This May 20th marked Fr. Tim’s 25th anniversary of priesthood, a highlight in a priest’s ministry. Such an occasion is both public and joyous, but my search for celebration details in the parish bulletin came up empty, so I asked him directly what his plans were.
“Probably something small,” he said with a certain satisfaction. “Pope Francis has set a real example of being simple, and a big party wouldn’t be in keeping with that simplicity.”
To the delight of most Catholics, the clergy have taken Pope Francis’ call seriously and modified their lifestyles and celebrations accordingly. Now it’s time for laypeople to do our part and examine our celebration of the one sacrament that is exclusively lay: marriage.
American culture is insistent that a couple have the biggest, grandest wedding they possibly can, and we as a church too readily accept this premise.
The Gospel calls us toward detachment and simplicity, values which are consistently undermined by the wedding industry. If we want, as Pope Francis says, to be a church of the poor and for the poor, we need to think reflectively about our own choices in wedding celebrations.
We need to consider what it means to spend thousands of dollars on out-of-season flowers and one-time table centerpieces.
We need to ask why we accept the idea that wedding parties should wear identical, expensive, and usually single-use formalwear.
We need to examine why we rent limousines and buses to transport that wedding party from ceremony to reception.
We need to question the extravagance of bachelor and bachelorette parties—and what these parties signify to us in the first place.
My intention is not to guilt-trip Christians who have included any of the above in their weddings. It’s normal to follow convention, especially when breaking it risks judgment from family and friends. But the Gospel doesn’t call us to be normal. It calls us to follow Jesus, live with integrity, and care for the poor.
One way of doing so would be a wedding tithe. What if couples gave 10% of their wedding budget to the poor? If we can afford $20,000 for one day’s celebration, we can afford another $2,000 for the poorest members of our community or cut back $2,000 on expenses and give that.
Pope Francis has reminded us all to be disciples not just in church, but in the concrete ways we live, act, and celebrate. May our approach to wedding celebrations be a new opportunity to grow in discipleship.