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Pre-Cana...Minus the Cana Part

I've finally had a chance to go to my Pre-Cana class with my fiance (who was very recently confirmed!). It really wasn't what I expected it to be. As my fiance put it, it was 10,000 times less Catholic than he expected. I think that could be the best way to explain it. Granted, there are quite a few of these pre-Cana events going on in maybe I just ended up picking the wrong one to attend...but it was very disappointing. I really hope, however, that this was the worst of the bunch...because I can only imagine what the worst pre-Cana would be if ours was second worst...

Image credit: Catholic Memes
To make a long story short, one of the pre-requisites for my marrying in the church this upcoming October is a pre-Cana class. Unlike some people out there, I was actually excited about the idea of a nice pre-Cana class with other couples. I loved the other requirements thus far (meeting with the Priest and a very informative course on the role of love and sex within a marriage). I didn't mind getting all of my documentation together (including hunting down a baptismal certificate copy from the Portuguese parish where I was baptized).

I'm not one to complain about flower arrangements in church or other trivial matters. I do, however, take an issue with a lack of reverence where reverence is needed. I am also one to take issue when religion is removed from what is supposed to be a requirement for a religious ceremony. And this is exactly what this Pre-Cana felt like. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that some couples took time out of their day to talk to us about their experiences. However, I did not appreciate one of the people using some of their time at the podium to express their disdain for some Church teachings on A, B, and C. I also did not appreciate how another couple introduced themselves by distancing themselves from the faith.

Their introduction, as I understood it, was "Hi, we're Jane and John Doe. We've been married for a year and a half and we're not really practicing Catholics. I mean, we go to church on maybe Christmas...."

Then why are you talking at a Catholic Pre-Cana class?!?
Since I was one of the couples in there that truly wanted to go to Pre-Cana in the hopes of learning how to have a marriage centered on God (and not simply go to fulfill a requirement), I pretty much stopped listening to what they had to say after that.

I also stopped listening to another couple when the husband pretty much started talking smack about Humanae Vitae, justifying this by saying he wasn't Catholic and didn't really follow what the Church taught about X, Y, and Z. 

I listened to one couple who were great. They talked about their issues trying to have kids and how they ended up adopting. The talked about how faith got them through this rough part of their lives. Besides this couple and some financial advice from a guest-speaking accountant...I really didn't get much out of the whole experience. 

The priest made an appearance toward the end and as affable as he seemed...he was unable to make up for much of what I had to listen to or (as rude as is was) tune out. Pleasant as they were, his words came at the end of an event that was more secular than it was Catholic and more centered on eros than it was on agape. It's hard to stop a runaway train after it has already run off the tracks and hit the water tower.

One of the passages that was read at the end of the event was Corinthians 13 (which, ironically enough, was read by the individual who had openly talked smack about Church teachings just minutes before).

Corinthians 13: 
If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 
Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know I part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

This often misinterpreted passage of the bible that extols the importance of agape (God-centered love) and NOT eros (love for a significant other). Please refer to C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves if you wish to learn more about the four types of love that we experience.

In the Pre-Cana event's defense, I probably set my expectations high. However, when you look at what is supposed to be covered by a pre-Cana class and what was actually covered, it fell short on a few very important matters.

According to the USCCB, pre-Cana should have covered the following conversations that couples should have before marriage:
  1. Spirituality/Faith
  2. Conflict Resolution Skills
  3. Careers
  4. Finances
  5. Intimacy/Cohabitation
  6. Children
  7. Commitment
1. Spirituality/Faith
As far as this topic went, the most we got regarding faith was "we know there's people here from different backgrounds" followed by "well, I personally...(enter personal critique of Church teaching followed by flawed justification of views)." I don't care what your views are, but if you are giving a talk at a Catholic event, you should stick to Catholic teachings regardless of views. There were a few mentions that God had brought us together and besides that, there were a few "you've been blessed (enter reason why)" but altogether, it seemed like these were sprinkled into an otherwise secular event...I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. 

2. Conflict Resolution Skills. 
As far as resolving conflicts went...we were told that compromise was key, along with communication. Forget putting God in the center of things, forget anything Pope John Paul II ever said about family (or selfless love, or putting the needs of your loved one before your own), etc. It's all about your needs and the needs of your spouse...and how you guys should get together and magically find a middle ground.  

3. Careers
Did the introduction of who I am and what I do count? 

4. Finances
We were taught to save more than you spend and that kids cost money (but are worth having anyway). 

5. Intimacy/Cohabitation
This got on my nerves. We basically skipped over all of this because personal views seemed to trump church teaching on this one. 

6. Children
This kind of bothered me too. Basically, I got the impression that there were quite a few speakers (and members of the audience) who never read Pope Paul VI's prophetic Humanae Vitae or Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. It seemed like as far as children went, anything goes and few attempts were made to dissuade people from micromanaging everything children-related. If you want get married to simply have children, it's fine. If you want to hold off on kids so you can focus on your career, it's fine. Forget about God's  ideas, we will have children when we want and for whatever reasons we want (selfish or not). I don't think many attempts were made to truly look at things from a Catholic perspective. It simply seemed like (with the exception of one speaker), the couples running the event were okay with people who wanted to take micromanage everything in their lives...without caring about God's plans....especially with regards to children.

7. Commitment
Some references were made to how terrible our society tends to be when it comes to family hardships. The "cut and run" approach was frowned upon (except in cases of abuse, etc). However, very little was said about reconciliation. Unfortunately, based on the conversations I picked up from some of the couples seems like they all think their significant others will be perfect. The reality of the matter is, however, that no one is perfect and there are plenty of temptations out there. Trust was talked about, and trust is important...but so is forgiveness. There was a focus on being committed in sickness and in health, but not very much attention was given to what we should do when our loved one falls short. As hard as you try to avoid arguments and as hard as you try to imagine that your significant other would never be tempted by another woman/man...the reality is that these things will happen. It is easy to trust someone you love...but forgiveness is much harder. Again, maybe my expectations were a bit high...but there was so much that should have been covered...but wasn't.

At the end of the event, there were a few scriptural readings in the church. I didn't care for the decor, architecture, and esoteric designs...but I didn't think this was a big deal. What I did care about was the lack of reverence that was shown in the church, in front of the tabernacle once the readings were over. Without making any acknowledgment about Christ's presence, people were awarded their certificates of completion. I think my fiance and I were probably the only people in the room who made any attempt to genuflect before the tabernacle as names were called and certificates handed out. It was all done with the same level of reverence you would have seen at a public school assembly for the physical fitness awards they handed out every year. I simply don't understand why they decided to give them out at that time and in that fashion.....especially when only an open door separated us from the room we had just been in... It simply felt wrong and inappropriate. I know that not everyone at Pre-Cana was Catholic and that not all Catholics practiced as I do...but very little effort was made to increase understanding about what marriage means from a Catholic perspective and what it means for us, as Catholics, to sit in a church where Christ is present in the tabernacle. 

I hate to sound like a complainer here...but I am still trying to come to terms with it all and really hope that you all end up having Pre-Cana experiences that are better than mine (and more reverent).

I think my fiance put it best. It's called Pre-Cana because of the miracle at Cana where Christ performed his first public miracle of turning water into wine in order to save a couple from the embarrassment of having come up short with regards to refreshment for their guests. If we remove Christ from this marriage in Cana, there would be no miracle and there would be no wine. The couple would come up short and the guests would leave without refreshment and, in a sense, nourishment. It we decide to marry in the Catholic church, but remove Christ from our own marriages, we will also come up short. We will also miss out on the nourishment and refreshment that he wishes to offer us if we open not just ourselves to him, but our marriages, our relationships, and our families as well.

Pax Vobiscum


  1. Wow, what an awful experience! Seriously, if I were you I would complain to the bishop--there obviously should NOT be non-practicing Catholic couples leading any pre-cana talks or discussions, especially if they're going to be talking down the teachings of the Church! Yikes.

  2. As difficult as this may be, you are an intelligent, eloquent "speaker" (though here is it the written word), and I think it is your Catholic responsibility to bring this unfortunate pre-Cana experience to the attention of the pastor or even your bishop. A pastor is overwhelmed by his daily duties and in tending to his sheep. He cannot micro-manage everything in the parish, yet someone must oversee in matters of the faith. This is a matter of faith. No wonder so many sheep are wandering away, lost and confused. Have courage and speak up in love. I will pray for you. The future of the church depends on people like you in helping spread the TRUTH! God bless you.

  3. Here's a post from a website you might enjoy following:

    Note: The blogger is a convert and mother of six.

  4. My friend Nona (see comment above!) encouraged me read and comment on your excellent post. I'm Karee Santos, founder of the Can We Cana? blog that Nona mentioned. My husband and I taught pre-Cana for Fr. George Rutler in Manhattan -- If you've heard of how orthodox and inspiring Fr. Rutler is, you can imagine what a different experience we tried to make it from what you went through! We created our program from scratch based on the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II, plus TOB and a lot of cites to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Personal examples as well, of course, but we were super-conscious that we were passing on the wisdom of the Catholic Church, not just our own wisdom (that would inevitably fall short anyway!). Some of the trouble we ran into was in finding good written materials for the course (we gave up and are now writing our own). Problems that other programs face is they can't find enough people to volunteer and the volunteers aren't sufficiently trained. If you're interested in this ministry, please volunteer to help out others. My husband and I started teaching pre-Cana when we were newlyweds. There's no need to wait!