You probably thought I had been splurging on flowers for the altar. Nope; much as I would like to do that, the flowers have come from another source: an unusual run of weddings here at the Holy House of Soubirous.
The last day of July brought Julie McCord and Vincent Mata to the altar. The next Saturday saw Adriana James become Mrs. Samuel Vasquez. Last week, Victor Brooks and Dawn Hall became husband and wife. This weekend, it was Jerome Johnson and Narissara Taseeta. Please pray for God’s abundant blessings upon them!
It is surprising, but generally, we have few weddings here. Over past decades, the kids who grew up here had long since married, and new parishioners arrived already married, leaving a bit of a generation gap in the parish. But now we have younger adults joining before their marriages, and there is the prospect of kids I have seen become adults over recent years come trundling home with prospective spouses to walk the long, elegant aisle of Saint Bernadette.
It would be hard to imagine anyone not wanting to be married here in our beautiful church, with its handsome altar, rich stained glass, excellent organ, and that dramatic aisle, especially if they have been nourished in their faith and identity here. But kids move further away, and establish new lives in other places, before marrying. I concede that some might legitimately prefer to begin their married life in their new church homes.
But I think a lot of people, even Catholics these days, take their wedding vision and cues from other sources. The competition to have more innovative, more personal, or more astonishing weddings affects even Catholics, leading them to look everywhere but to the Church for their perfect “wedding venue.” While they may get much beauty, individuality, or novelty in the process, they lose something far more important: the sacrament of matrimony.
Catholic marriages happen in church, ideally a Catholic church. When marrying a non-Catholic in his or her home church, provisions can be obtained by preparing with the Catholic pastor. But with only specific exceptions (e.g., a Catholic marrying a Jewish person), a wedding in a building that is not a church, no matter how grand, special, or beautiful, is almost certain not to have the blessing of the Church. And a sacramental wedding never occurs outdoors.
The Church will always accommodate genuine needs – such as for a wedding in a hospital room – but otherwise expects couples seeking marriage in Christ to bring themselves to His “house,” showing their commitment to having Him dwell in their home. If they undertake marriage elsewhere, they undermine their union with Him in all the other sacraments, as well, wounding their Baptism and, in fact, breaking their Communion.
More beautiful even than our magnificent church is the sacramental intimacy that we as Catholics enjoy with the God who dwells among us, and marriage is part of that relationship. Jesus’ miracle at Cana only hinted at the abundant gifts he gives to those who invite Him to their wedding. His fidelity to His bride, the Church, is our only hope of life and salvation. To have that hope in our lives, remember – and teach your kids: if you want, skip the stained glass; skip the aisle and the organ. But bring your marriage to the altar! It’s about the life of grace – not the flowers.