Perfume and parishes

Q. I read your response to the reader who asked when the proper time is to leave Mass. (You said after the recessional hymn is over.) I would have agreed with you until I became part of a parish that has perfume fests every Sunday.

Even though I take allergy meds before coming to church, the perfume is so awful that my nose runs, I cough, have difficulty breathing and feel nauseous. Sometimes it is so bad that I have to rush out right after Communion to keep from vomiting; then I feel sick for the rest of the day and cannot eat for hours.

When I do leave early, there are other people outside saying negative things about how they couldn't take the perfume any longer. I asked the parish council if we could have a perfume-free area in the church, but the pastor said that would make people feel unwelcome. Well, I feel unwelcome.

I used to love going to Mass, but now I dread it. You don't have to reply, but I wanted you to know that there are good and valid reasons why some people leave Mass early. (city and state withheld)

A. The woman who submitted this question said she preferred I not publish her letter and that, if I did, I should not disclose her location in order to preserve her anonymity.

I yield to her second request, but not her first; she may be identifying a problem more prevalent than I would pick up from the altar and, if so, it deserves mention.

Since she has already approached her pastor unsuccessfully, it might be wise simply to find another parish. I don't believe that the problem of perfume terrorism is universal.

Q. A recent column of yours -- about coming back to the sacraments -- caught my eye. My husband and I were married 47 years ago by a justice of the peace. We were not able to be married in the church because my husband had been married before.

When he was 19 years old, he had married his 16-year-old girlfriend in a Catholic wedding. She had just told him that she was pregnant. Their marriage lasted about a year and a half; then she left him and went back home to live with her parents and her baby daughter.

My husband and I have three children; all of them went to Catholic schools, graduated, and now have children of their own. We are still in contact, too, with my husband's daughter from his first marriage.

I have watched our children go through all the sacraments in the Catholic Church but have been unable to receive holy Communion due to my husband's first marriage. Last year, my husband's first wife passed away, and I've been wondering how this affects the status of our marriage within the Catholic Church.

Might there be an opportunity to rejoin the church and receive the sacraments once again? (city and state withheld)

A. Yes, definitely. Since your husband's first wife is now deceased, the way is open for the two of you to return to the sacraments. What you should do is visit with a priest soon.

He will recommend that you to go to the sacrament of reconciliation first, to return fully to the graces of the Lord, and then he will be happy to bless your present marriage.

What surprises me a bit is that your husband apparently never sought to have his first marriage annulled by the church.

The circumstances -- a 19- and 16-year-old rushing into marriage, impelled by a pregnancy -- present a classic case of a marriage where one or both partners probably lacked sufficient maturity to make a binding lifelong commitment.

- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service