The Deacon

I went up to Seattle a few weekends ago to meet with the Deacon who would be, hopefully, officiating our wedding. We’re getting married in my Catholic high school chapel, which doesn’t have a parish attached to it, so you have to find your own catholic-approved leader of the pack – er – official marriage announcer. Also, with Catholic weddings, there is a bit of “marriage prep” required before the big day, and that needs to be done by a Priest or Deacon. Kamel and I are down with this, we think it will be good for our relationship AND personal growth. In other words – free therapy.

But trying to figure this out from 2 states away has been a mite bit complicated. For Example: I have gone to Catholic school my whole life. I’ve taken more religion classes than the Pope (No, that’s a lie…). I have been jumping from state to state and back again for the last 7 years, so going to church regularly has not been my top priority. In fact – I feel like establishing a parish needs to happen once Kamel and I figure out where and when we are going to put down roots. But lets just get married first.

Anyway – I already knew about the marriage prep, etc because I’m a good Catholic girl (who lives with her fiance… and uses birth control… and is pro choice… shh! whatever!). So I called around to churches in the San Francisco area to see how to go about having the prep handled here, but the marrying handled over there, and here is what I got:

Church Lady: What Parish do you belong to?
Me: Holy Rosary in Seattle.
Church Lady: What church do you go to here?
Me: Well,ย  I went to USF for grad school, so I’ve been to the church there. (where I just happened to be calling… *cough* browniepoints browniepoints!)
Church Lady: But do you attend regularly? (dundun duuun)
Me: I’ve been.
Church Lady: Well let me explain this to you, getting married in the catholic church is a sacrament, and you are not just marrying your spouse, you are making a PROMISE to GOD, now I don’t want to make you feel like I’m lecturing you, but this is a sacrament for true Catholics.
Me: I know what getting married means, I want to catholic school my whole life.
Church Lady: Well, there are a lot of denominations outside of the Catholic Church with beautiful churches, I suggest you try one of those. *click*

And then I cried. At work. It was lovely.

I also called my Mom while I was crying at work. Because who else do you call in these situations? Especially when your mom is Presbyterian and there is some Catholic bashing to be done!

Twenty seconds after I was hung up on I decided I wasn’t going to get married in the Catholic Church anymore. Screw them, they are exclusive and when I needed them most I got shit on. That pronouncement did not get the response I thought it would from my Mom, nor did it from my Dad later on in the evening. Their reaction was more along the lines of “THAT IS THE WORST CHOICE YOU HAVE EVER MADE LAUREN! TAKE IT BACK RIGHT NOW…. and just for this little stunt of yours, you’re going to join the nearest Catholic church and begin tithing $20 a week IMMEDIATELY.” Wow. I did not see that one coming, let me tell you. But, to be honest, getting married by a random reverend really wasn’t what I wanted either. At this point, though, I felt backed into a corner.But then my friends and bridesmaids rallied around me (all of these said friends and bridesmaid I know from my all-girls Catholic school days) and told me I needed to talk to Deacon Steve. Because Deacon Steve was awesome, Deacon Steve would work with us, and besides, with Deacon Steve I had a lot of character references.

So I emailed and emailed and emailed with him, and then we set up a meeting for October. A meeting where he would decide if we were worth his Catholic time and blessing. Because this is a pretty big deal, he’s the one who’s going to bind Kamel and I together in the eyes of the Lord, and Deacon Steven doesn’t want to mess around with just anybody. Meanwhile, my parents were so worried I wouldn’t get the desired A-ok from the church, all wedding planning from their end had ceased.

Now, finally, we arrive at the point of the story. The meeting with The Deacon was awesome. He’s funny, irreverent at times, incredibly spiritual, flexible, and has a wealth of knowledgeable guidance to share about weddings. After nearly 2 hours of deep questions whizzing by our heads, he finally asked Kamel and I if we had any for him. And I did.

There has been something weighing on me through this entire engagement/wedding planning process that I can’t shake, I don’t want to shake it. How is it that Kamel and I get to experience the wonderful, obnoxious journey of engagement and then married life, but that right, that legal right, is not extended to the rest of couples? I am a firm believer in separation between church and state, so what are we doing excluding rights from one group based on religious pretexts? And I sure as hell did not want my wedding to be any kind of avenue for soap boxing on the topic. I already knew what the Catholic Church believed, and it’s their right to believe it as a private organization, but what did this man, who would be an integral part of our wedding, believe?

So I asked, “How do you feel about gay marriage outside of the church?”

Kamel shot me a glance that said, “What are you doing? It’s in the bag! We’re in the rectory for chrissake!” but I just turned back to the Deacon and waited for his response – which was awesome, just like I promised a few paragraphs up.

I know he can’t come straight out and say, “I support gay marriage” because he is working for The Man, his holiness, but in Catholic speak, very educated Catholic speak, I understood him perfectly. And even better, he understood us in our stumbling, wordy, rambling way – he got us. He spoke about how he thinks the church should get out of the wedding business entirely, and said he wished the United States had more of a European style where people get married by the State, and then down the road go through and receive the sacrament of marriage once they are ready. It’s as easy as hopping online to be an ordained minister and *poof* you can perform legally binding unions, but gay couples can’t go to the justice of the peace. In other words – why is religion and legality in bed together in the United States, a country founded on religious freedom?

But back to the important thing – my wedding. There will be no soap boxing. Our main goal for our wedding (besides the I Do’s, and the cake…) is to move people emotionally, and to make those guests who might have been previously uncomfortable in a church setting feel welcome and comfortable. That’s enough for us. But I’m glad I asked the hard questions. Now I know for sure I won’t be gritting my teeth during any homily that begins, “Marriage is a bond between a man and a woman”.

Eff that noise.

15 thoughts on “The Deacon”

  1. I was going to leave this comment over at APW, but I think it might get lost in the white noise.

    Great post. I, too, grew up Catholic and spent some time in Catholic school (not K-12, just 1-3, but I had nuns for teachers and most people our age-ish didn’t, so I get points for authenticity, right? RIGHT?), and I also have many of the same liberal views you do. Being in upstate NY, my diocese is used to the “cafeteria Catholics” (ugh, I HATE THAT TERM), so if we had decided to marry in the Church, it would not have been terribly difficult to do so.

    During the 2008 election, however, I had an epiphany. I had similar ones during the ’04 election and in ’05 after JPII died and Benedict XVI was elected, but it didn’t solidify until a couple of years ago. I was really angry with the Church for saying you aren’t a real Catholic if you believe xyz (in other words, you believe in marriage equality and abortion rights), but they could wave a hand and decide that “Limbo” doesn’t exist anymore, and babies don’t need to be baptized to be admitted to Heaven. I mean, what? Original sin was a hell of a lot more fundamental than marriage and abortion rights.

    However, I had investigated other denominations, and it just didn’t feel right. “God is God,” yeah yeah, I get it … but hm, maybe that’s the problem. I certainly never felt all warm and fuzzy on Easter, for example. I liked the ritual of Church. I liked praying to the saints (or, rather, asking the saints to pray for you on your behalf). I liked crossing myself before taking a big risk (such as driving over a rickety bridge). But did I really feel an exalted presence in Mass? Not really.

    When I told my mother that we had decided not to marry in a Church and instead my childhood friend’s father (who happens to be a judge) would instead be marrying us, I expected her to be upset. However, when I explained my reasoning, she understood. She knew I wasn’t doing it because it was inconvenient, but because I had thought this through.

    Glad you found a kickass deacon. ๐Ÿ™‚ They are definitely out there (well, priests too), and I bet you find a good Church in SF once you decide to look for one. I actually DID find one in my city that, if I ever decide to go back, is all touchy feely liberal and I do really enjoy it there. They even have a female “deacon” (obv. not a deacon, but they kind of treat her like one and she’s done homilies before and all but celebrated Mass with a priest kind of, um, supervising, I guess. Anyway, they’re kind of awesome there.)

  2. Hi Lauren! Found you via APW (left a comment over there too), but just wanted to say great, great post. And as a Catholic girl, currently lapsed, but ever struggling with the pull between my spiritual beliefs and the push from those bits of Catholic doctrine that really piss me off (anti-gay, anti-condoms despite the tragedy of HIV/AIDS, anti-choice, to name a few), I can identify with the struggle you had in finding a wedding officiant.

    In the end, we were married by my aunt, who’s a pastor in a different Christian faith, and then had a blessing of our marriage in the Church of England, my husband’s childhood faith, largely because my husband finds many aspects of Catholicism scary, and wasn’t prepared to commit to promising to raise our children as Catholics. But we do have a standing invitation from the one liberally minded priest I managed to find when we were planning our wedding to come along and be married in the Catholic faith whenever we feel ready to do so. And I’m still thinking about it.

    Well done finding your Deacon. And I think I’m going to really enjoy following your blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’m going to be sneaky too and post over here instead of APW. Because I have one very simple but (I think) good point in this situation:

    It seems to me that in religion, there are religious leaders and members of the church who *think* they’re religious leaders (aka can tell you what to do). More often than not, the faux-leaders are much more judgy and opinionated than the leaders themselves. Because real, true religious leaders are scholars above all, and have spent a lot of time thinking about really tough stuff, and understand there’s more grey area than people who think they “know” everything.

    Sometimes I *really* wish I still believed in God. Because my Catholic Monsignor from back home was, and still is, one of the people I have absolutely the most respect and admiration of. His sermons were never about “you should do this, you shouldn’t do that”- it was “life is hard, and confusing – but it can be good and rewarding if we help each other out and try every day to be closer to God.”

    I’m so happy that these Catholic leaders are everywhere – it sounds like Deacon Steve and Monsignor Mack would be very good friends.

    1. Well, not believing in God doesn’t mean you don’t have good morals!! And those people, like the Monsignor are so great for a “how to be a better person” check in. I mostly love homilies and such for the whole “hi! stop being a selfish douche!” message. Ya know… cuz I can be impatient and bratty sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚ So basically – you don’t have to lose those people just because you don’t believe in God anymore. I’m sure they would totally MIND that you don’t… haha… but he seems like a good go-to guy during hard life choices. Wow, is this too religiousy preachy? I really hope not… I suddenly got all touchy feely! WEIRD!

      1. Sorry, I wasn’t clear – I wish I still believed in God sometimes because the Monsignor is exactly the kind of person I would want to officiate my (imaginary) wedding. My feelings about the Monsignor are the same, but I just couldn’t go through with a wedding that didn’t align with my personal beliefs. So it makes me sad to give up a Catholic wedding.

        But… that’s probably the only thing about my personal spirituality that I regret. I’m otherwise very proud of who I am and what I believe. And I’m sure a significant portion of my beliefs have been shaped by my Catholicism – just in ways that don’t involve the big G.

        1. I think I was probably the unclear one. wah wah! I support you in all of your non-beliefs. ๐Ÿ™‚ Having kind and wise people in your past and in your present is just always a great thing. You’re lucky to have a positive experience like that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Even if there were other crappy ones. Religion is so complicated and emotional, even when you DON’T beleive. Isn’t that weird?

          1. Yeah – I spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out my beliefs. Which ended up as a lack thereof ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Ok, I’m stealing this. Katelyn, you summed up (in a much more eloquent way than I could have!) EXACTLY what I’ve been trying to explain to my husband recently.

      Thank you!!!!

        1. ::grins::

          You do, too. I mean, who else can I randomly talk to on Twitter about my beer of the night? ::winks::

          (Yep, that’s me!)

  4. Loved the post and actually laughed out loud at times, particularly at this sentence: “Anyway โ€“ I already knew about the marriage prep, etc because Iโ€™m a good Catholic girl (who lives with her fianceโ€ฆ and uses birth controlโ€ฆ and is pro choiceโ€ฆ shh! whatever!).”
    The FH and I will be getting married at his home parish in April and we’ve finally managed to jump through all of the hoops (taking a multiple choice bubble-form test, going on a 3-day retreat, getting printouts of baptism and confirmation, and oh testimonies from our parents that we could get married). It’s a lot of work, and now that I think we’re on the other side of it (minus that all important meeting with the officiant) I think I can say I’m somewhat glad I was forced to do all of it. Because unlike most things in being Catholic where you show up and you receive, getting married requires some work and time on your part to prepare. My only recommendation is to go for some racy readings and liberal Prayers of the Faithful to get your side of things in there if you can.

  5. First, i think its great you got your guy and he passed the test.
    Secondly, I think its awesome that someone in church thinks like I do.
    Thirdly, I feel ya on being a good catholic grl all your life too, i too went to private catholic school and still recovering from it at times.
    But overall, its awesome that you guys are getting stuff done for the coming nuptials being 2 states away.
    Now, lets make time for some beers ๐Ÿ™‚

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