I need someone to set me straight on some recent anger I’ve had. I am in the process of preparing for a wedding, and my fiancée and I recently met with the priest overseeing our wedding. We are fairly new to the parish and don’t know the priest well at all. It should also be noted that my fiancée is not that put off by any of this but I am.
Among other things, one of the sources of frustration is the fact that we don’t appear to have much of a say in the wedding Mass itself. We were hoping to arrange the Mass such that only my fiancée, I and the celebrant received Holy Communion. A good friend of mine was recently married in which they did this and some other friends of ours were married the same way. I even looked at a wedding pamphlet these friends had from the parish where they were married that they were able to fill out according to how they wanted certain parts of the Mass conducted. In addition to choosing specific readings and songs, it had a section in which they could select various options for Communion, such as “Communion for Couple Only” or “Communion for Everyone”. It also had a section with options for the sign of peace, where they could have everyone give the sign of peace, the couple would just exchange the sign of peace with each other, they would exchange it with themselves and the wedding party & immediate family, etc.
So my fiancée and I believed that we would have some say in these sorts of things. But when my fiancée brought up the idea of not having Communion for everyone and just having it for the two of us, the priest seemed insulted that we would even suggest it. He immediately shot it down, made it clear that this is not an option for us, and told us that everyone attending a Mass has a right to receive Communion.
I’ll explain some of the reasons why I did not want to have Communion for everyone. For one, whether you want to call it judgmental or not, the simple fact of the matter is that far too many Catholics today regularly receive Communion when they probably should not. This is not a judgmental assumption but is a simple fact. Even a book as elementary as “Catholicism for Dummies” acknowledges this. There are a plethora of people who receive Communion with unconfessed mortal sins, and this is not even debatable. So generally speaking, I did not want our wedding Mass to be just another service in which a bunch of people end up receiving Communion when they probably should not. I think it sets a bad example and I was hoping to set a better example for our friends and family with our wedding. (I understand that this Mass is not “my” Mass but Christ’s. However, it is only being held on account of our wedding.) Not only that, but I don’t want to be a party to people receiving the Holy Eucharist when they should not because they feel too “awkward” in front of everyone else not to, or for whatever other reason. My fiancée herself feels embarrassed any time she doesn’t receive because she thinks people look at her as if she’s a horrible person for not being able to receive. This type of mindset has been demonstrated by others in the family as well who are not as familiar with Catholicism and much more likely to fail to give the Holy Eucharist the proper reverence.
Further, I know specific people who have admitted that they are not in mortal states which are amendable to receiving Communion, yet they most likely will receive anyway. For example, one of my immediate family members probably hasn’t been to confession in 20 to 30 years, he no longer attends Mass and even recently started occasionally attending a Methodist service. He certainly cannot honestly describe himself as a practicing Catholic. He has also divulged instances of fairly recent and mortal sin. I all but guarantee that this person will receive the Holy Eucharist if it is distributed to everyone, if for no other reason than the fact that he will feel awkward not receiving in front of the entire church, and/or also the fact that he does not take religion in general or Catholicism very seriously, much less give the Holy Eucharist the proper reverence.
Another example is another immediate family member who is not a practicing Catholic. She raised her children as Catholics up to a point, but does not attend Mass or Catholic services of any kind and has even expressed doubts about whether she believes God even exists. There are other beliefs which are extremely anti-Catholic and even disturbing. My fiancée knows this person will feel extremely uncomfortable with not receiving Communion at our wedding and in front of everyone, and that she will therefore probably receive. In fact, this specific individual was a large reason why we wanted to limit the distribution of Communion to just my fiancée and me – to avoid putting this person in an awkward position with the likelihood that it would result in her choosing to receive when she should not.
A third example is an unmarried couple with whom we are friends. This couple lives together despite being unmarried and have admitted to having sexual relations. Also, as my fiancée and I don’t have a sexual relationship, the male friend said that although he admired us for that, he could never do something like that in a relationship. So in addition to this and other admissions to having a sexual relationship, he also indirectly admitted here that he “lives” with the sin in their relationship and accepts it, rather than it being a case of them occasionally making a mistake. And yet at a recent wedding we all attended for another couple, there he was, going up to receive Communion.