St. Alphonsus Mary de Ligouri parish in Makata, Philippines made headlines last week when it hosted a wedding for 13 couples who were never married in the church because they could not afford the ceremony.
CNSNews.com is reporting on the traditional church wedding which took place on December 19. The entire cost of the day, including wedding attire and a reception, was provided by affluent members of the parish.
Mgr Claro “Matt” Garcia, a parish priest in the parish, told CNS that the couples came from the ranks of personal drivers, cooks and gardeners and said the 13 couples had been living together “without the sacrament of matrimony.”
As a result of the parish’s generosity, the brides wore white lace and chiffon and the grooms were clothed in traditional Philippine pineapple silk shirts. They walked down an aisle that was bedecked in flowers and enjoyed all of the traditional Filipino nuptial traditions such as being enveloped in a veil, tied together with a lasso and passing a coin purse between them – all to symbol the various aspects of married life.
For many of the brides, it was a dream come true.
Lei Bihag, a stay-at-home mother, and Vincent Bihag, a cook, have three children aged eight, five and three. Lei Bihag was excited to walk down the aisle with the man she had been with for nine years and married in a civil ceremony in 2013.
“It’s different when there is a blessing in the church, with a priest,” Lei told CNS. “It’s a more blessed wedding, and the marriage receives a blessing, not just the wedding, but the marriage itself.”
Jay Jimenez, 36, who works as a maintenance man at the church, had been together with his wife Abegail for three years before their civil wedding last year. They were thrilled to partake in the mass wedding.
“It was a huge help because we have four children,” Jay Jimenez told CNS. “Of course we can’t afford this kind of expense because of our small salaries … and it’s better because it’s a marriage before God. With the judge, it was just before people.”
Mgr. Garcia said the project was part of the Philippine bishops’ designation of the Year of the Poor, which ended on December 7. The wedding Mass was supposed to take place on December 6 but too many of the couples did not have their paperwork in order so the ceremony had to be delayed.
“Some of them had not been baptized. So I baptized them first,” he said. “And most of them were not confirmed. Since I have the faculty to confirm, they took the sacrament of confirmation … So it (was) three sacraments in one day.”
This was not the first mass wedding in the country where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic.
In April of this year, Manila’s Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle conducted a mass wedding for 101 couples and reminded them that poverty should not prevent them from marrying.
“It is not a requirement of the Church to have a grand reception to make valid a wedding,” the Cardinal said during his homily. “Those things are not the meaning of a wedding. A wedding means fulfilling the plan of God to unite and love each other for as long as you live and to show Jesus to each other. If you have that, even without the fancy dress, or reception, or photographer, the face of your spouse will never be erased in your heart.”
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