First a bit about the place. St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, SK is the oldest monastery in Canada. It was founded along with a German Catholic colony in the early 1900s, and it is a Benedictine order. There is also a thriving school on the grounds, where students come to learn in an uninterrupted, country environment. I had previously considered going out there to take some classes but it never worked out for me, and I had always wanted to go there, so when Paul told me there was a weekend marriage prep class being held at the Abbey, I was pleased that even if the weekend turned out to be a bust (since I generally hold a deep suspicion of the usefulness of any required classes of this type) I’d still get to see a place that I’d always heard about. Paul had gone out there for a few weeks following his graduation to seek solitude and time to pray and think, and it’s a great place for that. It’s almost impossible to worry about anything there, the atmosphere is so peaceful.
Paul and I arrived quite a few hours early on Friday as was our plan - we were hoping to take in the sights and reduced sounds of the grounds, perhaps feed some chickadees (they’ve been feeding them for decades and they’re quite tame), and the highest of all priorities was to use the perfectly suited snow to build a snowman. We accomplished our goal and most of you probably saw our Calvinesque movie on the subject of the (un)ethical treatment of snow persons. More photos available here.
We then ate supper with some of our hosts, which passed a bit uncomfortably as we didn’t really know anyone yet and Paul and I were both feeling a little antisocial. Then the evening was launched.
Catholic Engaged Encounters are the standard marriage preparation classes that one must take if you get married in the Catholic Church. There is a couple who has been married for many years and a younger couple who serve as mentors and share about their own problem-solving experiences, a few other helper couples who administrate and organize the weekend and also try to get to know us as couples, and in our case a priest from the Abbey spoke to us as well. (He liked to refer to other monks in an anonymous manner by calling them “Brother Snicklefritz” which I heartily enjoyed.)
The format is simple - one of the lead couples shares some anecdotes from their lives and some accompanying wisdom, say, for example, what to do and what not to do when embroiled in an argument. They and in our case the priest who accompanied them share in depth about the topic, then they handed out sheets of questions for us. One of us walked down the hall to one of our rooms and the other stayed in the main room (men and women split.) Then we were to write as much as we were able in whatever period they gave us on those questions, listen for the bell to ring, and join up with our fiances to read each other’s answers and discuss them. They told us we’d get out of the weekend what we put into it, and both Paul and I put as much in as we could.
It was really beneficial. We stumbled upon a lot of realizations about ourselves an each other in the midst of the hundreds of questions we had to answer. Paul asked me to compile a list of things we ought to rehash again after the weekend, and I decided to go even further and just transcribe our entire books. This will take awhile, but it’s a worthwhile effort and journey as well, because it should stop us from losing the benefits of the weekend in the whirlwind of this March.