Wedding season is upon us, and while weddings can take place in a variety of locations, for a Catholic wedding the ceremony will almost always take place in a church. Have you ever wondered why that is?
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ discussed an article about a bride who wanted a Catholic priest to officiate her wedding, but she wanted the ceremony to take place outside. The article made it seem as though the Church’s rule that they be married inside a church was ridiculous and arbitrary, but Fr. Matthew explained the importance of being married in a Church, and how it points to a deeper truth in the reality of marriage.
“The church is the heart of the parish community,” he said. “The Church, in fact, invites you to profess your vows to one another before a minister of the Church – a priest or deacon – along with two witnesses who can vouch that you made your vows before that altar. And there is a huge theological reason for this.”
“It is this: marriage is not only for the two spouses. Marriage is not only for the husband and wife. Marriage is for the whole world, for the entire people of God. Why? Because marriage is a symbol of God’s love for you and for me. A love that requires fidelity, a love that requires self-sacrifice.”
And while the wedding industry may lead you to believe that this day is all about the bride and groom, a Catholic marriage is a sacrament, which means it affects all the members of the Body of Christ.
“You see, the reason we have sacraments inside of the church is because those sacraments are for everybody,” Fr. Matthew said. “Even Confession, even the most private of sacraments is for the whole Church. Nobody’s going to know your sins except the priest, who will keep them absolutely secret. But the mercy that God pours down upon you in that sacrament is not only for you, because God wants to make you a saint for the whole community. Just so, your marriage is not only for you, but it is to build up the body of Christ and to build up that community. It is to remind you and me of God’s love for us.”
So the Church’s insistence on weddings taking place in a church is not arbitrary, but points toward the truth and meaning of marriage. Fr. Matthew said, “To me, that’s what I think the Church needs to communicate to young people. To help them see that we want you in the church because we want you to remember that your sacrament is for you, and it’s also for us. That your marriage is for you, but there is also a great dignity in your marriage, that you are witnessing to this love between God and His creatures.”
“There’s something really deep and important about that, and it needs the church symbolism there. Not to mention it’s just simpler and more beautiful to celebrate a Mass there inside of the Church. There are many practical reasons why this is the case, but to me it always comes down to that sense that we need to realize that the sacraments are for the community. They are never just private, individual affairs, but they are about us growing together as the body of Christ.”
Listen to the full reflection below: