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Marriage is a sacrament. That means it is about more than just the couple involved. It touches us all.
I can’t help it. I’m a totally romantic guy, always have been. I am also a firm believer in the community sharing in the joy of our sacraments. Yes, even in death, there is as much joy as there is in baptism.
Each sacrament comes to us in our faith, our community, with God.
For the most part, we celebrate the sacrament of baptism at Mass, or right after Mass. It is a welcoming to the community and a celebration of life, itself, as well as the instruction to parents and godparents to raise their child in the Catholic faith.
Our reconciliation is personal, but it is also a joy to confess, to converse, and to “go forward”.
First Communion is witnessed by church members, be it during school hours, or at Sunday Mass. It is another “marker”, a step forward in our faith journey.
Confirmation confirms our next step in our faith life, and the admonition to be witnesses for Christ to each other, and to the world.
Holy Orders, the decision to be totally dedicated as a priest or religious, a ceremony witnessed by other religious, a bishop, families, and the church community, in public.
Anointing of the sick, in the church setting, is a community event of prayer for physical and personal healing. As our end time on earth approaches, it is a source of joy, of strength, of faith, and hope.
A hopeless romantic, I have saved, as last, marriage.
My wife, Cheri, and I married 43 years ago this past June 6. Her matron of honor recently posted a photo of us from that Sunday afternoon.
We were adult members of the Newman Center at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. At the time, the Newman Center rented a classroom on campus, an auditorium, for Mass on Sunday. That is where we had our marriage ceremony. I in my disco blue suit, and Cheri in her long dress and large hat. The Center Director, Fr. Pat Collins, agreed to reschedule the Mass to 2:00pm to include our wedding in the liturgical celebration. The entire community witnessed our vows. We all prayed, we all celebrated, as family, friends, as a faith filled union.
This past June 22, Cheri and I were grateful to be invited to a wedding of two dear members of the community of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City. Christine is a Benedictine graduate. She had not been in any of my classes, but we met her through her involvement in ministries at the Cathedral. Jessie was another Cathedral member we met through his ministerial work. Their road to meeting each other, and beginning the journey to wed, is their own, and we talked and prayed with both, extensively, as individuals, and as a couple, along the way.
Their marriage ceremony was a faith-filled, simple, heartfelt, truly moving event. These folks “got it” as far as the solemnity, sacrifice, and seriousness of their vows to each other, to the community, and to God. It was an honor to witness it.
This past weekend, I come across an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Weddings a less religious affair. Church weddings now are a minority, as Minnesota couples choose convenience over tradition”.
Convenience over tradition?
“Church was never part of our relationship,” said (Janet) Belland, a 30-year-old from Shoreview. “And we found that we really enjoyed our friends’ weddings not held in churches.”
Added (Mitch) Zukowski: “We wanted an all-in-one location … where our guests could have the most fun.”
I am not judging these folks, really, I am not. They are certainly capable of making adult decisions. I wish them all the best.
That said, to me, a vow before God is not “fun.” It’s darned serious.
The ceremony is not about “you”. It’s about all those who have come before you, whose shoulders you stand on. It is about the community which has welcomed you through the sacraments. The sacrament of matrimony is an affirmation of your person, it is part of what makes you, you.
As St. John Paul II wrote, “Marriage is a unique communion of persons, and it is on the basis of this communion that the family is called to become a community of persons.”(St. John Paul II, Letter to Families. . . , no. 10)
As Father John Bauer, Pastor of St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Minneapolis is quoted in the article, “What is lost when a wedding is not held in a church, or a synagogue or a mosque, is a sense of prayer and God’s presence … while we can certainly experience God’s presence in a variety of ways and places, churches are those places where we instinctively feel God’s presence.”
I am pretty fired up right now about the diminishment of “weddings” and “marriage”. I’ve been told by other priests that the number of weddings in churches has dropped precipitously.
I maintain the community, in God’s house, is the “we” in marriage, as two faith-filled individuals come together to profess their faith and make their vow. For those who choose an alternate site, please consider having your marriage blessed soon after. We need and welcome you.