Gang of Priests: war stories

When priests get together for a while, conversation will turn to seminary and parish war stories.

Weddings will be included among those war stories.  Included could be a few things we wish we could say.

First, it is amazing how often people who are requesting sacraments of the Church look you straight in the eye and lie.

On the model of the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified, we should have the Mass of the Pre-Consumated.

Beer cans on the altar after the photo sessions.

Coming into church during the photo session just as the bride is lying on the altar in a suggestive pose.

“No white dress. For you, it’s peach at best.”

Finding a buffet lunch set up in the church’s choir loft.

“You and your fiance will be walking down the aisle together.” “But Father! But Father!”, the bride objects, “I’ve dreamt all my life of my father giving me away!” To which Father responded, “Madame, you gave yourself away when you moved in with your fiance.”

Hard and fast rules: “I will not discuss any details of your marriage with your parents (read: the bride’s mother).”  Wise.

Co-habitating couple asked for their out-of-wedlock bundle of joy to be pulled down the aisle in a wagon with sparklers attached to it.

There were more.  Ohhhhh, yes.  There were more.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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77 Responses to Gang of Priests: war stories

  1. AnnAsher says:

    After dealing with these delicate and shocking situations wherein you have to control yourselves in dignity – I think it is good you can share the tales. It’s always good to be understood.

  2. If the mindset that gives rise to behaviors like these is commonplace, then maybe we shouldn’t wonder why so many annulments are granted in the United States.

  3. FrJLP says:

    Ohhh…if only I could be there to share my “battle wounds”, as well! Give me a funeral any day; the corpse never talks back (and if it did, I’d be outta there!).

    Seriously, though: no matter how hard you try to prepare a couple well for marriage, sometimes they just shock you! I am thinking the first time I saw “Star Wars” robot dentures during the exchange of vows… You can’t make this stuff up!

  4. Tonia says:

    If you didn’t laugh you’d cry as they say.

    I bet you also have Baptism stories. I wonder how many priests have said “maybe I’ll see you again soon” and had the couple reply “no, this child is going to be our last”?

  5. DavidJ says:

    Sparklers? Wow

  6. Genevieve says:

    Share more, Father! I read these aloud to my husband; we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so we did a little of both.

  7. aragonjohn7 says:

    Lol. : )

    Shalom

  8. disco says:

    At least in the old days people felt shame.

  9. Hmmmm. A new blog for anonymous priest tales, venting, war stories. I bet it would fill up quickly!

  10. Sissy says:

    It’s all of a piece. Teen girls who totter down the church aisle carrying the gifts in micro-minis and tube tops end up standing at the altar as brides while their babies are trundled down the aisle in a wagon with sparklers. No one has ever told them the truth, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.

  11. iPadre says:

    We all have those wedding scars!

    Did you talk about the “eulogies” and funeral music requests yet? There’s an other area of nonsense.

    There’s also the reception of Holy Communion at both weddings and funerals. :-(

  12. NancyP says:

    Oh, wow.

    I guess I should not worry so much about all the discussions I’ve read on an Irish dance message board about priests (and one bishop) allowing Irish dance during the Mass.

    I am thankful that there are groups of priests who can get together and support each other. I know of at least one other group like yours – and I wish there were many more.

    I am praying for you and your brother priests. May God bless you all and give you an abundance of His graces!

  13. You wouldn’t get any of that at a trad chapel. That foolishness wouldn’t stand a chance.

  14. sophiamarie3 says:

    Ahh, beer cans on the altar? Tragic. This is why we need traditional Sisters in our schools to raise children with the TRUTH and in reverence and awe of God’s greatness. I want desperately to do this, help send me to the convent! http://www.psalm63ontheheart.wordpress.com

  15. The Sicilian Woman says:

    I give some credit to gay activists in that we – and by “we,” I mean society in general – have allowed weddings and marriage to be dumbed down so very badly that the “anything goes” concept towards marriage is so acceptable these days. I’m guilty of some dumbing down with my former marriage, though, to a much lesser degree than the brides and grooms mentioned above, as we lived together and then eloped, having a civil ceremony. No party or anything of the sort. We were tame by those stories, I imagine. I’ve learned my lesson for the next time around, if there is one.

    That being said, I second the vote for a blog with anonymous priest tales!

  16. frjim4321 says:

    Funniest one for me was way back. The females in the party turned the sacristy into their dressing room. It looked like a roller derby locker room, discarded undergarments included. I noticed a concelebrant with a camera taking a whole roll of pictures (pre-digital age) of the message from various angles. I asked him, “you brought a camera?” And he said, no he just found the camera amongst the mess, he had no idea whose camera it was! [ROFL! Fantastic!]

    And the bride who “gained weight” between the final fitting and the wedding. The seamstress had to come to the church to sew the bride into the dress. Also, she was unable to sit throughout.

    Special section here for wedding FLORISTS!

  17. bookworm says:

    Though I agree with most of the sentiments explained here, there is one I don’t and wish people would get it through their heads: the color of the bride’s dress has NOTHING TO DO with how chaste or unchaste she is! White became the favored color for weddings mainly because Queen Victoria wore a white dress and wealthy brides started wearing white to show off the fact that they could afford a dress that couldn’t be “recycled.” Before that, brides wore their best dress in any color; blue was favored in some cultures and red in others. The notion that white represented virginity was invented AFTER white dresses became popular for other reasons. As far as I’m concerned, any bride can wear white (or blue or pink or purple or plaid), as long as the dress is reasonably modest (which is a much more significant issue).

  18. frjim4321 says:

    Ditto “rather a funeral than a wedding,” have heard that many times. Probably rather a few funerals than one wedding.

    BUT . . . sometimes there are beautiful couples that really do make it all worthwhile.

  19. Charivari Rob says:

    I was there for the episode when our pastor (RIP) found out that the bride was not making a good-faith effort while running late for the late-afternoon Mass. She was nearby and had had the limo driver circle and wait down the block ’til well past scheduled time in order to build anticipation and make for a grander entrance for herself.

    Father’s response? “In 10 minutes, it’s my dinner time. If her tuchus isn’t in here by then, I’m leaving and I’m not coming back.”

  20. friarpark says:

    I sense a book here. C’mon Fr. Z., you guys need to write a book so the world can see themselves as they are. Perhaps the modern world can be shamed into changing their ways.

  21. kevinf says:

    What about photographers? And why at some weddings do you particularly have to duck from 4,5,6 photographers wandering around swinging lenses the length of a baseball bat around over the worshippers’ heads all through the mass! I once saw Father have to literally wave one of those guys off from climbing over the communion rail as the Archbishop was confecting the most blessed sacrament!

  22. yatzer says:

    Rev. Know It All has a hilarious commentary on modern weddings. I’m too tired to find the link right now, but it’s there.

  23. APX says:

    @Ann Maureen 02
    You wouldn’t get any of that at a trad chapel.
    *eye roll* I’m sure the FSSP priests, etc have their own wedding war stories. I’m sure not every couple comes from Traditional Catholic families, thus the friends and family members will be a handful. I feel anxious just thinking about the hooting, hollering, whistling, immodest dress, the swearing, the general hillbilliness that would occur at my wedding. I would have to be extra careful not to schedule it for the day of a Riders’ football game, as people would show up in jerseys and watermelon helmets for headcoverings (Yes, we wear our produce on our heads.) Someone would try to talk the priest into wearing his green chasuable to “get in the spirit of Rider Pride” too. I can see myself sneaking into the sacramental wine to help take the edge off. I just remember the last Catholic wedding I had to go to with all my relatives. It was an embarrassment.

  24. Random Friar says:

    Our wedding coordinators are very sharp when it comes to dealing with photographers/future in-laws. I would love to find a good way to extinguish the Unity Candle forever.

    The worst, for me, are not the weddings themselves, but the groom/bride that all of a sudden “remembers” a previous marriage. “But Father! It was with a Justice of the Peace. It didn’t really count!” (And yes, I stress that ANY kind of marriage, whether done by the Pope or Rev. Elvis Presley down at the Chapel o’ Love and All-you-can-eat Waffle House on the Strip in Vegas counts).

  25. Indulgentiam says:

    @Random Friar–i was told, by a Priest, that any marriage that is not performed by a Priest does not count and that basically it means that you had been living as an adulteress and your children are illegitimate in the eyes of the Church. Is this not so Father?

  26. Bea says:

    Strapless wedding gowns. Yikes
    I know of a bride that the Priest who was going to celebrate the wedding asked the bride to not wear one or at least wear a covering over it. What did she do? She showed up with 2 small strips of see through netting added to her shoulders. If I were the priest I would have been tempted to cancel the ceremony.

    My husband was in the confessional line when a newly wedded bride recessed down the aisle carrying their baby instead of a bouquet. My husband wondered to himself if she intended to toss the baby over her shoulder instead of the bouquet. Sick humor, I know, but the ridiculousness of such situations call for the ridiculous. Unimaginable in our day, for such weddings used to be done in the sacristy. No shame left.

    I remember the following quote:
    Three Popes: Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have said that the sin of this generation is the loss of the sense of sin.

    friarpark is right, Fr. Z.:
    You ought to write a book about all these outlandish events. Humor is a great way to see ourselves as we appear to others: a great teaching opportunity. I’ll bet it’d be a best seller, too.

  27. St. Rafael says:

    i was told, by a Priest, that any marriage that is not performed by a Priest does not count and that basically it means that you had been living as an adulteress and your children are illegitimate in the eyes of the Church.

    @Indulgentiam

    Canon law requires a Catholic to get married in the Catholic Church. A Catholic can only get married outside the Church with dispensation from the bishop. A bishop can give a Catholic a dispensation to get married in a Protestant service for personal reasons such as a mixed marriage.

    However, if a Catholic gets married outside the Church, without a dispensation, it is invalid. A Catholic who gets married by a justice of the peace or a Protestant church has an invalid marriage. There is no marriage. They walk in boyfriend and girlfriend and come out boyfriend and girlfriend.

  28. rtjl says:

    Church musicians have war stories too. One couple requested “She’s having my baby” as a communion hymn!

  29. Supertradmum says:

    The Brompton Oratory has had rules for over thirty years. I suggest other parishes do the same and the priest or pre-marriage preparation classes bring these up. Rules as to photos, (some churches do not allow any), dress, candles, flowers, etc. can easily be written out and handed to the couple when they come in for their pre-nuptial interview. This can stop abuses.

    The only wedding I attended this year, in Ireland, was shocking. Not only did the bride have strapless, but all her girls, the mothers of the bride (really I mean!) and many of the guests.

    It was gauche. The poor priest is in his 80s and a saint, so he probably was not prepared for this onslaught of flesh. Have women lost all sense of Good Taste? I write about this all the time on my blog and get nasty answers from Catholic women–who have no taste.

    Priests should not be afraid to set rules. Photographs can be outside, and, as in many churches in Europe, one does not have time for photos, as the next wedding couple is waiting in the wings.

    The other possibility, which I think is an excellent idea, is for the parish to have a wedding coordinator, a woman who is either a volunteer, or a paid person, if the parish can afford it, who deals with all of these things, plus the music, set-up, etc. This takes the onus off of the holy priest and allows a woman to coordinate the details. Women, who usually run the show of the wedding, can then deal with another woman. I know one parish which has many weddings who have such and it really helps the priest and the building and nerves.

    My idea of a wedding would be modeled after Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin-at midnight, with almost no one there, TLM, of course, emphasizing the holiness of the bond and the sanctity of the occasion. And, Zelie and many others most likely did not wear white. This was an upper-class English invention which sifted down to all the classes and transferred to America. Any color and any style of dress, which is modest, is fine.

    In the pioneer days, my lady ancestors told me they were all married in an expensive, but useful black dresses, as one had to wear black for many occasions afterwards. It was not until after the turn of the twentieth century that white became “it”. My grandmothers wore white, and that was “new” and trendy.

  30. Philangelus says:

    Supertradmum, my mother used to perform exactly that kind of service for her parish as part of the pre-cana ministry. She came home with war stories of her own, but the saddest to me was when she met one of the brides she had counseled not to get married yet due to issues unearthed during the pre-Cana sessions, and who’d gone through with it anyhow. My mother asked her how it was going, and right there in the middle of the street, this woman’s eyes filled with tears and she said, “I had no idea how hard this was going to be.”

    The horror stories about the weddings are all deeply-rooted in the couples’ courtship, in other words.

    I do have to say that I got about eight years of pre-Cana counseling before I even got engaged. ;-)

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Philangelus, our whole life should be a preparation for marriage, if we are called to that. Bless you.

  32. Indulgentiam says:

    @St. Rafael— Thank you :)

  33. PhilipNeri says:

    My Hard Rules for Weddings:

    1). The liturgy is the liturgy–no additions, subtractions, or changes or any kind. Period.
    2). I will not discuss the wedding liturgy with anyone but the couple getting married.
    3). If it’s not a Catholic song/hymn approved by the diocese, it doesn’t get played.
    4). Bride/maids need to be dressed for church not the club.
    5). My most often repeated line, “Save it for the reception.”

    Funerals:
    1). No eulogies.
    2). No eulogies.
    3). No eulogies.
    4). Save it for the wake.

    Thanks be to God. . .I have no wedding/funeral horror stories.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  34. PhilipNeri says:

    Oh, I forgot a wedding rule: no flash photography or any sort of intrusive or observable photo-taking. Before the Mass begins, I get in the pulpit and make this announcement loud and clear. I do this somewhat humorously, but there’s no mistaking my seriousness.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  35. Fr. Frank says:

    This post reminds me of an old Native American saying: “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a bride who had no class.”

  36. Matt R says:

    Father, I’m just turned 17 (today, as a matter of fact!) and this post is so funny, but oh goodness, is it sickening at the same time. Deo Gratias, then, that I am an altar boy at a wonderful parish, and already have ideas in my head for things like the Nuptial Mass. Not sure if the lady would go along with it, but hey, my female friends are well-aware that I love all things liturgy.
    Oh, and even though my family is nearly exclusively attendees at the Novus Ordo, I wish for my funeral to be a Requiem Mass, simply because I love the Dies Irae and other prayers of that Mass, and to avoid alot of nonsense.

  37. dominicop says:

    My first wedding had all of the elements we normally complain about: an immodest dress, children of the couple, and a somewhat problematic family. At the same time it was one of the most edifying experiences of my life and priesthood. The couple were recent immigrants from a country in Eastern Asia where the Faith is suppressed. They had been in a concentration camp for over five years, and while there were priests in the camp they weren’t allowed contact with the rest of the Christians there. The couple wanted to be married but were unsure that they would ever escape the horrors of the camp. If they were married, at least civilly, that kept her safer from the advances of other men. Literally the first thing they did upon arriving to the States was find the nearest Catholic Church and ask to have their marriage regularized. I was so impressed. And the dress was mostly immodest because it was borrowed. I also had the privilege of baptizing the two little ones immediately afterwards. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect situation, but boy were those kids hungry for the sacraments by the time they got them!

    One horror story often gets omitted in this whole mix, however, is what can happen when the materials our parishes put out to help couples with marriage prep actually discourage them from getting married–but for the wrong reasons. Because of all of the craziness that happens with flowers and photographers and the like the wedding booklet typically quotes a price. This is to protect the priest, the organist, and the cantor from couples who will gladly spend ten grand on the trimmings but forget to support the Church for their trouble in the matter. I get why we do it, but I haven’t seen many places it’s done well. Practically speaking most places simply “charge” for weddings, and sacraments can’t be sold. Most of my work has been done in very poor parishes and especially among immigrant populations. When you complicate the cultural dynamic with a language barrier and a bottom line of $1000 then marriage can look like an unreachable goal to the poor. Now of course I’ve never known any priest who would actually refuse to witness the marriage of very poor people who couldn’t afford the stipend, but the pamphlet doesn’t say that, the parish secretary typically doesn’t know that or is trying to protect Father, and even one couple who gets lost in the shuffle or scandalized in this way is too many. I don’t have a solution for this but would be very happy to hear suggestions from people. Dealing with these kinds of situations has been one of the most disedifying experiences of my priesthood.

  38. VexillaRegis says:

    A friend of mine, who is an organist at a protestant church in Western Europe, told me that she once was asked to play “The Final Countdown” (by Europe) as the wedding march. The vicar thought that was fine and up to date. She did not, but had to play it anyway. (The lyrics are about the final countdown before leaving the earth and going out into the space for good!?)

  39. Supertradmum says:

    At the Irish wedding I mentioned above which I attended this spring, the Communion song was “You fill up my senses” by John Denver, sung by a soloist. I thought that was not only really bad taste, but blasphemy.

  40. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Yes Father, I would love to hear more. I like InfiniteGrace’s idea of an anonymous blog.
    There needs to be more visibility into the abuses so that such things can mitigated and/or fixed. Keeping your mouth shut about scandalous behavior does keep bad example from suggesting excuses for more bad behavior, yet unless people understand what ‘bad’ is, and that there are alternatives, we won’t learn.
    And with a gazillion examples, the Church perhaps will wake up to how bad things have really gotten, quit denying it, and actually do something. Its not just weddings and funerals…

    @dominicop – what a sweet story.

    As far as dealing with ceremonial abuses, parishes should definitely print up a good list of instructions. In the corporate world we call it “managing expectations” – or ‘setting boundaries’ in relationships. There is nothing wrong with this idea – it can be a booklet or succinct list. If options are covered before anything else is planned it is much easier to control than after everyone’s expectations have amuck, the dresses are ordered, the rock musicians are at the door, the mother of the bride has already donned the roller skates at the church entrance. Same goes for a grieving family member [save it for the wake!!], presenting a list of options and what to expect the ceremony to be, can be one less decision they have to make in a shocked and heartbroken [and rushed] mindset. You nip it before the ideas bud!

    In reference to the misunderstandings of donations, that can be clarified: “your donation supports secretarial time” for instance, so people realize its not pay-for-Sacraments but support of the Church. Also, one can state ‘the cost to a parish is this nnn’, “depending on your circumstances donations are negotiable”. The sticky part about donations can be indirectly discussed if the priest [or wedding coordinator] takes the time to chat about the reception [and the expense] and with such information can choose to negotiate or not.

    Couples need the reminder that the ceremony is more important than the reception. Planning a reception is so complex that it is easy to focus less on the simpler ceremony! But hey, would there BE a reception without the actual marriage?

    Some parishes in the area here present the bride [or grieving family member] with a list of music from which to choose. She can have any music they want, from the list. Surprisingly, the majority really don’t know anything about music and options are a relief to them. And yes, a parish wedding coordinator is an excellent idea, had one for my wedding. A funeral coordinator is equally valuable, tho its often the overworked church musician.

    In retrospect on my own wedding, I have often considered how much wiser it would have been to have a very private wedding in a small chapel for immediate family and my Catholic friends, and then later in the day invite the milieu to the reception. The scandal I observed at my own wedding [afterwards in the video] from how people dressed to reception of Communion, shocked me. And the good dear priest not only made the announcement just before Communion about worthy reception, my wedding program had an explanation of worthy reception.

    Though the stories can be funny and shocking, I am so sorry priests have to go through this kind of warfare.

  41. AnAmericanMother says:

    Tina,
    That was precisely the case at our wedding — small ceremony in the chapel attached to the cathedral, everybody invited to the reception at my parents’ house. (I can take no credit – mom planned it all. We just showed up.) And we weren’t even Catholic at the time!

  42. irishgirl says:

    Oh my goodness, Father Z-those are real horror stories with regards to weddings! You and your fellow ‘gang members’ should write a book!
    My priest-friend in England probably has his share of crazy wedding stories, too.
    @ Fr. Philip Neri, OP: I say ‘BRAV-O’ to your tough uncompromising stands! Way to go! Keep it up!
    @ Supertradmum: The only wedding I ever stood up for was my older sister’s back in 1975. She wore a simple white dress made by an Indian dressmaker in Toronto, Canada. The other bridesmaids and I (my twin sister, one of our cousins, and a third girl who were roommates of the bride) wore long denim dresses with long-sleeved blouses and little kerchiefs (we looked like the daughters in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’).
    And when my maternal grandmother got married in late 19th-century Germany, she wore a dark dress for her wedding gown; we have the photograph to prove it. I was thinking of her [my grandmother] when you mentioned how Blessed Zelie Martin was dressed for her wedding.
    And I like the idea of midnight weddings, with little of the fuss and fanfare of today!
    @ Charivari Rob: LOL over what the priest said! ‘If her ‘tuchus’ isn’t here by then, I’m leaving and not coming back’ That’s a good one!

  43. Cantate says:

    Father Z and your “Gang,”
    Thank you for this. I look forward to a book or blog. Too funny–but we laugh to keep from crying.

    That is one apparently-unhappy bride at the head of this article. At least her gown has a partial top, rather than being strapless. O, the irony: some brides, unabashed, bare their chests, backs, shoulders and arms and then put the “modesty veil” on their heads! Bishops should outlaw such dresses.

    Beg to differ, supertradmum: white wedding dresses, at least in the 20th century, signified virginity. For second marriages or shot-gun weddings, brides did not wear white for that reason–at least in the Catholic Church. Perhaps it does not obtain today, as virginity/purity/chastity, in many Christian quarters and especially in secular society, are not valued as virtues.

  44. AnAmericanMother says:

    Cantate,
    supertradmum is right, she’s just looking at a longer time frame than you are.
    The whole ‘white dress’ thing began in England with Queen Victoria. It didn’t symbolize virginity at that point, it was just her personal choice. But it was imitated by the fashionable and the wannabe fashionable. It caught on in the “ladies’ books” over the next 50 years, and gradually came to America, but it only gained traction among the well to do. So when Grover Cleveland got married in the White House in the 1880s, his bride wore white . . . but the average bride still got married in a “best dress” that could be used again after the ceremony.
    White went “out” in the 30s (probably on account of the Great Depression) and didn’t come in again until after World War II. Then of course it came in with a vengeance! My mother was married in cream silk satin in 1951. I wore her wedding gown in 1977, and it appears that my daughter will be wearing it when she gets married (it fits her to perfection! and has a real Brussels lace veil to go with it – now how to get the age stains out of the silk . . . ?)

  45. AnAmericanMother says:

    . . . and it’s a very modest gown. Princess bodice, jewel neckline (just right for 18″ pearls), capped short sleeves, chapel train.
    She won’t make the mistake I made and have her men stand up in trendy tuxedos (pale peach! ruffles! WIDE satin lapels! oh my goodness be sure your sins will find you out!) Morning dress all the way.

  46. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Cantate — Supertradmum is entirely correct about the original Victorian reason for white dresses. The virginity thing developed later, as a sort of sneering thing. But yes, the original reasons were nearly forgotten by the Thirties, when Sayers dressed Harriet Vane in cloth-of-gold as a medievalist protest against it. :)

  47. Supertradmum says:

    As to colors, in the Medieval Times, which to me were the most Catholic of all regarding culture, any color was used, and most likely more than one color. Many traditional costumes were multi-colored. In the 1950-1960s when I was a girl, the Mexican ladies in our city wore pink or red gowns on their wedding days, and we all thought they looked great. Again, that changed to white over time. I think we should reconsider as Catholics the entire wedding price-list.

    I think cloth-of-gold is a great idea. But, where are the Peter Death Bredon Wimseys, one could ask? But, he wasn’t Catholic…

    AnAmericanMom, morning dress is so nice….

  48. ericrun says:

    In seminary, we had a recent diocesan priest turned Benedictine who a few very good stories.

    One involved a bride sending her fiance to RCIA classes because the catholic church had the longest aisle in the city by a few feet.

    Another involved the appearance of a snow princess flower girl at the entry way to the church while he was finishing Saturday evening mass. The rest of the family was outside bringing in the rest of the Winter Wonderland themed decorations.

  49. AnAmericanMother says:

    I have always loved the old Scottish Highland wedding dresses – tartan overdress and plaid over cambric petticoats and bodice – at least we had a piper at our wedding!

  50. Gregg the Obscure says:

    There’s a nifty bisyllabic word that sums up “out-of-wedlock bundle of joy”. Some people might find that word pejorative, but it seems to me that the only people who have any right to be offended at being so called would be people to whom it clearly doesn’t apply.

    It’s a good thing I’m not a cleric because I tend to have much less tact than holy priests like Fr. PNP or Fr. Z. I was born on the feast of St. John the Evangelist and fittingly enough I find it difficult to go a few hours without wanting to call down fire from the heavens on someone or other.

  51. The Sicilian Woman says:

    On the subject of civil marriage, while individuals are not considered married in the eyes of the Church, if either wishes to be married in the Church at a later date, they must obtain a “freedom to marry” letter. Many of you know that, but I’ll bet some of you don’t. I was surprised at this, thinking that since no valid marriage occurred, the path was clear to a Catholic wedding, should the opportunity arise for me. I recently obtained my letter. It was a simple process. I met with my pastor and provided him a few documents. He submitted the paperwork to the diocese and I received the letter in just under two weeks.

  52. JKnott says:

    Several years ago the pastor of our basilica implemented a “no strapless or backless” wedding gown rule, and to show he meant business he proceeded to inform all bridal stores in the area of the rubric. Brides love to be married in this church because of it’s superb beauty. However after that, weddings at the basilica dropped by 50%.

  53. Supertradmum says:

    All broken marriages must be reviewed and the Church in most dioceses want mini-annulment type inquiries into even civil marriages. This is not new. Some dioceses in the Midwest have been doing this for years. The Church must make sure there was not a real marriage in all cases, whether obviously valid or invalid.

  54. Indulgentiam says:

    @The Sicilian Woman—thank you! i did not know that. i just looked in my copy of the CCC but i did not find it, am i looking in the right place? thank you

  55. APX says:

    @Dominicop
    Now of course I’ve never known any priest who would actually refuse to witness the marriage of very poor people who couldn’t afford the stipend, but the pamphlet doesn’t say that, the parish secretary typically doesn’t know that or is trying to protect Father, and even one couple who gets lost in the shuffle or scandalized in this way is too many. I don’t have a solution for this but would be very happy to hear suggestions from people.

    What if the financial aspect of it wasn’t dealt with by the secretary, but by the priest instead? Given that it is a stipend (is it in fact a stipend, or a fee that’s charged to pay for the time of the use of the building, organist, etc?), is it not the priest’s responsibility to keep track of stipends, or did that part of Canon Law change in 83?

  56. acardnal says:

    Indulgentiam, this is more a matter of Canon Law than something you would find in the CCC. There are many possible impediments to a valid marriage. Too many to list here. Canons 1055 – 1165 apply. You can find these on the Internet.

  57. APX says:

    @JKnott
    Several years ago the pastor of our basilica implemented a “no strapless or backless” wedding gown rule. [...] However after that, weddings at the basilica dropped by 50%.

    Silly brides. They could have just purchased a bolero jacket. Then there could have had the tart dress for the reception. Not that I approve of dressing like a tart.

    Somewhere on the internet many years ago I read an article about a priest who warned a bride that she wouldn’t be allowed to be married in a strapless dress. The bride rebelled and showed up to her wedding in a strapless dress and the priest held true to his words by making her wear a surplice over he dress. I wish I could still find that article. While I know it’s not appropriate for women to wear clerical attire, it’s the principle of the matter.

  58. AnAmericanMother says:

    She’s lucky it was just a surplice!
    At my daughter’s school, if you showed up in inappropriate attire, you had to put on an ugly pink XXL long sleeved shirt (“the shirt of shame”). The boys, especially, were very careful!

  59. Indulgentiam says:

    @acardnal—if i may impose on your time please Father.

    §2″…a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.”
    shouldn’t i take this to mean that if it is not a sacramental marriage then there is no marriage?
    is there a book on this someplace? i’m a mom i have to teach this in as clear a manner as possible. any help will be greatly appreciated Father. Thank you

  60. acardnal says:

    Indulgentiam: First, I am not a cleric but a layman nor am I not a canon lawyer either. LOL

    Your question is better directed to Edward N. Peters, J.C.D., J.D., who has appeared on this blog previously regarding Fr. Guarnizo and who wrote a book entitled Annulments and the Catholic Church . Maybe you can read that and get the answer you need.

    From other priests explanations, it is my understanding that that the Church always assumes initially that the marriage is valid until otherwise indicated. Perhaps some priests on this blog will chime in. [That's not the topic here.]

  61. acardnal says:

    correction: “. . . .nor am I a canon lawyer.”

  62. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Indulgentiam – You’re welcome! I didn’t read about that requirement in the CCC; I do not know if it’s even mentioned in the CCC, though it would seem likely to be so. It does make sense, though, as Supertradmum mentioned, to have this process in place to ascertain that all former marriages are invalid.

    I learned about it only when I sat in on a series of RCIA classes about two years ago. The woman conducting them had also been married in a civil ceremony, then divorced, and had to obtain a “freedom to marry” letter. Sad to say, the RCIA classes were good for learning little more than that piece of information, and I’m in a parish with an orthodox pastor. But RCIA reform/improvement is a topic for another day.

  63. Supertradmum says:

    Not only canon lawyers, but catechists have to know theses categories because of RCIA. Edward Peters actually has guidelines for catechists on the web somewhere. Some of us had to learn these things to deal with irregular marriages. All broken and past marriages are examined in RCIA, all, whether just civil or in a church. I would be surprised if most dioceses did not instruct their catechists to do so. Sicilian Woman’s experience is not that unusual.

  64. wmeyer says:

    Supertradmum, further to what you have written, Dr. Peters has written a book on the annulment process. It doesn’t deal with the edge cases, but for many, should be most useful.

  65. Indulgentiam says:

    @acardnal—oops sorry :| i guess from your name i just assumed…sorry about that. Thank you all. i will definitely track down Mr. Peter’s writings on the subject. this blog is such a blessing. Thank you Fr. Z :D

  66. wmeyer says:

    acardnal: Apologies, I did not see that you had already cited Dr. Peters’ book.

  67. Philangelus says:

    @ Fr. Philip Neri, OP, when we hired our photographer, I said, “If you’re a professional, you can get all those shots without anyone knowing you’re there.” My mother told me about a wedding once where the photographer pushed the priest out of the way. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.

    I also asked my guardian angel — repeatedly — that if anyone in that church pointed a video camera in my general direction, he was to turn it off. I know he can do things like that (have experienced it myself) but fortunately everyone realized I was serious about the “no video” thing and everyone left their video equipment at home.

  68. Charivari Rob says:

    Glad you liked it, irishgirl. I’m not sure what the actual word used was, but you can believe it was stronger than “tuchus”.

    ericrun: “One involved a bride sending her fiance to RCIA classes because the catholic church had the longest aisle in the city by a few feet.

    Brings to mind two friends who just celebrated their anniversary. They had exchanged vows at her family’s small, urban neighborhood church (can’t remember which denomination). Very small church building. It only took about 8 bars of Lohengrin to walk from the back to the front.

  69. StJude says:

    “@rtjl says:
    Church musicians have war stories too. One couple requested “She’s having my baby” as a communion hymn!”

    My jaw will not close after reading that…..

  70. Imrahil says:

    On a little note of the article, I never anyway understood that strange American custom (which has been getting a massive Hollywood push for some decades) of the father giving the bride away.

    We know that between all the errors of Feminism, some things were right. Bride and groom together, as free human beings and not – nor the woman either – their parents’ property, contract the Matrimony they had proposed themselves to to each other together under assistance of the priest.

    I’ll be a bit bold, but I cannot see how the father has a legitimate liturgical place in this.

  71. Cathy says:

    I’m not exactly sure how popular music suddenly became liturgical music, however, I do recall as a young child looking through the back of the missalette at music entries, and, to my surprise found under “songs about going to the dentist”, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, by Simon and Garfunkel. I am still left somewhat discombobulated about why we would need a liturgical entry about going to the dentist and how it was concluded that the song was about that.

  72. VexillaRegis says:

    Cathy: Hilarious!!! Maybe they thought of dental bridges, which, I am sure, could be scary to get installed? Hehe!

  73. Random Friar says:

    BTW, “Quinces” (quinceañeras) have tended to be worse than weddings, IMHO. The girl just wants to have a nice party. I’m really there as liturgical decor.

    My favorite story from a Quince is about a mom who strongly suggested that I beat into the girl the theme of “purity” during the homily. Had to do some quick mental reworking of the homily, but mom was happy, even if I was a little more subtle than her homiletical preparation ideas.

  74. robtbrown says:

    It looked like a roller derby locker room, discarded undergarments included.

    That usually happens later at the reception.

  75. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    At the Irish wedding I mentioned above which I attended this spring, the Communion song was “You fill up my senses” by John Denver, sung by a soloist. I thought that was not only really bad taste, but blasphemy.

    That’s a terrible song, no matter where’s it sung. And then there’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” . . .

  76. robtbrown says:

    Re stipends: I had an Aussie friend in Rome (with a doctorate from Cambridge) who came back from spending a summer at a parish and said that there was a notice in the vestibule that listed the prices for Sacraments: Baptism, Matrimony, etc. He said that he wanted to add a sign that said: We will match any price.