From a reader…
It has been over 20 years since I’ve attended a marriage in the OF between two Catholics that has had a Nuptial Mass. Why doesn’t the Church require that if two Catholics are getting married, they must have a Nuptial Mass?
My reason for asking this is I’ve noticed in magazines and on the internet that Brides are being encouraged to keep the ceremony short (anything over 30 minutes is apparently unacceptable in order to avoid boring one’s guests) and get on with the party. Furthermore, I read “Catholic” brides discussing keeping their ceremony as short as possible, cutting out anything that isn’t necessary and choosing the shortest readings, in order to get it over and done with. I feel like the option to not have a Nuptial Mass is being abused and over-used. Why do we go along with this? To me it suggests that someone isn’t ready to enter into a Catholic marriage because if they knew what it was about and entailed, they’d want all the graces and help they can get.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. T. Ferguson
The current practice of the Church is that, normally, the wedding of two baptized Catholics takes place during the context of the Holy Mass. This hasn’t always been so – in fact, prior to the Second Vatican Council, very few things were done within the Mass. Marriage, for example, between two Catholics would have been solemnized and then, after the wedding there would have been a Nuptial Mass. One of the (unintended) result of the post-Conciliar reforms was the inclusion of everything within the Mass – marriage, confirmation, graduations, May crowning, Bingo, potlucks, parish council elections, dance recitals… I exaggerate (but not too much), and the nearly complete elimination of many beautiful ceremonies of the Church that are not Mass.
In recent years we’ve seen a gradual recovery of the Church’s tradition of Exposition and Benediction, but Sunday Vespers or any other of the Hours are rare in parish churches, as are the formerly ubiquitous novenas, processions, devotions.
But I digress.
The priest who marries a Catholic couple has some leeway in permitting the marriage to take place outside of Mass, but the liturgical norms would seem to indicate that he needs a good reason for doing so. The desire to make things as short as possible doesn’t seem to me to be a good reason.
At the same time, I’m well aware that some brides, and some grooms, and some parental units can be… demanding. I have a hard time thinking ill of an overworked, stressed out priest, not being willing to die on that hill if the bridal party throws a fit.
What seems odd to me is the number of times I’ve had to talk with folks upset that the priest won’t do the wedding within the Mass when one of the parties is not Catholic. Those weddings SHOULD take place outside of Mass, and can only be celebrated within Mass for a good reason and with the permission of the local ordinary.
I blame soap operas for what’s happened to our wedding culture – everyone now feels the need to “create” a special and bizarrely unique moment, but that’s perhaps a rant for another day.