Praised be Jesus Christ, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother! For our meditation of today I would like to offer some practical advice about the sacraments of the Church and the importance of receiving them.
When a couple is married in the Catholic Church they are asked at the altar before taking their vows, Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church? Solemnly they answer, I will! On the day of their children’s baptism, the parents are asked are you willing to accept this responsibility of raising and training your child in the ways of faith? Again they answer, I am willing.
That is why it is so sad for a priest to realize that so many people have not been confirmed; they have not made their confirmation. When a couple makes arrangements to be married, they come to see the priest. Often at that point it is discovered that they have not been confirmed, which is generally a prerequisite to be married in the Church. This is always a sad discovery. And those who are responsible for this are the parents and sponsors who solemnly promise to raise the children in the faith. They have neglected their natural duty and they have not fulfilled their promise to God.
To be married in the Church, one must be confirmed. This law may be dispensed by the pastor of a parish for a serious reason, like there is not time for the betrothed to be properly prepared to be confirmed. To be a sponsor (sometime called godparent) in baptism one must be confirmed. This cannot be dispensed for obvious reasons.
We live in an area where there are many clubs. I belong to none, but it is my understanding that to become a member one must be sponsored by a member. So it is in the Church. In order to be baptized one must be sponsored. And the sponsor must be a full member of the Church, which means one has been confirmed. Many become angry when told of this law of Christ and His Church and show great disrespect to the priests and the Church. Again, it cannot be dispensed.
Often sponsors are called godparents. This is technically not a Church word. In some places all relatives are called godparents. A child who is to be baptized must have a least one sponsor. They are permitted two. If there are two they must be of each gender, a man and a woman. The sponsors have a very important role. Some mistakenly believe that should the parents die or be incapacitated, the sponsors are given the responsibility of raising the children. There is no provision for such a practice in any of the 50 states. That is why it is important for parents to clearly state their wishes in this matter in a legal document.
But the sponsors are to assist the parents in the raising of the children in the faith. It is also their responsibility to see that the children are confirmed. One charming custom that is observed in some places is that the godfather gives his godson or goddaughter 60 one dollar bills at Christmas. This is not for the child’s spending money. But it is a dollar for the child to place into the collection basket each Sunday and Holy Day.
during the upcoming year. The sponsor is training the child to be generous in supporting the works of charity of the Church. It is also the godfather’s traditional, responsibility to provide an offering to the Church on the occasion of the baptism. What a wonderful custom to follow for naturally it implies that the children will be at Mass every week.
It is customary for an offering to be made by the family on the occasion of baptism. There is no set fee, but your generosity is greatly appreciated.
So in summary, each child must have one sponsor in baptism. The sponsor must be at least sixteen years of age and must be confirmed. If the sponsor is married, he/she must be married in the Catholic Church. If there are two sponsors they must be of each gender. Any family is free to tell the child that he/she has many other godparents. In fact the Pope by tradition is the godfather to the first child of every European royal or princely family.
Baptisms are celebrated on the first and third Sunday of every month at 1.00PM and the second and fourth Saturday of every month at 12.00noon.
In my experience, sometimes people are misled by what others tell them. Some may say: “Oh no the priest will not baptize your baby because…” Don’t listen to what others tell you! If you are in doubt, always call the priest and he will help you if he can.
Naming your children
Please remember that the Code of Canon Law obliges pastors to be sure that children are not given names “contrary to Christian sentiment” at Baptism. Please give your children the names of family members and the saints. It is important that children are named after family members because this will give them a sense of “connection” in a fractured and broken world. The Church asks us to give children the names of the saints for the same reason: so that they may have special intercessors in Heaven and have heavenly friends to learn about and imitate. In today’s world, your children need all the help they can get: give them the beautiful names of family members and saints and you will be giving them a great treasure indeed!
Children should be baptized as soon as possible after birth. Delaying baptism for months is always wrong and most displeasing to God.
Now I would like to speak a little bit about weddings.
Weddings are always happy occasions at St. Paul’s. The couple should call the priest to make arrangements to be married. Generally, the less the parents have to do with this process the better. It is after all the couple who are getting married.
One of the two persons being married at St. Paul’s must be a parishioner. This is not because we do not want to help people, but because our large parish is served by only one priest. The priest is a shepherd to his people and cares for them. The parish is his flock, his part of the vineyard. We do not have the personnel or resources to provide weddings for people from other parishes. The other reason for this is that we want our own parishioners to have the dates they want to marry. These are people who have grown up in the parish, whose grandparents built it, and who have had relatives buried from this parish. I cannot bring myself as the pastor to tell them they cannot get married at a certain date because someone else has taken that date. Perhaps that person had never even seen St. Paul, but because of the proximity of reception venues, decided to get married here.
A parishioner is simply one who lives in the territory of the parish. In the Catholic Church, we do not join churches. We are members of a parish or diocese simply by our location, called in canon law, our domicile.
Weddings are celebrated on Friday afternoon and evenings, and on Saturdays and Sundays. No wedding may be scheduled on a Saturday earlier than 11.00AM, and no later than 3.00PM . On Sundays weddings may be scheduled no earlier than 2.00PM and no later than 4.00PM. On Sundays all weddings must be ceremonies, i.e., there are no Nuptial Masses because we have only one priest. A Nuptial Mass would mean the priest would be celebrating four Masses on Sunday.
I have been a priest for 34 years and I have been saddened to see, especially here on Long Island, how weddings have become a great industry. A wedding costs thousands of dollars which is unnecessary. At the time of the wedding there is a fee given to the Church. This is mostly for the musicians who make their livelihood in this way and to contribute to the altar flowers.
We have had very simple weddings here. One couple was unwilling to be taken advantage of by the wedding industry and refused the limousines, bachelor and bachelorette parties, cocktail hours, receptions, Viennese hours, photographers, etc. They came to the chapel and were married very simply. In such cases a free will offering is asked and gratefully accepted.
However, some individuals, believe it or not, have complained about having to make an offering to the Church at the time of a wedding. In my 34 years as a priest, this has happened only once (I will not say at which parish). One priest I know when asked for the same waiving of the fee, asked the couple to come in. They discovered that if they eliminated one item from the cocktail hour (like a carving station) it would more than pay the Church offering. One should not ask for the waving of the church fee if there are going to be limousines, flowers, photographers, gifts for the bridal parties, dresses, tuxedo’s , rehearsal dinners, bachelor and bachelorette parties/excursions. It is God, sadly, who is always placed last.
Another priest I know had a call from the father of the bride. He wanted to come in to discuss with the priest the waiving of the marriage fee (Or, as the slang goes, stiffing the church). The priest and father went through all the expenses of the wedding and the church and they discovered the church fee was .0025% of what he was paying for the wedding. I have never heard of anyone making an appointment with the manager of a catering venue and asking for a reduction. The father was so filled with shame that he paid double the Church offering.
As your pastor, I will happily waive the wedding fee if a couple (not their parents) tell me that they will be driven to the Church by friends (no limousine), have a cousin take pictures (no professional photographer), wear simple but clean and nice clothing (no thousands of dollars for wedding dresses and suits), have a simple party at home (no catering venue), and a trip to a bed and breakfast on the North Fork for a honeymoon, (no two weeks in Hawaii). I hope this attempt at humor puts things in perspective and will make people realize their responsibility to contribute to the Church. I spent 13 years as a priest in Cambria Heights (one of the poorest areas of all of New York City) and was never asked that a fee be waived.
In summary, please remember that at least one of the persons being married at St. Paul’s must be a parishioner. Please remember the times of the weddings. Please do not complain about the wedding offering or try to have it waived with excuses that even the one making them does not believe!
This information is on our parish website: www.stpaulsbrookville.org
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda