Catholic wedding changes take effect in Alaska

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Some words and rituals in Catholic weddings in Alaska will change, beginning this fall — and Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz believes those changes are part of a needed response to secular efforts to redefine marriage.

Last June the Vatican approved a new English translation of the Rite of Marriage — the instructions and prayers for Catholic weddings. In an interview with the Catholic Anchor, Archbishop Schwietz said the translation — which more closely mirrors the rite’s original Latin — and the marriage rite’s new name — the Order of Celebrating Matrimony — honor the sacred nature of marriage.

“The new rite is focusing more on the sacrament of matrimony,” he said, adding that “there’s more of a sense of the family…the family of the church, the new family that will be established. They are ways in which I think the church is responding to the secularization of what they [some in the secular world] call ‘marriage.’”

Archbishop Schwietz said the “much better” translation elevates the language of the matrimonial ceremony. For instance, the scripturally-referenced blessings are now “almost poetic,” he explained.

The revised rite also provides presiders greater “clarity,” he said, as to the three different scenarios in which a wedding may take place — namely, within Mass, without Mass, and between a Catholic and a catechumen or non-Christian.

“It’s easier to have a sense of what should be done, so there’s less guesswork on the part of the presider when he’s working with the bride and groom for planning purposes,” he explained.

Archbishop Schwietz noted the newly translated rite also provides more choices in prayers and readings — one of which must explicitly speak of marriage — which he said should “assist in making choices that fit for the particular couple.”

Deacon Mick Fornelli is director of deacon ministry and formation for the Anchorage Archdiocese who also prepares couples for marriage. In mid-September Deacon Fornelli led a day of presentations on the new rite for archdiocesan clergy and laity involved in marriage.

Deacon Fornelli noted the changes in the rite honor the “partnership” between the man and woman — which he said is important because they are a “sign of the sacrament.” The nuptial blessing references the bride and groom by name and “calls them together,” he said. Moreover, the bride and groom now may process into the church together.

“You have the couple coming and approaching the altar together. There’s that union that comes up and represents them,” he said.

Deacon Fornelli observed the Catholic Church considers marriage sacred because “God considers it sacred.” Indeed, the Catholic Catechism explains, “God himself is the author of marriage;” it is “not a purely human institution.” The matrimonial covenant between man and woman is “by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”

Archbishop Schwietz explained marriage is a “God-given gift” from the creation of Adam and Eve, whom God intended be joined as a “family.” In its life-creating potential, he said, marriage “enables us to be like God” — and that’s important to those “who believe in the God of creation and redemption.”

All Catholic dioceses across the U.S. must begin using the newly translated rite by December 30, the feast of the Holy Family. Archbishop Schwietz said he will employ the new rite for a wedding he will officiate on Oct. 8 at St. Andrew Church in Eagle River.

The new translation applies to Catholic weddings in the vernacular — or English language — in the United States. Catholics still may marry in the extraordinary form of the Mass, which is celebrated in Latin.


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