Facts about the Sacraments

Dear Friends in Christ,

I catch myself doing this more and more often.  I sit down to do something thinking that I only recently did the same thing a few months ago only to discover that it has been in fact years!  Tempus fugit – time flies!  Here are a few examples. 

I wanted to address the importance of having newborn babies baptized without delay.  As with so many things, it is easy to confuse priorities.  Having a reception or a party for the baptism is great but having the baptism and having it promptly is far more important.  Waiting until all the family can gather or for the convenience of a holiday are not good reasons to delay baptism.  In fact, the Church allows that if a godparent is unable to be present for the baptism, someone else may stand in as a proxy.  For centuries, the necessity of a prompt baptism was seen as so important that it was not uncommon for the baptism to occur without the mother being present.  This is one of the reasons that there grew the custom of the godmother holding the child during the baptism.  I am not suggesting that mothers should not come or that we return to this practice, but it shows how important a prompt baptism was understood.   As a general practice, and according to the teachings of the Church, “Parents are obliged to see to it that infants are baptized within the first weeks after birth” (Can. 867.1).  Delaying baptism is simply not a good thing.

Another issue that I realize that I have not mentioned in some time concerns marriage.  Just in case someone out there has never heard: living together outside of marriage is a sin.  God loves all of us and the Church loves all of us even though we are all sinners!  Yet, just because we are all loved does not mean that it is good or right for us to sin!  Committing adultery is still a violation of the sixth commandment.  There has been no recall on any of the Ten Commandments.  God has given us the Ten Commandments not to make our lives difficult, make us feel bad or guilty, but to help us live happier, holier, and better lives.   Yes, I know that there are lots of people who live together today.  I also know that lots of people tell lies.  Just because lots of people do something does not make it good or right. There are lots of reasons that people give to attempt to justify living together outside of marriage. As the old dictum states – non tenet aquam – the arguments do not hold water!  Living together before marriage does not make for a more successful or happier marriage.  In fact, it adds additional struggles and challenges to marriage.

On the topic of marriage, Catholics should be married in the Catholic Church.  As Catholics, we believe marriage is a sacrament.  The sacraments are instruments of divine grace to aid us in growing in holiness in this life and ultimately serve to help us get to heaven.  Our Catholic faith teaches us that marriage is a permanent, life long, exclusive relation between one man and one woman for the good of the couple (unitive) and for the good of children born of that relationship (procreative).  When one or both parties is a Catholic and married, but not in the Catholic Church, that marriage should be blessed (con-validated) in the Catholic Church.  This elevates the nature of the marriage from a natural state to a sacramental (supernatural) state.  For any couple who wishes to have their marriage “blessed” in the Church, all they need to do to begin the process is call the parish office.

There is great confusion among Catholics and others about what an annulment is (see the latest kerfuffle about UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson).  There are many common misconceptions about this.  I find that what most people know is simply and totally wrong!  The Catholic Church has done a terrible job in eradicating the myths about annulments and all the bad information that surrounds them.  For starters, annulments are not just for the rich, famous, or well connected.  Anyone can petition for an annulment.  The judgement is based on the objective merits of the petition and not on anything else.  Annulments do not cost thousands of dollars.  There is a fee for some types of cases but ability to pay is not a factor in the acceptance of a petition or its decision.  For those who are unable to cover the fees, the fees are waived without prejudice.  Church annulments (decrees of nullity) have no impact on civil matters (inheritance, legitimacy of children, alimony or child support, civil validity, etc.).  Annulments are an ecclesial reality that examine ONLY the sacramental quality of a marriage at the time it was entered.  Some types of annulments (Absence of Canonical Form cases) can be quickly and easily granted at the parish level. Most nullity cases are handled at the local level of the Diocesan Tribunal.  Most of these cases usually can be completed within several months to a year although some can take longer. Only in extremely rare instances does a case have to go to Rome. 

Lastly, a Catholic who is divorced is not excluded from receiving Holy Communion just because they are divorced.  Only if a Catholic is divorced and then marries outside the Catholic Church should they refrain from receiving Communion.  Even when we are not able to receive Holy Communion, we are still members of the Church and should still come and offer Mass and participate in the life of faith. 

Have a great week!

In pace Christi,
Fr. Troy