This is both true and not true. It is true it is a very special day for the bride and groom who, after Christ who is celebrated in the ceremony, are the focus of our prayers. But it is not their day alone. Neither is the marriage theirs alone. In the true Catholic sense both the wedding Mass and the marriage itself is part of the greater community. It is not the wedding Mass of the couple, it is a public celebration of a marriage. If George and Mary Sloppy up the street hear wedding bells and decide to come to the Mass there is technically no way to stop them. This is a Catholic/public event. Therefore there are certain things that we abide by not because the Church wants to interfere with your wedding, but because you are asking to be married by the Church and the Church (you, me, George and Mary) also have some rights and expectations. It is in some sense our wedding ceremony too.There often seems to be a tremendous lack of understanding about what a bride and groom are about to do, which gives an inordinate focus on the bride. Consequently, I like to remind each bride during our preparations that she is not, in fact, a princess. I say it, of course, with a bit of humor, but the truth of it remains. This usually leads in to a conversation about what we want to remember about their wedding day thirty years from now. Above all, I hope, we want to remember the love their share more than the decorations and dresses.
So is the marriage. We have the illusion that a civil marriage is not a public institution but it is. There are things that married couples are not allowed to do by law and there are other things that they are required to do by law. The definition of marriage itself (though in flux at the moment) is a matter of law.
A Catholic marriage also a part of the greater community who has a stake and role in it. At stake is the domestic Church. The greater Church is only as healthy as the domestic Church. By being married in the Church a couple is not only requesting God’s presence in a special way into the marriage but the greater community as well. The community’s role (who was invited formally or informally to your wedding Mass) is to support and pray for the marriage. The bride and groom may be of one flesh now but Christ called as all to be one. We do not live in isolation. We are part of a body – The Body. And our ceremonies are designed to signify as much.
06 May 2010
Father Dwight Longenecker offers a few thoughts on the sacrament of marriage, thoughts which are always good to revisit: