Monday, June 11, 2007

Catholic Topic of the Week 1

You may remember my post from about a week ago, Just thinking, in which I mused about the possibility of doing a Catholic Topic of the Week. Well, I got one response with a question to consider. So because of that and just because I like the idea myself, here is the first Catholic Topic of the Week.

The question I received had to do with marriage and had multiple layers. I will take each apart one at a time. Also, don't forget that I don't necessarily know what I am talking about. I will provide references where I find them and I welcome further comments if you have more information to add than what I could find. So here goes ...

First, I was asked about deacons being able to perform a marriage. Actually the deacon is the first witness of the marriage, as would be the priest if the priest were the person presiding. The couple actually marries each other. The bride and groom are receiving the sacrament of matrimony and therefore "perform" the marriage together. Remember also that the marriage, to be valid, has two parts. First they give their consent to marry and express their vows to each other in the Church and, second, they consummate the marriage act together. Therefore, whoever presides is there as the first witness. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) at 1623 and 1630, plus the paragraphs around those all deal with marriage as well.

But the real answer to the question was about the deacon presiding at the celebration. The simple answer is yes. Deacons are ordained clergy. I think we sometimes forget this and only think of them as men who are their to help the priest in our parish church. But they are ordained clergy who profess obedience to the Bishop during their ordination just like a priest does when he is ordained. Deacons have roles in the church that also include sacramental roles. CCC1630 refers to both Priests and Deacons as ministers of the sacrament of marriage. Deacons can also baptize and preside at funerals. Deacons also preside at a Liturgy of the Word service if a priest is not around. Each year the priests in our diocese take a retreat together for a few days. During those days the deacons will preside at a Liturgy of the Word/Communion Service during the times when daily Mass is usually held. Communion is distributed if there is some already blessed in the Tabernacle, since the priest (or bishop) is the only person that can do the Eucharistic celebration. The one Catholic wedding that I have attended at which a deacon presided, there was no distribution of communion. So they had the Liturgy of the Word and the marriage ceremony and then the final blessings. There are a multitude of reasons why a couple may choose to get married without a Mass, but that can be a whole other topic. For more about deacons, I found an FAQ on the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops website. Check it our here.

The second part of the question was where a couple can get married according to the Catholic Church. Does it have to be in the Catholic Church? Can it be outside, on the beach maybe, or even in another church? First about outside weddings. The Catholic Church teaches us that marriage is a sacrament that should typically be held as part of the Mass. CCC1621 has a great way of describing this (definitely go read that if you have a chance). A Mass is almost always held in the holy space of the Church. Therefore it stands to reason that you would get married in the Church as well. I happened to come across a short article on this very issue recently, which can explain things much better than I can and I highly recommend reading it. It can be found here: "Catholics Don't Get Married at the Beach!".

The issue of getting married in a church that's not a Catholic Church is a little more difficult to answer. Essentially the answer is yes, you can, but there is a but. My understanding is that a couple getting married in which one person is Catholic and the other is not, can get married in a non-Catholic Church with the consent of the bishop. Ah, I just found the answer!! Thanks to the book Fr. Frank gave Chris and I as a wedding gift, I have found that according to Canon Law 1118: "It [the marriage] can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor." That's about all I know on this topic.

I think that about exhausts all my knowledge and I believe I managed an answer to all parts of the question that was posed. I would love to hear more comments or additional information anyone has to add on any of my statements. And if I got something totally wrong, please let me know that too.

Oh, and other topics for next week?? Let me know!!


  1. Thanks for the very thorough response to the question posed!

  2. During lunch today a thought popped into my head that would be appropriate to mention here.

    I was listing to Real Life Radio at home last night (AM 1380 in Lexington) during the broadcast of the Drew Mariani Show (from Relevant Radio). They were discussing marriage in the Church and they were answering questions from listeners.

    One of their discussions was about marriages taking place in the Church, rather than the newest trend of doing them on the beach or in a park or something. The points they made were very interesting and drives home the point even more about marriage being a sacrament.

    I don't remember any of the exact points, but I do remember the basic concepts. They were talking about how people have come to expect that because this is "their day" they can do whatever they want. But the marriage isn't just about the one day, it is about being joined through a sacramental union for a lifetime. God has to be part of that every day, for the rest of your lives. Not only that but the sacraments are always done in the Church and almost always as part of a Mass. Actually, what better way to start your marriage than in the context of the Mass. Personally, I can't wait to receive the Eucharist for the first time as a married person beside my husband. And after consummating our marriage we'll go back to Church the very next day to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist again! How awesome is that!!

    But back to the sacrament idea: can you imagine baptizing your child at a park? Or having a funeral on the beach? What about the sacrament of Reconciliation? I know I've gone to reconciliation when I've gone on a retreat and wasn't at a church, but your first reconciliation is usually always done at a Church, in a confessional.

    In my opinion, your wedding is a very special time and does deserve some special touches. And a couple should (and does) have the ability to do some unique things even in the context of a Catholic Mass. However, the Church does have some rules that need to be followed. The rules aren't there to make your life miserable, but to keep the marriage ceremony a sacramental event in your life.

    Another interesting point I heard made on the radio yesterday had to do with the extravagance of the wedding. The priest on the show was saying that he saw that the weddings that were most extravagant were usually the ones that had difficulties later in their marriages, possibly even leading to divorce. The less extravagant, the better the marriage. He also mentioned that he saw problems with couples later in their marriages when the husband took little interest in the planning of the marriage ceremony. He had no hard statistics nor had he conducted a study, this was his personal observations. But they certainly seemed telling to me. You can see his point just by looking around at the society we live in today.

    I think that is finally it. I just had to share the information from what I heard last night, especially since it related to this very topic. --K