The Sacrament of Marriage
Contact the office at least 6 months in advance of when you plan to marry.
“The Basics of Marriage”
by: Rev. Charles Ray
The following article provides an overview of The Sacrament of Marriage; its intended audience is a couple preparing for a Sacramental Marriage. It makes few presumptions and represents the minimum knowledge both man and woman must comprehend for the celebration of matrimony to proceed as scheduled. Both the Roman Catholic Church and I take marriage very serious; if either party has serious issue with anything stated below it must be brought to my immediate attention. In a very short time you will be abandoning your current life, choosing a way of life in which you will no longer have complete control over. Consequently, it is your duty to fully understand what you are about to undertake. For at the ceremony I will ask, “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” By answering in the positive you testify to your openness of receiving from Almighty God the entirety of your vocation.
What is marriage?
Marriage is a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. It has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. Unlike many ‘unions’ found throughout society today, your marriage springs forth from the eternal law, and is thus governed by particular laws in accord with its holy nature. The Catholic Church didn’t invent marriage, but instead the Church has elevated it from the secular to the sacred. Because of this it is inadequate to construct your own definition of marriage. Similar to all things in the Christian way of life, we must learn to receive the good things of God complete and whole. When man attempts to modify what God has divinely instituted we reenact the first sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. It would benefit your marriage greatly if from the onset a common creed was practiced. It is my opinion that without a shared foundational faith your relationship will be stressed when the rough seas of life begin to beat against your home. I encourage you, in the little time you have left, to come to a greater realization of the spiritual dignity of your fiancé. This is the person you will spend the remainder of your life with; do not be blind to the only part of your beloved that is immortal, his/her soul.
It might surprise you to know that I will not be marrying you; you will be marrying yourselves. I will be acting as the Church’s official witness. The actual cause of the life-long bond between the two of you is the exchange of consent. The consent, the act of the will by which a man and a woman through an irrevocable covenant mutually give and accept each other in order to form a marriage, is key to the whole ceremony. To say nothing else matters in the context of the ceremony is the truth. It doesn’t matter if your bouquet is the wrong color, if the Church catches on fire, or if you forget the rings; as long as you express your consent to marry, then you are married. With this in mind know that I will be solely focused on the two of you exchanging consent. The flowers, dresses, and reception are all secondary; without the consent we have nothing to celebrate.
Therefore, you must be fully aware of what you are consenting to. Basically, there are three constitutive elements to your consent. First, you must consent that the marriage is perpetual. Only death breaks the bond of marriage. If for whatever reason one of you has the belief that you have the right to divorce your spouse during your marriage for any reason, then I cannot marry you because you don’t want what the Church is offering you. A marriage bond which is concluded and consummated by baptized spouses can never be dissolved. The spouses’ consent and consummation forge an irrevocable covenant which no one, including the Church can break. Secondly, you must consent to an exclusive bond. If you believe that an occasional affair is allowable in the marriage covenant then once again I will not marry you because you are incapable of promising something that you do not intend to fulfill. You must fully intend to be sexually exclusive to your spouse. Thirdly, you must intend to have children. If either one of you do not plan on having children, once again you do not desire ‘marriage’ in the Catholic sense.
You will express, thus making it manifest, your consent by answering the following three questions:
- Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
- Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of you lives?
- Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?
After these two questions you both will exchange consent by using the following words:
- I ________, take you, _________, to be my wife (husband). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
Because the exchange of consent is what makes the marriage, it is important for everyone to be clear that the bride and groom have actually declared their mutual consent. Therefore, you may not write your own vows. To conclude this brief summary of marital consent I must remind you that both of you are required to have full use of your intellect and will at the ceremony. If either of you are under the effects of alcohol or any other mind-altering drug the wedding will not proceed. Also, if for whatever reason I judge that you have not come to the ceremony under your own freewill then the ceremony will be immediately called off.
Issues regarding your Wedding: my expectations
- You have requested to be married within the context of the Sacred Liturgy. Therefore, the sacred nature of the ceremony will be respected in all matters.
- Noble simplicity adds to the beauty of the marriage ceremony and restraint should be exercised when selecting dresses and tuxedos. Modesty is of upmost importance. All dresses of the wedding party should be below the knee, with no revealing splits, no low front or back, and shoulders should be covered.
- Those whom you select to lector (read) the Sacred Scripture must possess a good speaking voice, be a member of the Catholic Church in good standing, able to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, be appropriately dressed, and be present for the rehearsal.
- The unity candle is not an official part of the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church. It will not be tolerated. If needed it may be present at the rehearsal dinner or reception.
- Photographers and videographers are to be limited to 2. Microphones are not allowed to be placed on either the bride or the groom.
- Catholics are highly encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the ceremony. I will be available before and after the rehearsal to hear confessions.
- Secular music will not be permitted within the Liturgy.
- If you and your fiancé are cohabitating it is highly recommended that your ceremony be subdued. The great joy and celebration of marriage is rightly due to those who have respected its sacred nature. So as not to cause greater scandal to the Faithful of the Church and to society at large those involved in such a grievous sin are requested to not imitate the grand weddings of those whom have practiced chastity. These issues will be discussed in our meeting.
- Please contact my office with any questions or concerns.