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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Preparation for Matrimony

by Catherine Frakas 15 Sep 2001

Preparation for Matrimony QUESTION from Elizabeth on June 24, 2002 Dear Br. Ignatius,
Thank you for considering my question. I am recently engaged to a wonderful Catholic man. We both have previous marriages that are annulled. We are preparing to plan our wedding but have a couple of issues we need to resolve. I am seeking your input because our local parish is very liberal in interpretation of Church teachings.
One issue is pre-Cana preparation. At this point we are living on opposite coasts of the country. Financially it's not feasible to move & maintain separate residences for the preparation period, though I'm praying for this. However, I do wonder if you have any experience with or suggestions for distance preparation...we pray together, read & discuss together, share NFP charting together... We each do a lot of traveling back & forth, so some sessions are easily worked out. Do you have any advice?
The second issue is marriage itself...sort of. I have a very young son. My attorney tells me this is likely to be a big custody battle...he suggests getting married prior to filing to move in order to strengthen my position. My fiance & I are committed to a totally obedient Catholic courtship & marriage, including chastity before and within our marriage. When we are visiting each other, we keep separate bedrooms & modesty. We have discussed the option of a civil marriage in order to be allowed to move, with living as brother & sister as we have done until we make our solemn vows in the Sacrament of Matrimony. This would allow us to be in the same place at the same time, so to speak, for pre-Cana. I just feel awkward about the appearance it creates, even though I am certain about our conviction to live chastely.
Brother Ignatius, I know this isn't the most pressing spiritual issue in the world, but we are wholly committed to building a Catholic home filled with joy, charity, warmth & service to our Lord. Do you have any words of wisdom to share regarding our challenging circumstances?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on July 6, 2002 Dear Miss Elizabth:
First let me praise God and to compliment you are your desire to be a good Catholic and obedient to God. That is rare these days.
I am not sure how a long distance pre-cana situation can be done. That you would need to work out with your parish priest.
As for your civil situation with custody battles and such, if getting a civil marriage would help to secure your rights and the rights of your child, and protection, then that might be possible, but you would need the permission of your bishop to do that. It is possible that the bishop would give permission as long as you agree to live as brother and sister until your sacramental marriage is completed in the Church. Since you are willing to do that, and if scandal can be avoided, it is possible.
You will need to call the bishop of the diocese you will be living in if you do get permission for a civil marriage.
May God Bless your marriage and family.
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