June 21, 2002

Friar Jack's Catechism Quiz:
Test Your Knowledge on
Catholic Weddings
by Julie Zimmerman

June is the one of the most popular months for weddings, and no doubt many of you have a wedding ceremony to attend this month. In honor of those brides and grooms, and the communities that share in their celebrations, this month's Catechism Quiz focuses on Catholic weddings.

We also take a look at the mail we received in response to Friar Jack's reflections on St. Anthony of Padua, along with some comments by Friar Jack. Last month's quiz was a big hit, and many of you wrote to say you enjoyed it. Now, on with this month's Catechism Quiz.



This Month's Quiz: (peeking encouraged!)

When did marriage become a sacrament?
Why do we celebrate weddings in churches?
How does a wedding between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian differ from a wedding between two Catholics?

Friar Jack's Inbox:

Readers reflect on St. Anthony of Padua


When did marriage become a sacrament?

Marriage was around a long time before Jesus. His parents were married, and at least some of the apostles were married. For example, in all three of the synoptic Gospels we hear of Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38). In the early Church, Christians got married like anyone else in the cultures where they lived. Gradually, Christians began to see that the loving union of husband and wife spoke to them not only about family values but also about God's values.

Historically speaking, it was not until the 12th century that marriage took its place among the other ritual actions which we now name the seven sacraments. Throughout the Middle Ages there was no singular wedding rite for Christians. The Catholic wedding ceremony that you might witness today dates in large part from about the 16th century.

Adapted from Sacrament of Marriage: Sign of Faithful Love, by Rev. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D.

Why do we celebrate weddings in churches?

A wedding’s location says something important about a couple, in what context they are pledging their undying love and who has a stake in the success of their marriage. Most Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States have a regulation that the bishop’s permission is needed for a wedding outside a church building.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment, which the larger faith community has a responsibility to nurture. Linking weddings to buildings used by the faith community is one way of making that point. Weddings are usually celebrated in church buildings for the same reason that Baptisms are celebrated there: That is where the faith community most often gathers.

People are obviously more important than buildings. Once you move weddings out of a church building, however, you face potential questions about having them on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel, while scuba diving or skydiving, or in some other location which the couple considers ideal.

How do such locations favor or discourage participation by the larger faith community? That community certainly has a stake in the success of every marriage its members enter.

Adapted from Ask A Franciscan, a monthly feature in St. Anthony Messenger.

How does a wedding between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian differ from a wedding between two Catholics?

Celebrating the Eucharist is the norm for a marriage between two Catholics, but many dioceses advise against Mass in interchurch marriages. One priest observes that having a Mass in such a situation presents an inherent contradiction: "joined then divided." He explains: "We have two baptized persons being united as they celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony; then, because of a division between Churches, they're not joined in the Sacrament of the Eucharist."

If the couple nevertheless chooses to celebrate their marriage in the context of Mass, they can invite the Protestant minister to offer a greeting, a blessing or a prayer. If no Eucharist is involved, the minister, with permission of the local ordinary, can read a Scripture lesson or preach.

In some cases, a dispensation can be obtained from the Catholic "form of marriage" and the ceremony may take place before a minister of another Church or even before a civil official. The Apostolic Letter on Mixed Marriages lists the following as reasonable causes allowing for this: "to achieve family harmony or to avoid family alienation; to obtain parental agreement to the marriage; to recognize the significant claims of relationship or special friendship with a non-Catholic minister; to permit the marriage in a church that has particular importance to the non-Catholics."

Adapted from Interchurch Marriages: How to Help Them Succeed, by Elizabeth Bookser Barkley.

Friar Jack's Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jack's reflections on St. Anthony of Padua

"Dear Friar Jack: Loved your sketch of St. Anthony! 'Tis a big relief (in Catholic periodicals and elsewhere) not to be hearing about church sinners for a change, though the abuse problem is horrendous and must be solved. Give us more uplifting moments. please!"

"Dear Friar Jack: So good to hear from you again. St. Anthony is a great saint. He has not failed me yet in finding stuff. He knows before I do that I will need to find something and when I finally figure it out and say "Here we go again—Big guy," it shows up. He is also someone who helps me remain calm and comfortable in my own skin. God bless you now and always."

"Dear Friar Jack: Pax et bonum! Thanks so much for all the information re: St. Anthony of Padua. My parish is named for this great guy. Information re: his life seems difficult to obtain and I will be passing on your newsletter to my fellow parishioners. I love your e-mail commentaries and I thank you for all your efforts. Being a Secular Franciscan for over 30 years I appreciate your insights and have shared them with my Secular Franciscan family. We are praying for you! God bless!"
Fraternally, Michelle

"Dear Friar Jack: Thank you for your message on St. Anthony. I have been in the Basilica at Padua, with the sublime Donatello sculptures, where—if my memory does not treason me—the tongue of the saint is exposed in a reliquary...Your prayer to St. Anthony is just beautiful. I will pray to him in your words."
Thank you, Dr. M.

Friar Jack responds: It is true that St. Anthony's tongue is displayed in a reliquary at his basilica in Padua, Italy. I have seen it myself. Though the idea may seen a bit grotesque to modern sensibilities, a little historical background can help us better see the special meaning behind this relic. In the year 1263 (32 years after Anthony's death), Anthony's tomb was opened on the occasion of the transferral of his body. It was discovered that Anthony's tongue, amazingly, had not decayed but had kept its fresh, living appearance. Present at this ceremony, St. Bonaventure proclaimed the discovery to be a miraculous affirmation of St. Anthony's sublime skills as a preacher of God's word. May we all seek Anthony's gift of "proclaiming the glory of God!"

Got an opinion? Due to strong reader interest in the topic, we've set up an online forum on clergy sexual abuse at AmericanCatholic.org. Read others' opinions and submit your own comments there for everyone to see!

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Sacrament of Marriage: Sign of Faithful Love
by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.

This popular Catholic Update explores the religious and sacramental dimension of the love of husband and wife. Distribute this issue in marriage preparation programs and wherever Catholic couples gather.
Sacrament of Marriage: Sign of Faithful Love

Called to Marriage: Journeying Together Toward God
by Carol Luebering

Join with the author to celebrate the holy calling of marriage. A reflective book for both newly married couples or those who have been journeying for years.
Called to Marriage: Journeying Together Toward God

Send a Wedding Anniversary E-greeting!

"May God bless you and grant you joy. May He deepen your love for each other. May He bless you in your family and friends. And lead you to unending happiness in Heaven."
Send a Wedding Anniversary E-greeting!

Send a Marriage E-greeting!

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become
one flesh."
Send a Marriage E-greeting!


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