The Sacrament of Marriage – Part I

Dear friends in Christ:

Although it no longer holds firmly as it once did, June is still the month of weddings so, to all who are celebrating wedding anniversaries this month, Happy Anniversary! While many couples traditionally celebrated nuptials in June, today weddings occur year round. So again, to all of our married couples, whatever month your special day falls in, Happy Anniversary!
Marriage is indeed a wonderful gift to the human family. Marriage was so esteemed by Jesus that it was at the celebration of a wedding that he performed his first miracle. Moreover, Jesus elevated marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament. In the Nuptial Blessing that takes place within the wedding liturgy, the Church acknowledges how special marriage is when she prays:

“O God, by whom woman is joined to man and the companionship they had in the beginning is endowed with the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood.”

For us as Catholics the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is not just a social contract or a family celebration or even simply a lifestyle – it is a means of grace. Thus for us as Catholics, marriage and the things associated with marriage, are sacred. In other words, marriage is not just a personal or private moment for a couple, it is an ecclesial reality – a “Church thing”. This can be surprising to many people as we live in such a highly secularized and individualistic society which places extreme value on personal autonomy. Personal choice and freedom in a very exaggerated form is the currency of our secular culture. In case you have any doubts, just look at how many choices there are in the grocery store for breakfast cereals or spaghetti sauce! There are so many choices it can be overwhelming. While indeed free will is understood by Catholics as a gift from God, we also believe it is a freedom to do the good and to live in communion with God, the community of the Church, and with others. Thus marriage is not a purely private matter but a public and ecclesial reality. This belief and understanding permeates all aspects of marriage from the engagement through the nuptials to the everyday living out of the holy and sacred vow, ‘until death do us part’!
So, for Catholics entering marriage there is more to consider than the reception venue or locale for the ceremony. Marriage is the celebration and reception of a Sacrament of the Church, a means of sanctifying grace and a moment of entering a vocation of discipleship. (This sounds different than the consideration of the catering menu, flowers, photographs and video or bridesmaid dresses and, it is!). As Catholics we see and understand marriage as something truly holy, a means to love God, to follow Jesus, and to receive his divine grace; we understand and believe marriage to be a Sacrament.
The wedding therefore, while truly a celebration of joy for the bride and groom and their family and friends, is also a sacred liturgy, an act of worship by the Church. It is for these reasons that the Catholic Church holds for all her members that marriage is to be celebrated and lived in a particular manner. The way in which Catholics enter and live marriage is different from the way others do (those of other faiths and no faith). There are elements that are similar but because the realities are different, there are real differences in how marriage is entered into and lived.
Over the next couple of weeks I will go over some of the particulars of marriage and weddings in the Catholic Church in the Bulletin letter. In the meantime I ask that we keep in our prayers all of our married couples and, most especially, our engaged couples and newly married couples.
Have a great summer and remember to bring someone to Mass with you!

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately