It was a lovely wedding. Mary Beth and Chris looked like the perfect couple. Margaret, the mother of the groom, had always hoped that Chris would marry a Catholic, but Mary Beth had not been raised in any faith.
Within a year of their wedding, Chris stopped going to Sunday Mass. Mary Beth had no reason to help Chris stay Catholic. She simply didn’t value a relationship with God as important to their marriage.
(for praying with your spouse or other couples)
The number of ecumenical and interfaith marriages and marriages between a Catholic and an unchurched partner is rapidly increasing. Along with this comes a substantial increase in the number of couples who stop attending any church. This rate seems to rise if the woman is the initially nonpracticing partner. The staggering statistics speak to a deeper issue: Both partners must be fully committed to living the faith dimension of their relationship or they both may lose faith.
While it’s easy to place blame on the unchurched or nonpracticing partner, it’s far better to be forewarned and offer support. The extended family can encourage a newly married couple to share their faith lives. The Catholic partner may feel isolated and overwhelmed with the need to share faith with the other.
Newly married couples have many stresses in their growing relationship and, all too often, faith is put on the back burner. The danger is that, when we neglect faith from the beginning of the marriage relationship, it’s even more difficult to reestablish it. Those of us who see a young marriage following this path can be instrumental in leading the couple toward a living faith that will bring new levels of intimacy to their lives.
Rather than stand by and watch her son lose his faith, Margaret became the stereotypical mother-in-law: She interfered! She decided to share her faith with Mary Beth. The two women met for lunch once a week “just to visit.”When it seemed right, Margaret swallowed hard and began to talk about being Catholic. Next was the spring Sunday when she invited Chris and Mary Beth to go to Mass with her. To her surprise, they said yes.
Last week, Mary Beth asked Margaret to be her sponsor in the parish RCIA process. Margaret knows that, if she hadn’t taken a risk and shared her faith with her daughter-in-law, it’s very possible that both of her beloved children would have walked away from God.
Preparation: Place a large white candle (Christ candle), enough smaller candles and holders for the couples present and a Bible on a prayer table.
“The Servant Song” (or similar hymn)
O Divine Presence, who abides in the midst of holy unions, bless our marriages. Keep us in love, never allowing what is different to divide us. Call us to embrace our common values. When we find it difficult to support the other’s belief, give us understanding. When we cannot see you as the other sees you, give us trust and hope. Amen.
1 Corinthians 7:13-14
Invite each couple to approach the Christ candle, light their shared candle, place it in a holder and renew their vows as follows:
At our wedding, I stood with you before our family and friends; once again, I take your hand as my partner in life. (Name), I choose to be true to you. I will love you and honor you for all the days to come.
Let us sanctify the other.
In our diversity….
In our separate understandings of you….
In the ways we live our beliefs….
In our strengths and weaknesses of faith….
CLOSING BLESSING“The Servant Song”
Invite the couples to take turns blessing their spouses:
Taking his/her hands in yours, say:
May God dwell within our hearts and within the space between our hearts. Amen.