The last three weeks I have written about the Sacrament of Marriage. Today I would like to write about some practical and spiritual considerations for couples who are planning to marry. As soon as a couple become engaged they should contact the pastor of the parish where they belong. Do not presume that the church is available for your chosen date and time without confirming this with your pastor! Before the pastor can confirm a date he must first complete the pre-nuptial questionnaire with the couple to insure that no obstacles lie in the way of the Sacrament. This is an important point to remember: it is the Sacrament of Marriage which a couple is requesting from the Church. Like all the Sacraments, this is a celebration of faith, and presupposes faith. It is a sacred ritual which is presided over by the Church’s sacred minister (the priest or deacon), and is celebrated in a sacred place (the church). It is the right of Catholics to receive the Sacrament of Marriage. But it also brings with it responsibilities. These spiritual and practical obligations are not imposed upon the couple (by the priest or by the Church), but are chosen by the couple when they ask to be married in the Church. It is my responsibility to remind couples of those obligations when they request marriage in the Church. What are those obligations? In short, couples need to actively practice the Catholic Faith, and properly prepare for the Sacrament. This means developing a habit of prayer, faithful participation at Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of obligation, regular celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, and generally living a life which conforms to their Christian dignity. Co-habitation (living together) and/or sexual relations before marriage is contrary to Christian teaching, is poor preparation for marriage, and is morally wrong (sinful). When couples approach me about marriage and indicate that one or both of them do not practice their Catholic Faith, I ask them this rhetorical question: Why would you want to receive a Sacrament in the Faith that you do not practice? I ask this question not to discourage couples from getting married in the Church, but rather to help them approach this Sacrament (and all the Sacraments) with a conscious faith. Otherwise the Church becomes just another pretty place to take pictures.
May God bless you!