Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 19, 2004
Vows speak the couple's promise
Couples can craft their own words, but most do not
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Their vows can be truly personal expressions of the couple's faith, their hope for their future, and their love for each other."
- Fr. Roger Keeler
A proper wedding vow, according to the Marriage Ritual published by the Canadian Bishops in 1979, "must express all that the Church normally expresses and contain nothing contrary to the Church's faith and practice."
"Thus the form is to indicate that the other person is being accepted as a husband or wife, that each will be faithful to the other, and the marriage is lifelong."
Couples must declare this separately to the other in the presence of the required witnesses and the community, the Marriage Ritual recommends. "The consent has to be unconditional: a proviso such as 'as long as love shall last' invalidates the expression of consent in the eyes of the Catholic Church."
The form, or vow, must be clear and concise, suggests the Marriage Ritual. "Florid, sentimental, wordy and confusing formulations should be avoided."
Keeler, the judicial vicar, says the Canadian bishops' directive on marriage permits a certain degree of flexibility, even creativity on the part of the couple and others involved in their Christian marriage. "It means that their vows can be truly personal expressions of the couple's faith, their hope for their future, and their love for each other."
Some don't see much value in vow writing, mainly because the traditional vows provided by the Church cover all corners.
"I don't think there is any advantage in (writing your own vows)," said Sister Annata Brockman, pastoral associate of St. Joseph's Basilica. "Most of the couples don't know sacramental theology (or) what essential elements should be in that vow. I have seen couples that have entered into their first argument over what should be in those vows and what should not be. And I believe the Church is wise (in providing ready-made vows)."
Rose Marie Fowler, director of the Liturgy Commission, agrees there is little advantage in writing one's own vows. "I don't see any advantage because the two possibilities (of exchanging consent) that are given in the Marriage Ritual already provide some flexibility," she said. "The essentials are already there."
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