So let's list the Sacraments usually done en masse: Baptism, Confession, First Communion, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick... that only leaves one that is not usually done en masse in the US - Holy Matrimony.
My modest proposal: I humbly "propose" that bishops, priests, and deacons throughout the Catholic Dioceses of the United States enthusiastically begin to promote weddings en masse. Having observed the wedding industry intimately for 9 years, I feel this is the most bold, most holy, most humble, most hope-filled, most life-giving revolution that couples who are preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony need. And, most humbly, I believe much of what Pope Francis has been saying about marriage and the engaged period is leading to this very movement.
Imagine... the first bride walks down the aisle, only preceded by a flower girl, the second bride walks down the aisle, preceded by her sister, the next bride walks down the aisle, preceded by no one - making the triumphal entrance to perfectly resemble the Bride of Christ - the Church. It's a typical Saturday afternoon, and three couples are ministering the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The parish choir is there, and the music is reverent and uplifting. The celebrant, the pastor, represents the Church, and gives a wonderful homily to the families that will begin their married life today. Then the three couples advance for the exchange of vows, the blessing of the couple and the blessing of the rings, and when they are sent off, just imagine, three beautiful couples, one flesh, one flesh, one flesh, joyous, and filled with Grace. The families and friends of all three couples will have experienced exactly the type of wedding feast that long ago a town of Cana may have enjoyed.
Have I set the stage?
On Valentine's Day 2014, Pope Francis addressed 10,000 ... I am still blessed and amazed by that number... 10,000 engaged couples. My fave quote from that day,
"Some people are more concerned with external signs, with the banquet, the dress... These are important aspects of a feast, but only if they are able to indicate the true reason for your joy: the Lord's blessing upon your love. Ensure that, like the wine in Cana, the external signs of your wedding feast reveal the presence of the Lord and remind you, and all those presence, of the origin of and reason for your joy."
On September 14, 2014, Pope Francis was the celebrant for 20 marrying couples... a wedding en masse. My fave quote from that day,
"Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not 'fiction'! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross."</>
I humbly submit a small piece of my own path to marriage to shed light on this challenging emphasis on external signs.
In January 2006, I asked my now husband to wait a few months; wedding planning would become too much of a distraction.
In May 2006, I responded with a radical, "Yes" to become engaged, yet moments later, I became overwhelmed with the idea of wedding planning.
Why would I have this response?
For a Catholic woman preparing to minister and to receive a vocational Sacrament, why should I be so concerned with the external signs: the details, the dress, the reception?
Wedding planning is a multi-billion dollar industry. Average weddings in the United States exceed $20,000. This is insane. This is materialistic. I'll say it - this is greed. The concerning factor, to me, is that this greed is not only accepted, it is enculturated. And I feel that there are two very concrete actions that pastors and parishes can take to reverse this enculturation. I propose most humbly, that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops along with the Dioceses and Archdioceses, Parishes, Priests, Deacons, and Organizations and Ministries to the engaged, all work with passion and great love to offer Catholic engaged couples the greatest means of Grace with the best possible option for choosing the good, the true, and the beautiful by offering and encouraging The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony en masse. And, as a follow-up action, I humbly ask that those parishes with a hall or gym, explore the means by which the option of a wedding feast en masse could also be offered.
The following is a simple proposed plan for parishes to implement weddings en masse where possible.
Pastors: A - implement several dates throughout the year that would, at first, offer perhaps the Sacrament of Matrimony for up to 5 couples. (More or less couples depending on the size of the Church and number of engaged couples.) B - write pastor letters inviting engaged couples to partake in a wedding en masse, including dates.
Priests, deacons, and married couples mentoring couples through Pre-cana: offer and encourage the option for a wedding en masse with a particular set of dates.
Ceremony wedding planners of parishes: meet with pastors to consider the protocol for implementing weddings en masse.
Retreats for the Engaged, Engaged Encounter, and other Engaged Ministries: incorporate the encouragement of weddings en masse into the already established programs. Create opportunities for prayerful consideration of partaking in a beautiful uniting of the Church - a wedding en masse
Parish Choirs and Music Ministries: prayerfully consider offering a number of Saturdays throughout the year in which some group of choir members may offer their talents for weddings en masse.
Parish Boards, Knights of Columbus Councils, Councils of Catholic Women and other Men's and Women's Groups within parishes: A - plan and subsequently offer to the pastor a means by which the Grace-filled ministries may aid in the implementation of weddings en masse. B - plan and subsequently offer means by which a wedding feast for several couples might take place in a parish hall or school gym: catering funded by the combined contributions of the couples, decorations , cake, DJ, etc.
Flower Guilds of Parishes or Floral Ministries: A - take stock of baskets in the parish that might be used for centerpieces for a wedding feast in the parish hall or school gym. B - plan and provide two simple floral bouquet and boutonniere and centerpiece packages for engaged couples with the option for having the flower cost funded by a parish program, organization, or by the combined contributions of the couples who are marrying.
It may be possible that parishioners who are DJ's may be willing to provide entertainment either as a donation on several proposed dates by the parish, or through contributions from the marrying couples.
It is assumed that each individual couple would acquire a photographer, although it may be that a parishioner who is a photographer may offer photography for all the couples on a volunteer basis for a specific number of weekends per year.