Can we get married during Lent in the Catholic Church?

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First of all, congratulations on your engagement and soon coming wedding! What a very exciting, sacramental, and beautiful event in your life. Standing before God and man reciting your vows to your beloved is one of the most profound moments you’ll experience in your entire life. Along with all of the excitement, often times while planning a wedding, things can get pretty stressful. Most notably stressful would have to be, in my opinion, finding the right date to have your ceremony. One of the most common questions about the date of the ceremony for Catholics is, “Can we get married during Lent in the Catholic Church?”

The short answer? It all depends on your Parish and/or your Diocese.

Years ago, having a large ceremony with everything included during Lent was not very accepted by most Parishes and Dioceses. Due to the solemn nature of the Season of Lent, as well as how much happens during the liturgical seasons, a ceremony such as a wedding placed into the mix might have made things a bit more complicated.

The last thing you want is something as solemn and holy as the celebration of a Marriage to be indirectly regarded as not as important as it should be due directly to the business of the season.

However, in recent years, more Parishes have been open to celebrating a wedding during special liturgical seasons (not just Lent, but Advent, also).

As with every other important and/or unique question, we always err on the side of caution: talk to your Priest or Deacon before assuming anything. That’s what they are there for.

Even if you know that you can get married during Lent at your church, it’s always best to still ask about the ceremony because your church might have some unique rules surrounding the ceremony.

For instance, they might want you to have minimal or almost no flower arrangements. They might let you have the ceremony, but they might not allow a full Nuptial Mass. The point is, it’s always best to seek the counsel of the Clergy before jumping in with both feet to something that might have restrictions, or worse, not allowed at all. You don’t want to fully plan something that might not be able to happen due to the season!

Again, I wish you all the best during one of the most important and beautiful seasons of your lives together, and I pray that God would bless you more abundantly than all you ask or imagine.

What do Ash Wednesday and Lent mean?

‘Tis the season…Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season are upon us! No matter what your religious affiliations or beliefs are, have you ever wondered or needed a fresh description of what it all means and its purpose? If your answer is, “yes”, don’t worry–you’re not alone. In brief, here are some answers:

For starters: what is Ash Wednesday?

Although ‘Ash Wednesday’ was not exactly written about in the Bible, the mentioning of “dust” and “ashes” was sprinkled throughout it; for example: Esther 4:1, Job 42:6, Jonah 3:5-6, and Daniel 9:3-4.

Ash Wednesday may be a day of holy commitment for Catholics, however, it is not for the rest of Western Christian society. Roman Catholics attend Mass on this day to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. Worshippers of this day attend Mass to show sorrow for their sins, as well as to prepare for the holy crucifixion and resurrection, receiving a mark of the cross with ashes on their foreheads. As their priest places the ashes, he likely says, Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return. –(Genesis 3:19 KJV). The blessed ashes that are used come from the burned palms from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday.

What is Lent?

Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday, is the 46 days before Easter Sunday. The 46 days equals to 40 days of ‘fasting’ and 6 Sundays of ‘feasting’. The Lenten season is for believers in Christ to grow in their obligation and gratitude of the sacrifices of Jesus. This is done by a thorough self-analysis, prayer, abstinence, and repentance.

What to abstain from?

This is a very interesting question. Christianity Today has reported the following statistics: “3 in 10 Americans with evangelical beliefs (28%) say they observe Lent; of these, 42 percent typically fast from a favorite food or beverage while 71 percent typically attend church services.

Catholics remain the most likely to observe Lent (61%), with 2 out of 3 fasting from a favorite food or beverage (64%).

Overall, 1 in 4 Americans observes Lent (24%), according to LifeWay. Most American observers fast from a favorite food or beverage (57%) vs. a bad habit (35%) or a favorite activity (23%).

Hispanics were the most likely ethnic group to observe Lent (36%), and were more likely than whites to abstain from a favorite activity (34% vs. 17%) or a bad habit (50% vs. 30%).

In 2014, it was found that 17 percent of US adults planned to fast during Lent, including 63 percent of practicing Catholics and 16 percent of practicing Protestants. Most were giving up a food item, including chocolate (30%), meat (28%), soda (26%), or alcohol (24%).”

To conclude; I like to think that Isaiah 58:5-7 (NIV) says it best: Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Church Outside of Church: Truly Meeting Today’s Churchgoers Where They Are.

Truly meeting today’s churchgoers where they are should never mean compromising your message in order to be “hip” and “cool” (oh, how cringeworthy those buzz words are…).

That being said, we cannot deny that times are changing, especially when it comes to technology. If we can adapt to the advancements of technology, and understand that utilizing technology to our advantage does not mean the death of tradition, we will be able to reach a lot more people with the Good News.

Here are a few ideas to help:

Social Media

Let’s just talk about the “big one” for now. As of March of 2017, nearly 2 BILLION people use Facebook.

2 BILLION people!?!?

I think it is safe to say there are several users right in your own congregation. The first thing that you need to do is make a public Facebook Page for your church.

Let your congregation know that you have made a new page, and encourage them to go “like” and “follow” the page.

From there, you can post encouraging thoughts and general insight into your church.

A great addition to the public page would also be a private group for your parishioners to join. That way, you can share much more detailed information with your faithful members. For instance: prayer requests, especially if you want to keep the information given safe within your Parish Family.

Reach out to your parishioners and attendees for five star reviews, too. Don’t shy away from specifically asking for five star reviews, either! You are not being pushy; you are positioning yourself to receive some great feedback.

You can also use Facebook to inform your community and parishioners about upcoming events and outreach programs. This helps to get a good idea on head counts, as Facebook users can indicate if they are “going” or not.

Surveys

Arguably the easiest, most “user-friendly” survey platform out there is Survey Monkey.

Create surveys for every bit of feedback you would like to have, for instance:

  • Pre-Cana attendees – what they liked and what suggestions they have for the class.
  • Special events.
  • General thoughts on your Parish.

This is all vital information that will surely help you understand where today’s churchgoers are at!

Newsletters

MailChimp is a great option for sending out e-newsletters. You will not only save money on having to print and mail physical newsletters, you can also learn from great analytics using the dashboard.

E-newsletters are perfect for sending out quick and encouraging thoughts, prayer chains, and exciting news to keep your congregation well-informed.

Videos and Live Streaming

Finally, any and every moment you are able to record video, do it.

Record your homilies or quick teachings as resources for your Parishioners and Attendees. These don’t have to be Hollywood-style productions. People today desire authenticity.

Live stream your Masses.

The biggest apprehension that I hear all the time that Parishes have about live streaming their Masses is, “What if nobody physically shows up anymore and they just watch Mass from home?”.

You have to look at live streaming in a different way.

Folks will be able enjoy Mass anywhere. It opens up the option to those who might not normally be able to make it to the physical building and gives them the gift of their Home Parish right where they are. People with disabilities, people in nursing homes, people from out of state, young people who are away at college…

The list goes on and on.

Instead of worrying if you’re going to not see as many faces at Mass, think of all of the people from all over being able to enjoy Mass who, again, might not otherwise be able to make it to Mass physically.

As an added bonus, you can keep each live stream in an archive of videos, so your parishioners and attendees can reflect back on a particular message that resonated with them.

These additions to your ministry’s toolbox will make a substantial difference in truly reaching today’s churchgoers where they are. Your parishioners and attendees will feel empowered and that they really are a part of something great.

Again, as I have mentioned before, keeping with the times does not mean the death of tradition, nor does it mean you are compromising your beliefs. You are simply using today’s methods to further advance your message.

An Introduction to and Benefits of Online Learning

Today, more and more people are embracing the benefits of e-learning. “E-learning” or “online learning” refers to any education that takes place via electronic media. This is most commonly done through the internet. E-learning is appealing to many for its convenience, comfort, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impact. Following are just some of the benefits of e-learning and online courses that you may not have considered.

Convenience

The biggest reason most people embrace online learning is for its expedience. Since all they need is an internet connection, online courses can be taken anywhere, at any time. For many programs, people don’t even need a laptop – a tablet or phone will do. E-courses are convenient because they make it possible for two people in separate locations to take a course together and on their own schedules. Additionally, it saves them the hassle of commuting to a physical location. All they need to do is show up at their computer when they’re ready.

Comfort

The convenience of online learning means it’s maximized for the optimal comfort of the student. If they want, they can show up in their pajamas. Instead of sitting at a rigid desk in a classroom, they can choose to take the course from their couch, in their home office, or at their favorite coffee shop. The on-demand nature of the courses also means students can work through the lessons at a time that works for them. If they’re having a bad day or aren’t in the mood to continue a lesson, that’s totally fine. They always have the ability to choose when to advance to the next topic. Additionally, if something comes up during the lesson they need to attend to, they can pause the lesson and come back to it later. This means that learning the material at their own pace will improve their chances of retaining it.

Cost

Because there’s significantly less overhead costs, like space rental and instructor fees, online courses are generally offered at a lower price point than courses that are taught in physical, brick-and-mortar locations. This doesn’t mean the content is any less impactful or rigorous, however. It’s still written by experts in the field, but since it’s delivered cheaply, it can be offered cheaply to students. This is often an unseen benefit of online learning, yet perhaps one of the most significant.

Conservation

Since everything is online and stored digitally, e-learning greatly reduces the environmental impact of traditional learning courses. Instructors are not forced to print hundreds of physical pages of reading material. Students are free of the burden having to carry tons of material back and forth from their homes to the class, as well as storing it when the course is finished. Everything is readily and immediately accessible on their computer, tablet, or phone.

Due to these reasons, e-learning is growing in both popularity and significance. There are vast benefits to the consumer who chooses to go the online learning route, and these four reasons are just the start.