Friday, February 15, 2008

Break Bread/Cut Rug

Both of us grew up in the apparatus of Catholic education--some combination of Catholic schools and CCD--during a time when the so-called Baltimore Catechism was no longer taught and had not yet been replaced. Our religious education was somewhat unbounded and had a very different flavor from that which our parents received, which was quite classical and involved the memorization of many definitions and rules. But we were, like our parents, made to memorize something specific that stays with me:

"A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace."

These days, it's far more common to hear sacraments described as milemarkers, ceremonies that highlight and bless certain passages in life. This is a grace, for sure. But in planning our wedding, we have hoped to retain some of the old-fashioned sense of "giving grace." It is not merely describing an event, but it is bringing about a fundamental change. It might be doing something, dare I say it, supernatural.

We also hope to retain the role of Christ. There is no shortage of people who think it odd that we remain committed and practicing Catholics. There are many who assume we are the "wink-and-a-nudge" kind of Christians--that we are in it for the showbiz. Speaking for myself, if not for Michael, it's not the "outward sign" part that keeps me practicing the sacraments. It's the Christ, and the grace.

This sacramental sense should be felt in every part of our wedding day. From the ceremony to the dinner to the dance party. There's a reason why this wedding-day structure is the norm: because it fits the way we humans experience encounters with grace. We pray, we share, we celebrate. We are not going to water it down by replacing the scriptures with love poems, or substituting speeches for prayers. We have selected readings that are so full of revelation that they blow my mind every time I read them. We have been scouring the missal and Book of Common Prayer for the right words and the right order of parts. And when the disco music starts, we may turn into a different sense of ceremony, but it ought still to be elevating of the soul!


words and steel said...

I, too, really wanted a Catholic wedding but the religion as a whole (and my crazy uber Catholic family) have kept me away. We're now having an Episcopal ceremony (and are converting to Episcopalians), but this post resonated a lot with me. Thanks for sharing.

Also, any suggestions for Psalms/Hymns would be great. The ones the BCP has suggested for weddings aren't exactly... uh... what I was hoping for.

(over from

Emerson Beyer said...

I'll be posting about our readings later, but our Psalm selection is from a grouping in the Catholic Lectionary. It'll be a setting of Psalm 98 (Cantate Dominum Canticum Novum). We will probably have a soloist, which makes finding the right setting hard, as very little liturgical music is arranged for one voice.

As for the rest of the music, we haven't thought through it yet. We need advice from our friends with more music knowledge than we have!