by Msgr. Jonas C. Achacoso, JCD
Coming out of the Sunday Mass, many parishioners often ask me to bless crucifixes, statues, rosaries, scapulars, bottled water, etc. Sometimes the blessings are given quickly so as not to jam the avalanche of faithful. A traffic jam, however, could not be avoided when some parishioners confide in me a problem or want to ask for a private appointment. One time there was a traffic jam at the door of the church because a couple presented to me their wedding rings and asked me, “Father, can you bless them?”
I explained to them that the rings are blessed at the wedding itself. But they insisted that the wedding will be in the courthouse, so they needed the blessing now. I asked them to step aside to make way for people leaving the church and that I could explain my answer to their question later because it would need a good bit of talk.
So I explained to them that the proper blessing that a priest makes for wedding rings is at the marriage ceremony. It is when the priest, making the sign of the cross on the rings, says “May the Lord bless these rings, which you will give to each other as a sign of your love and fidelity.” Then the bride and groom give each other their respective ring with the promise of love and fidelity invoking the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The blessing and exchange of rings in the name of the Triune God elevate this ritual to a very solemn level and the rings become a sacred sign of alliance.
In most cases, Catholics know very well about their obligation to have their wedding in the church and that the civil wedding is only for mundane legality. I understand that those who resort to a wedding before a civil authority have various reasons for their decision. Some may have little appreciation for the value and dignity of a religious ceremony. Others flee from the exorbitant expense and spectacle in which the ecclesiastical rite is commonly confused with.
Within the ministerial field in which I find myself, the reasons may have to do with the immigration situation. Some use a civil wedding as an easy way out of being undocumented. Others do it civilly first and postpone the church wedding to save more funds for a dream church wedding. The reasons may be substantial, but all reveal a misunderstanding of the sacrament of marriage. Many faithful are becoming unmindful of the obligation to be married in the church.
Back to the couple, I saw them pensive and seemingly upset at the refusal I gave to their request for blessing their rings. Of course, they insisted that I do the blessing, but I was firm with my refusal precisely so as not to send the wrong signal of facilitating a hybrid wedding.
Taking advantage of the fact that they want to do the right thing, which is why they asked for the blessing, I promised to help them in preparing to take their love to the level of the sacrament.
I admit that, in the end, I blessed them individually — not as a couple — so that God would give them the wisdom and courage to put into practice what our Mother, the Catholic Church, teaches us.
Msgr. Achacoso, JCD, is Adjutant Judicial Vicar at The Tribunal of the Diocese of Brooklyn, liaison to the Ecclesial Movements, and Administrator of the Corpus Christi Church, Woodside.