Q. My daughter and her fiance, who both went to Catholic schools from preschool through college, would like to get married in an outdoor ceremony in a garden. My understanding is that the church requires that sacraments be performed inside a blessed building, but I just can’t understand why. The first baptism was performed outside, and the pope distributes Communion at Masses held outdoors. I would love for my daughter to have her marriage blessed by the Catholic Church, but this seems to be an unreasonable rule. Isn’t it true that wherever two or more are gathered in his name, God is there? (Mantua, New Jersey)
A. It is not unusual for people to say (young people in particular) that they experience the wonder of God most directly when they are outdoors — gazing at a glorious sunset over a lake, for example, or hiking in the mountains. So it is not surprising that they would opt to profess and celebrate their love in such a setting.
But you are correct that the Code of Canon Law (in No. 1118) says that “a marriage between Catholics … is to be celebrated in a parish church.” While the rule is not absolute (No. 1118, Section 2, does say that the “local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place”), the vast majority of dioceses would not normally allow it in the situation you describe.
The church desires to highlight the fundamental spiritual nature of the occasion: The couple is affirming God’s role in having brought them together and seeking God’s blessing through the years to come. It is a sacred and sacramental event — an act of worship — so it is celebrated where Catholics traditionally worship: in the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
In my experience, the situations in which a bishop would see fit to dispense from that tradition are rare, although I have seen them (a case, for example, in which the bride’s grandfather was seriously ill and unable to leave home and travel to a church.)
It would be best if you could convince your daughter and her fiance to respect your family’s Catholic allegiance by having their vow ceremony in a church — followed by a reception in the garden setting. If your plea fails and they insist on being married outdoors, the next best thing would be to encourage them to have their marriage blessed later by exchanging vows before a Catholic priest.
Q. I am uncomfortable when Mass is interrupted by announcements relating to parish activities and events prior to the actual end of Mass. After holy Communion at our parish, when the vessels have been cleaned and the priest is seated behind the altar, general announcements are made. Then, after the reader has concluded, the priest gives the final blessing and says, “Go forth. The Mass is ended.” Are these interruptions to be considered part of the Mass? (Charlottesville, Virginia)
A. As to whether announcements are technically “part of the Mass,” I suppose that reasonable minds could argue either way. (My position would be that announcements can occur within the context of a Mass but are not actually a part of it.) The current edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the “rule book” on the Mass) provides for “brief announcements, should they be necessary” (as it says in No. 90a) and situates them at the end of Mass, between the prayer after Communion and the blessing/dismissal prayers.
The key words here are “should they be necessary.” I share your view that announcements can interrupt the flow of the liturgy and the prayerfulness that should envelop it. And so, in our parish we have a narrow guideline: Anything that can be, or has been, in our printed weekly bulletin does not get announced from the pulpit. (This also encourages people to take the bulletin home and read it.)
I make exceptions for the following: a) a schedule change from what had been printed; b) a coffee hour or a welcome reception for new parishioners following that particular Mass; and c) a holy day of obligation during the coming week. (With all of the current confusion about holy days and which day of the week they happen to occur on, it doesn’t hurt for people to be reminded of the fact twice.) The net result is that pulpit announcements in our parish happen rarely, which is what I want.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.