25 years. They shared their experiences and facilitated discussions between Alissa and I. We talked about everything from family traditions, to childrearing, to finances. Without these meetings, there are a lot of important conversations that we may not have had.
Theology of the Body
When I heard we had to take an 8-hour class on Theology of the Body, I was a little annoyed. After all, I had given plenty of talks on this topic over the years, so I figured I’d just deal with it. Well, I was wrong. I learned a lot, and it was especially important for me to hear these amazing teachings as an engaged man preparing for marriage.
Natural Family Planning (NFP)
Alissa and I knew that we wanted to practice NFP in our marriage, but we didn’t know how it worked. Now, I’ll admit, I knew these classes were going to make me squirm, but I also knew they were important. After taking a class each month for four consecutive months, we were able to learn how NFP works so that we can practice it effectively in our marriage.
Couples Communication Classes
Here is another set of classes that I was dreading (Do you see a common theme here?) I was a Communication major in college so I thought I was already good at this. Well, I was wrong again. We learned not only how to talk with each other, but more importantly, how to effectively listen.
Meeting Other Couples
In the midst of marriage preparation, we were able to meet a variety of couples with different backgrounds who were also engaged. This gave us an opportunity to learn from their experiences, and in some cases, do some good evangelization.
One of the things we heard from a lot of people was to be sure to spend more time planning for our marriage than for the Wedding Day. We could not agree more, but with that said, there is still a value in ensuring that the Wedding Day is special. For one, the Mass is a chance for us to plan a beautiful liturgy that may perhaps inspire some of our non-Catholic family and friends. Secondly, the reception is a celebration of how God has moved in uniting two people as one. It seems like it would be important to take time to pray and plan about making these the best they can be.
As two people involved in ministry for the Church, this was relatively easy to do but still something we had to be intentional about. Most weeks we would take time to attend the Youth Liturgy at our parish and focus on really being present to many of the teens, Core Members, and parents that were there. Sharing ministry with each other is definitely something that brought us closer together.
Spending Time With Each Other
With so much to do and plan for, it was a struggle to find the energy to spend quality time with each other. While I admit, we spent a lot of hours relaxing and watching TV, we also knew that it was vital to do more than just be in each other’s presence. Our relationship is not something that stops just because we are engaged. In fact, it is probably even more important that we find quality time with one another. We were sure to make time for each other on a consistent basis. Whether it was a nice dinner out, a long walk, ice skating downtown, or going on another fun adventure, it was these dates that allowed us to grow more connected and feel more excited for what the future holds.
Above all, Alissa and I are excited for what God has in store for us. On January 8th, our lives will be forever changed, and it has been a true blessing to know that so many people have been praying for us. May God continue to bless you all in your vocation, and know that we will be praying for you.