Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Celebrating weddings during weekend Masses emphasizes the sacrament

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Sept. 10, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

The wedding of James and Rachel Rowley was celebrated during the regularly scheduled Saturday evening Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. (IR photo courtesy of Stan Sams)

People attending a wedding Mass on a Saturday afternoon often ask if they’ve satisfied their Sunday obligation. The standard joke is, “Only if they take up a collection.”

But on June 20, parishioners at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes participated in the celebration of Sunday’s Vigil Mass and in the marriage of Rachel Gordon, for four years the parish secretary, and James Rowley.

In American society, a wedding can often turn into an event more skewed toward fashion and secular social expectations than a moment of sacramental grace. In preparing a couple for marriage, appropriate emphasis is placed on the couple’s witness to the community within the sacrament. It’s not common, however, for that witness to take place during regularly scheduled parish Masses.

The 2002 marriage policy for the Spokane Diocese, however, has encouraged just that. “The time of marriage should take into account the liturgical season and the pastoral situation of the faith community…. It is always appropriate to celebrate the marriage of two Catholics at regularly scheduled Masses.”

Father Steve Dublinski, the rector of the Cathedral, made the suggestion to Rachel and James when they began planning their wedding.

“He said that sacraments tended to become more privatized. That sacraments are part of the community,” said Rachel. “Inviting the community to share in that” helps build up the community. “It inspires the community, to see the sacrament” celebrated.

The Rowleys’ original plan was for a more traditional, private Mass celebrating the sacrament. What was her reaction to the thought of her marriage being witnessed by, well, strangers?

“Fear,” she said. “What would people think? Would they be annoyed that Mass was taking extra long? I didn’t want people to think they’d crashed a wedding when we came down the aisle.” Friends were skeptical, too.

Father Dublinski had celebrated weddings at regular Masses before, as a pastor in Rosalia and at St. Charles in Spokane. There are a number of advantages, he said.

“The community has a great investment in the sacrament of marriage and the celebration of it during Sunday Eucharist,” he said. The celebration “emphasizes that marriage is not a private event, but a public event, for the public good of the Church.”

Weekend Masses are the normal time for the community to come together to worship, and so a greater number of people can be present for the celebration, he said. People who might not otherwise celebrate a marriage are given the opportunity to take part. Americans often think of a wedding as a private celebration, “when in fact it is not,” he said. “Sacraments are not private things.”

In addition to the individual guest list, invitations were to the wider community were included in the Cathedral bulletin.

“I would encourage people who are considering marriage to at least entertain the thought of having their wedding during a regular Sunday Eucharist,” Father Dublinski said. It’s “very appropriate in small communities where a person or couple is well-known to the community, but also appropriate in larger communities where the public nature of marriage is better expressed in a celebration during the Sunday Eucharist.”

A practical advantage is that the celebration doesn’t add an extra Mass to what’s often a crowded weekend schedule for a parish, said Father Dublinski. And the church is usually decorated already for the weekend liturgies.

Rachel chose the date because the cathedral would still be fully decorated from the annual Corpus Christi Flower Festival – one less thing to worry about.

And the more she thought about celebrating the wedding during the Mass, the more the idea grew on her.

“I had a goal,” she said: to focus on the liturgy, the sacrament. “I really wanted to be in the moment with the marriage. Any time I strayed from that, to be more glamorous, I could always go back to that goal” and ask herself, “is this really what I want? No. This is a sacrament.” The net result, stated simply: “It helped me.”

And through it all, James was her “stronghold,” she said. “He was really supportive. He said, ‘I just want you happy on the day I marry you.’ He was my rock through it all.”

Father Dublinski, she said, put the celebration in context with an introduction at the beginning of Mass.

The Mass itself was celebrated by Rachel’s brother, Father Jacob Gordon, a priest of the diocese of Toledo, Ohio. Concelebrating were several priests from Spokane.

“One of the comments I heard was that people were unaware you could have more than one priest concelebrating” a wedding Mass, said Father Dublinski. “People are free to invite as many priests as they’d like.”

Bishop Skylstad gave the nuptial blessing.

So how did it all work out?

To her surprise, “I got so many compliments – what a beautiful wedding it was,” Rachel said. One couple told her they hoped there would be more weddings at weekend Masses.

It truly turned into a celebration by the community, “beyond anything I expected.”

Several Spokane area priests concelebrated the wedding Mass; Bishop Skylstad gave the couple the nuptial blessing. (IR photo courtesy of Stan Sams)

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