Like many people before me, I converted to the Jewish religion. A lot of people assume I did it because Gander’s Jewish, but I did it for me.I was raised by agnostic/atheist parents. Religion was not a big deal around the house. We celebrated the typical Christian holidays, like Christmas and Easter, but there was no religion involved. It was an excuse for family to be together. Instead, I was raised with specific values of free choice and equality. I was always curious about religion and did explore many faiths. Catholic, Lutheran, Pagan, and more. None of these ever felt right, and I decided that I was an agnostic, like my parents.
Then, I met Gander. He grew up in a Conservative Jewish household. He and his siblings went to Hebrew day school, they spent the High Holidays at shul, they had large gatherings for Rosh Hashanah and Passover, they were all home on Friday nights for Shabbat dinner. His Jewish faith was and still is important to him.
Early on in the relationship, Gander started taking me to family dinners. I found that I had an interest in Judaism. I really appreciated that the main focus seemed to be on the familial celebration. As our relationship continued, we went to more holidays, and I felt more and more connected. After a long period of consideration, I decided to look into conversion. I did a bit of research on my own into the different sects. After all my research, I decided that the Reform movement spoke most to me. It kept to the traditions of Judaism while still being very much about personal autonomy and equality.
Last week was a big week in the Squirrel world—Mr. S became Catholic! After years of thinking and months of planning, this was such a huge evening for us.
Mr. S was baptized and raised as a Christian, but kind of hopped around churches growing up. As an adult, he had a strong relationship with God, but he wanted a faith community as well. Being Catholic has always been a huge part of my life. After we had been dating for a while, Mr. S started going to church with me on Sundays. I never put any pressure on Mr. S to convert. Faith is such a personal thing and I would never ask someone to do that for me. I just wanted to offer my support as Mr. S explored his own spiritual journey.
My name is Miss Beanstalk and I’m Catholic. I know it’s not polite to talk about these things, but because I am planning a wedding, I feel that it is only necessary (especially since I am about to dive deeper into the topic). Growing up, I would say religion was always a part of my life, even though I classify myself as more of a spiritual, private practitioner. I have been baptized, confirmed and attended Catholic school from middle school on. The University I went to for undergrad was even a Catholic institution. However, I didn’t choose the school based on it’s religious affiliation (that was an added bonus in my eyes), I went there because it was a good local private school near home, which meant I could commute! Oh, and sister Beanstalk was going there!
My parents are an interfaith couple—my mom is Catholic and my dad is Protestant. They were married in the Catholic church and I grew up thinking that I wanted that, too. Mr. Beanstalk was raised Christian, but doesn’t really believe in any higher power. This has never affected our relationship though, we are who we are and love each other regardless. I know if I wanted to, he would marry me in a beautiful church with a full Catholic mass because he would do anything for me. But as soon as we got engaged, I realized I wanted something different. I wanted to be married outside. An outdoor ceremony just seemed more us, and I wanted the wedding to reflect who we are as a couple.
Even after we booked our venue, I struggled with our choice. I loved our ceremony site, but I wondered if I was doing something wrong by not marrying in the Catholic church. My parents didn’t mind where the ceremony was, so this was more of a personal dilemma I was dealing with.
Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of people marrying into the Catholic Church like pre-cana. Mr. Unicycle is Lutheran, as I mentioned in my last Catholic Church post, so he was absolutely dreading going to pre-cana. I’m pretty sure he thought a priest would lecture us about “pulling out” for eight hours while we all held our hands over the bible and vowed never to use birth control, eat meat on Fridays, or have fun again. In reality, it was a lot more enjoyable than that.
For starters, it wasn’t run by a priest, probably because priests don’t know much about marriage. The full-day retreat, which was held at a church about an hour from my house, was run by couple who has been married for a really long time.
This weekend Mr. Boa and I went to Pre-Cana, the required marriage prep course for all couples getting married in the Catholic Church. Our church requires that we attend their local course which consists of an Opening Weekend Retreat, three months of weekly meetings with a host couple and a Closing Weekend Retreat in May, all of which are virtually impossible for us to attend. Since we are both stuck in our college town during the week, Mami Boa met with the priest to discuss other alternatives. She somehow got us permission to do one INTENSE (Friday 8-11PM, Saturday 8AM-11PM and Sunday 8AM-3PM) weekend retreat in a different diocese instead of the usual requirements.
Last Friday right after class, we drove three hours along a twisting winding road to the lovely mountain town where our retreat would take place.
Seeing as we will be attending our Pre-Cana retreat this weekend, it might be time to talk about our ceremony—particularly where it’s going to take place. Mr. Boa and I are both Roman Catholics, as are all our family members and 85% of the Puerto Rican population. Thankfully, living in a Latin American country means we have a gazillion Catholic churches to choose from.
In my wedding planning frenzy back in July, we drove around in circles in search of a church that was close to our already booked reception venue. We found a cute little chapel only 8 minutes away from the venue; its proximity to the reception space was incredibly convenient. We met with the priest, looked over some literature, and reserved a time slot for our wedding that same day. Flash forward to January, and I began to doubt my decision. I got wrapped up in all the wedding planning hype, treating the house of worship where we will exchange our vows as just another vendor. We put convenience and practicality over having our ceremony somewhere that was meaningful to us.
With these thoughts swirling in my brain, I revisited my dream ceremony location: my hometown chapel, Parroquia San Antonio de la Padua in Isabela. The place where my parents (married 24 yrs), grandparents (married 52 yrs) (and great grandparents and great great grand parent and aunts and uncles) got married in.
My maternal grandparents wedding pictures circa 1960
So a few months ago, we did our Pre-Cana classes through the Church. It was loads of fun and I really enjoyed the conversations it inspired. We even got a little certificate that showed we took the course.
This, however, was not the end of our Catholic marriage prep. We also had to complete a FOCCUS inventory and review it with another couple from our church. Well, we are halfway there because we both finished our surveys. We had to do it individually and without input from the other and then discuss together. In a few weeks we will get an appointment to view our results with another couple. I am really looking forward to that part.
I was a bit nervous about the questionnaire at the beginning because it came right out and asked if we were cohabiting. And the answer was yes. I was a bit nervous that the whole thing would be very preachy. But really, it wasn’t, most of the questions were simple ‘agree’ ‘disagree’ or ‘uncertain’ multiple choice and covered family, finances and faith. There were a few questions about child rearing here and there but over all it was pretty low-key. … read more