Saturday, September 27, 2014

No one received Holy Communion

Since I've arrived at my parish (July 2013), all the weddings I've celebrated have been of members of the Spanish-speaking community, I'd say nearly a dozen or more.* Almost all of these have been convalidations. The trend in the Mexican community goes something like this: start dating early, then move in together, live for several years in a union libre [i.e. shacking up], have kids together (3 or 4 is the norm), get a civil marriage once it looks like things are stable, and then, finally, years down, approach the altars for the Sacrament. In the meanwhile, everyone follows the rules -- they know the Church doesn't approve, and if they come to Mass (many do), they don't receive Holy Communion. It's a whole new reality.

The movement towards the Sacrament of Marriage, in my short experience, is tied strongly to some kind of a conversion experience, either through the Charismatic Renewal, or the CRHP retreats regularly offered at the parish. One or both partners has a new appreciation for his or her relationship with the Lord, and wants to "get in the rights" with God. These evangelization retreats are a major force for evangelical dynamism in our parish. After each retreat, we get folks signing up for the intensive RCIA process (for their sacraments of initiation), marriage prep, scheduling baptisms for their children (so many are not baptized!), or the seguimiento [literally "follow-up"] classes offered by the Renewal, which is basically a 10-month long, lay-led, weekly discipleship and Bible study course.

Hispanic weddings are very relaxed. There is no obsession with photo-finish perfection. The nervous tension I've experienced in Anglo wedding just isn't there; no momzillas or bridezillas. There's rarely the custom of bridal parties made up of close friends. Instead, there are padrinos who will present the couple with the rings, the arras, sometimes a Bible or a Rosary, and the lazo. Often, the couple is late (the bride is busy getting ready for her big day)! The music is provided by one of the parish choirs, and the songs are all from the regular Sunday repertoire. There's always kids running around, often the kids of the couple celebrating the Sacrament. Sometimes they cling to their parents as mami and papi are exchanging their vows. Invariably, the couple goes to Confession just prior to their wedding. They take this very seriously.

As at most weddings, many of those attending are not regulars. In Spanish the phrase is alejado de la iglesia -- distant from the Church. One can always tell by the way folks participate and respond, how familiar they are with the Mass. I always make a simple announcement about receiving Holy Communion worthily. At most weddings, a good 1/3 or so come up to receive.

Today, no one did.

There were over a hundred people in church. After the bride and groom received, no one came up. Not one single soul! [The choir, lectors and ushers are all regular parishioners who would be going to Mass later in the weekend and would not have felt it necessary to receive.]

That was a first! After Mass, before the final blessing, I congratulated the couple again (as I always do), and then gave a small ferverino. I took the opportunity to proclaim the kerygma, inviting those were alejados to rediscover Jesus again in a new way, to experience His mercy again, and to come back to His Church.

Clearly, this couple is an evangelical witness to their families and friends. What a fascinating wedding Mass!

*There have been a handful of Anglo weddings, but I was not the celebrant; they were either guest priests, or the Pastor, understandably, since the locals have known him longer. Most of the (English-speaking) couples I've prepared for marriage are getting married elsewhere -- the function of having a young, transient, college and post-college population in town. My first local English-speaking wedding is coming up in November, along with a few convalidations. 


Christian LeBlanc said...

Fervorino- a little exhortation

Padrino- godparent

Las Arras- Traditionally, thirteen wedding unity coins symbolizing Jesus and the twelve apostles. The exchange of the coins represent the groom's promise to provide for his family, and the bride's trust in his ability to do so.

Lazo- A lasso, a cord representing a rosary, which is looped around the couple symbolizing their permanent union.

Staying in Balance said...

I'm a church musician and I see this more and more (although not to the extent you have, apparently.) I think, at the parish level, the Church is going to look a lot different than it used to.

Thomas Oram said...

You can imagine how surprised I was to find who had written the article which my wife just retweeted!

Fascinating stuff, old friend--I'm so glad you're a priest. I'm so glad they have you.

Cheers from a Pastoral Musician in the Diocese of Venice!

Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

Christian: thanks for the translations.

TORAM! Dude! It's been forever! Like ... SEVEN years!! How are you? Thanks for the shout our. You still on FB? We should catch up. Oremus pro invicem.

nikki nacht said...

At most, Hispanic Catholics see the doctrines and dogma of the church, when espoused by their diocesan priests, as just another of many competing opinions.

If it comes from a priest that they don't personally care for or know, they are likely to see it as fruit of the poisoned tree.

In spite of this, belief in a Christian God is nearly universal and central to the cultural life of the community.

Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

^ I suspect that's true of many groups of Catholics.

Belief in God as a supreme (and not distant -- no Deists there) power does seem to be near universal. Whether that is the same always as the Christian God could be discussed.

There are many Hispanic Catholics, in my (limited) experience, those who've had some kind of involvement in the Charismatic Renewal or other evangelical-retreat-style experiences with doctrinal formation, who seem to have a relationship with the teaching of the Church as well, that is independent of their relationship with their priests.

For me as a priest, the criterion I focus on is the biblical criterion of "discipleship" -- of a central, personal. lived relationship with Jesus Christ and a desire to follow Him and conform their lives to him. This is (or ought to be -- and hasn't historically been) the fulcrum or criterion of pastoral ministry, for Catholics of any culture.