Friday, May 18, 2007

Mass Weddings

One serious pastoral problem we have, which undermines an important part of Christ's teaching, is that many people seem to come Holy Communion who shouldn't, as well as those who should come to Holy Communion but do not.
The reason for many is that they are married outside the Church, either in a civil ceremony or on some beech in the Caribbean, or for some reason in a non-Catholic ecclesial community or church.

Sometimes it is that they just cannot afford the ceremony; actually the ceremony costs less than £200 in most Catholic Churches, including the fees for an organist, registrar and a small gratuity to the priest. The extras, the frock, the party are the things that cost money, and often lead people into serious debt.

I have often though we need a cheaper alternative. Call me an old unreconstructed 1970s liberal, if you must, but I also think that one of the problems with weddings is that they lack any connection with the parish community, although they take place in a public building, they are actually private occasions.

I was struck by the post below from Dappled Things, I would be very interested to know what you think, to me this celebration seems to be a good way of teaching about the value of marriage and avoids a convalidation -- which is really a putting right of something which is wrong - in the past they were conducted in the sacristy or a side chapel -- becoming a repudiation of the previous non-sacramental ceremony, which is another reason why people avoid putting a marriage right.

......I contrast that to the weddings that we celebrated last Saturday night in the Spanish Vigil Mass. Twice a year, we encourage couples who are in merely civil unions or long-term cohabitation to take advantage of a program I started up a few years ago. We take these couples, most of whom have children and are together for several years, and who for whatever reason didn't seek the sacrament of matrimony when they got together. They hear it advertised at Mass, so almost all of them are regular Mass-goers, but obviously unable to receive Holy Communion or to fill leadership roles in the parish. Two married couples and I give them marriage talks, meet with them, put together their paperwork, and make sure there are no obstacles to solemnizing their marriages.
Then, together with the people with whom they've taken the classes, they make their vows in the parish Mass, surrounded by fellow parishioners who've been praying for them while they've prepared. The parish pays for the music, pays for the decorations, and doesn't charge a dime. And they return to the Sacraments that night at the same time they receive the convalidation of their marriages. The week afterward, we always get a deluge of phone calls of people who were moved by the beautiful and festive celebration and want to have their own unions blessed in the same way, as well. The event is palpably sacred, the newlyweds end up becoming some of our most active parishioners, and the communal nature of the Sacrament is made patently obvious.

There's no fretting over trivial details. There's no obscene expenditure of money. There's no worrying over guest lists, as all are welcome. Even though validation isn't the best way to go -- that is, being married in the Church after a civil ceremony or concubinage -- these group weddings are my favorites, and the couples tend to be the ones who impress me most. I've also been edified by the way our parishioners look forward to them each season and the interest and joy they show in the couples. It really is a celebration within the parish community, and not merely a private ceremony attended by people one has never seen before. To that extent, the joy of the event seems several orders greater, as well.

I rather like this pastoral intiative, I would be grateful for comments.


Anonymous said...

Getting married nowadays will set you - or the bride's father - back well over £11,000. Now, when my father and I went to Slovenia in 1986 to visit his sister, there happened to be a wedding on the day we arrived. Actually it started on a Saturday and ended on the following Tuesday.

Whet these country folk do to keep costs down, as country folk must, is that everyone in the village chips in with something in the way of food, wine or whatever. Otherwise getting married would be prohibitively expensive for them too.

DP said...

Call me an old unreconstructed 1970s liberal, if you must, but I also think that one of the problems with weddings is that they lack any connection with the parish community, although they take place in a public building, they are actually private occasions.

At my parish most weddings are explicitly open invitation. For instance, in the bulletin that is going out this weekend there is the following announcement:

"All parishioners are invited to witness the wedding of X and Y taking place on Monday, May 20th at 3:00pm at St.X parish. Coffee and cake will be served in the hall immediately following the wedding and everyone is welcome and encouraged to stay and celebrate."

This is not unusual for our parish. Most couples choose to make an announcement inviting all parishioners to witness their wedding and have some sort of small celebration immediately afterwards. There's usually a more formal (although smaller) reception later in the evening by invitation only.

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