A first time for everything


I've been a pretty observant Catholic for my whole life. Most of the expected, stereotypical Catholic things, I've done - been taught catechism by a nun, felt guilty when I've skipped mass, gone to church on Holy Days, worn ashes on my forehead all day, confessed my sins to a metal screen, etc. But one thing I haven't done, ever, is sat down for a serious, important chat about my faith with a priest.

The reason I bring this up is that Tim and I have an appointment with our local parish priest in a few weeks to discuss our upcoming wedding. This will essentially be the first time we've met this priest, and I am surprisingly terrified.

Thinking back on my very Catholic upbringing, I really can't believe that I've never done this. That doesn't mean that I haven't ever talked one-on-one with a priest, but it's been in different capacities. I've had friendly chats about vacation Bible school teaching or the parish soup kitchen with the pastor of my childhood church. I talked to my college chaplain about my father's death right after it happened, and had some interesting in-class debates during my Contemporary Roman Catholicism course. I've also met quite a few ministers and priests from other Christian religions and in general have no problem talking to men and women of the cloth.

But this is going to be Serious Adult Business. The priest has to approve us to receive a Sacrament. A very important one. And for the first time, it's more complicated than filling out a workbook, memorizing the Beatitudes, and buying a nice outfit for the ceremony (although that last part is involved, too).

Will he frown upon the fact that we are already living together? Will he whip out a calendar and demand to know which masses we'll be attending each Sunday? Will he condone my playwright fiance's inspirations from the occult and devil myths? And how will we answer the birth control questions??!

Maybe I'm nervous because the whole thing doesn't just depend on me. It depends equally on a factor I cannot control - Tim. It's not that I don't trust him. It's just slightly unnerving to think that we both have to be up to snuff - individually and as a couple.

It could also be due to the fact that in the whirlwind of my current life - applying for jobs, freelancing, working as a temp, writing all the time, constantly doing laundry - I don't take enough time to ponder the Divine and my relationship to God. And pretty soon I'm going to have to explain that to someone else, and maybe I'm not 100 percent solid on it myself.

In truth, I don't really know what to expect. I've heard equal numbers horror stories and lovely accounts of couples meeting priests to discuss wedding preparations. What I know for sure is that we will need to prove we are both confirmed Catholic (easy enough with certificates) and we will need to arrange to take the pre-Cana course, which in Brooklyn can be done over a single weekend. Those parts seem simple, straightforward. The priest convo - still terrifying.

I'm sure I'm overreacting. I don't think that Father Bill is out to catch us in a trick question. He probably just wants to get to know us a little and make sure we understand what a Catholic wedding and marriage entails, and I'm excited about that.

Plus, I'm a journalist, after all. I'm constantly having slightly uncomfortable conversations with people, but usually I'm the person trying to elicit information. Time for a taste of my own medicine.


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