Catholics who want to get married in the church must participate in something called pre-Cana–a series of classes over a few months at which perky, seemingly lobotomized couples sing the praises of the Rhythm Method as contraception, on account of the Pill being the Devil’s cough drop. The only thing pre-Cana appears to have going for it is that it namechecks one of the cooler stories in the Bible: Jesus turning water into wine when the hosts ran out of sauce at a wedding at Cana in Galilee. (Note to self: have El Jefe on speed dial for the big day.)
But even before pre-Cana, the young Catholic couple on the make has to have an actual sitdown with the priest. Already fearing a nervewracking experience, imagine my delight to learn several hours before we were to meet with him that my fiancé doesn’t believe in Jesus. “I believe in God of course, just not that Jesus was anything but a philosopher,” he said while tossing the keys to the valet. “It’s a good myth though.” Now, I’m not one to quibble with anyone’s outlook on the holy trinity. But I am going to throw a hissy when someone appears poised to jeopardize my chances at walking down one of the more aesthetically pleasing palaces of marble and aged mahogany in this city. I quickly unleashed a puppy dog expression meant to expediently convey, “Please don’t ruin this for us. If you do, our marriage is doomed.” I anticipate this will also be employed at the florist, the caterers, and the Brooks Brothers formalwear department. It did the trick, because he later agreed to adhere to a don’t ask/don’t tell policy, so as not to deliberately scuttle our chances.
Long story short, the priest was very chill. However, the meeting started with him having my fiancé sit in one parlor of the rectory while he worked through a questionnaire with me in another one. His two paunchy black labradors kept an eye on us in our respective rooms. The questions included “Are you in any way being coerced into this marriage?” and “To the best of your knowledge, are you related to your fiancé?” He didn’t seem to mind when I giggled while answering them. He also took down some administrative details, including my address. It wasn’t until I was in the holding parlor while my fiancé was answering these same questions that it occurred to me we might be in big trouble when he gave his address. On account of it being identical to mine.
When we were finally back in the same room again the priest started out by shifting a little in his chair and suggesting ever so gently that, technically speaking, the Catholic church frowns upon pre-marital cohabitation. But he quickly followed it with “not that I’m telling you to move out or anything, just, you know, think about living the celibate life until the wedding.” Again, he seemed cool when I giggled. Then he gave us a present:
Our very own copies of the Catholic catechism! That’s three inches of unmitigated fun. I like the church of the 2000s: now with 85 percent less guilt and you leave with swag.