Dear Good People of St. Mary,
As I’m writing this bulletin article, the final game of the World Cup begins in five hours and I have to write this, so I still don’t know how this is going to turn out. I received this photo from a number of people this week and thought it had a lot to say about the power of prayer. I wonder who’s going to win!
I keep a list of all the things that come up most frequently during the year waiting for a quiet week to write about them. At the top of my list is an explanation about marriage: we are continually surprised how little understanding there seems to be about marriage and remarriage, the difference between divorce and annulment. In the spring we will welcome back a speaker to work on the issue of annulments.
In the meantime, call us with questions, please. Today I want to talk briefly about the necessity of sacramental marriage for Catholics. It seems not to be well known that Catholics must be married sacramentally in the Church in order to be validly married. Of course, civil marriage is civil marriage and supplies all the legality necessary for the legitimacy of children and all laws according to the state. But a Catholic who is not married in the Catholic Church, according to “canonical form” (man and woman exchanging vows according to the Rite of Marriage, vows being received by a “duly authorized sacred minister – priest or deacon – and witnessed by two witnesses) is no longer in sacramental communion with the Church. This sacramental communion includes Eucharist and Anointing, as well as the possibility of serving as a Godparent or Sponsor.
It doesn’t mean that you can no longer be a member of the Church, as some have said they were told. But it does prevent you from the active sacramental life of the Church. Dispensations from Canonical Form are sometimes granted by the bishop for certain pastoral needs, but not commonly. Here are a couple of explanations addressing other common misconceptions:
• A non-Catholic (baptized or unbaptized) intended spouse doesn’t have to become Catholic for marriage in the Catholic Church. There is the usual marriage preparation required for any couples seeking marriage in the Church.
• The common expression “getting a marriage blessed” for those previously married outside the Church follows the same process as for those never married, called a “Convalidation.” There is preparation, and usually a small ceremony with two witnesses and close family and friends. It is not customary to celebrate large weddings with music and all the flowers, dress and wedding party for those who are already living together without the benefit of the sacrament.
• Those seeking to marry a subsequent time, need to fulfill the process of petitioning and receiving an annulment, a process proving that what was necessary for the first sacrament wasn’t present, and declaring that this person is free to celebrate the sacrament for the first time, in order to be married in the Church.
This is a lot of the work that we are doing on a daily basis – please take advantage of reentering sacramental life if you need to. If you know someone who needs a little encouragement, please share this article with them.
May God bless you,