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The Royal Wedding and How to Take Marriage Seriously

They grace the cover of Time magazine this week, do Kate and William, with not one but two full-page spreads inside: of the coach ride after the wedding and of the Westminster Abbey recession.

Days after the grand affair, the world still gawks and talks.  Much of the talk is about what the newlyweds have done and yet could do for the image and the substance of the British monarchy so bound up with the identity of the country itself and so besmeared with scandal and stupidity in recent decades. Thus it is that the royal family and much of Britain took this wedding and take this marriage very seriously.  There is a keen sense that in some way the future of their society, as they know it, depends on this marriage.

This is worthy of worldwide attention then, because the wedding of Kate Middleton to the heir of the house of Windsor demonstrated with a great deal of very British precision and no lack of careful punctuation, exactly how to take a marriage, and for that matter, marriage itself, seriously.

There was no pretending that this marriage was merely about the two young lovers and their “feelings.” Despite the fairy-tale aspects and all the Cinderella references, this wedding anchored their marriage into a familial and social order that goes way beyond them in time and geography.  Contra the modern conception of the atomized individual, both families were present and involved as though “t]he future of humanity passes by way of the family” (Familiaris Consortio), because indeed it does. Human beings do not create themselves; they do not create their own identities. They discover who they are and for (blessedly, still) most that discovery takes place in a family context, where roles of son or daughter, nephew or niece, brother or sister, weave the texture of life.

Just as human beings do not create themselves, they do not create marriage. Marriage is an estate given to man by his Creator and human beings stand under the judgment of God regarding how seriously they take it.  There was no mincing of words on that score and everything attending the ceremony underscored the sacred nature of the proceedings. The couple did not use the wedding to showcase their hobbies or any other frivolity.  They married in a sacred place, the most opulent and venerable space available to them given their station in life. Their wedding was presided over by the highest ranking clerics available to them. And the ceremony was accompanied by beautiful sacred music, some traditional and some composed especially to mark the occasion – but composed, as was their own prayer, in accord with the religious tradition they both inherited and assented to, screwed deeply into the sacred history of that heritage and thus timeless.  Timeless the music, timeless the readings, timeless the prayers, and even the dress, for it is by such timelessness that we celebrate what is transcendent.

The woman was given to the man. Yes, there was that great catholic Christian homily by the Anglican Bishop of London, Dr. Richard Chartes, echoing the teaching of Blessed John Paul about how the man and woman in marriage make, each one, a complete gift to the other:

 William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.

A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

But still, the woman was given to the man.  The presider did not ask, “Who gives this man?” but, “Who gives this woman?”  This is the mystery unfolded by reference to Creation, with the presentation by God Himself of Eve to Adam, and to Christ’s raising of the estate of marriage to a Sacrament, imaging the relationship between the Church and her Divine Bridegroom.

Woman then is a gift to man in a special way, something for him to “unwrap” and treasure.  Hence the handing over of her by her father; hence the veil; hence the virginal white of the gown. And here come the cynics to remind us that they have lived together already for four years. Yes, but they did not on that account forgo the ceremonial giving and rightly so, for while the gift may have been opened illegitimately before, the giving here was still real – some things are honored even in the breach and you could see it in her eyes. They no longer live a lie, but William has in the old, but so true, terminology, “made an honest woman of her” — they tell the truth now, to each other and the world. The woman is given to the man and the world should pause and ponder.

Among other things, this means that there was no pretending that this man and woman could have been interchangeable with two men or two women.  Imagine for a moment that Prince William had announced at 17 that he was “gay” and taken up with another young man.  Would there have been a royal wedding and perhaps a new heir gotten by means of a lesbian surrogate and a turkey baster? No. It would not be. And we don’t say, “It would not be” with a proper British accent and a tone that indicates we simply mean “It just isn’t done.”  No, we mean it would not exist.  In the face of the homosexual agenda and all its propaganda, this wedding proclaimed the truth of marriage and showed homosexual pretense up for the play-acting absurdity that it is. Marriage is something, the lifelong union of man and woman, and marriage has ends – purposes – the chief among them being the procreation of children.

The British people are blunt. Kate and William must be “about the business” of having children. The sooner, the better.  That, it is understood, is how the royal family and with it Britain as it knows itself will continue.  “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” and the future of British society passes by way of William and Kate’s offspring – but not of course, by theirs alone.  As Rowan Williams put it: “In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.”

These are the things we believe and the things we say and the way we act when we take marriage, and the future of society, seriously.

(© 2011 Mary Kochan)


Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is Editor-in-chief of CatholicLane.com.

Raised as a  third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996.  Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at kochanmar@gmail.com.

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  • noelfitz

    Thanks for this,Mary.

    Wasn’t it appropriate that the Royal marriage of Catherine and William took place on the Feast Day of St Catherine of Siena, as was pointed out in the homily?

    *************************************
    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/archbishop-rowan-williams-sermon

    I actually turned on the TV at 6 a.m. EST on April 29th and watched most of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton…

    But what caught my ear were the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

    He began by quoting St. Catherine of Siena. Here’s the very first line of his homily for the newly married royal couple:

    “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

    So said St. Catherine of Siena whose festival day this is. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

  • http://www.primeraluz.org Carlos

    One would have wished they did not live together for years before the wedding took place. That would have never been permitted to their grandparents, one of them bearing the title of “Keeper of the Faith.” Other than that it is good to see that the profound dignity of the Sacrament of Marriage comes through even when “Sir” Elton John and his “husband” were prominently in attendance.

  • noelfitz

    Good to hear from you, Carlos. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are no different from the many Catholic couples who live together before marriage. The fact that Elton John and his partner were invited is not a major issue. I am sure many of us invited people to events whose way of life we did not agree with. There is a difference between acceptance and approval.

    All of us are sinners and need God’s forgiveness.

  • http://www.primeraluz.org Carlos

    Read my comment carefully. I was pointing NOT at the contrast between practice and belief (John 1:47.) In no way I am comparing the conduct of Catholics and Anglicans. We all know how the Sacraments are almost universally disrespected. That sad state of affairs does not relieve anyone (Catholic or not) from pleasing God by living like He commands us to live.

    However–i repeat the point–it is remarkable to see how the beauty and truth of the Sacrament of Marriage comes through even when some of the participants may represent and practice the deplorable moral code prevalent in our societies today.

    Sinners we are: all of us, including the Apostles of Christ, yet that fact did not stop them from telling things as they are. That is a charitable action different from self-righteousness. Looking the other way is what had gotten us into the mess we are in.

    Not long ago two members of the extended royal family of Britain married as Catholics. The ceremony took place at the Vatican and it was the first of its kind in almost 500 years. I believe that was a good example for all of us. Standard fare: one man, one woman, and no sanctioned hanky-panky before time.

    I noticed also that the wording of the vows was slightly changed. Gone is the beautiful “with my body I thee worship” which recalls the meaning of the word ‘worship’ in XVI century English. Worship then meant exclusive, unconditional honor and service. The manly restraint from staining the honor and reputation of one’s bride used to be what distinguished gentlemen from common folk.

  • noelfitz

    Carlos,

    many thanks for your immediate reply to me.

    I think it is great that we have a forum where Catholics can discuss our faith openly and in a respectful way.

    You wrote:
    “We all know how the Sacraments are almost universally disrespected”.

    I wonder! Only God knows if there is disrespect.

    I learned in school, a million years ago, that marriage between Christians is always a sacrament. Thus the Royal couple will be helped by the grace of the sacrament.

    Fr Hardon distinguishes between ex opere operantis and ex opere operato. The couple getting married confer the sacrament on each other and it acts ex opere operato, that is independent of the ministers but on the work/sacrament itself. The grace comes from the merits of Christ not on our merits (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=33472).

    You also note the words “with my body I thee worship”.

    To me these are very Protestant and beautiful and I would like to see them in Catholic ceremonies.

    Once again many thanks for engaging in discussions with me.

  • http://www.primeraluz.org Carlos

    There seems to be some disconnection. You keep responding to things different to those I expressed.

  • Mary Kochan

    Yes, I think you two are talking past each other. Let’s move on to other topics.

  • Mike Smith

    “Talking past each other”reminds one of hunting and, I think, C. S. Lewis saying sin is “missing the mark.” Or, it could have been Aquinas or Augustine. Whatever. I know that in the woods a tiny twig can deflect a bullet from its intended target— meaning I go hungry!

    The “structure of sin” within the Church today is not always blatant opposition, though it sometime is, but mostly subtle “missing the mark.” Many “subtle heretics” are thus protected from outright condemnation and even excommunication. Modernism/liberalism has therby undermined the Church and the world. And sends many to hell..

    “in the last days men will call sin good!”

    Imagine a couple gong to a faithful priest and asking him to officiate at their wedding when he and the entire congregation know they have been living in sin.

    Imagine too the enabling of friends engaging in not only doubly sinful but also destructive behaviour, sin that “cries out to heaven”— that violates nature itself.

    “With my body I thee worship” Harkens to the now beatified, late, great, Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body.

    All of it points to God wanting the best for us, and that includes admonishing the sinner by,in part, showing him a higher more godly value by which to judge his own life;thereby agreeing with Dietrich von Hildebrand’s choosing spiritual goods over the merely subjectively satisfying earthly goods when they are in conflict.

    We must not compromise with or minimalise behaviour that threatens anyone’s salvation just because “everybody does it.” That is not charity but its opposite. It threatens his salvation, and those who encourage him to sin.

    Better a millstone…

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