When a couple comes to see me with an interest in getting married, I ask them what might be considered a silly or stupid question, “Are you sure you want to go through with it?” It is a question to which I return months later at the end of the marriage formation. Almost always the couple says they are certain; if however, one or the other is not, everything is put on hold. I recall one fellow who was always sure when his girl was in the room with him. However, when I got him alone, he confessed to being unsure. I gave them a couple of weeks to talk it out and when they returned the lady insisted that he was sure now. He said he was as well. I asked her to leave the parlor. Guess what? Suddenly he was no longer sure! I refused to witness the marriage and the would-be bride had a fit. She wanted babies and figured this poor guy was her last shot. Next I heard, the priest in a neighboring parish did the deed. But my conscience was clear.
I recall another guy who wanted to do the “right thing” as he had gotten a girl pregnant. When talking to them I noticed a certain coldness from his intended. Separating them, I turned to her and said bluntly, “You don’t love him, do you?” She answered with candor, “No, but he got me pregnant!” I refused to do the marriage. Everyone else told them that they should get married. They left and I heard nothing more for several months. Then the guy showed up at my door. He explained that they had gotten married by a justice of the peace. He said, “Father, I want to thank you because although we did not listen to you, you were the only person who said not to do it.” He explained that she had lost the baby and the very next day she left him.
I remember another couple seeking marriage that has remained in my thoughts these many years. Kathleen was a nice Irish woman in her thirties. She really wanted to get on with her life and have a family. She met Omar and fell in love. She was a faithful Catholic. Her would-be groom was an Egyptian Muslim. I explained that marriage was possible, but would not be easy. One thing required was a dispensation. The Catholic party had to pledge that he or she would do all in his or her power to raise any children in the Church. She was readily agreeable. However, Omar immediately banged on the table and stood up. He shouted, “No child of mine will be a Christian! They will be Muslim like me and my father before me!” Kathleen and I were both taken aback by the outburst. We talked about the opposition and she began to cry. She insisted, “Don’t worry Father, I will change him.” Change him, when he was planning to take her back to his country with him? I tried to get it across to her that there would be no changing this guy. Indeed, it was evident that he intended to change her. Soon all her supports would be stripped away. No, this was a bad situation. In any case, you do not marry a person to change them. Such intentions almost always cause fighting and disappointment. I said that no marriage was possible in the Church and urged her to reconsider her choice. They married out of the Church and left the country. She remained close to her parents for a short time and then there was silence. Her family has not heard from her in years. The rumor was that he had two other wives waiting for them back home.