Church is the guardian of marriageBy: Fr. David J. Dohogne
Are you or someone you know getting married in the near future? If so, congratulations!
Marriage is meant to be a very special and sacred event in a person’s life. Sadly, many young Catholics are choosing to marry outside the Church. Perhaps they are unaware of the moral and spiritual obligations on their part to celebrate their marriage in the Church. As Catholics, we acknowledge marriage as one of the seven sacraments of our faith. Through this sacrament, God shares His grace with the couple and gives them the spiritual strength they need in order to live the gift of married love. If a person who is baptized and professes to be Catholic chooses to marry outside the Church, that marriage is not recognized as “valid” and, as a result, the Catholic party should refrain from receiving Holy Communion at Mass. In order to be united with Christ in the Holy Eucharist, we must first be united with Him in our daily lives and choices.
This is a perfect time to reflect upon the sacredness and sacramentality of marriage as we prepare to implement the “Order of Celebrating Matrimony” in our parishes on Dec. 30, the Feast of the Holy Family. Many people are probably unaware that the Church has recently provided us with a new and revised translation of the rite used for celebrating weddings. As mentioned above, it is now officially called the “Order of Celebrating Matrimony.” Much of the rite is still the same, but there are some new additions as well. It is the hope that with the implementation of the new “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” we can “recapture” and regain the dignity and sacred nature of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Many “secular” elements have found their way into the Catholic celebration of weddings, almost to the point that they supersede the sacred.
The revised Order reminds us that a Catholic who is engaged to be married should be fully initiated into the Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation prior to the wedding. Music chosen for the celebration should be sacred in nature and all things of a secular nature are more suitable and appropriate for the reception. This would include the “Unity Candle,” which has become a popular fixture for many weddings. The Unity Candle has never been part of the official ritual of marriage in the Catholic Church. While it does reflect a beautiful symbolism of unity for the couple, the use of the Unity Candle would be more appropriate at the reception, perhaps prior to the blessing of the meal. For two people who are Catholic, the true sign of their union in Christ is receiving the Lord in Holy Communion at the Nuptial Mass, not lighting a candle. Scripture readings must be chosen from those provided in the new Order. Poems or other writings composed by the couple can never take the place of the readings from Sacred Scripture. Again, things of this nature are more suitable for the reception after the Nuptial Mass.
The introduction to the Order offers us some powerful and thought-provoking reflections and insights on the importance and dignity of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It seems that the state of marriage is in chaos in our modern society. “Marriage” has become whatever we want it to be. The Church has always been the guardian and protector of marriage and family life as these sacred gifts have been entrusted to us by God. I believe this is reflected once again in the “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” and the truth and wisdom it offers us in our own day as we see traditional marriage under attack from all sides of our culture.
Let us sincerely pray for and support couples who have and are preparing to commit themselves to God and each other in the Sacred Bond of Matrimony. May God help each of us to live well our respective vocations in order to build up the Kingdom of God!
In addition to his position as diocesan Director of Worship, Fr. Dohogne serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Dexter, MO; St. Teresa Church, Glennonville; and St. Ann Church, in Malden.