If you haven’t been to a wedding lately, your attendance at Mass this weekend will be a refresher course in the Scripture passages and vows for the sacrament of marriage. The passage from Genesis, which Jesus then cites in the Gospel of Mark, very specifically states that a “man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.” When I am a witness to a marriage, I always have goose bumps and many times, joyous tears when I see the couple at the altar as the priest is administering the sacrament.
When was the last time you attended a wedding or anniversary Mass just as a member of your parish community? You weren’t specifically invited to the wedding reception or dinner, but you knew the couple or the family and wanted to offer congratulations. We as parish members witness many sacraments of the church. You may have been at a parish Mass recently when a baptism occurred and you did not know the couple or their child. How about that long confirmation Mass with all those young adults? As a member of the parish family you were there celebrating the sacraments as a community of faith. That is what a community of faith does, comes together and supports each other in all of its joys.
The religious celebration of the sacrament of marriage is also a community celebration. Unfortunately, over the years it has assumed an invitation-only atmosphere. Attendance at parish weddings is usually family only and maybe a handful of close friends. That couldn’t be further away from the church’s teachings. Sadly, even many invited persons will forego the real celebration of marriage and come only for the after-party dinner and dance. Most sad of all, some parishes do not even announce that there is an upcoming marriage sacrament to be celebrated which could have encouraged parish attendance.
So, I challenge you to peruse your church bulletins to look for those marriage banns or announcements and, at the very least, include the couple in prayer. But even more importantly, if you know them, be there at the sacrament of marriage to congratulate them. Church leaders, I challenge you to let your parishioners know about the sacramental events in your parish. Allow your parishioners the opportunity to be supportive in prayer and service. There is an adage that states that it takes a village to raise a child. I would state that it takes a parish community to support marriage and family. For if a couple does not feel supported and welcomed, they will leave and the parish will be the lesser for it. So, let us all as a community “become one flesh.”
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.