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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shotgun Wedding

Where I have been?

It's not all dusting pews around here. We've been really busy since our saint matching sideline is picking up for the holidays. We've even had customers from Australia and the United Kingdom, which means a trip to the post office.

Unlike everyone else in the world, I like the post office. I find that things get where they are going practically every time I send something out. Things I'm waiting for in the mail arrive for me. Most things get where they are going very quickly. Most of the post office employees are friendly and not surly. They even have a machine there that is usually not broken, so I don't even have to trouble an overworked postal employee and tempt them into being surly, I can just weigh and pay with the machine.

On top of all that, it's a good stretch of the legs for me to walk there. It takes a little longer, but I don't waste gas or pollute the air (something I take very seriously since my father is responsible for global warming), I burn a few calories, keep the old joints oiled and I have a chance to clear my head and think about things.

I have to be careful not to get too lost in thought because about half the walk is along a really busy thoroughfare, down a winding road with a teeny little sidewalk along side. One slight mistake by any driver in the oncoming traffic and I'm a nun pancake. It's a great time to assess my sins and ask forgiveness in case in the next second I am flattened. The final leg of the journey is across a large parking lot that is still too small and cramped for the shopping mecca it services. I cut across a parking lot full of frustrated drivers.

Let me tell you, I take special care when I walk behind anyone who is in their car with the motor running. A lot of these people are old. How do I know if they can tell the gas from the brake? I don't. I am wearing my scapular, but I'm hoping for a peaceful passing. I'd prefer not to be dragged to death through the post office parking lot under the chasis of a Lexus driven by a woman who's line of sight is under the arc of the steering wheel because of her osteoporisis.

That or a martyr's death. We also hope for that. Martyrs go straight to heaven. I don't deserve that trip otherwise. Where are the Iroquois when you need them?

I digress.

So I was lost in thought on the home stretch of the parking lot, dodging old people who shouldn't be driving left and right, when I nearly ran into a van myself. It was parked. It was one of those PT Cruisers. They are very popular out here. And it was decked out for a wedding.

But not because the bride and groom were nearby. It was decked out because it was advertising a business. Marriage to Go.

This could be my big chance to die a martyr's death. If I hang around and explain to them what a bad idea this is, since none of their clients will be married in the Church, and a fight ensues and I'm killed, run over by the decked out PT Cruiser, that might actually count. You have to go defending the faith to qualify. I'm certainly not going to gain martyrdom if one of the postal employees goes you know what and kills me while I'm mailing a saint bracelet to Australia. I just don't think that would count. And I'm not sure it would not count as martyrdom if, while I was waiting for the Marriage to Go driver, one of the old Lexus drivers mowed me down.

Marriage to Go. For when you want to get married in a hurry. That can't be good.

I pressed on.

When little Bernadette did as she was told and asked our Blessed Mother who she might be and Our Blessed Mother told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception," Bernadette had no idea what Our Lady could have possibly meant. Bernadette didn't want to make a mistake, so she repeated the words over and over all the way home so she wouldn't get them wrong. She knew she wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. The nuns at school had pointed that out to her.

So that's what I did. Marriage to Go, marriage to go, I chanted to myself. I wanted to use the Google and find them. I can't fuss too very much. It turns out their intentions are good. Weddings are so expensive and they provide a nice wedding for a fee most people could afford. Too bad it might be some New Agey beach affair. Or some event run by the Separated Brethren. At least it's not what I had imagined: a quick phone call and some guy who can string the words "I now pronounce you man and wife" together shows up at the door with a marriage license and stands around leering after he says, "you may kiss the bride".

Still, I might have to shoot them an email and explain what we really mean by marriage in the Church. Maybe I can ride shotgun on their next trip.


Jane said...

I have to say, when the local parish wants a mandatory "donation" of $1500 to get married there, the Marriage to Go plan sounds tempting. (By the way, you don't get anything for that except the use of the building--cantor, organist, suggested stipend for the priest are all extra. Welcome to Los Angeles.)

Still, getting married in the Church is important enough to pay a high price for.

Anonymous said...

WHAT????? $1500????????? You are kidding right?

Anonymous said...

Oh my! Can you imagine the look on the happy couple's faces if you did go along for the ride? Might be a good idea. No doubt there are a few of us who could use the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Our old pastor was stopped at a gas station by a guy who got 'ordained' over the internet. He was on his way to do his first wedding and wanted some tips. Fr. G blew a gasket.

Tom in Vegas said...

There are no cheaper, vacuous, homogenized, makeshift, and processed weddings than what you find here in Vegas. Drive through weddings anyone? I probably have to wait longer for a Happy Meal through a drive-through than on a marriage ceremony. I’d rather just get a wedding licence and leave it at that than suffer the embarrassment of listening to Elvis’ “by the power invested in me.”


Anonymous said...

Yes, I have heard that our parish charges a very large fee to get married there. What's up with that? It seems to me that charging money to dispense a sacrament would be simony. If you get a chance Sister, could you please address this?

One more thing. A friend of my daughter's finds herself in the family way. So the young couple goes to the priest to talk about them getting married and he advises them to wait until after the baby so they can plan it better, or enjoy it more or some nonsense. Really, to me, this is making a bad situation even worse.

Thirdly, Sister, am I getting myself in trouble to criticize the priests like this? I don't want to be sinful, (and yes, I am being serious).

Anonymous Troublemaker

Anonymous said...

To chime in as someone who has had experience in the matter of charging "flat fees" for weddings, let me suggest a few points:
1) In no parish with which I was affiliated were these "flat fees" completely non-negotiable...they were SUGGESTED, and differed whether the couple were registered parishioners, or not.
2) It costs MONEY to pay for the lighting, and yes, the added AC and/or heat that might be needed for the typical wedding, above and beyond the time, energy, and preparation that professionals like priests, cantors, and organists put into doing their jobs.
3) Many parishes got into suggesting "flat fees" when the entire wedding industry went over-the-top; many brides and grooms thought (and think) nothing of spending thousands of dollars on flowers alone, but the church? Well, maybe twenty bucks for Father will suffice (I kid you not!), and nothing else.
4) An increasing number of couples nowadays "church shop" for their wedding ceremony, e.g., they want the parish church with the "prettiest" altar, or the one that is closest to the reception, or the one with the biggest parking lot (again, I kid you not about these reasons!). You are lucky if either the bride or groom is a parishioner. SO, in essence, they are making use of church space to which they have previously contributed nothing to its maintenance, and most likely, will never contribute in the future. Is a fee really out of line here? Is it fair to expect parishioners to subsidize couples such as this all the time?
5) I welcome stories to the contrary, but my parish experience has demonstrated that pastors are willing to discuss and reduce appropriately the fee with couples if there are genuine financial concerns...just don't expect to get much sympathy if you are spending over $100,000 on your reception, your bridal gown costs $6,000, and you are quibbling about a $500-$1000 church space charge (which in my experience is much more common than $1500, even in major metropolitan areas).
Whew! Sorry for the rant, but I have found that people can scream "foul!" before they even dig deeper in certain situations with the church.
And yes, if the pastor is completely unwilling to budge on the fee, and you are a parishioner, and have genuine financial difficulties in terms of paying that fee, then something is seriously wrong.

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry, need to correct one figure....if you are spending $30,000 on your wedding reception (which is not out of the ordinary at all), and are not a contributing registered parishioner at the church where you are getting married, you should not be arguing over a 500-1000 dollar fee for use of the church.

Anonymous said...

I say, come live in South Dakota. My children's friends are starting to get married. We went to two weddings this summer. I estimate the cost at between $3000 to $5000. This would include the total cost for everything from the beautiful dress to the bird seed we threw. This is a full church wedding, reception, and dance. Guest lists were about 200 people. My daughter is considering cutting costs even more and go back to the way her grandparents got married. That would be an early afternoon wedding, followed by a cake reception and the gift opening then off to the honeymoon by early evening.

Anonymous said...

Re: simony

It's not simony because there is no charge for the sacrament -- the charge is for reserving the church building for an entire afternoon (plus an evening for the rehearsal).

If you want to get married after a regular Sunday or weekday Mass, the priest will not charge you anything. The charge only comes into play when you want exclusive use of the church building.

The maintenance and utilities for church buildings is very, very expensive...

Cmerie said...

Sister, I have a question that is off subject. You have mentioned your scapular before, and I have also noticed others in the blog world mention their personal scapulars. I looked them up on Catholic Online, but I managed to get myself even more confused. Could you perhaps explain these to me (or us)?

Anonymous said...

love the picture of the motor-bike...

Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

cmerie, what you SHOULD have searched was Sr. Mary Martha's Blog. Lots of good info here.

Heather said...

About the old ladies' line of sight through the steering wheel...
My father said the only thing that kept him from losing his temper with old men driving was he would someday be one of them.
He passed away at 57. I wonder sometimes if he's kicking himself.

Anonymous said...

Re: the pregnant couple who wanted to marry in the church:

My pastor refused to marry me in the church when went to him at 19. He told me to try again in a few years to see if I still wanted to marry him. At the time I was very disappointed, and it created such a rift for me that I didn't attend church for years.

After my 2nd child was born, we started attending a different church. We were convalidated about 3 years ago.

The original pastor's refusal to marry me was the best thing that could've happened, spiritually. I really wasn't going into it with the intentions of having a true Catholic marriage.

It sounds like the other priest has similar concerns about the couple and just didn't come out and say it.