From a reader…
I have a question regarding the situation of two Catholics being married by an unapproved minister.
Would any law prevent the couple from contacting the parish and explaining what they want to do, then following the course of Pre-Cana classes and doing all other things required, THEN, on the day of their Nature Wedding, or the day before, have the exchange of vows before the pastor or deacon in the church or rectory with no fanfare?
After this they could go pledge their love on the beach or whatever they wanted to do, and before whomever they’d like (or no minister at all!).
Would this be tantamount to simulation of the Sacrament?
I know the Church doesn’t want to permit anything that may cause confusion or mislead the faithful, but after all is said and done sacramentally, I can’t imagine another ceremony would have any bearing on the prior ceremony done according to the Church’s laws.
GUEST PRIEST: Fr. Timothy FERGUSON responds:
Weddings are one-time things. Ideally, those called to this vocation go through precisely one (1) wedding in their lifetime. A man and a woman commit to each other to enter into a communion of the whole of life through that one, wonderful, poignant act of consent. Our lives our made up of a series of wonderful, un-repeatable events – from our conception, through our birth, our first word, our first step, our first heartbreak, our wedding, (our ordination, our first solemn vows), up to our unique and un-repeatable death.
We live in a culture of instant playback and do-overs. We video record and photograph every event of our lives so that we can constantly play it back (though, in reality, how many times do we actually view those recorded events?). Great pressure is put on the production value of these home movies that our lives have become. Was the lighting just right? Was the backdrop perfect? Was every cute little foible and hiccup recorded, and every embarrassing foible and burp deleted so that absent family and friends – and posterity will think that we have achieved absolute perfection, even in our imperfections?
The Church envisions our one, unique shot at matrimonial consent being just that – a man and a woman, capable in law, free from impediments, saying “I do” in the presence of a duly authorized witness of the Church. That’s what counts – that’s what makes a marriage. That, followed by a lifetime of daily “I do’s” and a complete sharing of life with one another and, hopefully, the children that follow along.
There are situations that are less than the ideal – such as places where the civil authorities don’t recognize the validity of a Church marriage and couples have to marry civilly before they can do so in the Church. There are circumstances that cannot be avoided. But we really shouldn’t be interested in staging recreations of that one, beautiful, significant moment when a man and a woman become a married couple.
Additionally, as a word of advice: for every ten minutes that a couple spends on planning their wedding, at least ten days should be spent on planning the marriage – getting to know each other, discussing your faith, your hopes, your dreams, your practical plans and understanding of finances, roles, families, habits of prayer. Don’t put the cart before the horse.