At one time it was against Canon Law for a lowly parish priest to wear any jewelry whatsoever. That rule has been greatly relaxed. I wear what looks like a wedding ring. When I was ordained, one of my best friends, Cathy Paparella, gave me a ring and said, “Here. Wear this. I like my priests to wear rings.” So I did and do.
They are pretty handy little trinkets. One cannot always wear one’s clerics. You don’t want to wear them while biking for example. They are impractical for such uses as well as being WAY too expensive. So let’s say you are a Catholic priest and you are going swimming. A ring on your finger helps unwanted attention if you understand what I am saying . . .
Most of the time.
(Allow me to digress for a moment.) Going to the beach with some priest friends, we were detained from going to water and so sat at the “soda bar” for a little while. A lady started hitting on one of my friends. She asked all kinds of probing questions, discovered that we were all together and finally that we were all priests. Her disposition changed immediately. “Oh. You’re the boys who can’t have sex,” she slurred.
My friend, with all the dignity he could muster, replied, “Oh, but we can. We choose not to.”
Now that all the matrimonial clarifications have been made and the vows exchanged, and announcement that the vows have been exchanged, now bride and groom exchange rings to be placed on their fingers FURTHER signifying what amazing even has just taken place. Is it not interesting that these rings are blessed? They are a symbol of a covenant, a mark of a change of status, a public indication of behavior, a sign of something created in cooperation with God. Rings are AMAZING and powerful. The last thing you want around if you are going to cheat on your spouse is a ring (or its tan line.) It kind of throws a damper on things.
Can you see all the fuss that is going on? How much of a public witness this all is? There is a rash of young people not wanting to get married. Maybe it isn’t so much a sign that they don’t care, maybe they are a bit overwhelmed by what a gigantic, public, important institution that it is. You can’t take this lightly. And you will be marked by a band on your finger for the rest of your married life and that assumes certain public and private behavior - not unlike a habit or a priest’s collar.
But it is not a sign so much of your vows, but of the vows of the person who married you, for that person says, “Receive this ring as a sign of MY love and fidelity.” It is a sign that someone loves you.