Showing God the barest amount of love

Showing God the barest amount of love

Bostonians of a certain age will remember an old TV commercial for the clothing store T.J. Maxx with the tag line of “Get the max for the minimum.” I was reminded of that while reading the reply of Fr. Selvester at “Shouts in the Piazza” to a column “Catholic Do’s and Don’ts: A Guide for Wedding Guests.” Among the witticisms and etiquette pointers, the BH writer, Dr. Christine Whelan, says the following:

If you are attending a Catholic nuptial wedding on a Saturday at 4 p.m. or
later, you’ve just landed a twofer: It’s a full Mass, and while it’s sort of distracting (you are thinking about your friends getting married, and probably not as focused as usual on the words that the priest is saying) it still counts.”

Uh no. As Fr. Selvester points out that this isn’t necessarily true and even were it true it panders to the worst instincts of most Catholics: What is the absolute minimum I can do and still be a good Catholic?

Too many Catholics are looking to get out of as much as they possibly can and only do that which is absolutely required. I doubt very much that too many Catholics will encounter a nuptial mass being celebrated after 4, PM on a Saturday anyway. My point is that while it may fulfill the absolute letter of the law that one attend mass each Sunday (and, of course we define Sunday as beginning at sundown on Saturday) attending a wedding as your Sunday mass hardly fulfills the spirit of the law.

He also points out that it isn’t the time and date of the Mass that matters when fulfilling the Sunday obligation as what the Mass is intended to be.

The prayers and the readings of the Sunday mass are different than those one would hear at a nuptial mass. The very rare case might be a couple who agrees to be married within the context of a Sunday mass…something I’ve never yet encountered. It is the prayers and readings that are particular to the Sunday celebration that cause one to have attended Sunday mass rather than the fact that it may have taken place after 4, PM (or whatever time their local diocese approves). So, I would put it to Catholics that if they attend a nuptial mass at 4, PM on a Saturday then they should indeed still attend Sunday mass as they have not celebrated the Sabbath.

The Min-Max Gospel

Technorati Tags:, ,

bk_keywords:Catholic wedding, Eucharist, Mass, Sunday obligation.

  • Busted Halo, ick.  It’s run by the Paulists, for goodness sake.  You can’t expect them to get a little thing like theology right, can you?

  • Once again… we are expected to out-think our priests..

    Perhaps our worthy men in collars should not celebrate a wedding Mass on the sabboth?  I don’t think the do funerals do they on Sunday, or Saturday evening?

    I believe anything after 4pm is consider a vigil.  It is a Mass, and it occurs on the Sabboth, right?

    So, does this mean one can attend a valid Saturday Mass (for a devotion), a wedding, and a Sunday Mass, all within say, 24 hours, and receive Holy Communion all three times.

    It is time to stop splitting hairs.  It is this time of legalism that drives many of us absolutely bonkers.

  • Whatever the good Father’s opinion of the letter of the law, it is the letter that tells us one of two things: yes, this is okay; or no, this is not okay.

    A wedding Mass after a certain time on Saturday afternoon (and I understand it varies from one diocese to another) can fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. The formed intentions of the wedding guests are another matter entirely. Church law makes no distinction between what readings or orations are used.

    The regular use of a Saturday “mass of anticipation” is problematic, I agree. That is why I rarely attend such a Mass. Meanwhile, there it is on the schedule every week at our parish.

    My preferences notwithstanding, I’m led to believe it’s okay.

  • Our nuptial mass was kindof unique because it was on Mary, Mother of God. It fell on a Saturday last year and so wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation. However, being a solemnity, our celebrant advised keeping the day’s readings and just changing 1 for the wedding (we replaced the 2nd reading with Eph. 5). It was a blessing having our nuptial mass within the context of Mary’s Mass.

    I suppose if a couple wanted to and their priest was willing, it might be nice to incoprate their nuptial mass within the Sunday celebration of the community. HOWEVER, I’m not sure many couples would want to share their special day with the whole parish as it celebrates another Sunday.

    At our parish it is not permitted to celebrate a nuptial mass after 4pm on Saturday simply because it would conflict with the usual Saturday Vigil/Sunday schedule.

    While the question of “does it count?” might be asked in hindsight, asking in advance so as to try to do the minimum, should be a warning sign to any priest speaking to couples seeking Holy Matrimony.

  • I didn’t mean to imply that it cannot or should not be done. I said it might be nice to hold one’s nuptial mass during a Sunday celebration.

    But there are many people who would ask soley to do the minimum. There are circumstances where convenience would be understandable and desireable. Perhaps my opinion is formed (at least in part) by the fact I live near D.C. and have heard a few stories of couples going to a Church and want to get married there because the pictures will look nice but have little regard for the Eucharist, the Mass or the RCC.

  • My point mainly concerned the wedding guests being addressed by the column. Trying to figure out if one scores a bonus because the wedding Mass technically fulfillfs your Sunday obligation is a less than optimal expression of love and fidelity toward the Lord.

    But if the couple says, I want to have our wedding Mass on Sunday because then it will also be a celebration of the day of Resurrection, that’s very different.

    This is less about law than about intention.

  • Dom,

    How can a mass “technically” fill much of anything?  It either is, which is a huge + or it isn’t, which merits another mass.  I don’t think good-faith reception of the Eucharist is a technicality.


  • Once again, my point:

    There is the minimum required by law and then there is an attitude motivated by love. If I only do for my wife what is minimally required by law, how much love am I showing her?

    If I say if I want this wedding Mass to also count for my Sunday obligation because I don’t want to be bothered to get up for Mass tomorrow morning—or as the advice giver says, I’ve scored a twofer—how much sacrifical love am I showing?

    The original article says essentially, Hey, I’m distracted and not really paying attention because of the wedding, but it counts. Is this the type of practice of the faith we want to encourage?

    Traditionalists and conservatives are sometimes accused of being legalistic and stuck on the rote recital of prayers without heart or meaning. Are we proving this?

  • Put another way, wouldn’t it be better to encourage people to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, and respectfully and contemplatively attend mass and accept the Eucharist in one ceremony, rather than to look for possible distractions. 

    If handled properly, wouldn’t a wedding have the potential to focus one’s attention on the Sacrament, Catholic traditions, the Mass, and the Eucharist rather than to take away from the sacred nature of the Church?


  • Ed, again, I’m talking about attitude. If the attitude is “Gee, how can I avoid going to Mass twice this weekend?” instead of “I am worshipping the Lord with all my heart,” then I think that’s a problem.

    I’m not exempting myself here. There are time when I’ve found myself going to a Saturday wedding with a long travel day ahead on Sunday, wondering if I could squeak in under the Sunday anticipation wire.

    Here’s a true confession: Last summer, when Melanie and I were on our honeymoon in Nova Scotia, we had to catch the ferry back to the US on Sunday. On Saturday, when I looked up churches, I noticed that the closest one was several hours away. After a long detour for gas (long story) and with the ferry departing at 12:30, we only had time to stop in and pray for about 15 minutes because I was afraid we’d miss our departure time.

    In the car we prayed the prayers from the Missal, Melanie reading the prayers and Scripture readings. It wasn’t a proper substitute for Mass, but I think we had extenuating circumstances.

    Now, under the law, I believe we were justified. (Some may dispute that and that’s okay. I’ve spoken with my priest about it and my conscience is clear.) But if we were willing to do the maximum in showing our love for the Lord in the Mass, we would have stayed and missed our ferry and dealt with the consequences.

    Was our attitude wrong? No, I don’t think so. Did we break the law or commit a mortal sin? Again, I don’t think so.

    Now if I woke up that Sunday morning and said, “Aw shucks, we probably shouldn’t even bother with Mass. God will understand,” and went on our merry way, or if we planned our trip that way, that might be a problem.

  • Ed, my duty as a citizen is not even comparable to love for a person, whether that person is my wife or God. The analogy fails.

    Maureen is a lot closer on this, although I would say that some glee is ungenerous. If I’m on a business trip and I find out that my flight is cancelled and I can’t get home for my anniversary, expressing glee to my wife at the prospect of having an extra day to play golf would be bad form indeed.

  • I’m putting any burden on the law, but on people. A just law may be used as an excuse for someone to do something that isn’t right.

    There’s no law against loving someone (God, our spouse, our children) less than completely, but it’s still wrong.