October 24, 2008

Why I Don't Mind Weddings

Over the years I've gathered that most priests regard marriage preparation and the execution of Nuptial Masses and ceremonies to be among their most dreaded chores. I think that this is because, for one thing, they take up a lot of time. With just over a year now in my career as parish priest, I have witnessed seven marriages and have sixteen more in production. Very few go by without any hitch at all; you almost always have to do something extra, like finding baptismal records from suppressed parishes, figuring out inter-ritual or inter-religious dispensations, obtaining decrees of nullity from previous marriages lacking canonical form, or asserting your rights and jurisdiction against the dreaded "wedding planner." All I can say is thank God one of my best friends in the Order is a canon lawyer.

Not that these things are always a terrible hassle, but in most cases you are doing them on behalf of young people with little more than a tangential relationship to their religion, much less to the parish. (There are shining exceptions.) Most, sadly, are "cultural Catholics" who probably won't be seen in church again until the next spiritual emergency, like when they have to baptize a baby. So I think that a lot of priests find it to be a sad situation and resent having to spend a lot of time on it.

I also find it sad, but I've also come to appreciate these young people. Even though they have not kept up with their faith--probably because it was never taught to them in a way that was relevant to their lives or portable into adulthood--I find them to be people of faith. It is an amazing act of faith to get married, after all; to bet that your own mutual love and regard is stronger than a future you can't even know. To me, that's almost the definition of faith.

In this world with its utter disregard for the creation and the gift of life within it, with its violence and morbid desire to see its own shipwreck, I find it very encouraging that people still insist on falling in love with each other. And they know at some level that love demands a complete commitment, even though we can't know what forever or complete is going to mean. But we do it anyway, because love is the way we touch Eternity and only eternity satisfies it.


Pia said...

The things you've written about here remind me of how amazed I am that there are still young (and relatively young...) men and women who respond to their vocation to serve the Church. I hope you don't mind a little nudge (I'm using my elbow in your ribs, figuratively)...yours is not a career, it's a mission.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I'm not so crazy about the phrase 'cultural catholics'. For all I know, every one of them will be in heaven long before I am.

Brother Charles said...

I for one believe that many of them will be in heaven before me...because I know better and am so much more guilty because my sins are the same. Nevertheless, I use the term as just a descriptive, not an accusation.

Brother Charles said...

P.s. when I lament what I call "cultural Catholics," I don't mean it as a judgment, but just that I feel bad about how they're missing out on so much. And it's the fault of catechesis and preaching that does not make the practice of Christianity practical and portable.