With all the drudgery of wedding planning, there are also requirements that need to be fulfilled for the Catholic Church. Absolutely lovely! One of those requirements is a Catholic Engaged Encounter. Most couples choose the one day program, but our deacon highly recommended the weekend one. Dean doesn’t read anything unless it’s sports-related so I had to summarize the emails we’d gotten. “It’s from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Couples talk about their relationships. I guess we do exercises. Oh, and we sleep in separate rooms with a roommate.” So off we went to Menlo Park last weekend with our duffle bags plus diet cokes, crackers and chips—our contribution to the snack table.
I was certain we were going to be the oldest people since most of the classes we’ve been to have been dominated by couples in their twenties. But there was a mix of lots of different ages. A lot of people around my age. It actually doesn’t really matter because the weekend is so focused on hearing about the relationship dynamic of two couples, then reflection time, then couple time. There was an older couple married for 29 years and a younger couple married for 16 years. They would each cover topics like communication, sexual intimacy, family, forgiveness. After their talk, each person would write for 15 minutes about the topic and exploratory questions. Then you’d find your fiancé and talk for 15 minutes. That was the basic structure.
What I just wrote sounds super-boring. There were a lot of glum faces on Friday evening, but by Sunday, even the guys were talking about how powerful they found the program to be. People left saying, “Yeah, that was really good.” I think what made it good was listening to these loving couples who have been married for what seems like an eternity talk about their struggles: second marriages, children, fidelity. The challenges they faced are the same ones we’re going to face and they talk about how they handled them, then you think about it by yourself, then you come together as a couple and process it together. I also think the whole weekend of doing these exercises really helped ingrain the messages.