The Catholic Thing
Renewal Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Monday, 11 April 2011

I got married in the Catholic Church yesterday.

It was a lovely ceremony in my parish church. My bride was beautiful. Dr. Royal was my best man, and Mr. Marlin was a lector. Friends and family were there, although not as many as attended our other wedding twenty-seven years ago. 

We renewed our vows – something about which I’d always been skeptical. But this was necessary, because I’m getting confirmed in the Church in less than two weeks, and we needed to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. 

I know what you’re thinking: Wait, I’ve been reading The Catholic Thing for several years, and I assumed Brad Miner is a valid Catholic. You’d think so, but I haven’t been. Here’s the story (for those who know part of it from earlier columns, I beg indulgence): 

I made my Profession of Faith as a Catholic at a church in California one day in August of 1973. The next day I made my first confession and took Communion for the first time. As is true of most people, I suspect, the progress of my faith has been marred somewhat by faulty catechesis, for which I take primary responsibility, but which has been exacerbated by a few priests, who certainly should have known better. I left California with the impression that the Church rule concerning confirmation was the same as the rule on baptism: if, as was true in my case, you’d received the sacraments in another Christian church, it isn’t necessary to repeat the rite. The fact, of course, is that, whereas this is true concerning baptism, it’s not true for confirmation. 

So, how did I get on for nearly four decades with such a baronial misconception? Honestly, I’m unsure, except that it’s what I was told at the start. In any case, I read something a few months back that suggested converts do, in fact, need to be confirmed. So I asked Fr. Schall, and he told me, yes, it must be done. I then reached out to a priest at my parish, and he got me involved in a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) class, which has turned out to be just your humble correspondent and four extraordinary catechists, and which has been a great blessing for me, although, as you might expect, I already know the material pretty well. I ought to after nearly thirty-eight years. 

Actually, I’d recommend RCIA (at least in the good form at my parish) for any Catholic at any stage along the way from here to eternity (talk about renewal!), because knowing and defending the faith has never been more important. 

         Renewal: Mr. Marlin, Mrs. Miner, Mr. Miner, Dr. Royal

Meanwhile back to our tale. I moved from California to Ohio, where I’d grown up, and then to New York. I met the woman who is now my wife. She is a Jew. I had a heart-to-heart talk with a wonderful Ohio priest, who agreed to concelebrate (if that’s the correct word) with a New York rabbi, and Sydny and I got hitched in April of 1984. My priest friend assured me he’d taken care of the various dispensations necessary for the nuptials: he knew a guy who knew a guy in the canon law office in the New York archdiocese. 

But . . . as the chief catechist and I were going over details recently, which included gathering documents from the Methodist churches of my boyhood and the Catholic church in California, we found those marriage dispensations had not been acquired. 

“Not to worry,” said the catechist, “we have a wonderful remedy: you and Syd will renew your vows in the Church.” 

It is a lovely solution, yet it made me flush red, because I’d always been opposed to renewing our vows, which Syd had suggested more than once, because, you know, we’re already married! 

But in for a dime in for a dollar, right? It doesn’t matter when you do the right thing. When you know it needs to be done, you do it. So we did it. Joyfully. (A real wedding, by the way, not actually a renewal of vows.) 

But the whole experience is another indication – as if we need another – of the extent to which catechesis has declined over the last thirty or forty years. Some priests don’t know proper procedures or, if they do, choose to treat them as the sort of bureaucratic details to be honored more in the breach than in the observance. It’s easy to focus on the Big Ideas awhirl in the Great Contemporary Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church and miss the “small” things that properly define membership in the Body of Christ. Catholicism really shouldn’t be done freestyle. 

In my RCIA classes, we often go slightly off topic to discuss that Crisis, and we always end up noting the “small” stuff too many Catholics seem to be missing. For instance: that every single Sunday is a holy day of obligation; that reception of Communion (at our church anyway) seems wildly out of proportion to the number of parishioners who actually go to Confession; that there are appropriate ways to show reverence in church, and short shorts is not among them. 

My wife is an extraordinary person. We have two wonderful sons, who – sad to say – were unable to attend the renewal: our older is serving in Iraq; the younger is preparing to graduate from college next month. I’ve imagined both of them getting off the calls we made to announce our plans and telling their buddies: “My parents are getting married!” That’s just what they’d say, because it’s what I’d say. You have to have a sense of humor about all this. 

Brad Miner, a former literary editor of National Review, is senior editor of The Catholic Thing and a senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute. One of his books, The Compleat Gentleman, was recently published in a revised edition.

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Comments (15)Add Comment
written by Adam Hermanson, April 10, 2011
Hearty Congratulations indeed to you and your wife Mr. Miner! May God's blessings fall upon your marriage for many years.
written by Sandra Jones, CPA, April 11, 2011
Congratulations and Mazel Tov!
written by Barbara Kaine, April 11, 2011
Congratulations, Mr. Miner! I am so happy to hear that you will be fully received into the Church. Much luck to you and you wife and family.
written by Ray Hunkins, April 11, 2011
written by Howard, April 11, 2011
Congratulations. May you both accept God's blessings, received at your recent marriage renewal, to persist in keeping your twenty-seven year union holy and strong.
written by Grump, April 11, 2011
Just curious, did your wife become a Catholic or is that none of our business?

I became a Catholic by baptism, first communion and confirmation more than 50 years ago. Now I am agnostic. Just goes to show how God works in mysterious ways.
written by Michael Reilly, April 11, 2011
Congratulations! Like you, my wife I and were already married (by a Methodist minister) but re-married in the Catholic Church last spring. It was a wonderful renewal, and a beautiful day for us, our children, our friends, and our family.

Last Easter, my best friend--a man who had been as snarling an atheist as you can imagine--officially joined the Catholic Church after a long RCIA program. He was baptized, received first holy communion, made penance, became confirmed, and got married (renewal) all in one day! Had we only found a way to get him martyred, it would have been perfect!
written by Bill, April 11, 2011
Brad: Thank you for sharing with us An Odyssey of a Modern American Catholic, complete with a "mazel tov" from one of the readers. In the paragraph below the very attractive photo, you cite the need for a dispensation to marry your wife who, at that time at least, was unbaptized. I am not sure someone flubbed this as they are very difficult to obtain due to the Disparity of Cult. Best wishes!
written by Martial Artist, April 11, 2011
My most heartfelt congratulations to you and you wife, particularly given your initial reservations concerning renewal of vows. I pray that our Lord will bless the two of you even more richly in the years ahead than He has to this day.

Keith Töpfer
written by Howard, April 11, 2011
@ Grump. At first your assertion that your agnosticism is attributable to God's mysteriousness seemed, at best, like a conundrum; at worst, impossible. Then, on second thought, He could be testing you. So, I will pray for you, that you will rise to the occasion of this enduring test...that you will not weary of it, that you will seek, and accept, His graces through reconciliation and the Eucharist. The ball is in your court.
written by Louise, April 11, 2011
Dear Mr. Miner, Heartfelt congratulations to you and your new wife. :)

My husband and I were married in the Methodist church in 1955. In about 1964 or so, we were baptized and received into the Episcopal church. Neither of us had had any documentation of previous baptism, and knowing my mother to be a great procrastinator, I knew that, despite her best intentions, she would probably have never gotten around to it. She thought of herself as a faithful Christian, and she tried hard, but she was not a consistent church-goer. And my husband's "Christening" in nobody-knows- quite-where, was probably not valid. So we and our children were baptized in the Episcopal church. Some of us were even confirmed.

In 1971, we received instruction of sorts in the Catholic Church by a priest-professor at a local (sort of) Catholic university because the priest in the local parish didn't want to be bothered giving instruction. After being formally received, we consulted the priest in the next closest parish, and we also requested conditional baptism for all of us. He was very obliging. Nobody ever mentioned confirmation or blessing of our marriage. Eleven years later, we left the Church.

In 2002, I went to Confession and received the Sacrament (my husband followed a few months later), but, again, nobody inquired about our Confirmation status. After a couple more years, it occurred to me that maybe we should have been confirmed. So, we were. No RCIA program, though, we just had endure some completely forgettable videos by an Archbishop. But we were confirmed. Marriage? Nobody mentioned it.

Finally, after seeing a few renewal of vows of long-time marriages at our parish, I made the enquiry myself, and we renewed our vows after Mass one evening. So, after 55 years, we are finally completely married.

I guess, at long last, we are all square with the Church. I still haven't written out my funeral arrangement requests, though. Maybe I had better see to that. You never know the day or the hour, after all. It really is a struggle getting all the necessary details worked out. This was nothing at all like the warnings my mother-in-law used to give my husband: "Be carefull! The Catholic Church is out to get you, and there's a priest waiting behind every bush to pull you in." Ah. If only.

Bill: How is that for another example of An Odyssey of a Modern American Catholic?

Again, Congratulations, Mr. Miner, and may you both enjoy many more happy years together.
written by Bill, April 11, 2011
Dear Louise and Brad: May I use your parallel experiences for a lesson? Both of you are where you are today because of the Holy Spirit working in your lives in separate but similar ways. This is the result of prayer; both yours and others praying for you. You both experienced clerical apathy/indifference because they believed what you were requesting was unnecessary, i.e., why bother with these details if everyone is already saved! Universal Salvation is a heresy which is why it can never be named, merely assumed. You both are to be commended for what you have accomplished against such extraordinary odds!
written by Grump, April 11, 2011
Howard, all life is a conundrum. I did not rule out God's existence, merely question his sometimes disappearance from the affairs of humankind. Such as the lack of response to prayer, among the many mysteries. If we are to do "God's will," then what of our own? Seems as though He has dealt a stacked deck.

Well, on to more pressing matters. Such as how am I going to fill up my gas tank.
written by Graham Combs, April 11, 2011
Congratulations Mr. Miner. As someone who went through RCIA at age 57, I appreciate how important good catechesis is. Older students can struggle. If it's any consolation, the Church in the 70s seemed pretty chaotic when I graduated from a Catholic high school (as an Episcopalian).

And if you don't mind my saying, your bride is beautiful. God bless you both.
written by Mike , November 07, 2013


My wife & myself got married in a Civil Ceremony in 1984, was at the age of 31, almost 30 years ago.

Grew up and was Baptized in the Catholic Church, Received 1st Communication in Eighth Grade, and practice my faith until I was 23, strayed away from going to Church. My mother died of Lung Cancer and my Father was a non practicing Catholic after age at 53 when my mother passed away and he died two years ago at 83 years old never to return to his Catholic Faith.

About at age 29, met the love of my life, who came from a Jewish background. We both respected each other's background's and religion was not a dividing line for us. Marriage took place in a civil ceremony in my wife uncle's back yard garden by a retired Judge in Los

She became a Professional Accountant and myself an Engineer, both of us had busy careers and never had children.

Fast forward to now, I almost died earlier in Feb 2013, from a Blood Clot on my Brain, a week before I found out that, I went to the Church I had my 1st Communion as an Eight Grader and where I was an Alter boy going through Catholic School and Ask Jesus
to help me, prayed and talk to a Minister there where we prayed for my health and put my name in the Book for Mass to pray for the sick ( me ).

Went to the my Doctor, he sent me for a Brain Scan, had trouble walking hearing, and seeing at the time of the Scan, was told I needed surgery immediately, Had Surgery for a Subdural Hematoma by a Brain Surgeon, a vessel burst in my brain it was going to kill me if nothing was done immediately.

Right before Surgery, I told my wife to pray to God, the doctor's said it was so massive, that I might night survive. I prayed all the time before they did the Surgery. Well I was in ICU for 5 days, day two, has a Blood Clot that almost killed me from the result of the surgery
that went from Brain to Heart and then to the Lung, they almost lost me. During the whole time, I was calm since I felt God, Jesus were watching over me and thanking God for being alive after Surgery.

I had worked for 35 years and told my wife, told her if I pull through this, I would change my Priorities in life. From Job, etc to one of Love of God, Family, do volunteer work in hospitals which I do now, especially Pray and Thank God for giving me a Second Chance on Life. Go to Church now, Sundays and for Mon - Fridays Morning Mass.

Was always told that God forgives and protect those that seek him.

I now also Volunteer my time at my Catholic Parish. Some members have encouraged me to be a Eucharistic Minister on Sundays since I am deeply devoted know back to my faith after all these years and want to be closer to God and Jesus Christ.

My Priorities in life now are God, Family and Volunteering the sick and needy. All I wish is live a better Christian life as a Catholic, so when my time comes to an end in this world, I can continue with my Soul going to heaven. My wife believes there is a God and believe
God had a hand in saving me for a purpose. She to wants to be be in Heaven with me.

When I went to the Parish Office to inquire about being an Eucharistic Minister during Sunday Mass, they ask me if I was Baptized a Catholic, I said yes. Next Did I get my First Communication in the Catholic Church, I said yes. Next they ask me, Am I married, I said yes. Next they ask if I was married in a Catholic Church, I said no, they seems to end the conversation.

I go to Mass Weekly and on a daily basis since the Surgery, go to Mass, prayed, Confession and Got Holy Communion to rejoice my Soul being closer to God and Jesus. God brought me back for a second chance. What are my Options, do I need a reconciliation from a priest, get married now in the Church after being married happily to my only wife ( no divorce's between both of us ). First marriage for both of us.

Am I excluded from practicing my Catholic Faith, I had no intent or malice when I returned to Catholic Faith only to feel rejected in my thought when I could not be a Eucharistic Minister.

Do I need to find a Small Catholic church or catholic pries and get married in the Church so that the Church can check that box that I have a church marriage recognized by a private ceremony. Both of us are now 61 years old and been happily married close to 30 years !
Even if I can not be a EM, just want to continue in he Church and receive God graces, blessings and Sacraments.

What is your take on my story, like to practice my Catholic Faith and continue in receiving Sacraments in the Catholic Faith. So, When I die, I was to be in the grace of God & Jesus to go to Heaven.

A returning Catholic to the Church after 30 years.
( Los Angeles Area )

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