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Wedding liturgy text, customs reflect needs of changing Church

Posted By February 27, 2017 | 3:31 am | Featured Article #2
Iris Diaz and Michael Vassar wrap a rosary, or lazo, around Magdalena Soto and John Rodriguez at their wedding last August at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester. Behind them are Father Nelson Rivera, pastor, and Father Hugo Cano, who lives at St. Joan of Arc. The custom is included in the new “Order of Celebrating Matrimony.”
Photo by Amory Navarro
Iris Diaz and Michael Vassar wrap a rosary, or lazo, around Magdalena Soto and John Rodriguez at their wedding last August at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester. Behind them are Father Nelson Rivera, pastor, and Father Hugo Cano, who lives at St. Joan of Arc. The custom is included in the new “Order of Celebrating Matrimony.” Photo by Amory Navarro

Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

Couples preparing for marriage – or celebrating their wedding anniversary – have new material to use this year.
The Catholic Church’s English translation of rites for such occasions went into effect late last year. Called “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” the text replaced the 1969 text, “Rite of Marriage.” Local Catholics were among those offering suggestions for the new text and expounding on it after it was finalized.
The new text gives couples planning a wedding a few more Scripture readings to choose from and the option of including Hispanic customs. Also, the translation from the Latin text is more accurate.
In addition to changes for the wedding liturgy itself, a beautiful rite for the renewal of vows has been added, said Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, director of the diocesan Office for Divine Worship. Previously such a celebration was problematic because it involved adapting wedding vows, which are intended to be made only once, he said.
The inclusion of this rite for anniversaries, and of Hispanic wedding customs, shows that “the Church pays attention to developing pastoral realities,” Msgr. Johnson said. In the 1960s, when the previous text was put together, there were not as many Hispanics, or couples seeking to renew vows, as there are now in United States, he said.
The rite containing the renewal of vows was used locally last October at the diocesan celebration at St. Paul Cathedral for couples marking significant anniversaries, Msgr. Johnson said.
The new text, “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” was available for use in the United States starting Sept. 8, 2016. It became the obligatory text to use on Dec. 30.
In October Msgr. James P. Moroney gave a presentation about the new text to clergy and lay people in the Worcester Diocese. (See a video of the presentation at
Msgr. Moroney, a Worcester diocesan priest who is rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, is also a consultor for the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He was among those giving the Congregation advice for the marriage text.
From 1996-2007 Msgr. Moroney was executive director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During that time another local Catholic, Paul Covino, was named to a committee to give the U.S. bishops ideas for the marriage text.
Mr. Covino, currently director of campus ministry at Assumption College, published a “workbook for engaged couples” in 1987. He and co-authors wrote “Celebrating Marriage: Preparing the Wedding Liturgy.”
The most recent edition was published in 2016 “updated to reflect the new ‘Order of Celebrating Matrimony.’”
In the book Mr. Covino, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville who is to be ordained a permanent deacon June 3, writes about the two Hispanic customs included in the new text. (The customs are also used by the Filipino community.)
“Arras” involves the bride and groom exchanging coins after they exchange rings.
“Over time and in different cultures, different tokens have been used to symbolize the pledge that a husband and wife make to each other in marriage,” says Mr. Covino in the book. Those include rings, and “arras,” which are commonly coins.
“Eventually, the ‘arras’ came to symbolize the husband’s promise to provide what would be necessary for the sustenance of the home and the wife’s promise to make sure what was provided would be used to maximum benefit in the home,” the book says, quoting from “Gift and Promise: Customs and Traditions in Hispanic Rites of Marriage.” This symbol can be adapted for today’s culture.
The new rite calls for the clergyman to bless the “arras,” and the husband and wife to give them to each other, saying, “receive these ‘arras’ as a pledge of God’s blessing and a sign of the good gifts we will share.”
The other custom involves the clergyman blessing a “lazo” or a veil and two family members or friends placing it over the bride and groom, symbolizing their indissoluble union. The “lazo” is typically a double-looped rosary or a garland of flowers, according to Mr. Covino’s book. It can be placed on the couple before the nuptial blessing.
The “arras” and the “lazo” traditions are also included as options in the Spanish-language text for the United States, “Ritual del Matrimonio,” Msgr. Moroney said.
Since Hispanics in the United States come from different countries, where Spanish is spoken somewhat differently, the United States bishops wanted a translation that all Hispanics here could understand, he said. He said this Spanish translation is one of several used around the world, unlike the single translation in English.
U.S. weddings in languages other than English or Spanish can use a translation from another country where that language is spoken, he said.
marriage covino_7445Mr. Covino talked about a custom popular in the United States.
The 1969 text said if there was a procession into the wedding liturgy, the bride and groom would process in together with the ministers and could be escorted by their parents and the two witnesses.
“That was ignored,” Mr. Covino said. Instead, the bride processed in with her father and female attendants, meeting the groom, his male attendants and the clergyman at the front of the church.
That conflicted with the Catholic understanding that “husbands and wives are equal, complementary,” he said. It gave the bride much more attention, as if the wedding was “her day.” (The new rite does not specify who is included if there is a procession.)
The popular bridal procession custom, Mr. Covino said, led to excessive spending for bridesmaids’ outfits and other things the wedding industry “said you have to have.” Excessive spending can leave a couple in debt and disregards the fact that other people in the world are starving.
Mr. Covino’s book addresses such social justice concerns by giving ideas such as inviting guests to bring canned goods for the needy or establishing an online register for charities instead of wedding gifts.
He said he and his co-authors started working on the first edition of the book because “we felt that the resources available to Catholic engaged couples were limited.” It began as a project of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy in Washington, D.C., with which they were associated. (Co-authors were Jesuit Father Lawrence Madden, who was an adviser to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy; musician Elaine Rendler-McQueeney, and liturgist and artist John Buscemi.)
The most popular wedding liturgy planning book, Msgr. Joseph M. Champlin’s “Together for Life,” was aimed at helping couples reflect on the Scripture readings and prayers, Mr. Covino said. Priests, music directors and family life ministers were looking for a more complete guide to give engaged couples.
“We set out to … give couples some guidance regarding the liturgical elements,” including actions, music and environment, Mr. Covino said.
He said theirs, a distant second to Msgr. Champlin’s in popularity, ended up being a bigger, more expensive book that some clergymen felt was too much to give engaged couples. But those who use it give “overwhelmingly positive” feedback.
“It’s looking at liturgical practices that express what we believe as Catholics,” he said. “We try to help couples get beyond just pomp and circumstance to what it means to be a married Catholic couple.”


Marriage and Family Office find new text helpful in marriage preparation classes

By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, spoke about the Church’s new text for engaged and married couples in relation to the marriage preparation classes she and her husband, Deacon John LeDoux, give to couples.
“I think in terms of the marriage preparation, the theological piece in the introduction – it’s very substantive,” she said of the text, “Order of Celebrating Matrimony.” It’s similar to the Worcester diocesan marriage policy.
“They’re using the same sources, of course, in terms of Church teaching,” she said. “It’s very helpful because it emphasizes the sacrament and the understanding of what marriage is.” She said she thinks it’s expanded from the 1969 text that this one replaced.
“It supports what we’re doing; it supports the constant teaching of the Church,” she said. “Having the new rite is helpful in drawing people’s attention to the importance of the sacrament of marriage, which has gotten lost in today’s culture.”
She spoke about people coming to church for baptism, first Communion, confirmation and marriage, but not coming regularly.
“By not participating fully in the life of the Church they’re not availing themselves of the grace of the sacraments,” she said. But when they come for marriage, it’s an opportunity, if their hearts are open, for them to re-engage with the Church.
“It’s an opportunity to see all that the Church is and offers – with adult eyes,” she said. “By the time they get to the altar, hopefully they have developed a deeper understanding of what marriage is, and, with that deeper understanding, have grown spiritually together. So when they have the wedding liturgy it will become all the more meaningful to them.”
She said the liturgy is beautiful, not something to be hurried through to get to the reception.
“When the liturgy is done well, and the bride and groom are serious about it and have planned well with the priest or deacon, it affects the guests in a positive way, in a spiritual way,” she said. “They might not have realized how beautiful Church can be – the sensory aspect, the environment that’s created. And the Spirit – the Holy Spirit – is very effective. The ritual is … the way it is for a reason. In a way, it’s a catechetical opportunity as well as a spiritual opportunity.”

How we got the new translation

It took a lot of time, and the work of many people, to get the text couples have recently started using for their weddings.
Msgr. James P. Moroney, a Worcester diocesan priest who has long worked on liturgical matters for the Church, explained the process.
The new English-language text, “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” was translated from the 1990 Latin text, called the revised typical edition. The former English-language text, published in 1969, was called “Rite of Marriage.”
In the 1990s the whole Catholic world was struggling with shifts in understanding of how to translate texts from Latin into other languages, Msgr. Moroney said. In 2001 the Holy See published an instruction, “Liturgiam Authenticam,” which gave principles to be used in retranslating all liturgical books.
The first book was the Roman Missal (formerly called the Sacramentary), which contains prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass. The English translation was confirmed by the Holy See in 2010.
Since then, other texts have been translated from Latin into English, including the new marriage rite. The process is as follows, Msgr. Moroney said.
The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), comprised of representatives of the world’s English-speaking bishops’ conferences, puts together an English translation, called the “green book,” for which bishops’ conferences in English-speaking countries give their suggestions.
ICEL compiles a revised translation called the “gray book.” Each bishops’ conference can amend the “gray book” as it chooses to, and sends it to the Holy See.
The Holy See puts together one English translation for all the English-speaking countries, though the different countries include cultural adaptations.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved “Order of Celebrating Matrimony” on Nov. 12, 2013. After confirmation by the Vatican, the United States could use it Sept. 8, 2016 and it became obligatory Dec. 30, 2016.