Black velvet “Reserved” signs draped over the back of the first two pews, with their gold fringe hanging down. Not that unusual for weekday mass. We often celebrated silver or golden wedding anniversaries among our aging parishioners. But usually there aren’t young children.
A dozen or so people I normally don’t see at daily mass arranged themselves in these two pews and spilled over to the third row. After the Liturgy of the Word, Fr. Joseph called a young couple to the altar for their wedding vows. A 5 or 6-year old daughter clung to her mother as she stood at facing her husband. Two witnesses completed the wedding party with friends and relatives caring for the toddler daughter in the front pews.
Fr. Joseph gave them the full treatment — the entire wedding treatment complete with vows, blessing of rings, a quick husband-and-wife kiss, and an introduction to the congregation. We applauded. The bride smiled so big her shoulders rose to her ears.
At communion time, the newlyweds received the Body and Blood first. Then they returned to the front row. As we parishioners came forward for our turn, the toddler daughter fussed, squirmed and pointed to the priest distributing communion. Her mother kept rocking her and turning toward the back of the church to distract the child, but the toddler would only look back over her mother’s shoulder, cry and point at the priest.
When the line ended the mother took both daughters to the priest for his blessings, and all was peaceful. The children seemed familiar with the blessing of communion time and were no longer left out.
The daughters got to process out with their parents and Fr, Joseph at the end of Mass. Soon the group returned to the altar for quick photos.
I wondered what brought this couple to this decision. I know that our parish encourages couples with civil marriages to convalidate or bless their union in the Sacrament of Matrimony. The bulletin announces meetings and planning sessions for a large group wedding ceremony for such couples each year. I left mass feeling good about our parish and our Catholic Church that tries to bring unsacrametalized people into full communion with the Church.
A week later in a conversation with our Faith Formation Director, she mentioned that one of her teacher’s aides last year wanted to lead a class this year. One of the requirements is a valid marriage in the Church. It turns out that this Wednesday morning bride was the former teacher’s aide. Now she’s training to teach a class of her own.
From her desire to serve as a catechist came the impetus for her and her husband to sacramentalize their marriage. They are fully in the Church and enjoying all the sacraments, as she prepares young children to do the same. God was at work in her life and in mine. He completed the picture for me of the Father/Bridegroom enjoying communion with us, the Body of Christ, his Bride.
Do you know anyone you can encourage to receive the sacraments more fully?
(© 2014 Nancy H C Ward)