By Barb Arland-Fye
A pastor called in response to a column I’d written about celebrating weddings during regularly scheduled Masses. He knew of a couple who’d celebrated their wedding during the Saturday night Mass at the bride’s parish and suggested I talk to them about their experience.
Laura and Brian Glenn were married Dec. 27, 1997, the Feast of the Holy Family, during the Saturday night Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Ottumwa. Father Tony Herold, who was pastor at the time, presided.
Laura grew up in the church, literally. Both of her parents, Gail and Chris, work for St. Patrick’s so the family spent plenty of time in the parish. Brian’s family is active in St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.
“There was no question in our minds — especially growing up in strong Catholic families,” Laura said of her and Brian’s decision to have a nuptial Mass. When they began making wedding plans, “we were searching for a time that would be fitting for everybody,” she said. Fr. Tony’s suggestion to have the wedding during the Saturday night Mass “sounded like something that would fit the situation well.”
“For her, especially,” Fr. Tony said. “Not everybody is as connected to a parish as she is. The Bates were very well known.”
The liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Family lent itself well to a wedding ceremony. “Even the readings themselves had to do with family and family life,” added Fr. Tony, now pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington. And St. Pat’s was decorated for Christmas, so the couple wouldn’t have to worry about flowers or other decorations. “Everything came together for their wedding. It was a very nice celebration.”
Parish bulletin announcements advertised the wedding to take place during the Saturday night Mass well in advance so people could choose to attend or go elsewhere.
“There was standing room only. It seemed like the whole Catholic community was there,” Gail recalled of her daughter and son-in-law’s wedding. It was a way to celebrate the sacrament as a faith community, she added.
Today Laura, 34, and Brian, 38, serve as ministers of Communion at St. Patrick’s and in other capacities for the parish. They are also parents of Leah, 10, and Lily, 7. Brian works as a route sales representative for Frito Lay and Laura is studying at Indian Hills Community College to be an occupational therapist assistant. She also works part-time at Target.
So far, the Glenn wedding is the only one Fr. Tony has celebrated during a regularly scheduled Mass, although he’s presided at validation of civil marriages within the Mass.
He’s not sure the average couple getting married would be comfortable doing so during a regularly scheduled Mass and he wouldn’t encourage that unless the couple had a connection to the parish.
“Ideally, I think it’s a great thing, especially in parishes where the couple is well known,” Fr. Tony said. But, “the majority of weddings I celebrate are not in the context of the Mass because one of the parties is not Catholic. They don’t want to have a Mass that would point out the religious differences of the couples.”
Fr. Tony noted that couples and their pastor need to be sensitive to the integrity of the Eucharist when planning a wedding during a regularly scheduled Mass. The liturgy for the day dictates the readings and prayers of the Mass.
Father Lou Leonhardt, a retired priest of the diocese, said he has always offered the option to couples to get married during a regularly scheduled Mass. “They always say no. They want to do their own thing.”
Fr. Lou says he’s pretty sure he offered that option to my husband Steve and me when he presided at our wedding 26 years ago. It’s possible we dismissed the idea.
After studying the sacrament of marriage, and living it this past quarter of a century, I’d reconsider that option in a heartbeat. What better way to give witness to a sacrament that our Church is defending so vigorously throughout the United States today?