Saying ‘I do’ during Sunday Mass

Saying ‘I do’ during Sunday Mass
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Mary and Andrew chose to get married during Sunday Mass.

Father Tom Newton officiates at the wedding at Christ Our Light Church, Cherry Hill.

Father Tom Newton officiates at the wedding at Christ Our Light Church, Cherry Hill.

I went to a Mass on Sunday and a wedding broke out. Well, that’s not exactly what happened. I’m certain that the wedding was carefully, prayerfully and meticulously planned. It most assuredly was liturgically well done. It took place at the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass at Christ our Light Parish, Cherry Hill, and the young couple exchanging wedding vows is well known to the parish community. Mary is the parish secretary/receptionist and Andrew works at a Catholic secondary school.

Can a wedding be within a Sunday Mass? According to Diocese of Camden policy the answer is yes, with the permission of the pastor.

Msgr. John Burton, pastor of Christ the Good Shepherd, Vineland, has worked in the field of liturgy at diocesan and national levels for many years.

“All the sacraments are ecclesial events,” he says. “Since Sunday is the day the church gathers at the Eucharistic Table, it makes sense that major events in the lives of our people are celebrated with the gathered community on Sunday, the day the Lord makes his own. We have begun to do this with baptisms and first Communions. All of the church’s ritual books allow for marriage during Sunday Mass. The presence of a couple vowing their lives to each other during Sunday Mass reminds the community of its need to support marriage and family life, particularly in the couple standing before them. The presence of the wider community at the Sunday celebration calls the couple beyond the comfort of their own world of family and friends, reminding them that truly sacramental love is always selfless, outgoing and inclusive.”

Unfortunately, in our ever increasing secular society, weddings can be severely out of focus. The attention seems to be on the bride, her dress, the flowers, the wedding party, the reception. This is not the proper focus. The crucial concentration is on the vows being exchanged by the bride and the groom. By exchanging the vows, the couple invites the presence of the Lord into their lives to bless their future the together as they become witnesses for Jesus in living out a blessed and holy life together.

Mary Lou Hughes, our diocesan co-director of Faith and Family Life Formation, notes that in “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis quotes the final document from the recent Bishops’ Synod on the Family: “The marriage liturgy is a unique event, which is both a family and a community celebration.”

According to Mary, as Father Tom Newton, the pastor of Christ our Light, was preparing this young couple for the sacrament of marriage, he suggested that they marry on a Sunday. They had originally planned to be married in Mary’s home parish in Milwaukee, but she and her fiancé became more involved in the Cherry Hill parish community and decided to take up Father Newton’s suggestion.

“People would say to us ‘that’s very non-traditional,’” says Mary. “And we were quick to explain that marriage in a Sunday Mass is actually very traditional.”

Mary and Andrew joined the parish in September 2015 and Mary also became a parish staff member. “Being the secretary here was a great way to get to know the community, and it was a fast home for both of us. It was a joy and honor for us to be able to celebrate the part of the day that was most important to us with the entire community of faith. Looking back, we are very aware of and grateful for the presence of the Spirit, so alive in the celebration. We could not have asked for a more authentic experience of what it means to be in communion.”

The Sunday Mass at Christ our Light was a moving event. As usual with one of the most gifted and talented musicians in our diocese in Mike Bedics, the music was lovely and prayerful. This parish community experiences the best music in liturgies. Father Tom Newton brought all three readings together in an insightful and at times humorous homily. He spoke about the “stuff” in our lives that get in the way of our salvation.

Then when Mary and Andrew exchanged their vows, it was done prayerfully and simply. It was a few moments that seemed so natural within the context of this Sunday Mass. They were surrounded by loving family members and not by a bunch of pretty dresses and starched tuxedos.

At the end of Mass, as the concelebrants and Mass servers processed out, so did Mary and Andrew. At this point, the congregation just couldn’t hold in its joy anymore and a huge ovation erupted. Mary and Andrew, beaming with smiles, were keenly aware of the obvious love and support of this parish community of Christ our Light. The Synod Bishops write: “The Christian community, through its heartfelt and joyous participation, is to welcome the new family in its midst so that the new family as a domestic church might feel a part of the larger ecclesial family.”

This wedding just didn’t break out. There was obviously much planning, prayer, thought and theology that produced a wonderful and memorable liturgy.

Rod J. Herrera is director, Office of Child & Youth Protection.

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