When doing live radio, it can happen that things don’t come out exactly as we intended them to and time whips by so fast that we don’t get the chance to clarify before the end of the show.
That happened to me today on EWTN Radio’s “At Home with Jim & Joy” with hosts Jim and Joy Pinto. We were chatting about marriage and what parents should and should not do in wedding plans. It’s a live, call-in show, and a young woman called in asking advice for her upcoming wedding. She’s a recent covert to Catholicism, her husband and one of his parents are Catholic, and all of the other relatives are non-Catholic. This put her and her fiance in a dilemma in regard to the question of whether or not to have a Mass or ceremony on their wedding day, since a Mass could cause upset for some of the family members.
I was quick to share the experience we had with the recent marriage of our middle son. For similar reasons as the young female caller, they decided to have a wedding ceremony, conducted by a Catholic priest, in our Catholic parish church, instead of a nuptial Mass. Their rationale was that they preferred that as many people as possible be as open-mindedly present as possible to witness their testimony to Catholic marriage rather than attending with hostility or not at all. Since my son and his then-fiance still wanted the Mass to be part of their marriage celebration, they arranged with the priest marrying them to have a private Mass the night before the wedding, with the two immediate families and wedding party present. Although my husband and I initially struggled with their decision, in the end we understood it. In fact, we thought the Mass and ceremony both were meaningful, holy, and beautiful. So did all of the guests.
By bringing up that example, I meant only to give listeners encouragement NOT to give up entirely on making holy Mass a part of their marriage celebration. There are ways to include it, even when the circumstances make it seem impossible. My objective was to encourage couples to find creative solutions rather than give up on this essential component of the Catholic Sacrament of Marriage.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why the nuptial Mass is so important:
“In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up. It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but ‘one body’ in Christ.” (CCC 1621)
I’ve seen far too many couples entirely dump the idea of a Catholic marriage because of struggles over the Mass. Instead, they get married in other denominations, other venues, or, sadly…not at all. The Rite of Marriage and the nuptial Mass are both sacramentally valid, and both join the two as one in Christ. It may surprise you, as it did me, that in some countries, it is not usual for marriage to be celebrated inside of holy Mass!
Would I prefer the nuptial Mass? Absolutely. But, I’ve come to see that sometimes, things aren’t perfectly black and white. Then we have to ask God’s grace and guidance – and seek the counsel of our priest – in order to make the best possible choice.
If I’d had more time, I would have said all of the above (and probably more…) on the air. Alas, I discovered long ago that time will not hold still for me, no matter how I command or cajole. At least I have the opportunity to clarify here.
What are your thoughts on Catholic weddings? I look forward to your comments!