If you’re a Parks and Recreations fan, you may recall the episode of Donna and Joe’s wedding when Ron Swanson says, “I love weddings. Good food, the celebration of romantic love, and most of all Churches. Say what you will about organized religion those bastards knew how to construct an edifice.”
Swanson’s statement has veracity. In our culture, people love weddings, people love food (no question there) and we do genuinely wantto have weddings held in a Church, but secular culture has opinions about organized religion and the totality of Catholicism’s teachings for things like Natural Family Planning. Churches look great in our photos and rein as a marvelous venue choice, yet, there is a deeper truth as to why Catholics get married in the Church.
As a young adult in her twenties, I have been watching my older cousins and friends make different choices to celebrate their day of romantic love. Some had babies before the big day, some had babies without the big day. Some didn’t even want God involved and had their siblings become the minister of the ceremony at a public park. Some of my elder relatives even argued the “goodness” of cohabitation, saying, “The couples living together without the sacrament are doing it right. You can get up and leave at any point! Good for them and their freedom.”
If there is more freedom and stability in not having a sacramental marriage, why have I noticed that the bride and groom couldn’t keep their hands off each other while they were dating, but once they were married they couldn’t even touch, look, or admire each other with affection?
The root of the problem is adesire for pleasure without sacrifice.
Actively persisting in chastity is the fruit of free, respectful, healthy, and authentic affection in relationships. It creates respect that honors balance, teaches maturity and self-donation. Therefore; I don’t need my wedding day to be perfect in the sense that I will “finally be free of the burden that comes from waiting,” but rather, it’ll be perfect because I am celebrating God and His plan for love that I unceasingly strived for.
Engaged couples should marry in the Church for one reason: Here lies the place from which God’s grace flows. Grace that serves as strength for the journey ahead. Here is the foundation that assists us in making each other real through our waiting and obedience to God.
Romantic love should show that each person didn’t sit around and wait for love to hit, but they deliberately pursued it and never settled.
What I hope I can show others on my own wedding day is that romantic love is a celebration that speaks,
“Thank-you God for not giving up on us. This day is a result of your hard work in us. I believe in this imperfect person next to me and I want to fight with them, and for them, for the rest of my time here on Earth. I believe, only through Your grace, can two people fall in love and stay in love. I believe love intensifies by entering into the hardships, not avoiding them. I will be able to see how a person can be the biggest jerk, but they rely on God, and their decision to do what can make them the holiest person I’ve ever met.”
This is the reason I will get married in the Church. Not because it looks nice, makes sense, or because “grand mom would be sad if I didn’t.”
My own story teaches me that the journey to my future husband, to my ‘big day,’ and the path to my celebration of human love is a direct personal one spent with a God who loves me, knows my name, and calls me His own. And this adventure outweighs it all.
Shannon Donnelly is a campus minister at an all girls high school in Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from Cabrini University with a degree in Religious Studies. She is a speaker, writer, and hopeless romantic. Shannon spends her free time loving Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, reading, dancing, and teaching fitness classes….on trampolines!