By Barb Arland-Fye
As Jeff and Missy Foley exchanged loving looks and marriage vows, I held my husband Steve’s hand tightly. We had the privilege of serving as sponsor couple for Jeff and Missy and were among the guests who attended their wedding ceremony May 14 at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire.
The promises Jeff and Missy made — with Father Joe Wolf, our pastor, and all of us as witnesses — stirred fond memories of my wedding day 26 years ago at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Clinton.
After the wedding I returned to diocesan headquarters where I’m studying with deacon candidates, their spouses and others in the Master of Pastoral Theology program. It is a cooperative effort of the Davenport Diocese and St. Ambrose University in Davenport with a primary goal of preparing future deacons for ministry in the diocese.
This particular weekend our class focused on spirituality, and one of the aspects covered was sacramental spirituality. When we began talking about the sacrament of marriage, our professor, Father Joseph DeFrancisco, S.T.D., asked us to share thoughts about our lived experiences of spirituality in this sacrament.
My classmates offered wonderful examples of prayer and faith that they incorporate into their marriages; some have practiced their prayer traditions for 30 years or more! Then someone wondered aloud what it would be like if we celebrated weddings during regularly scheduled Masses.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “in the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during ‘Holy Mass,’ because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ” (CCC, 1621).
Granted, the Catechism doesn’t say marriage ought to be celebrated during a regularly scheduled Mass, but “The presence of the Church’s minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality” (CCC, 1630).
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the sacrament of marriage than to include the ritual within the regularly scheduled Mass on a Saturday night or Sunday morning. Had that option been available when Steve and I were married, I’m not sure how I would have felt about inviting an additional 400 strangers to our nuptial Mass. But that was before I fully understood that the sacrament isn’t a private affair.
The Second Vatican Council in its Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People observed that “Christian couples should be signs to each other, their children, and the world of the mystery of Christ and the Church by the testimony of their love for each other and their concerns for those in need,” theologian Joseph Martos writes. (“Doors to the Sacred, a Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church.”)
Witnessing a couple professing vows to one another, in good times and in bad, could serve as a reminder to all of us that marriage is a commitment taking us beyond the passion of early romance. Marriage requires a bit of dying to oneself, but the sacrifice can be a bonding experience.
“The most common reasons couples give for long-term marital success are commitment and companionship. They speak of hard work and dedication, both to each other and to the idea of marriage itself,” notes the featured story on www.foryourmarriage.org, an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Maybe we need more reminders that marriage is a sacrament. What better place to underscore that catechesis than at a regularly scheduled Mass?
I’d like to know what you think. Send an email to email@example.com or write to me at The Catholic Messenger, 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport, Iowa, 52804-1901.