'New' Catholic Wedding Liturgy Takes Center Stage

Even some priests are unfamiliar with Vatican II's suggestions for changes to the wedding ceremony.

BOSTON (AP) - A nervous groom standing at the altar, waiting for his bride. An emotional dad giving away his daughter. A priest reciting the vows as the couple looks into each other's eyes.

All these cherished moments in a Roman Catholic wedding are out-of-date, according to the church's own liturgy, something the producers of a new video hope to change.

Thirty-one years after the Second Vatican Council recommended sweeping changes in marriage ceremonies, the wedding rites have remained virtually unaltered. Even some priests are unfamiliar with Vatican II's suggestions.

The hope is that the video, featuring a couple from the Boston suburb of Milton, will demystify the "new" rites for couples wary of the changes. "Our feeling is that a picture is worth a thousand words," said Maria Leonard, the video's executive producer.

The video was produced by Liturgy Training Publications, which is under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The company shot in Massachusetts to accommodate the Rev. Austin Fleming of Concord, who has written a book on the new rites, Leonard said.

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The stars are Jim and Denise Ryan, who used the new liturgy at their November wedding.

Among the changes highlighted: Dad doesn't give the bride away--she walks down the aisle with the groom. And the couple administers their own vows, with the priest serving merely as an observer.

Taping took place in July at St. Peter's in Cambridge. Seven hours of shooting were witnessed by the Ryans' friends who stood in as guests. In the video, the Ryans walk down the aisle together, symbolizing their equal role in making the marriage work. The guests become involved through songs and readings, and the couple turns toward them as they recite their own vows.

The emphasis on equality and the active role of the community in supporting a marriage gives the couple a good start and is more scripturally sound than the old rites, Fleming said.

"Theologically it speaks better to what we're about," he said. Denise Ryan said it was fun re-enacting their November wedding, but she had a higher purpose.

"I hope it just opens up the idea that there might be a deeper expression of what's happening, a deeper expression of God's love," she said.

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Jay Lindsay
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