From a reader…
My wife’s niece is getting married this coming October. I asked her what faith she is and she couldn’t even tell me. I asked her what her fiancé’s faith was and she said catholic. I told her to put off her wedding and sign up for R.C.I.A and become catholic so her and her fiancé can be married in the catholic church and receive the sacraments. I also told her I was more worried about her salvation than her wedding at this point in her life. She sobbed of course, but appreciated my honesty. The next thing you know is there is a bounty on my head by her family because I upset my wife’s niece; go figure! My wife’s niece is getting married by a non-catholic minister and I’m wondering if I should attend this invalid wedding? I’m a devout catholic and want to know from you if I should promote this type of wedding?
A number of questions emerge regarding attendance or avoidance of weddings. Each has one or two details that are different from the previous question. Each questioner is looking for advice, guidance, support.
It’s all very telling. Weddings are important, both to individuals and to society. A wedding is not just about Titus and Sempronia exchanging consent and living happily ever after. Weddings have an impact on extended families, friends, parishes, and communities. Because of their importance, they cause stress. Because of their importance, they should be done right.
Pay attention, prospective brides and grooms!
Your wedding is not “your” day. It’s a day that can bring two families together, build up faith, teach important lessons to younger friends and relatives (and maybe some older ones as well), and set the tone for a happy, healthy, Christ-centered life together.
Unfortunately, many couples getting married take their direction on marriage not from the Church, but from society, or soap operas, or celebrities, or Mitzi the Wedding Planner who has the connection to the hot air balloon guy and the manager of Pawtastic Formal Wear dealing in mini tuxes for Scamp, the groom’s Lhasa Apso/Best Man.
For many, faith takes a back seat where weddings are concerned, if it comes into the picture at all.
Indeed, speaking of picture, I think many weddings are for the photos (given that “consummation” and cohabitation are looooong distant in the rear-view mirror).
Faithful Catholics are left to make difficult decisions, knowing how important weddings are, and seeing how frivolously some people take them. The bottom line question is always: Should I attend, or should I stay home? “Should I stay or should I go?”
The answer is not always clear.
On the one hand, rigorists might say: Don’t attend anything other than a wedding between two Catholics in a Catholic church. Even then, be a bit skeptical because the couple may have been living together before marriage, might have a flutist playing a solo during the Offertory, and might serve box wine at the reception. That box wine could be a deal breaker for me, too.
On the other extreme, laxists might say: Go to every wedding of relatives and friends that you can! If third cousin Bobby is marrying his life partner Robby in a ceremony conducted by a Wiccan priestess at midnight in the old cemetery, Go! After all, it’s all about Luuuuuuvvvvv! And love is never wrong, right?
Prudence (there’s our old friend, the mother of virtues again) should be our guide in all these situations. Rather than direct an answer specifically to the question (which really can only be answered by the questioner), let’s look at the principles and see if we can take away some answers.
QUAERITUR: What is our goal in approaching these difficult wedding situations?
We want to stand up for the truth, proclaim the beauty of the Catholic position, remain firm in our own faith, and avoid causing scandal. We want the bride and the groom, if Catholic, to see their wedding as a means of their own sanctification. We want those who are lapsed from the faith to return to a regular practice of it, and those who are outside of the Church to enter Her loving embrace. We want to keep our families and friends close and supportive of each other. We want to avoid tensions and stress and rather enjoy the time of the wedding as a graced time of happiness and love. That’s a pretty tall order.
We need to honestly ask ourselves some questions:
What would it mean if I attended this wedding? What would people think (especially and primarily my children, my spouse, my close family, the bride and groom)? What would avoiding this wedding mean? What would people think/conclude? Will my actions (attending or avoiding) help to draw anyone closer to Jesus Christ? If the marriage situation is less-than ideal, is it something that can be later fixed (e.g., a baptized Catholic couple marrying outside the Church, but who later could have their marriage sanated, versus a same-sex couple who’s “marriage” can never be recognized as such)?
When I stand before the Judgment Seat will I be able to say with a clear conscience, “Yes Lord, I (attended/avoided) that wedding with a clear conscience because I was acting out of love both for you and for the couple getting married, in the hope that my actions might either bring them close to you, or at least not cause them to fall farther away from you.”
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