Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Authentic Wedding Traditions

Last week, the 3-Minute Catechesis touched on the Church’s view of marriage as a sacrament. The Church looks beyond the wedding day and works to build and strengthen the foundation a couple needs to live out their marriage vows. Even so, there is a lot of attention placed on the wedding day itself.

On old English wedding rhyme suggests that, on that special day, the bride wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Most weddings these days are a combination of old traditions and new ideas, and couples struggle to find a balance of these elements in their wedding.

Much of what is considered “traditional” at weddings includes social customs from a bygone age, customs which no longer correspond to our current understanding of marriage. For example, at one time, people believed that it was “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony. This is little more than unfounded superstition, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church denounces as a “deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes (paragraph 2111).” Another custom has the bride’s father “giving her away” to the groom, which reflects a time when marriage was arranged between the groom and the bride’s father. This comes from a practice long ago, when the woman was seen as property to be given and received. Outdated practices like these, while still permitted and practiced, no longer reflect contemporary reality or faith.

That is not to say that all traditional practices no longer have meaning. The English rhyme serves as a reminder that a marriage is a blending of man and woman, old and new. “Something blue” has been connected to weddings for centuries: in ancient Rome, brides wore blue to symbolize love, modesty, and fidelity. Christianity has long dressed the Virgin Mary in blue, so purity was associated with the color.

But it is important for the bride and groom and their families to understand that, traditions aside, Church and society emphasize marriage as a mutual decision by equal partners with free will.

What does the Church see as necessary in a wedding? Since the couple has made the choice to be married in the Church, the assumption is that God will be part of this wedding and this marriage. So the wedding ceremony, which may take place during a Mass, will be a joyful occasion of prayer. Preparation for the wedding will include choosing appropriate Scripture readings and prayers. For those couples who choose to have a nuptial Mass, their first meal is the Eucharistic feast, a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a wonderful tradition and definitely the right way to begin a marriage!

Weddings and Marriage

The Christmas season, with its feeling of wonder and awe, is now over, but for some, the fun is just beginning. Because the holidays are a time to show those you love just how much you care, many couples get engaged at Christmas.

For Catholics, marriage is a vocation, a calling, and one which should begin in the Church. For that reason, most Catholic Churches request that before you book the reception hall and call the caterer, you should make arrangements to meet with the priest or deacon. Why is that?

The engaged couple needs to understand that when a wedding is celebrated in the Church, there is another level of relationship, one that involves God and the Church community. A Catholic wedding is an act of worship that takes place in the midst of a Christian community. In living out their vows, husband and wife share in Christ’s paschal mystery by dying to their own desires so as to live for each other and their children. Their marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with the Church.

A church wedding touches the couple, their families, and friends in an especially intimate way, but it also affects the local parish and the larger Church. This is what the bishops at the Second Vatican Council meant when they said, “Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is ‘the sacrament of unity.’” Catholic weddings are parish liturgies and though one may need an invitation to attend the reception, the wedding liturgy is a celebration open to all.

When you call Risen Savior to talk about your upcoming wedding, you and your fiancé will be asked to set up a meeting with the deacon or pastoral minister to talk about the Catholic understanding of the sacrament of Matrimony, including the sanctity of marriage and the expectation that children will be welcomed.

While many couples and their families are focused on the wedding day, the Church is looking ahead to the marriage and how to best prepare the couple for their lifetime together. After the initial meeting, the engaged couple is expected to attend marriage preparation classes and meet with a sponsor couple. This necessary period of marriage education, which focuses on practical issues like finances, communication, and family dynamics, is why couples should contact the parish at least six months prior to the wedding date they prefer.

A wedding is a holy celebration, the beginning of a vocation to marriage, and the Church offers vital support to couples who are answering the call to married life.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

For Catholics, the word ecumenism refers to all of the efforts of the Church to promote mutual understanding and, ultimately, unity among all Christians. Ecumenism is based on the unity and universality of the Church, which possesses all that is necessary for salvation, and on the Church’s proper relationship with non-Catholic Christian churches, which share with us many of those necessities, including baptism.

The shortest route to understanding ecumenism from a Catholic point-of-view is to read Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, which is a relatively brief and clear document. The principles on which the decree is based are rooted in Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and ideas set forth in the 20th century by such popes as Leo XIII and Pius XII.

The basic principle is that Jesus wanted unity among His believers, and the continued division among Christians is nothing short of scandalous. How can we attract followers for Christ when we ourselves are unable or unwilling to pray and work with our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters?

Modern popes have repeatedly insisted on the importance of ecumenism. After thirty years of experience with the mandate of Vatican II, Pope John Paul II in 1995 issued a longer in-depth document on the subject called Ut Unum Sint - That They May Be One. Recent popes, including Benedict XVI, have devoted many addresses, homilies, and weekly audiences to ecumenism.

Early in the 20th century, to promote Christian unity, Father Paul Wattson developed the Church Unity Octave at the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute in New York. The Octave was first observed in 1908, and in 1966, offices of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican began collaborating on a common text for use worldwide. Since 1968, these international texts have been developed, adapted, and published for use in the United States.

And so it continues. The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins this Tuesday, January 18th, invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus: “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). The theme for this year’s celebration is “One in the Apostles’ Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread, and Prayer.” It comes from Acts Chapter 2 verse 42. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to participate in the opportunities offered to promote understanding. As we pray with our fellow Christians, we renew our commitment to work for the unity Christ expects from his disciples.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baptism and Presbyterians

The Catholic Church tells us that the sacraments of Christian initiation are the basis of every Christian life. Baptism is the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. In recent years, the Catholic Church has made a concerted effort to dialogue with other Christian churches, a movement called ecumenism. These efforts have led to a better understanding of what we share in common as well as respect for our differences. To that end, Risen Savior is beginning to engage in dialogue with La Mesa Presbyterian Church.

Roman Catholics and Presbyterians have much in common. We live side-by-side as neighbors and have married into each other’s families. We have a shared history and similar hopes and concerns for the future. Yet we have some different ways of expressing our love and devotion to God, and we have some different perceptions about our shared Christian faith. We often do not understand each other’s ways.

But behind these differences, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics share something very basic: we are all Christians and we share a common baptism in Christ Jesus. Because of this, we possess a unity that may not always be visible but which exists: as Ephesians says, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5-6). We are joined to each other because we are joined to Christ.

In addition to this baptismal unity, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians also share many understandings and practices about Baptism. We agree that we become members of Christ’s body through our Baptism and in response to God’s call, rather than through a personal decision which depends solely on us. We agree that we are taken into Christ and into the Church through Baptism, and that we receive saving grace. Together with our Presbyterian neighbors, we have an understanding that our personal commitment to Christ is nurtured in and tied to the faith community.

Catholics and Presbyterians have a preference for formal, ordered worship, and a similar structure in much of our worship, which focuses on the majesty and glory of God rather than our feelings and experiences. And we share a common belief that the Christian life, living out our baptism, calls us to serve God by serving others.

Baptism is the sacrament of faith, a faith that needs the community of believers. As we engage in dialogue with our Presbyterian neighbors and others, we will become aware that the community of believers is a lot bigger than we thought!