Q: My boyfriend and I had
wanted to get married this month, but when I contacted our
parish last February, they told me that there is a six-month
waiting period. Why so long?
A: When an engaged couple
contacts a possible place for their wedding reception (usually
well more than six months in advance), the staff members
assume that the couple has made the proper wedding preparations.
Thus, the conversation is about day, time, menu, total price,
deposit and so forth.
When an engaged couple contacts a Catholic parish
to set a wedding date, the parish staff will probably want
to have a meeting or two to be sure that the Catholic Church
agrees that this man and this woman are indeed free to marry
each other. The six-month preparation time is a general
practice in many U.S. dioceses; it can be modified for special
These months are not an obstacle course designed
to frustrate engaged couples. This time is part of how the
Church prepares future spouses for the most important non-emergency
decision that either of them will ever make.
If people can spend years preparing to make
a living, shouldn’t they be willing to accept some outside
help in preparing for marriage?
It would be irresponsible for the Church not
to provide the best possible marriage preparation it can.
“Perfect” wedding ceremonies celebrate yet cannot sustain
a lifelong commitment.
After a couple has met with the priest or deacon
once or twice, they will probably be able to reserve a date.
There are options for the next phase of marriage preparation:
a weekend Engaged Encounter, a one-day pre-Cana program,
a series of meetings with a married couple from the parish,
use of the FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication,
Understanding and Study) questionnaire or some other possibility.
At least twice during Engaged Encounter weekends
where I was a team member, couples decided that they were
not yet ready to marry each other. It’s better to face obstacles
early than to pretend the other person will certainly change
“once we get married.”
I encourage you and your future husband to give
this commitment the faith-filled preparation that it deserves.
Best wishes for a long and happy marriage!
Q: When is the feast of the Sacred
Heart? What about the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
In surfing the Internet, I keep finding different dates.
A: The Church’s worldwide calendar
places the feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after
the feast of Corpus Christi (two Sundays after Pentecost
or eight days after Corpus Christi in places where it is
celebrated on Thursday). The feast of the Immaculate Heart
of Mary is always the next day.
Because these two feasts are linked to the date
of Easter, which is variable each year by almost a month
(because it is based on the lunar calendar), these feasts
are not on the same day each year, according to the solar
calendar. They are, however, in the same spot on the Church’s
Q: The weekday readings and prayers
for Mass are now indicated as “Ordinary Time.” I don’t recall
that term being used before. What does it mean?
A: The Catholic Church’s liturgical
calendar starts with the Advent/ Christmas season, then
a few weeks of Ordinary Time, then the Lent/Easter season,
followed again by Ordinary Time until the First Sunday of
Advent, when a new liturgical year begins.
The 1969 “General Norms for the Liturgical Year
and the Calendar” say that the Sundays in Ordinary Time
“are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects”
Before the 1969 revision of the Roman Missal,
most of these Sundays were known as the “Third Sunday after
Pentecost,” etc. These Sundays became “Sundays in Ordinary
Time” and actually start after the Baptism of the Lord until
Ash Wednesday and then resume after Corpus Christi.
Although one of my friends refers to Ordinary
Time as “boring time,” I think this season is a valuable
reminder that our lives include mostly ordinary events.
But isn’t that where we cooperate—or don’t—with God’s grace?
“Peak” moments are wonderful, but no one can live in them
In fact, peak moments require many ordinary
moments. Couples do not reach a 50th wedding anniversary,
for example, simply because of intense, key moments in their
marriage. Their daily choices eventually create new “peak”
moments in their lives. The same dynamic holds true for
all married or single disciples of Jesus Christ. In the
Church’s Ordinary Time, we journey closer to or away from
Q: My wife feels that to
be able to forgive me genuinely for the sin of adultery,
she needs a miracle. To her, the miracle would be forgiveness
and being able to forget permanently the image she has of
my “dance with the devil,” as she describes it.
I have confessed this sin, received absolution and done
that penance. I am truly remorseful, more than can be expressed
in words. I am committed to lifelong reconciliation with
her and I have vowed never to commit this sin again.
Is it realistic for my wife to be able to forgive and
forget what I have done? She is really struggling with this
concept, thinking that if this sin “rears its ugly head”
in the future, she will be tempted to follow the devil and
sin herself. She is concerned that someday she may weaken
as she continues to remember my sin and then follow the
sin of anger into other sins.
She struggles with this human side, wanting to make
me suffer consequences for my actions. She feels my reconciliation
with God is not enough when she is not feeling very spiritual.
A: Yes, forgiveness is possible.
Despite the popular wisdom, however, that does not require
Your wife cannot unknow what she knows (in this
case your adultery). Even though people blithely speak of
“forgive and forget,” forgiveness does not require forgetting.
Instead it requires, in this case, that your wife put one
fact (your adultery) in the context of many facts (your
love before that incident, your genuine sorrow and your
changed behavior since you admitted this sin).
It is not realistic to expect that your wife
can forget your adultery. It is, however, realistic to expect
that she may be able to put this in the larger context of
a relationship that both of you want to continue and to
grow. Both of you may need professional counseling or the
help of a faith-based program such as Retrouvaille (www.retrouvaille.org
or 1-800-470-2230) to do that. This weekend program helps
couples deal with various kinds of brokenness in marriage.
The spouse who did not commit adultery certainly
cannot prove that adultery is wrong by going out and committing
the same sin. Each person needs to accept responsibility
for his/her actions, plus their frequently unintended and
With God’s grace, your good will and consistently
good decisions by you and your wife, this marriage can survive
and be life-giving for both of you as you grow in mutual
May the Lord bless your continuing faith journey
as a married couple.
Q: From watching televised
papal Masses, I notice that the pope wears something resembling
a large necktie with a few crosses within some kind of circle.
What is this garment called and what does it signify?
A: This is a pallium. Since
the ninth century, this woolen band has been the symbol
of a residential archbishop’s authority. The two lambs that
supply the wool are blessed each year by the pope on the
feast of St. Agnes (January 21). New or transferred archbishops
now receive the pallium in Rome from the pope on the first
feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29) after their appointment.
The wool band has three gold pins that are inserted.
The pallium is worn at special Masses within an archbishop’s
When John Paul I was elected pope in August
1978, he chose not to be crowned with a papal tiara but
rather to be invested with the pallium. Since Rome is the
seat of an archdiocese, the pope carries out the responsibilities
of an archbishop in relation to nearby dioceses. John Paul
II made the same choice and, on October 22, 1978, was invested
with the pallium for his installation as pope.
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be
mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.