Friday, April 11, 2014


Have you seen this video? I've seen it on Facebook posted by a half dozen or more friends. Here is something very interesting to me about the comments: so far as I can tell, lay people (across generational lines) seem to think this is really cool. And clergy (across generational lines) seem to feel a bit queasy watching it. What gives?

Maybe I'm overstating this and let's face it, the comments on a half dozen posts are hardly a scientific sample. So I invite feedback and comments here because I am genuinely very curious. But here is what I think...

Lay people like it because the priest seems real. He seems authentic. He seems to like the couple. He's not just going through the motions. He is not grumpy-cat-priest. The bride and groom seem happy with it, so he knows them and has made a connection.Over the years I've heard horror stories about clergy who are obvious about their disdain for officiating at weddings, have a list of "no-can-do's" and who seem to preach a homily that is canned with "insert bride's name here" depth. So a priest who is having fun, and has taken the time to personalize the song...he seems real.

Here is what clergy seem to see: self-centered creep. Is that too harsh? Not based on the comments I've read. A wedding is first and foremost about God, the clergy say; otherwise go find a JP. While one expects the bride and perhaps the mother of the bride to compete with God for starring role, one does not expect the priest to insert himself at the center.

Underneath the joy and the snark, it raises some theological questions for me. Most clergy I know would rather do five funerals over one wedding. They talk with each other about this but rarely express those feelings, I think, when setting wedding guidelines in their parishes. It is true that weddings have been taken over by the wedding industry and are great examples of consumerism-gone-wild. On the other hand, I am not so cynical as to believe that people only want a church wedding because it makes a nice "set." While I have made those same comments about preferring to officiate at funerals over weddings, over the years I have found the preparation with couples in particular to be a real joy of pastoral ministry, and couples who do want a church wedding mostly get it that the wedding is an event but a marriage unfolds over a lifetime, and that the wedding industry is interested in the former but the Church cares about the latter. We do, after all, proclaim our faith in an incarnate God, and God's love is made manifest in the love that two human beings profess for each other. Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est. 

There is a middle ground here; I'm just not sure yet what it is. But I think this priest exposes the fault lines, which perhaps makes a more serious conversation about weddings and marriage possible.

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