Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue — The Significance of Marriage

A "Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue" was held online January 13. Father Alexei Smith talked on the importance of marriage in the Catholic faith. He explained, unlike the Roman Catholic tradition, the Eastern Catholic tradition doesn’t exchange vows and rings, instead there is a crowning ceremony. The bride & groom are led from the front doorstep into the church, signifying the couple’s entry into the holiness of married life. The priest places wedding crowns on top of the couple’s heads, blessing them to become rulers of their new family and hoping that this vow will be for the rest of their lives. Afterward, mass will be held for the newlywed couple.

Ven. Hui Ze from Hsi Lai Temple shared the meaning of marriage within Buddhism. Weddings today are an adaptation from Western and Chinese cultures; such as, exchanging vows and rings, a tea-serving ceremony, and various Buddhist liturgies. Couples are called Bodhi couples, signifying their mutual support and effort of cultivating together on the Bodhi path—the path toward enlightenment. Couples married for several years often choose to participate in a special ceremony to renew their marriage vows, and to strengthen their faith along the Bodhi path. A video clip of a recent Buddhist wedding taking place in Hsi Lai Temple was shared.

Susana Santana asked about the social trend of interfaith weddings; especially, amongst couples of different ethnicities. “Is there any advice that can be given to these couples regarding ways to raise their children?” Father Alexei responded, the Vatican has asked couples married in Catholic weddings to educate their children in the Catholic faith. But in light of creating a more equal and tolerant society, this policy has since been removed. Ven. Hui Ze replied that Buddhist temples do not ask the younger generation of our devotees to believe in Buddhism, but through their exposure to and their participation in Buddhist activities, it is our hope that they will slowly identify themselves with Buddhism, and eventually choose to take refuge and become a Buddhist.

Convener Michael Kerze mentioned the dialogue between the different ceremonies of Buddhism and Catholicism had been very fruitful, and hoped February’s dialogue about death and funerals, from both the Buddhist and Catholic perspectives, will continue to bring about stimulating discussions. Those in attendance were: Catholic representatives Father Alexei Smith from Saint Andrew Church, Professor Michael Kerze from Los Angeles Valley College, Dr. James L. Fredericks from Loyola Marymount University, Susana Santana from St. Vincent de Paul and Buddhist representatives Abbot Ven. Bhante Chao Chu from Los Angeles Buddhist Union, Rosemead, Ven. Hui Ze from Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, Debra Boudreaux and Sabrina Ho from Tzu Chi Foundation all attended — a total of 8 people.