**Disclaimer – I am in no way attempting to favour one religion over the other in this piece. I am simply stating what happened in my situation with the religions my husband and I follow. These views are mine, and mine alone relating to my experiences only.**
With everything zipping along at warp speed and time going much too quickly we decided we better take care of the details for the actual ceremony. I knew basically what I wanted – a typical church wedding. The music, the readings, the vows. It all seemed pretty straight-forward. Well, it wasn’t – far from it. Nothing’s ever easy for us. Everything has to have it’s share of issues.
Like I said in my previous entry, I am Catholic and Mike is Baptist. We talked at great lengths about this between the two of us and decided that it really wasn’t a big deal. He had his beliefs, I had mine and we were willing to accept the differences and learn about the other’s church. I attended Sunday Services with Mike and his family and he attended Mass with me and my family. We learned that the differences between the two were not that huge and Mike was able to answer any questions that I had. One thing I realized was that he knew much more about his religion and The Bible than I knew about mine. His church studied The Bible much more in-depth than we did (or at least that I was exposed to). He could also tell me why some things were the way they were in my church yet the opposite in his. More and more I’m seeing what an intelligent man I’m marrying. (I often call him my Warehouse of Useless Information..lol)
Mike took for granted that we would be married in my church and was quite happy with that. Getting married in the Catholic church to a non-Catholic proved to be easier said than done, however. We met with the Priest and he started explaining everything to us. Mike would be required to sign a Form of Dispensation which stated that he would not stand in my way of raising our children in the Catholic faith. In our opinion, this was nothing more than a “technicality” because we had already discussed that while any future children would be baptized Catholic they would be exposed to both religions and taught that one was not superior to the other. When they were grown they would have the necessary knowledge to choose which, if any, they wanted to practice. So we got over that hurdle relatively pain-free.
Next we started talking about the wedding ceremony and through the course of the conversation the Priest referred to it a few times as a “service” and not a “mass”. I caught this but just assumed he was talking generally instead of specifically. When we were giving him the names of the people who would be involved in the ceremony he neglected to ask who would be presenting the offertory gifts, so of course, I brought it up stating that we had forgotten someone. When he asked who and I told him, he looked at me like I had just committed the biggest sin in the world. His words will echo in my head until the day I die. “You are marrying outside your faith – there will be no mass. A service, that’s it.” Pardon me?? No mass?? Why not?? I was floored. He stated that the Catholic church does not include a mass in a wedding ceremony when the couple are of different religions. I told him that made no sense to me whatsoever. The difference between getting married in the Catholic church as opposed to Mike’s church was that we could celebrate the mass with the marriage. That’s what makes the Catholic church different. We have communion, we have the mass at each “service”. He was not changing his mind. He does not celebrate mass. Oh, okay, so the tune just changed. HE was not changing HIS mind. I asked if this was a law enforced by the Vatican and he said no, it was up to the discretion of the individual priests. Hhhhmmm…here comes the debater in me.
We sat there for the next little while and talked quite civilly and I had the opportunity to express my concerns and ask some questions. If Mike and I were married in his church would our marriage be recognized by the Catholic church? No. If Mike and I were married at a court house would our marriage be recognized by the Catholic church? Of course not. If Mike and I are married in the Catholic church, our marriage will be recognized in the church even though it is mixed? Of course. What makes the Catholic religion different than any other religion? There is a mass celebrated each time the congregation gathers. How interesting. But I was not being “allowed” to celebrate the Sacrament of the Eucharist when I was receiving the Sacrament of Marriage because my future husband was not Catholic. What then, would differentiate my marriage in the Catholic church from my marriage in Mike’s church, the court house or the back yard of my family home? You would only recognize it if I was married in my church, but you are not permitting me to have the Sacrament that makes my church different from his. If I am not having a mass I should be permitted to get married wherever I want and still have it recognized by my church. It is my church saying that I cannot have a mass, but also saying that in order to have my marriage recognized I cannot get married anywhere else other than my church. Make sense?? I’ll leave that for you to decide, because it certainly didn’t make sense to me.
By the end of our conversation my head was throbbing and I was absolutely disgusted. However, because of the “evident passion” I had about having a mass during my wedding, my priest had decided to incorporate the mass into the ceremony. His biggest concern was that during communion one half of the church would stand to receive the Host and one side would remain seated. Why that was a concern of his, I’m not sure, but Michael quickly dispelled his concern stating that his father’s side of the family was Catholic, so there would be just as many if not more on his side receiving communion as not. (You GO, Mikey!!)
I learned later (much later) that I was put to this “test” of sorts by my priest to see how serious I was about my faith and my religion. Well, first of all faith and religion are two different things in my book, and number two who was this man to “test” me to see how strong my connection to my church was? It was a good thing I was already married when I found this out and that that priest was no longer serving in my parish because I don’t think it would have been a nice scene. … I digress…
At the time all I knew was that I was having a mass and I stood-up for something that I believed in and it made all the difference in the world and that felt good. I was on top of the world.
Next we had to tackle a Pre-Marriage course which is compulsory for all Catholics who will be married, and of course, my Baptist Mikey had to attend. Again, we just went through the motions. We would go sit and listen to information about this and that and the other thing (I’m not even going there) and smiled and nodded when we were supposed to and basically put in our time. That was until we got on the topic of divorce one night. The priest who was instructing the course presented us with some amazing statistics. Did you know that 50% of mixed marriages end in divorce within the first five years?? Hold the bus a second. Where did that come from? Up goes my hand. Could you present to us the percentage of Catholic marriages that end in divorce? The Catholic church does not believe in divorce. Oh, so that would then lead me assume that you are implying that 0% of Catholic marriages end in divorce? No. So the statistics would be? Roughly the same if not a little higher. And would the divorce rate of 50% amongst the mixed marriages be that high based on the one fact alone that they were united in a mixed marriage? Was it the difference of religion that caused all these marriages to collapse? I was told that I was off track of the topic at hand and what did this have to do with what we were discussing. I pointed out that I felt he was making a generalization and chastising mixed-marriage couples. I proposed that the difference of religion was probably one of the last items that contributed to the marriage failing.
I concluded by stating I was highly offended that this course was suggesting that because I was entering into a mixed marriage that we had a 50% chance of being divorced within 5 years of becoming married. I thought my church was supposed to be there to support and encourage the union of man and wife and not talk about divorce statistics before we even made it to the altar (considering the Catholic church does not condone divorce). I received a round of applause from the other participants in the course and things were then quickly wrapped up for the night. I was not amused. Why is my church making it so difficult for me to be married to the man I love?
Once the course was over, we were pretty much home-free as far as all the church requirements went. We could get back to planning, to being excited and to enjoying our engagement.
The next big question we had to answer involved Michael’s father. Would he receive an invitation to the wedding?
Until next time….