Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Can Matrimonies be held during Lent?

From Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university who I trust more than the Filipino liturgist "who shall not be named!" Hmm... sounds like Harry Potter-ish


Q: Last Saturday I participated in a wedding Mass. As I remembered that there is no wedding celebration in the Lent, I asked the presider about this. He answered, "Holy matrimony is a sacrament so we can celebrate it even in Lent." Is this true? -- N.T., Houston, Texas

A: The precise answer to this question is yes, no and it depends.

There is no universal rule that would prohibit celebrating the sacrament of matrimony during Lent.

The ritual for matrimony foresees this possibility (No. 32 in the Italian ritual) but indicates that pastors should inform couples so that they take the nature of the season into account. This would usually mean moderating the external elements such as flowers and decorations in the church. On some days, it might also mean that the ritual nuptial Mass would not be allowed and that in some cases the priest would have to celebrate the wedding in violet vestments.

Weddings are forbidden on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. According to the Congregation for Divine Worship's 1988 Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts:

"61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day [Good Friday] is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick. Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.

"75. On this day [Holy Saturday], the Church abstains strictly from celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum. The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as is also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of penance and the anointing of the sick."

In cases of imminent danger of death, even these restrictions on the celebration of matrimony could be lifted.

Therefore, the universal laws do not forbid weddings during Lent but nor are they particularly enthusiastic in promoting it.

Some dioceses have gone further than the universal laws and have established rules that range from encouraging pastors to dissuade couples from scheduling weddings during this season, to actually forbidding weddings.

For example, after its diocesan synod in 1993 the Diocese of Rome for all practical purposes forbade the celebration of weddings during Lent. Exceptions can be made but only for very good reasons, and the celebrations have to be sober.

This is more a pastoral question than a doctrinal one. The decision regarding the Lenten celebration of matrimony depends on many factors, including local traditions and culture. The Roman synod's decision probably stems from the great difficulty in persuading couples and their parents to tone down the typically pompous and ebullient external elements associated with a wedding.

Other places and countries, with diverse traditions and customs, might see no need to make such restrictions on the celebration of matrimony during Lent.

1 comment:

  1. I was married a few days after Lent started (2008), and though we had flowers and decorations, they were at a minimum.