(Continued from last week)
Here is my proposal.
St. Dymphna’s in Frostbite Falls will offer the church and the church hall absolutely free of charge to any parishioner who wants a simple exchange of wedding vows.
First let us define parishioner. In these days of cafeteria Catholicism, a parishioner in my book is someone who has a genuine pastoral relationship with their pastor, attends Mass faithfully and is registered in the parish. Canonically I must also include anyone who is baptized and has received their First Holy Communion and lives in the parish boundaries, even though I may never have met them and couldn’t pick them out a crowd of two.
Now let us define simple exchange of wedding vows.
The wedding party has a bride, a groom and two witnesses, one male and one female, no more. Parents may walk up the aisle with their daughter or accompany their son, but that’s it -- no bridesmaids, no wedding march, no little kids, no flower girl, no ring bearer. One witness can carry the rings. As for music, the parish organist can be hired, but that’s it. No soloists, even your cousin Hildegard, no musicians, no harpist, flautist or kazoo players. The groom and the male witness may not wear rented tuxedos. Just decent pants, shoes, shirt and tie with a suit jacket if desired. No ridiculous novelty bus, hummer or stretch limo. There can be a wedding mass or just the exchange of vows as is felt appropriate. The bride may wear a white dress if appropriate, with sleeves or a shawl or vest that covers the shoulders. (It has always struck me as odd when some bride dressed in reams of gleaming white mosquito netting stands there with her five children.) There may be photos, but no professional photographer. If you are going to pay the outrageous cost of a professional photographer, it’s no longer a simple wedding. The congregation may then adjourn to the parish hall for a simple wedding breakfast immediately following the ceremony. Finger food, hors d’oeuvres, a cake and champagne or wine for the toast. No music. No beer. No booze. No DJ. No sit down feast for four hundred -- just a receiving line and a “nosh”, cake and a toast. The entire expense of the event would be the dress and the food. No place cards, no long boring videos of the bride and groom as infants, no roasts, just the sacrament.
Who would do this? It sounds depressing. It’s a lot less depressing than starting married life with a huge debt and an aching head, and possibly a fight with the new in-laws. Use the money to take a trip or buy a house or pay off your student loans. I have had weddings like this and they are actually elegant in their simplicity. The simple wedding allows a couple to prepare for a life together in a relaxed and spiritual way and when the day of their wedding arrives, they are not at the end of their wits, thinking about nothing but the screw up with the place cards and the gifts for the bridesmaids and whether they should acknowledge the groom’s father’s second and third wives thereby enraging the first wife and risking a brawl in the ladies room and the arrival of the police at the banquet hall.
I said much earlier that no one thinks weddings are important anymore except homosexuals, wedding planners and divorce lawyers. It is time for the Catholic Church to get out of the wedding business and get back into the business of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The government has never agreed with the Catholic Church on what a wedding really is. We believe in an indissoluble, covenantal sacrament that ends only with the death of one of the parties. The government wedding is a contract that ends when it is convenient to end it. Now legislators are falling all over each in the attempt to assure the electorate that they are more tolerant and nicer than their political opponents by being the first on their block to approve the redefinition of marriage and the family to include anyone you may please.
When all states and all the legislators have approved same sex weddings, doubtless they will move on to demonstrate their open mindedness by approving multiple couples weddings, male and female harems, and then weddings with pets and perhaps with inanimate objects. What the world has decided to call a wedding, is not something of which we even approve. I have said it often enough and will say it again. Some clever Catholic lawyer should get a class action suit going to make the point that government’s involvement in weddings is a violation of the separation of church and state. If I have a wedding for which there is no wedding license, I am guilty of a FELONY!!! In effect that means I cannot bless a wedding that the state has not first approved. It will not be long before my refusal to bless a wedding of which the state approves will come with a fine and perhaps imprisonment. Now the state is content to tell me who I may not marry. In a very little while the state will insist on its right to tell whom I MUST marry. The state and the culture have redefined marriage and thus it is not something with which I care to be involved. We must dump weddings and return to the old and tasteful wine of the exchange of marriage vows.
If you are a couple, and by this I mean an engaged couple, or even people who are living together in a civil marriage or without benefit of any marriage at all. What you may ask is the difference between a wedding and the exchange of vows? Simple. The first is a photo-event and a great pain in the neck. The second is a simple statement that, “I promise to be faithful to you for the rest of my life, and to care for you and for any children that God may give us.”
Ladies, if the old goat with whom you are sharing your life at the moment will not vow before God and the Church in the most solemn way that he will be faithful to you for the rest of your life, I would drop him like a bad habit. Change them locks! Get a new phone number, password and E- mail address. He’s a bum and not worth your time. If Becky Sue, that hussy, gives you the business about a bargain basement wedding, or some such nonsense just tell her that she may have had a perfectly lovely wedding, but you have a husband who loves you, your children and the Lord.
The Rev. Know-it-all
P.S. Fr. Simon of St. Lambert’s in Skokie, a loose cannon if ever there was one, and a remarkably poor theologian, has written to tell that his experiment with changing the method of educating children for First Holy Communion has been a raging success, despite the fact that he was involved with it. The first confession class was the best prepared he had ever met and the desire for Holy Communion was very real and he really recognized the candidates from their regular participation in Sunday Mass with their parents. Instead of a post-reconciliation party after the first confessions, there was an enrollment in the Scapular which was very moving. The program apparently only met with a sort of mentor once a month. The rest of the time the parents were provided with teaching materials and they themselves taught the children. It worked splendidly, the parents and their children spent almost an entire year growing together in faith and love for Christ. It was amazing to watch faith become a family affair, rather than a “drop ’em off, pick ‘em up” sort of thing. The joy of the sacrament shared by parents and children alike was deeply touching. The parents really fulfilled the hope expressed at Baptism that they would be the first and best of teachers in the ways of faith. I know that the program did not succeed because of Fr. Simon. He is a fog-bound idiot. The credit must go first to the Holy Spirit, and then to Mrs. Dorothy Amorella, the mentor and Jonathan Rivera, the co-coordinator, and above all to the parents who loved their children enough to try a difficult experiment.
Kudos and Many Blessings!