1. The Sacrament of Marriage
“Love is our origin. Love is our constant calling. Love is our fulfillment in heaven. Everything the Catholic Church teaches about marriage begins with this proclamation.”³
Marriage is both a natural institution and a sacred union because it is rooted in the divine plan of creation¹
Marriage is the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life…cc 1055
In addition, the Catholic Church teaches that the valid marriage between two baptized Christians is also a sacrament – a saving reality and a symbol of Christ’s love for his church (see Ephesians 5:25-33)¹
2. The Vocation of Marriage
All Christians in whatever state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. When the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a Christian vocation it is saying that the couple’s relationship is more than simply their choice to enter a union which is a social and legal institution. In addition to these things, marriage involves a call from God and a response from two people who promise to build, with the help of divine grace, a lifelong, intimate and sacramental partnership of live and life.¹
Permanency, exclusivity, and faithfulness are essential to marriage because they foster and protect the two equal purposes of marriage: growth in mutual love between the spouses and the generation and education of children.¹
As a result of their baptism, all Christians are called to a life of holiness. This divine calling, or vocation, can be lived in marriage, or in the single life, or in the priesthood or religious life. No one vocation is superior to or inferior to another. Each one involves a specific kind of commitment that flows from one’s gifts and is further strengthened by God’s grace. All vocations make a unique contribution to the life and mission of the church.¹
The family arises from marriage. Parents, children, and family members form what is called a domestic church. This is the primary unit of the Church – the place where the Church lives in the daily love, care, hospitality, sacrifice, forgiveness, prayer and faith of ordinary families.¹
3. The Spirituality of Marriage
“Father, you have made the bond of marriage a holy mystery, a symbol of Christ’s love for his Church. With faith in you and in each other they pledge their love today. May their lives always bear witness to the reality of the love.” The Sacramentary: Liturgical Press, 1985 Marriage Rite, page 763
The prayers of the rite stress that husband and wife are themselves the sacrament, the living signs of God’s love-first to each other and then to the world around them. The spirituality of marriage, the sense that God is part of it through good times and bad, is what makes Christian marriage truly sacramental.
Love is, by its very nature, life-giving. It first gives life to a couple themselves, creating a we out of the raw materials of you and me. A couple’s love for one another spills over into relationships with in-laws and friends, coworkers and fellow parishioners.
“Marriage is a sign of Christ’s unbreakable love for his people.”²
“Spirituality is a way to live out one’s religious beliefs. A spirituality of marriage, therefore, is a way to help husbands and wives live out the vocation of marriage in light of faith. Catholic marriage has a distinctive spirituality that is sacramental, communitarian and missionary.”²
“Marriage is sacramental because it is a sign of Christ’s unbreakable love for His people. It is communitarian because it creates and deepens a permanent partnership of life and love. It is missionary because in Catholic marriage couples are called to share with others the good news of their relationship in Christ.”²
“A spirituality of marriage shows how couples reveal Christ, build community, and reach out to others in love.”²
² Marital Spirituality by Joann Heaney-Hunter Ph.D. St. John’s University (NY)
³ RCL Catechist Manual, Catechumenate Year A
4. Marriage Preparation Guidelines
Pastors hold primary responsibility for ensuring proper formation of couples for marriage. Pastors may seek assistance from parochial vicars, deacons or trained layperson.
A minimum six-month preparation period is required. Consult your parish priest at least six months prior to your anticipated date. (it is strongly discouraged to schedule a reception before consulting with your parish priest.)
Marriage preparation is a process for determining the couple’s readiness for marriage and should include the following;
- Discussion and completion of pre-marital documents and assessment tools, ie Focus, Prepare and Enrich
- Attendance of an Engaged Encounter Weekend or other method for addressing focus areas determined from assessment tool and church teaching.
- Resolving marriage impediments such as addressing any and all previous marriages or unions.
- Acquiring necessary permissions or dispensations when a Catholic is marrying someone of a different religious tradition
- Preparing documents necessary when a marriage is being prepared in one diocese and celebrated in another or when the celebrating minister is from another diocese.
- Catechesis regarding the Sacrament, Theology and Teachings of a Catholic Marriage
- Gathering all pertinent sacramental certificates, such as baptismal, confirmation, etc…
Marriage preparation will be parish-based whenever possible. Couples preparing for marriage within the parish have a greater opportunity to develop stronger ties with a local faith community.
If a couple are seeking a Catholic Marriage and are already civilly married to each other, preparation is still required as the catholic marriage is considered a new consent.
5. The Celebration of Marriage – “The Wedding”
In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the priest or deacon, the two official witnesses, and the congregation all witness the exchange of consent by the couple who themselves are considered to be the ministers of the sacrament. 1
- When planning the wedding ceremony, the couple should work with the preparing minister to ensure the ceremony reflects their love and commitment as a couple and in accordance to the Rite of Marriage of the Catholic Church;
- Respect for cultural and family traditions is important in the planning of the wedding and should be done within the Rite of Marriage of the Catholic Church.
- The Norm of this Archdiocese is to have a Catholic Wedding celebrated in a Catholic Church. If there are family and religious considerations that would warrant a request for the celebration to be held in a different setting or by a non-Catholic Minister, this must be discussed with the preparing minister as soon as possible in the planning.
- A Catholic has the right to celebrate their marriage within Mass if desired, and no couple should be denied a Catholic wedding because of financial burdens.
- The Catholic Church makes no provision for witnessing or recognizing the union between two individuals of the same sex.
- When individuals or couples who have been previously married and divorced seek a new marriage, proper resolution of the prior marriage must be determined through the Archdiocesan marriage tribunal whether the individual is or was Catholic at the time of the marriage or if they had a Catholic Marriage or not.
- A marriage license for the State of Alaska must be obtained prior to the church wedding and clergy who preside at weddings must make sure the paperwork for the State of Alaska is filed promptly.
Read more about Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth from USCCB.org