Monday, November 04, 2019

A New Online Resource for Researching and Preparing a Latin Mass Wedding

A young, enterprising, very organized and well-informed lady named Sharon Kabel has put together a fantastic website dedicated to “the Latin Mass Wedding.” This is a resource that has long been urgently needed, with the growing number of “Benedict XVI” and “Francis Effect” Catholics who are interested in tying the knot with a ceremony and Nuptial Mass in the usus antiquior or Extraordinary Form. Years ago (as when my wife and I got married with a Missa Cantata on the feast of St. John, December 27, 1998), this was still fairly far-out, in the misty fringes of possibility, but nowadays one reads about it happening pretty often, and pictures and videos are abundant. Nevertheless, it should be much more frequent than it is, and I wonder if the lack of easily accessible information is part of the problem.

After all, there are a LOT of differences between the Novus Ordo approach and the traditional approach. In the Novus Ordo, the vows are sandwiched into the Mass between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in a pattern that Nicola Bux complains about as depriving both the Mass of its integrity and the inserted item [sacrament, commissioning, exercise, etc.] of its own dignity. In the old way of doing things, in contrast, the bride and bridegroom exchange their vows at the foot of the altar prior to the start of Mass — almost, you might say, their own version of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar — and then they assist at Mass for the first time as husband and wife. (I remember how special it was at my own wedding to kneel with a ring newly on my finger, with my wife next to me, and hear the priest say: “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Introibo ad altare Dei...,” knowing that we were going unto the altar of God, united by the God of Israel about whom the schola was singing: “Deus Israel conjungat vos.” As always, the timing of things in the traditional liturgy is magnificent.)

This preceding matrimonial ceremony is usually more elaborate, with some very beautiful prayers (though these have varied and still vary a great deal from country to country, and from century to century); for its part, the ancient Nuptial Mass is extremely rich in its antiphons, readings, and prayers — all of which are required, none optional.

The Nuptial Mass, especially in the form of a Missa Cantata or a Solemn Mass, can be a particularly splendid and festive way to introduce family and friends to the traditional Roman liturgy, a real opportunity for “evangelizing through beauty.” If a young man and woman are serious Catholics, they will already seem strange to many of their relatives and acquaintances, so they might as well go all out rather than trimming the liturgy down to the imagined expectations or tolerance threshold of attendees. You can count on there being many more guests who afterwards say they were moved by the beauty and solemnity of it than there will be grumblers and complainers. No matter what your congregation will be like, it is helpful to provide a missallette or a handout that helps those in attendance to have some clue about what is unfolding before their eyes and ears.

Sharon understands all these things, and she is thorough in providing resources and references. The page “Rite of Marriage” talks about the history of the ceremony and furnishes a full text of the rite found in the 1962 Rituale Romanum for the region of the United States. The page “Wedding Mass” gives in full the English texts of the Missa pro sponso et sponsa. Then comes the page “Resources,” which is fun to explore:

Note that Sharon provides ample information about and links to the text of the traditional Rite of Betrothal, which is also happily returning to the Catholic world after a long period of desuetude. (Just recently, NLM published a piece on it, with photos: check it out.) Betrothal can best be understood as a solemn promise to marry, made before God and His minister, and asking of the Lord the grace of a chaste engagement blessed by His favor. It is really worth doing; my fiancée and I, and many of our friends, and now the children of our friends, have done it. It fits into the general pattern of the Church wishing to bless all created realities: homes, fields, animals, equipment, wine, throats, candles, and the rest. In addition, it serves as a countercultural witness in our times of a serious intent to lead a life in accord with the commandments and virtues. (The U.S. bishops not long ago cobbled together and published a “blessing of an engagement,” but, like all postconciliar liturgical rites, its lameness beggars belief. It will deserve a proper dressing-down someday, not right now.)

Sharon provides a page of FAQs that assume no prior knowledge, so if you are new to all of this, you have found a good place to go.

The website will also be valuable to priests; among other things, Sharon has included Haydock and Catena aurea commentaries on the Scriptural texts of the antiphons and readings of the Nuptial Mass, which could be mined for homilies.

On the website Sharon says she wants feedback about any ways to improve her site, or any further resources to include. Please take her at her word! Let’s make this the single best go-to place on the web for traditional Roman-rite weddings.

(Other wedding-related articles that may be of interest to NLM readers:

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