“What did you do this weekend?” “I got betrothed.”June 5th, 2012
Due to my friends, education and career choices over the years, I am well informed on the odd facts and trivia of our Catholic faith. St. Drogo is the patron of unattractive people. St. Catherine of Siena’s tomb in Rome is opened on her feast day every year for people to kneel inside and touch what encases her. St. Vincent Ferrer’s finger, which he used to point during his preaching, is in a reliquary at the parish named for him in New York City.
Some of this knowledge is mostly for fun, while other facts of our Church’s wealth of tradition, customs and practices enrich a life in the faith.
When my fiancé and I became engaged in November, we both began discussing the possibility of the Rite of Betrothal. Having friends who had requested this rite before, I knew of its existence, but neither of us knew what it entailed.
The priest who coordinated our marriage preparation was unfamiliar with betrothal, but after we inquired about it, he did some research and within hours was setting up a time for the next day to begin our betrothal.
As my fiancé and I walked into the large seminary building in another city one April evening, a religious brother met us in the hallway and welcomed us into a small chapel. Father was waiting for us, having already prepared the chapel for the event – moving two portable kneelers to the front and readying for Mass.
When the time arrived, Father began the Rite of Betrothal by reading Psalm 127 and a prayer that highlighted the serious nature of an engagement and the Church’s acceptance of our decision to respond to God’s call to the Sacrament of Marriage.
We were asked to face one another and join right hands, while Father covered our hands with his stole, each end folded over our hands to form a cross. We then spoke promises to one another. My fiancé was asked to promise to give himself fully to me as my husband when we are married. I, in turn, was asked to promise to receive the gift of my fiancé.
Having Father’s stole covering our hands was a beautiful reminder of the Church’s presence in our relationship. We are not alone. Our future marriage is not something that effects just the two of us, nor is it something that we are capable of living on our own power. But our Church, the Bride of Christ, is present to us, has been present to us and will be even more present to us when we are married this summer.
Finally, Father blessed my engagement ring and my fiancé once again placed it on my finger.
We were betrothed.
Our first moments of betrothal were particularly blessed as Father immediately began a private Mass just for the two of us. The homily and petitions were particularly structured for our preparation for marriage.
The betrothal rite, the private Mass, the presence and dedication of Father, all pointed to the mystery that we are about to receive and to live. Marriage isn’t something we will merely contract or create. Marriage is a gift that will be given to us, that we are invited to receive and to respond to – to make our consent and to enter into a new Sacrament.
Our betrothal – now a rare rite in the Church – is a gift that reminds us of the serious nature of our vocation, of the grace of Christ, and of the fact that we are wrapped in the love of the Church, whose relationship with Christ we will be called to reflect in our own marriage.