I recently read an interesting article in NCR by Kathy Schiffer (8/10/2022) about Catholic Marriage Prep. The author explored the possibility that the current marriage preparation, which typically requires engaged couples to wait a year or more doing their preparation before the actual marriage ceremony, might pose a few problems for these young couples. First, the author worries that the cost of maintaining 2 separate residences is high and more costly than if the couple shared a residence prior to marriage. Second, the author worries that asking a young couple to wait a year or more before marriage occurs might pose too much of a sexual temptation for a young amorous couple who may not be able to withstand sexual temptation. Third, the author posits that making this young couple wait 12 months or more might discourage the couple from continuing their marriage prep to the point of leaving the church and opting for a civil marriage.
While these concerns posed by the author certainly exist, I think the concerns are blown out of proportion. First, it is true that it costs more to maintain 2 separate homes or apartments than one residence. But so what? Is saving money more important morally than maintaining sexual chastity? And what if these 2 people never met? Would that mean it’s ok to live with a person of the opposite sex, to which one might be or become attracted? Isn’t it normal to maintain a separate residence with associated costs? Since when did living together to lower monthly expenses become normal? And if the relationship fails, the monthly expenses increase.
Point 2 is also problematic. Yes, it is a great sexual temptation to want to enjoy physical intimacy with someone to whom you are engaged to marry. But again, so what? Part of sociosexual maturation is learning to control our passions, both before and during marriage. While it is very difficult to avoid sexual temptation, doing so is important for our own growth and the protection of those we love. If we really love the other, this means self-denial and seeking the ultimate moral good of the other. Sure, mistakes happen and people slip up. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to be responsible sexual creatures. If I can’t control my passions before marriage, why should I or my spouse expect me to do so after marriage? It’s hard to control your passions when one is married as well as if one is single. Practicing this control during the courtship carries over to the marriage itself.
Finally, couples who are truly committed to each other and see their relationship as a call or vocation from God won’t simply run to the JP for a quick ceremony simply because God is asking to wait (an entire!) 12 months before sealing the covenant.
All of these concerns are easily addressed before and during marriage prep. The newly betrothed couple needs to know that the entire Church is pulling for them, and that they are not alone as they walk this beautiful but at times painful journey of patience. Loving each other patiently and carefully, all the while accepting our own human frailties, helps the couple love each other fully, fruitfully, and faithfully, as they lead each other to their ultimate eternal reward, the marriage of the creatures with the Creator.