New marriage rite will provide options for wedding ceremony

Marriage in the Catholic Church is a wonderful mo- ment of evangelization that needs to be seized because of its potential to awaken the practice of the faith, Msgr. Rick Hilgartner told priests of the Archdiocese of New Orleans at their Priests’ Convocation last month.

“We see marriage as a moment of evangelization, which means bringing the Good News of Jesus to this couple and to their family and friends and the liturgical assembly,” Msgr. Hilgartner said. “Marriage is about the call to holiness for husbands and wives, and this is what we have to offer.”

He said it is important for the entire parish staff – beginning with the parish secretary who answers the phone – to have a clear idea of how to welcome engaged couples.

Not a business venture
“Do we see ourselves as one venue competing with other venues for marriages?” he asked. “Entering into the conversation about fees early on only sets that up even further. When we talk about this as a ministry of the church, isn’t there a way we can do this where the appropriate people are compensated appropriately for their work while not turning this into a
business for ourselves?”

While musicians and cantors have a right to be paid for their services, Msgr. Hilgartner asked, “Do we need to be charging big exorbitant fees that could discourage people or send people away? Talk about what’s the first message you send to couples when they are greeted with, ‘Are you a registered parishioner?’ Or ‘Well, the fee is $1,000.’ Or are we inviting them into a sacramental encounter?”

Entrance procession is key
Msgr. Hilgartner said the new rite, expected to be available in the U.S. early next year, offers many options to set a liturgical tone for the wedding ceremony so that “people are drawn into an experience of the assembly being a liturgical assembly – that they’re not just there as spectators to watch a wedding, but they’re there to enter into worship.”

“Does the liturgy look and feel like liturgy?”

Msgr. Hilgartner said, for him, the critical moment in emphasizing the liturgical nature of a Catholic wedding “is all about the entrance procession.”

While it is still unclear what the final English translation will advise for the entrance rite, Msgr. Hilgart- ner hopes it will track the already-approved Latin text.

“The entrance procession ought to look like a liturgical procession,” he said. “Which means the first people down the aisle, if we follow what’s in the Latin text, are the liturgical ministers, the clergy and then the couple, accompanied at least by their parents and their witnesses.

“So, in my mind, it’s the liturgical ministers first, in their usual way, which means, servers with cross and candles, deacon – or, in the absence of a deacon, a reader – carrying the Book of the Gospels, and then the priest, so that the first thing people see coming down the center of the aisle looks like Sunday Mass.

“If it looks like liturgy, people begin to sense that something liturgical is happening.

Sometimes, just say no
“There are times we have to say no to things that couples ask because it is completely inappropriate. Your dog is not going to be the ring bearer and cannot be in the entrance procession. We’re not going to have an entrance procession where every member of the bridal party is doing their choreographed dance.”

Always remember, he said, that marriage brings with it “hope for evangelization. We can engage people’s faith.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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