Dear readers, I've been away for awhile, as you may or may not have noticed. Through the ever-continuing Church scandals, statements from the Pope, Ireland's involvement in the volatile situation in Israel, and an apology from the British PM for Bloody Sunday, I've been silent. There are two very good reasons for this: I've been in grad school and I've been engaged.
Both are conditions which hijack a person's brain, allowing her to focus only on things related to Feature Writing class or wedding dresses. (I've even started a separate blog, The Bride and the Journalist, for those inclined to follow my analysis of, reporting on, and documentation of the wedding planning process.)
Which brings me to today's column. As I return to the rest of the world and ponder the state of the Catholic church, the thing weighing most on my mind is that I will be getting married in a Catholic church in about 18 months. Growing up, this fact was a foregone conclusion, but as a free-thinking adult, I realize that I can choose exactly where and how I will get married (although I would NOT mention that to my grandmother).
My Mass attendance has lapsed recently, and the first thing I'll have to do is actually join a congregation. Commit to become a member of a community. My fiance and I have attended Mass at several churches in our Brooklyn neighborhood, but we have done so anonymously, dropping a five dollar bill in the collection plate and scooting out before the socializing begins, although we did once stay to eat a piece of blueberry coffee cake.
The aforementioned recent scandals of the Church and its higher ups have made it harder for me to sign on and say, I am a part of this institution. I believe that the people who make up the humanity of the Church do so in the name of Jesus Christ and with firm intentions of spreading love and goodness in the world. Most priests are good men. Most bishops don't go out of their way to risk the lives of women in order to prove a point, as Arizona bishop Thomas Olmsted did when he excommunicated Sister Margaret McBride for approving a life-saving abortion (read Father Tim's thoughtful take on the case here).
But still, enrolling as a congregant implies support, no matter what else I may say. And before I can book a date to walk down that long aisle and ask a priest to perform a sacrament, I need to understand exactly what I'm signing up for. Years of CCD do not prepare you for reconciling an intelligent, informed worldview and a modern take on weddings in general with the formal, strict and solemn spectacle of a Catholic wedding and its corresponding preparation.
I don't have the answers yet. It's going to be a process. One thing I do know is that while I certainly could get married in the park by a close friend ordained on the Internet, or find a non-denominational minister to marry us with a vaguely Christian service involving a unity candle, or have a simple civil ceremony - all perfectly acceptable options for some - none of that would feel real to me. I may need to come to terms with the Church I grew up in, and really think hard about what it means to be married within that Church, but I know that I want to do it, because no matter how conflicted I feel, the Church carries with it a heft and gravity I could not replicate anywhere else. Marriage is a big deal to me, and it's a big deal to the Catholic church. That, for starters, we agree on.