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A Leaven In The World… Evangelizing The New Areopagus: Weddings

January 8, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

Young people today often worship work, free time, or other people; anything from among a plethora of worldly realities other than the true God revealed in Jesus Christ. They might say they are Christians, as many do when asked today. They may not worship on Sundays or pray daily. But, of course, as the faith itself teaches, without works it is dead. We cannot be saved if our faith is nothing but words.
Often this practically pagan reality becomes evident when marriage plans begin to materialize. Weddings necessarily involve family. Family involves those of faith as well as those having none. When the invitations begin to arrive with no indication of a church wedding, some wonder, “Can I go?” and “What happens if I do go?”
Many Catholics do not know that the faith requires they should not attend an invalid wedding of another baptized Catholic. This is so because the faith requires our witness in all circumstances, even those most painful. Thus martyrdom does not always take the form of a bloody execution where the pain ends rather quickly.
I hear of cases in which Catholics are invited to marriage simulation ceremonies between two people of the same sex and choose to go to the reception while skipping the ceremony itself in the hope that this will preserve their status as practicing Catholics in good standing. I’ve been advised by knowledgeable priests that this choice, while still intending Catholic witness, is yet celebrating in an approving way what took place at the ceremony preceding the social event and so can still be a source of scandal.
Perhaps the Catholics in these cases could send a letter to the two individuals planning such a simulation and, while communicating their regrets, invite the two over for dinner after the event as a friendly way to reach out and maintain some form of friendly contact into the future. Remaining on civil speaking terms with everyone is a laudable goal. The Lord shared meals with those who opposed His teaching as a means of growing in the friendship which changes lives.
The engaged couple undertaking wedding planning often begin to search for a reception venue first. If neither attends church they might believe it’s hypocritical to seek one out for the ceremony. For whatever reasons, they decide to have the ceremony at the reception hall. Then they search for an officiant.
A priest I know got a call from a relative almost a year before her planned wedding. The couple were living together and not attending church; in other words, unprepared for the minimum required in a Catholic marriage. He advised they live chastely according to their unmarried state and begin to attend church, as well as otherwise prepare for the sacrament.
Later, there were repeated and balking questions from the bride such as, “Does it have to be in a church?” to which the priest answered in the affirmative. The couple reacted by seeking out a Protestant minister and planned for the ceremony at the reception venue, later informing the priest relative of this and assuring him they wished for his presence as a guest.
The priest did not RSVP promptly, undecided as to how to approach such a situation of an invalid marriage of a baptized Catholic relative. The engaged woman reached out to ask if he was coming. He responded by beginning a dialogue. He assured her he would very much like to come and proposed a dispensation enabling him to witness their vows within the ceremony as planned. She responded by saying she was confused: Why couldn’t he just attend as a guest? The two set up a phone call for the next day.
Meanwhile the priest called the local diocese where the ceremony was to take place. He spoke to the tribunal canon lawyer who informed him that all that was needed was a dispensation of place which would allow him to attend as a guest according to the bride’s wishes, as the wedding would then be valid.
He called the bride with the news and, with information from her about the local parish, called the pastor there. He spoke to the pastor and set the stage for an appointment with the couple to do the paperwork. The couple followed through and met with the priest and completed the paperwork.
The bride later asked the family priest to do the blessing for the meal. Loath to lose an opportunity to evangelize the couple and guests in this new “areopagus,” he began his remarks with a wish that the couple “be blessed” and proceeded to pray as follows to explain what that meant:
“We turn to the Lord in this season of His birth to thank Him for this wonderful occasion on which N. and N. have brought family and friends together in celebration of their vows of marriage.
“The Lord’s love is the source of your love for each other, which we joyfully celebrate with you on your wedding day. Remain in His love.
“Today you begin your life as husband and wife, one flesh in the eyes of God, and we pray that you always walk in the path of eternal life:
“To keep the Lord’s day holy through worship; to always make a sincere gift of yourselves one to the other in all things and also in openness to new life for the gift and blessing of children; to raise your children to be good, that is to be holy, through your witness and example; to always learn more about the Lord so as to grow to love Him more. . . .
“To grow ever deeper in friendship as you help one another to aspire to salvation. And one day, after a long life and seeing your children’s children, to enter blessedly into the eternal mansion prepared for you by the Lord. And that our feasting this evening in your honor may better share in your joy and bring glory to God as well as nourish our bodies, we pray: Bless us O Lord, etc.”
This priest recommends priests wear the cassock to such events. Heretics are often pious and imitate Catholic ceremonies and dress. The Protestant minister officiating the ceremony was dressed in black suit with the roman collar, leaving many family members with the impression he was a priest in good standing. The Devil often works through appearances to lead us into practical denial of the faith.
And that perhaps is the biggest problem with such “anything but Catholic” ceremonies: Ambivalence about the Catholic faith gives an opening to the Evil One.
A Catholic who becomes aware a family member is planning a non-sacramental ceremony may always speak to a priest about dispensations possible in cases where one party to the marriage is unbaptized or non-Catholic. The Church’s concern always is that Catholics continue to practice the faith. Such is the basis for granting such dispensations so that the wedding is valid and the Catholic thus remains in good standing.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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