Paul Birch

Paul Birch

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

To teach parishes about the new translation of the Catholic marriage rite, the diocesan Office of Worship is hosting two November workshops for clergy, pastoral musicians and anyone involved in marriage preparation.

The new Order of Celebrating Matrimony may be used beginning Sept. 8. However, the new translation must be used beginning Dec. 30.

Clergy can attend a presentation on the changes Oct. 16 in Ashland; two Saturday morning workshops, Nov. 12 at St. Joseph, Hayward, and Nov. 19 at Holy Family, Woodruff, are also open to musicians and parishioners who help couples prepare for marriage.

The translation has been in development for a long time, explained Paul Birch, director of the Office of Worship. The current marriage rite was issued in 1969; the new Order of Celebrating Matrimony is a translation of a Latin edition that was published in 1990.
The changes are part of the overhaul mandated by the 2001 document “Liturgiam Authenticam,” which also compelled the translation of the Roman Missal and other sacramental rites.

The purpose of “Liturgiam Authenticam” is to align the English translation more closely to the official Latin text.

Attendees at Catholic weddings may notice the sentence-level sound is a little different, but the overall style and content of the rite is mostly unchanged.

“It’s the same basic structure,” said Birch. “The language is different.”

Changes include an option for the priest and servers to join the bridal party at the door before they all process up the aisle together, if the couple so desires. Otherwise, the entrance rite can follow the traditional pattern, with the priest greeting the couple after the bridal party, bride and groom are in place at the front of the church.

The Penitential Act has also been removed from the rite, and the Gloria has been added.
In total, five new readings from the Old and New Testaments are now available for couples to choose from, although there is a new requirement that one of the three readings must explicitly speak of marriage.

There are also a few more options for clergy, i.e., a couple of more introductory admonitions, a second option for the reception of consent, and the inclusion of appropriate intercessions.

Another option is that the nuptial blessing may be chanted.

Other changes approved with the Order of Celebrating Matrimony are cultural adaptions, Birch explained – slight wording changes to better match the form used in England and Wales, and an exchange of coins and blessing of a wedding cord that is traditional in Hispanic and Filipino ceremonies.

One of the most notable differences in the translation will not directly affect the ceremony at all, although it may ensure better preparation before couples take vows. The introductory portion has been greatly expanded, from 18 sections to 44, with more theological insight and more pastoral instructions that should lead to a better understanding of the ritual.

There’s a “richer sacramental theology contained in the new introduction,” Birch added. “There’s more depth there.”

Catholics who are helping couples prepare for marriage, as well as couples themselves, will benefit from the expansion, he said. It’s in keeping with the Vatican II emphasis on liturgy as the first theology.

“The law of prayer is the law of faith,” he added. “That’s what’s behind it. The ritual is important because it’s what we do.”

Birch gained a greater understanding of the new Order of Celebrating Matrimony at a Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions training July 7 in Rochester, Minnesota. Anyone wishing to learn more can attend his November workshops for a $10 fee, which includes meals, refreshments and handouts.

Registration for the Nov. 12 and Nov. 19 sessions begins at 8:30 a.m. Workshops are 9 a.m. to noon.

To learn more or to register, contact Birch at or 715-394-0233.
Information on the workshops will also be posted on the Office of Worship portion of the diocesan website,, beginning Sept. 1.