A few days ago I was taking a walk and passed by a local hotel that was advertising a Wedding Fair. Unsurprisingly, the hotel management wanted more people to get married and, by hosting the wedding banquet (or indeed the ceremony as well), to boost their profits.
The liturgical celebration of the marriage of two Christians who seriously practice their faith can be one of the most beautiful and spiritual experience to be had in church. But I think that I can speak for most PrayTell regulars when I say that the liturgical celebrations of the marriage of non or marginally practicing Christians can be less than edifying. In 2016 Pope Francis even went so far as to say that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.”
I think that we can all agree that it would be good to encourage the non-practicing to begin to practice a serious liturgical Christianity, which would include getting married in church as opposed to simply living together. But the question that I am asking here is, whether we, like the hotel owners, ought to encourage those who are not practicing to get married in church even if they are not interested in becoming more serious in their practice of the Faith? Pastorally speaking, ought we advise these people to get married in church or advise against it? Should we let it up to them? Is it good for them to receive a sacrament, even if they are not practicing the Faith at the moment or would it be better to wait until they actually have a deeper faith life? Is a sacramental marriage a gateway to a deeper practice of the Faith or could it even be a hindrance? Is it pretentious, or even “clerical”, to advise a couple to wait before taking the step of a church wedding? Or, at times, could we be saving them from future heartache? Finally can we even say anything more than this is a matter for serious discernment and that there are no easy answers?
Cover art: Wedding fair in Japan from Wikimedia Commons