By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke The bride was surprised. Not shocked, but definitely surprised. I was uncertain what portion of my answer she was surprised at. She and her fiancé had been meeting with me for the purpose of preparing them for marriage. More often than not, the priest is trying to prepare a couple for marriage, while the couple’s sights are set more immediate; on the wedding day. Her question answered was, “How much does the church cost to be married in?” My answer was simple, but multifaceted, “There is no cost to use the church. All we ask for use of the church is your entire life.” What I was referring to, was of course, discipleship. In the Diocese of Wichita, we are acknowledged throughout the country for our grateful response of a disciple called stewardship.
As we define it, stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple, who recognizes and receives God’s gifts, and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor. Pretty simple. Pretty multifaceted. Like my answer to the bride. The sacrament of marriage is an excellent example of stewardship. In the sacrament of marriage, either the bride or groom, and often both, are Christian disciples. By coming to the priest for marriage formation, they are saying they recognize the gift God is giving them of each other. We call this “falling in love.” This is a gift from God, part of His Divine Plan for their lives. What a gift! During the wedding rite, they receive this gift of themselves literally. The sacrament of marriage is the only sacrament where the priest is a witness, and the participants are the ministers. The bride gives her promises or vows to the groom and the groom receives them. Then vice versa. When does this receiving cease? Until death do us part. It is a lifelong journey. This is what stewardship is; a lifelong journey. A life long journey of recognizing and receiving God’s gifts, then sharing these gifts in love of God and neighbor. How much does it cost to have a wedding in the Catholic Church? Your entire life! A lifelong journey of giving of self to another in love of God and neighbor. Quite a task! Perhaps this is why the bride was surprised, but then surprised me by saying, “That might be a little too much. How about we give you one hundred dollars instead?” I knew she was pulling my leg. But I also knew she realized marriage and stewardship is a lifelong journey. And she was just beginning the first steps. Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke is director of the Office of Stewardship for the Diocese of Wichita.