Monday, January 5, 2009

Bakersfield, CA, pastor marries 40 couples in a single day

Bakersfield pastor solves mystery of why parishioners wouldn’t take Communion, marries 40 couples in a single day

Not long after Fr. Miguel Flores became pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bakersfield about a year ago, he began to notice a curious phenomenon. While his mostly Latino parishioners at the nearly 3000-family, 100-year-old parish faithfully attended Mass on Sundays, it was mainly their children who received Communion. Many parents opted not to take the Blessed Sacrament.

Fr. Flores decided to investigate. What he found, according to the Bakersfield Californian, was that a good number of the moms and dads were not married, either civilly or sacramentally. “The reason, Flores said, was that many of them -- the majority are farmworkers -- are undocumented and fear deportation if they petition to be married by the state,” the Californian reported. “The church assuaged their fears and provided a marriage preparation course that included a retreat and answered all their questions.”

On Saturday, Dec. 20, Fr. Flores rectified the situation for 40 such couples in a single, super-wedding at St. Joseph’s. “The idea is to have them be able to come to church proudly, with their head held high, feeling that both the Church and state support them,” Flores told the Californian.

In Mexico, the home country of many of the couples involved, the state does not recognize marriages performed by the Church, and the Church does not recognize civil marriages, so it is typical for faithful Catholics to get married twice – once by the Church, once by the state.

Fr. Flores told the newspaper that only around a third of the couples who were married at the parish on Dec. 20 had been united previously in a civil wedding, while the rest had lived as husband and wife without benefit of marriage by Church or state.

The community wedding, Fr. Flores told the Californian, had straightened out “the civil and ecclesiastical state of their unions.”
California Catholic Daily


Anonymous said...

Imagine that... taking the Eucharist seriously enough to not partake while in mortal sin. We could use a dose of that in all out churches where no one seems to think the Eurcharist important enough to go to confession for. Bravo to this priest and to his parishoners who truly believe in the real presence.

Fr. Andrew said...

Quite beautiful, that is.

Unknown said...

Good comment, Vianney33:

I went to a Spanish language Mass twice, once at the Cathedral on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and another time at Ascension in Minneapolis.

I noticed the same thing there. It was like it used to be under the old Mass. Other than at Easter and Christmas, much of the congregation did not partake.

Of course, part of the issue back then was fasting from midnight. It probably wouldn't do any good to return to that policy since folks seem to be quite willing to commit sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion in the state of Mortal Sin.

I attended a Romanian Orthodox service once. A friend was having a special memorial afterward to commemorate a deceased daughter.

We had an opportunity to chat with the young pastor in the Church Hall (and Cash Bar!!!).

Someone noted that only children had received Holy Communion. He said the rule was that you couldn't receive Communion without first having gone to Confession. And since he was the Confessor, that was that!

As a part of my family history research I came across a document in a Duluth Polish parish that indicated that at the beginning of Lent the pastor would personally hand "confession cards" to all of those who had received their First Holy Communion. They were to return them to the priest or his assistant when they made their "annual confession" during Easter Time (up til Trinity Sunday in those days, I think).

That wouldn't be a bad rule. But I suppose an "aftermarket" might get created where folks would agree to make a Confession for someone else.

But I guess it wouldn't work. Our parishes are just to large in many places today.