On Not Attending Non-Sacraments
Recently, my husband and I didn’t attend a wedding. This has happened more than once in the past few years. We keep getting invited to weddings and not being able to attend. There were no prior engagements or sick children. We just couldn’t, in good conscience, attend. I could say it hasn’t been easy, but that wouldn’t be true. While it has definitely been painful, it has been extremely easy, because it has been the right choice for us, and therefore the only actual option. The hard part is not in deciding not to go, but in dealing with the familial aftermath that accompanies not attending hugely important life events. But, we’ve learned some things along the way that have made things a little bit less painful.
First, know the situation. This means know all the details or know none of them and therefore have “plausible deniability.” The way we look at it, if we know something, and I’m not talking about having overheard idle gossip but actually know something that would make the sacrament into a sacrilege, then we don’t attend. For instance, if we receive an invitation to a wedding where at least one of the participants is Catholic, and it’s going to be a Catholic wedding ceremony, and we don’t know of any impediments, then we check the “will attend” box, tell them we’d like the chicken, and await the happy day. We don’t ask questions, and hope that, as we are acting on good faith, God will forgive us if the participants were not. If, on the other hand, we know there is a Catholic getting married and the ceremony will not be Catholic, but say totally secular, then we send in our regrets, and begin praying for the couple. (If it’s a more complicated situation, such as a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian, then we ask the right questions to the right people, and find out if it will still be sacramental.) We can’t go and retain our peace of mind, and since conscience is king, it’s not a hard decision.
Second, know that people will be hurt. Quite often doing what is right will leave people who don’t share our beliefs hurt and confused. In a society that is striving to convince everyone that everything is OK, that as long as it makes you happy you should do it, saying that, “No, this is wrong, and I won’t be a part of it,” doesn’t sit well. If, for instance, you are invited to a ceremony to join two men in “marriage” and you choose to decline the invitation, understand that those men will be hurt. Your intention isn’t to hurt them of course but to not offend God, but they will be, because they’re human, and humans get their feelings hurt (it’s that whole disordered passions thing, from the Fall). Knowing that there will be a fallout and being prepared for it has helped us immensely in these situations.
Third, know that God knows your heart. The people involved don’t. You may get dirty looks the next time you attend a family gathering, if you even get invited. You may never hear from the people involved again. Others will most likely question your motives for not attending. God, however, knows what is in your heart. Remember that. Remember that you acted (or didn’t act) out of love for your fellow man, not out of hatred. You loved the person involved enough to stand up and say, “Hey! You can’t do that! I know the whole world is telling you it’s fine, but it isn’t, and your immortal soul is at risk,” and God knows this.
I’m sure this won’t be that last wedding we can’t attend. This makes me sad but it doesn’t change anything. Our strength comes from that whole “if God is with us, who can be against us” thing. We’ve lost friends, and family, but we’ve never lost God, and we hope that, in the end, our example (however poor it may be) of standing up for what we believe in, may just be what brings these loved ones back into the fold.
Edited to include the sentence: ”(If it’s a more complicated situation, such as a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian, then we ask the right questions to the right people, and find out if it will still be sacramental.) “