Shoulder to shoulder we knelt, evening light falling across the tabernacle, and as my about-to-be husband whispered a prayer, my tears came fast and free. The memory of having our confessions heard and then receiving the Eucharist together for the last time as an engaged couple is one of the most cherished memories of my life, one where the divide between heaven and earth, between the moments I'd dreamed of for years and the reality they were about to become, felt so thin.
My husband and I asked the priest celebrating our wedding to hear confessions for our guests in the hour preceding the nuptial Mass, and for us and our wedding party the night before, following the rehearsal. We went last, after our siblings and friends, and stayed until we were the last ones in the chapel. And though, regrettably, I'm sure I committed some stress-induced venial sins the following morning while getting ready, there was such peace in knowing that receiving absolution and the body of Jesus were two of the last things I'd do before entering into marriage. If you're looking to make a similar entrance into the sacrament, created anew and eager to walk the path to heaven side by side, talk with your priest and each other about the possibility of...
Making the night before your wedding a time of worship and the sacraments:
As they stand next to you at the altar, your bridesmaids and groomsmen embody consent and support for your marriage. Invite them to pray with you after your rehearsal, and consider asking your priest and any musical friends to lead a holy hour with Adoration, confession, and Praise and Worship or chant after the rehearsal dinner. You can extend the holy hour invitation to other friends and guests, as well.
Going to confession, and/or praying together immediately before your nuptial Mass:
Entering into marriage with a freshly purified soul, absolved of all sin, disposes you to receive the fullness of grace found in the sacrament. If you're doing a first look, choosing to meet right after your confessions or in the Adoration chapel, if your church has one, adds extra significance to a moment you'll remember forever.
Katie, a writer and speaker on Catholic marriage and womanhood, went to confession moments before her wedding Mass, and so did her husband. "We received three sacraments on our wedding day," she says. "We were able to receive absolution, Holy Communion, and Holy Matrimony all within the same fantastic hour. After confession, I made my penance before the Blessed Sacrament and knelt before the tabernacle in a big puff of a white dress just giddy. I was so, so excited to get married!"
Catherine, Parish Outreach Coordinator for Witness to Love, a new marriage prep renewal ministry, prayed nine novenas, back-to-back, alongside her husband-to-be during the final 81 days of their engagement, and in the fifteen minutes before their nuptial Mass, they met in the back of the chapel and led their guests in a Rosary.
A general confession:
Not to be confused with general absolution, nor with an actual, sacramental need to receive absolution a second time for sins past confessed, a general confession is intended to draw the penitent into deep self-examination and to highlight areas for growth in virtue and spirituality, by way of confessing every sin the person can remember since the age of reason. In doing so, one is given an opportunity for deeper-than-typical reflection on past or habitual sins and, as a result, a particular way to experience healing and growth in these areas.
"This is not meant to become scrupulosity, and is not intended to place a false layer of condemnation upon us for already forgiven sins. But it does serve to awaken us to our weaknesses. " Made in the presence of a faithful priest who has experience with this type of reconciliation, a general confession is both a uniquely personal experience of the Father's mercy, and a valuable aspect of the greater self-knowledge that marriage prep draws out. Because of the intensely reflective and time-consuming nature of a general confession, it's prudent to schedule it a month or two before your wedding day, rather than right before, should you choose to make one.
Tell us: what other ways have you, or couples you know, found to incorporate prayer and the sacraments into the moments before you enter into marriage?