15 March 2007

Where we nearly got married ...

The Catholic Caveman's blog is headed by a picture of Mass at Covadonga. The shrine commemorates the apparition of Our Lady to the local King, Pelayo, who in 722 fought and defeated the Moors in the valley below the cave. Pelayo's victory meant that the invading Arab armies were never able to conquer the whole of Spain: Catholicsm, and the rule of the post-Visigothic Monarchy was preserved. After the Moorish defeat at Poitiers in 732 by Charles Martel, the Reconquest of Spain could begin: it was slow, but in 1492 Granada fell, and the Moors were expelled from Spain forever.

We should have been married there; we wanted to be married there. We were engaged when we lived in the same province and came to love the shrine which, as the picture shows, is in a cave. There are bears in the mountains, and eagles overhead. On a spring morning there is no more beautiful place to go to Mass.

In theological terms, Matrimony is unique in that it is the only Sacrament adminstered by those participating in it themselves. In human terms it is more complex: it is the only Sacrament in which the mother and the mother-in-law have at least as big a say as the participants. There is a social dimension around Matrimony which no other Sacrament has. This is right and proper: the other six Sacraments are essentially individual, while Matrimony unites two individuals to create a new family, a new opportunity for life. Matrimony is the Sacrament on which human society is (was? should be?) founded. Stable civil society depends on married couples bringing up families. That is why Matrimony is the only Sacrament for which parallel civil legislation exists - I once had to adminster the vows to a Spanish couple marrying in England as the Priest-Registrar did not speak Spanish and had both a ecclesiastical and a civil legal obligation to ensure that the vows had been understood and had been undertaken willingly.

When the mothers decided, therefore, that we were not to marry in Covadonga, but in the UK, we didn't really have any choice. We could have had a perfectly licit Sacrament in front of a priest and another witness, but it would have felt hole-in-corner. So we did as we were told, and had a wonderful ceremony. And even if there's a little bit of both of us that still wishes that things might have been different, Our Lady of Covadonga is as near here as She is there.

1 comment:

Mac McLernon said...

Ttony, that is really beautiful. Thanks for posting that little thought.