Couples preparing for marriage – or celebrating their wedding anniversary – have new material to use this year.

The Catholic Church’s English translation of rites for such occasions went into effect late last year. Called “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” the text replaced the 1969 text, “Rite of Marriage.” Local Catholics were among those offering suggestions for the new text and expounding on it after it was finalized.

The new text gives couples planning a wedding a few more Scripture readings to choose from and the option of including Hispanic customs. Also, the translation from the Latin text is more accurate.

In addition to changes for the wedding liturgy itself, a beautiful rite for the renewal of vows has been added, said Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, director of the diocesan Office for Divine Worship. Previously such a celebration was problematic because it involved adapting wedding vows, which are intended to be made only once, he said.

Iris Diaz and Michael Vassar wrap a rosary, or lazo, around Magdalena Soto and John Rodriguez at their wedding last August at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester. Behind them are Father Nelson Rivera, pastor, and Father Hugo Cano, who lives at St. Joan of Arc. The custom is included in the new “Order of Celebrating Matrimony.”
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The inclusion of this rite for anniversaries, and of Hispanic wedding customs, shows that “the Church pays attention to developing pastoral realities,” Msgr. Johnson said. In the 1960s, when the previous text was put together, there were not as many Hispanics, or couples seeking to renew vows, as there are now in United States, he said.

The rite containing the renewal of vows was used locally last October at the diocesan celebration at St. Paul Cathedral for couples marking significant anniversaries, Msgr. Johnson said.

The new text, “Order of Celebrating Matrimony,” was available for use in the United States starting Sept. 8, 2016. It became the obligatory text to use on Dec. 30.

In October Msgr. James P. Moroney gave a presentation about the new text to clergy and lay people in the Worcester Diocese. (See a video of the presentation at

Msgr. Moroney, a Worcester diocesan priest who is rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, is also a consultor for the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He was among those giving the Congregation advice for the marriage text.

From 1996-2007 Msgr. Moroney was executive director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During that time another local Catholic, Paul Covino, was named to a committee to give the U.S. bishops ideas for the marriage text.

Mr. Covino, currently director of campus ministry at Assumption College, published a “workbook for engaged couples” in 1987. He and co-authors wrote “Celebrating Marriage: Preparing the Wedding Liturgy.”

The most recent edition was published in 2016 “updated to reflect the new ‘Order of Celebrating Matrimony.’”

In the book Mr. Covino, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville who is to be ordained a permanent deacon June 3, writes about the two Hispanic customs included in the new text. (The customs are also used by the Filipino community.)

“Arras” involves the bride and groom exchanging coins after they exchange rings.

“Over time and in different cultures, different tokens have been used to symbolize the pledge that a husband and wife make to each other in marriage,” says Mr. Covino in the book. Those include rings, and “arras,” which are commonly coins.

“Eventually, the ‘arras’ came to symbolize the husband’s promise to provide what would be necessary for the sustenance of the home and the wife’s promise to make sure what was provided would be used to maximum benefit in the home,” the book says, quoting from “Gift and Promise: Customs and Traditions in Hispanic Rites of Marriage.” This symbol can be adapted for today’s culture.

The new rite calls for the clergyman to bless the “arras,” and the husband and wife to give them to each other, saying, “receive these ‘arras’ as a pledge of God’s blessing and a sign of the good gifts we will share.”

The other custom involves the clergyman blessing a “lazo” or a veil and two family members or friends placing it over the bride and groom, symbolizing their indissoluble union. The “lazo” is typically a double-looped rosary or a garland of flowers, according to Mr. Covino’s book. It can be placed on the couple before the nuptial blessing.

The “arras” and the “lazo” traditions are also included as options in the Spanish-language text for the United States, “Ritual del Matrimonio,” Msgr. Moroney said.

Since Hispanics in the United States come from different countries, where Spanish is spoken somewhat differently, the United States bishops wanted a translation that all Hispanics here could understand, he said. He said this Spanish translation is one of several used around the world, unlike the single translation in English.

U.S. weddings in languages other than English or Spanish can use a translation from another country where that language is spoken, he said.

Mr. Covino talked about a custom popular in the United States.

The 1969 text said if there was a procession into the wedding liturgy, the bride and groom would process in together with the ministers and could be escorted by their parents and the two witnesses.

“That was ignored,” Mr. Covino said. Instead, the bride processed in with her father and female attendants, meeting the groom, his male attendants and the clergyman at the front of the church.

That conflicted with the Catholic understanding that “husbands and wives are equal, complementary,” he said. It gave the bride much more attention, as if the wedding was “her day.” (The new rite does not specify who is included if there is a procession.)

The popular bridal procession custom, Mr. Covino said, led to excessive spending for bridesmaids’ outfits and other things the wedding industry “said you have to have.” Excessive spending can leave a couple in debt and disregards the fact that other people in the world are starving.

Mr. Covino’s book addresses such social justice concerns by giving ideas such as inviting guests to bring canned goods for the needy or establishing an online register for charities instead of wedding gifts.

He said he and his co-authors started working on the first edition of the book because “we felt that the resources available to Catholic engaged couples were limited.” It began as a project of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy in Washington, D.C., with which they were associated. (Co-authors were Jesuit Father Lawrence Madden, who was an adviser to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy; musician Elaine Rendler-McQueeney, and liturgist and artist John Buscemi.)

The most popular wedding liturgy planning book, Msgr. Joseph M. Champlin’s “Together for Life,” was aimed at helping couples reflect on the Scripture readings and prayers, Mr. Covino said. Priests, music directors and family life ministers were looking for a more complete guide to give engaged couples.

“We set out to … give couples some guidance regarding the liturgical elements,” including actions, music and environment, Mr. Covino said.

He said theirs, a distant second to Msgr. Champlin’s in popularity, ended up being a bigger, more expensive book that some clergymen felt was too much to give engaged couples. But those who use it give “overwhelmingly positive” feedback.

“It’s looking at liturgical practices that express what we believe as Catholics,” he said. “We try to help couples get beyond just pomp and circumstance to what it means to be a married Catholic couple.”

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