Laying the Groundwork for Marriage

By Martha Haenni

CCL interviewed newlywed couples to discover common practices that, when lived during engagement and early marriage, will lay the groundwork for lasting, fruitful, and joyful marriages.

For Elsie & Juan Carlos Hernandez, their shared Catholic faith, having an actively engaged parish priest preparing them for the sacrament of marriage, and a supportive NFP teaching couple as a role model were foundational elements for their engagement and what strengthens them as they begin laying the groundwork for their married life together.

Juan Carlos’ faith played a role in helping him discern marriage and whom to seek as the woman he would like to marry. “Faith will help you discern if marriage is your vocation and if so, it will guide you to seek spiritual help to have a holy and joyful matrimony. Without a foundation of faith, everything we do lacks meaningfulness,” says Juan Carlos. It helps him live a marriage the way Christ designed it to be lived and to walk in faith with his spouse.

Elsie was able to rely on her faith to choose God’s way and not her own. “It helped me do what’s right in God’s eyes and reject what the world gives me ‘permission’ to do. My faith brought me to trust in the Lord’s plan for me, and to trust that what He wants for me is good, even when it may not seem like it at first. It brought me and my husband to the foot of the cross to surrender ourselves to His perfect Will for us. And that has brought abundant joy in my life.”

Together, they went to weekly adoration for an hour and read Christopher West’s book, “Buena Nueva sobre Sexo y Matrimonio,” (“Good News About Sex and Marriage”). They watched many great marriage videos by Father Angel Espinoza de los Monteros, a Mexican priest who helps couples lay the groundwork by giving marriage conferences and has helped many marriages throughout his priestly life. They prayed individually and together about the topics they discussed in their marriage prep meetings with their pastor, Fr. Andrew Brinkman, and continued to discern their plans to marry while learning new things about one another.

Although neither of their own parents had married in the Church, they had demonstrated great respect for the sacrament of marriage. While taking the CCL Sympto-Thermal NFP class, Elsie and Juan Carlos were able to connect in a meaningful way with their teaching couple, Alejandra & Xavier Balderas. They discovered a connection between natural family planning and all the groundwork they had been doing up to that point and came to see their teaching couple as a role model of a marriage lived in union with the wisdom of Church teachings.

After learning about NFP they were completely on-board to practice it in their marriage. The Balderas offered solid NFP instruction that helped them feel more confident about being open to life. Elsie and Juan Carlos saw NFP as a holistic way of planning their family.

Elsie relates, “NFP blessed us with an increase of gratitude and patience for each other. It deepened our intimacy as we strengthened our communication and allowed behavioral changes. We expressed our love in creative ways when we agreed on a period of abstinence. And, as it is with anything that we wait on, when we have it, we are more grateful for it and cherish it even more.”

Elsie & Juan Carlos would advise newly engaged couples to give NFP the opportunity to change their lives and allow God’s grace to work in them to know how beautiful it is to love and respect their bodies. Of Juan Carlos, Elsie says, “He became awed with how the female body is designed. He took very seriously the role of taking my temperature daily. I feel very blessed to see my husband in complete union with what we promised when we married; to be free, total, faithful and fruitful.”

By embracing the Church’s teaching on marriage and natural family planning, Elsie and Juan Carlos feel they have begun to lay the groundwork of their lives together on a solid foundation. Juan Carlos says, “We grow in love with each other even more than the day we married. No matter when we argue and disagree on earthly things, we know we agree on the most important matters of our marriage, and we always come back to each other with more understanding and love. We feel safe to be vulnerable with each other, and we believe it’s because of our trust in God’s design of living marriage.”