“I, Armando take you, Eloísa, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death…”
And she responded the same Catholic wedding vows. It was their promise of eternal love. Now they were in the capacity to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
For more than 50 years Armando Ocampo and Eloísa Orozco were deprived of receiving the Holy Eucharist. The reason? They had not received the sacrament of marriage.
But on Saturday, Nov. 10, at St. Polycarp Catholic Church in Stanton, 12 couples held hands during a “community wedding.” They exchanged rings and coins. They swore love, loyalty and respect and, after several – or in some cases many – years of just living together, they got married.
These couples made their promise before God. In front of the Church, in front of Christ at the altar and in front of their relatives, children and grandchildren.
Armando, 74, and Eloisa, 67, emphasized that their consent to be married was truly heartfelt. And they said each other: “I do.”
“My parents and my grandparents had married and I had not,” Eloísa shared. “And I felt bad for not being able to receive the Eucharist.”
She said she fell in love with Armando because he was very attractive, hardworking and a very good person,” said Eloísa, an immigrant from Nayarit, Mexico. He was engaged to her because she was very pretty.
They both smiled when they exchanged the wedding rings and said: “Receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
At the end of the ceremony, Armando told OC Catholic: “It was a long, long time being apart from God. Now, I’m fine with Him.”
After celebrating at home, the couple left to enjoy their honeymoon, traveling two weeks to Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico.
The questions of a son to his mother
“Mommy, what is it that people get? What is it for? Why do you not go and take it?” Those were the questions Ricardo, a 7-year-old boy, asked his mother during Mass.
Ricardo Balpuesta and Anahí Piña frequented the Mass weekly with their son. But they could not receive Holy Communion. They were just living together. They were married only by the civil law.
“Son, it is because we need to marry in the house of God so that we can receive the Eucharist,” she answered. “That represents the Body and Blood of Christ. It is to receive Him when you receive communion.”
Although the child did not fully understand, he and his little sister Alexa, age 4, were the most excited in the church for their parents’ wedding.
“Every Sunday we took our children to the Church to pray and be in contact with God,” the bride said. “But now, this ring that I have is proof of our covenant with God.”
Ricardo thought the same.
“I wanted to give myself the opportunity to be as God intended in my life,” he said. “And if I am united with my wife, it is good to seal our marriage with the blessing of God.”
Thanks to the Holy Spirit they understood the profound meaning of marriage as the sacrament of God.
The idea of organizing “community weddings” emerged when Father Miguel Ángel Carabez arrived a little over a year ago at St. Polycarp.
“It’s about helping couples feel the need for the sacrament of marriage,” the priest said. “Many pretend that they do not have money, that they still have to fulfill a sacrament, or because they are a little away from God.”
However, the cleric motivated couples living together to reflect and feel loved by the Church and God.
All who participated in the event had been baptized. But they lacked the document of their communion or confirmation. While receiving matrimonial catechesis, they received their documents.
“Living in sin is not the same as living in the grace of God,” the priest told the newlyweds. “This sacrament of marriage can lead you to holiness and it is where Jesus Christ wants to lead you.”
The Bible readings chosen for the ceremony were Genesis 2: 21-24 and Ephesians 5: 21-33. In his homily, the priest thanked the new spouses for saying “yes” to God.
“He will bless you, and will take care of you for the simple act of saying ‘yes’ to eternal life,” he said. “And God will take you to eternal life persevering in this sacrament.”
Now, the 12 couples have experienced the great difference between those who merely live together and those who have already received the blessing of God that gives them the grace, the blessings to reach holiness and to have the certainty that God will never leave them even in the midst of difficulties.