Brianna Heldt is a writer, speaker, and radio show host. She blogs at www.briannaheldt.com, has been a featured guest on BBC Radio, and her work can regularly be found in other online publications as well. A convert to the Catholic Church, Brianna explores topics ranging from faith and social issues to adoption and large family life. She and her husband make their home in Denver, along with their eight children.
Last Friday night found my two oldest daughters and me setting our alarms — somewhat begrudgingly, I confess — for 4:30 a.m. Ever since they’d first heard me mention the upcoming royal wedding, many months ago, they’d been dying to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot.
My kids know very little about celebrity culture (and I generally have little use for it myself), but what young girl doesn’t love a good story about a real-life prince, and his (somewhat) commoner bride?
So we rose before the sun, and settled onto the couch with our blankets to watch the special day unfold. If you didn’t see it, believe me when I say it was, well, magical. Everything from the bride’s glittering tiara to the couple’s horse-drawn carriage ride was perfect.
In the days since, the news media has tended to focus heavily on the revolutionary bringing together of African-American and British culture in the ceremony. (Meghan Markle is of course both American and biracial.) And, not without good reason. The traditional Anglican boys’ choir was offset by a gospel rendition of “Stand By Me,” and Bishop Michael Curry (hailing from the Episcopal tradition) delivered a fiery, passionate sermon, which stood in sharp contrast to the more staid homily of the Anglican bishop. It was, to my mind, a lovely fusing of the couple’s respective backgrounds, and definitely a departure for the typically-reserved royals.
What struck me even more than that, however, was actually the Archbishop of Canterbury’s portion of the ceremony. (He both officiated, and delivered a homily.) It may be getting significantly less attention than Bishop Curry’s preaching on the power of love — as of yet I’ve not been able to find even a partial transcript of Archbishop Welby’s remarks — but it was no less monumental. It was definitely just as revolutionary.
The archbishop had fittingly focused his homily on the subject of marriage. Which, as we all know, is a veritable minefield these days. Yet instead of hinting around at vague but safe notions of love and unity (people like Oprah, Elton John, and George Clooney were sitting and listening in the audience, after all!), Archbishop Welby proclaimed the truth about marriage — that it is the foundation of human society, created by God, and the basis for raising children. Furthermore, the traditional vows included “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Everything that ought to have been said about marriage, was. And the reverence and solemnity due the sacrament was there, and then some.
I guess you could say it was not only refreshing to see millions of people tuning in to watch a couple be joined in holy matrimony in the first place, but also that all of these onlookers (including my own children) were treated to the powerful reality of what exactly marriage is, and why it’s a huge deal. And yes, I know the couple isn’t Catholic and yes, I’m aware that Ms. Markle has been married before. But that’s hardly the point. God’s design for marriage was proclaimed and celebrated that day.
So while part of me felt a little silly climbing out of bed at such an hour (to watch the nuptials of two people I don’t even know), I also think that it may be an important opportunity to stand for the beauty and reality of marriage, for the idea that it’s about so much more than feelings and that, far from being empty and void of any meaning, religious tradition has much to offer the world. I know that Archbishop Welby’s words were heard far and wide, and so I hope and pray that our world, so hungry for authentic and life-giving love, takes them to heart.