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Saturday, April 24, 2010

He Popped The Question! "Engaged" - What really is an Engagement?

My oldest brother (Kevin) finally found a lady to Marry (Carol). Out of the 6 boys (My Brothers), Kevin was the last to hold out, but he popped the question tonight as a surprise (Not a surprise to Kevin - well planned) while he was on a gondola ride with Carol in Arizona. I haven't seen the ring, but I am told it is beautiful. But what is more beautiful is that they now will begin the engagement process.

What does the Catholic Church say about engagement:

Besides seeing to the upbringing of their children, Christian parents have the further serious responsibility, an exercise of their own apostolate, of helping the children to prepare themselves properly for marriage. The betrothal of a young Christian couple therefor is a special occasion for their families, who should celebrate it together with prayer and a special rite. In this way they ask God's blessing that the happiness promised by the children's engagement will be brought to fulfillment. ( Book of Blessings 195)

Since our Father and Mother have already left this world for the next, it will be Kevin's brothers (all married) that will assist with the preparation.

There is a beautiful ceremony in the "Book of Blessings" for engaged couples. I have invited Kevin to begin this courtship / engagement with this beautiful ceremony.

I wish both of you a wonderful and intimate time of deepening your understanding of each other, growing in preparation, and discernment.

Someone once asked me what I thought the proper length of an engagement should be and what really is an engagement. I think the length can vary some depending on the individuals and the circumstances, but there is some guidelines that fit for many.

Engagement can be looked at as a formal commitment to take the courting process further and deeper with the desire to Marry. During this time, efforts should be made to intimately get to know each other (I don't mean sexually - that should wait until marriage), but to truly find out the deepest of desires, wishes, ideals, values, and character that the other person possesses. 

For many, engagement means that the couple will definitely be married and to start making the wedding plans.

However, I always thought that an engagement should be at least 2 years, with the first year  set aside for deeper discernment and discovery. The first year should include activities and processes of knowing at deeper level if the two have values and core beliefs that are compatible. This also allows time for one to study and convert to the faith of the other, sharing a common faith. In the catholic church, if the person had never been baptized, it would take 1 1/2 years to become catholic. If already a Christian, much less time is needed and varies depending on the individual, but 6 months would be a safe estimation. Couples should seriously consider being the same faith, since that is the core of a sacramental marriage, especially for Catholics.

Upon the completion of the first year and the discernment of significant character issues, life goals, Faith issues, etc, the couple should discuss at that time if they should proceed with the engagement, or accept that there are troubling differences and break the engagement. (This is the step that is so often not done and why divorce rate is over 50%).

If the couple agrees that they can honestly make the commitment to live the rest of their lives together (again a big deal for Catholics - since an annulment might not be allowed and the individual would be denied the ability to ever marry again), then and only then, should wedding plans be initiated. 

Please note: these are my personal thoughts and not specifically rules of the church. However, these thoughts are based in Catholic ideals and experience.

For Catholics - Marriage is much more that an agreement, and much more than just a love story. It is a bonding, a uniting in the deepest and most spiritual way. The two individuals actually become one. There is a mystery to this sacrament, as with all things from God, but what God has joined together - no man shall separate. This bond is for all eternity and that is why it should never be taken lightly and is a commitment that cannot be rescinded. It is a sacrament that changes the individuals forever and represents in them the Love, commitment, understanding, forgiveness, charity, and compassion,  that God calls us to with him,. The marital relationship between the couple is the closest thing we have on earth that represents His love for us.

Many have lost sight of really and truly what a Marriage is. .... It is spiritual, not contractual. The engagement period is a time of spiritual preparation and deep discernment that cannot be rushed, nor neglected.

Proper attention to the beautiful time of engagement will allow the identification if the two are destined to be united for all of eternity or if God has different plans for the couple. This period of engagement is probably the most serious and important time in an individual's life......

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