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Songs, readings reflect couples’ faith, commitment in marriage

Nine different Old Testament readings are among choices for couples preparing their wedding ceremonies – and 13 readings from which to choose in the New Testament, nearly a dozen from the Gospels.

And the readings are just one way couples can personalize a wedding, for themselves and their friends and family, said Father Jeffrey Loseke, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish and president of Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School, both in Hartington.

Working with the priest or deacon who will preside, couples also can choose from a variety of appropriate hymns and prayers during the liturgy, Father Loseke said.

And while not part of the wedding rite itself, couples might include other elements of their faith, such as placing flowers before an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Holy Family, as a dedication of their new family, he said.

Choosing the readings, hymns and some of the liturgical prayers allows couples to bring something of themselves into their wedding, Father Loseke said.

"They’re able to find those readings that resonate with them," he said. "It helps bring meaning to the ceremony for themselves, because they are more in tune when those prayers are prayed."

And couples can offer to the congregation what they have learned along their journey to marriage, Father Loseke said.

"It’s the church’s liturgy, but diversity within it is acceptable, and encouraged," he said.

One hymn chosen by several couples he has worked with is "The Servant Song," Father Loseke said, which in part states, "Will you let me be your servant? Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too."

"It’s being Christ for the other person," he said.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, gives people an understanding of what couples commit to, he said.

They "desire to give themselves to each other as Christ gave himself for our salvation. They make him present in their marriage in the total, unconditional love of the spouses."

And a Catholic wedding offers so much more than a civil license, Father Loseke said. "The sacramental dimension is paramount."

The ceremony must take place in a church, and preferably within the context of Mass, but a Mass is not required, he said.

Peter Kennedy, manager of family life ministries in the archdiocese’s Center for Family Life Formation, said a church is the proper setting for a wedding because a holy sacrament is celebrated, but also because the witness and support of the congregation is needed.

"The whole point is that I’m going to take this vow as a public vow, before the Christian community," Kennedy said.

The Mass is especially suited to celebrate marriage because the Eucharist is "the pinnacle of communion and spousal love," Father Loseke said.

An exchange of rings during the ceremony is optional, but most couples choose to do so, Father Loseke said. The rings’ circular shape symbolizes an eternal love, Kennedy said, and the rings’ gold or other precious materials symbolize the preciousness of the marriage.

And the rings serve as a witness to a couple’s spoken vows, long after the ceremony, Father Loseke said.

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