Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why can't Catholics get married outside?

This one's kind of a softball compared with the past couple days, but I am exhausted from the pace of this thing. Like what the h was I thinking committing myself to 31 days of posting about not things like toddlers peeing under the coffee table (happened) or how to make frozen yogurt paleo (answer: eat it fast enough you can pretend it didn't happen. Ahem.)

Anyway, here's a softer, gentler post for today. Church weddings - what's the big deal?

I've heard all the arguments about the mountains being God's cathedrals and the ocean being His swimming pool, or something along those lines, and I'll heartily concur that nature powerfully reveals God to man, and that there is something awe-inspiring and reverent about being in the great outdoors.

But here's the deal. A Catholic wedding, the birth of a Christian marriage, is a Sacramental affair. And Sacraments, when at all possible, belong within the consecrated boundaries of a church.

A church building is not just a building to Catholics, you see. Like the Jews of the Old Testament we revere the place where God dwells in a tangible way, where He is truly present. He is of course present everywhere, as the author of all being, but He has chosen to dwell in a particular way (and a deeply humiliating way, when you think about it) in the physical form of bread. I'm talking, of course, about the Eucharist.

The Eucharist, Jesus Christ incarnate in the humble forms of bread and wine, is the heart of the Church. And the Eucharist hidden in the tabernacle (tiny gold box, center of the church, marked by a red, lit candle) is at the heart of a church building.

Since Catholics don't actually get married by a priest (he receives their vows as a witness. it's the couple themselves who administer the vows to one another) it's essential that they exchange their vows in the presence of the High Priest, the Eucharistic Jesus, present to them in a powerful and tangible way in the tabernacle. Yes, the priest (or deacon) is there to officiate the wedding ceremony, in one sense. But it is Jesus who receives our pledge our fidelity to our spouse. It is Jesus who extends the grace to make marriage a Sacrament. And it is in Jesus' house, aka a church, where we go to receive this Sacrament.

Could a couple be married outside (literally, like in a field) the Catholic church and still have a valid marriage? Yep. But it's not ideal. It would of course be a different matter under situations of duress, like during wartime or political unrest/religious persecution, or when it's not possible to get to a church, but the desire to have a unique seaside ceremony punctuated by a dolphin salute and fireworks is not sufficient reason to go outside.

Does that make sense?

So it's not a matter of being stuffy or backwards or old fashioned, at least not in the sense that we're just not yet hip to the all inclusive splendor of a Sandal's nuptial's that we have a very sacramental understanding of the Sacrament of marriage. And certain Sacraments - Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion, Marriage, Ordination...take place within the physical boundaries of a church, a consecrated space set aside for worship.

Whew. I'm over and out. See you tomorrow.


  1. Not exactly related to the above, but... In the midst of what I guess would be called a "reversion," I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and have been checking in daily ever since. This series has definitely been giving me some great food for thought (my husband, too, who recently started RCIA classes). Today I was reading the Cup of Jo post about Brittany Maynard and started combing through the comments, most of which heralded her strength and bravery. Only a handful questioned Maynard's decision, but finally I came to one that deeply resonated. "Who is this person that so eloquently stated what I haven't been able to string into words?!" I wondered. Clicked through, and of course it was YOU! So I figured now's as good a time as any to thank you for being such a rock in this young, reverting mama's world. So...THANK YOU! x

    1. Praise God.

      I'm way looking forward to reading your blog, too!

    2. p.s. I'm a revert too. Big time. I'm pretty sure I blogged about it at some point, but I should go into more detail some day ...

  2. "we're just not yet hip to the all inclusive splendor of a Sandal's nuptial package" -- Ha! You're on a roll! Love it.

  3. I am a new follower and I want to thank you. I feel as if I only know the tippy top of our Catholic religion, even though I have been going to church since 2nd grade. So I deeply appreciate your putting into words I can understand the teachings of our faith. I have the Catholic Catechism book, but let me tell you it is HARD reading. And no humor at all. So... Thanks. :)

  4. I'm happy and thankful you're tackling this! Keep on it lady!

  5. Wow, this is really interesting. I like the idea of the priest as witness to the vows rather than receiver of them. Thanks for sharing! I feel like I'm leaving so many comments tonight, but only because you've really captured my atttention.


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