Theology of Marriage
In comparison to the six other sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Reconciliation), marriage is not something that is prototypic of the Christian faith. As a covenantal and exclusive relationship between a man and a woman, marriage as an institution preceded the Christian faith, and may be of an origin so ancient that it came into existence even before mankind, as a species, developed a religious “sense” or “imagination.” Marriage, then, is an utterly natural institution that has likely existed from the very beginning of humanity, the creator of which is God. Hence, “God himself is the author of marriage (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603).”
Christ, in recognizing the inherent value of marriage in the natural order of things, raised it to the dignity of a sacrament. By doing so, our Lord intended to firmly place marriage, as a natural institution, in the economy of Christian salvation.
As instituted by Christ, Catholic marriage is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. The aforementioned “good” toward which marriage is ordered consists of a husband and his wife fulfilling their utterly human desire for belonging, security, and intimate companionship. The aforementioned “procreation and education of offspring” toward which marriage is ordered consists, clearly enough, of a married couple – in and by their expression of their marital love – being open to new life and, if willed by God, responsibly raising children and building as their home a “domestic Church” in which the husband and wife participate with the Creator as co-creators and with Christ as priests.
Christian marriage, then, is both unitive and procreative. Ratified in the marriage bond that is sealed by God, the marriage into which both the man and the woman must freely enter is indissoluble for as long as both shall live. Furthermore, the minister of the Sacrament of Marriage is not a priest or a deacon, but, rather, the couple themselves. As ministers of their own covenant, then, the married couple is strengthened by Christ in their marital resolve, perfected by Christ in their love, and aided by Christ in the Christian formation of their children.
The Process for Arranging a Wedding at St. Columbkille
Couples ought to call the parish office at least 6 months before the day on which they intend to get married to both reserve the church and arrange for their first meeting with one of the parish priests.
The marriage preparation period is at least 6 months long, during which time the couple is required to meet with one of St. Columbkille’s priests or deacons three times and attend an archdiocesan approved marriage preparation program. In addition, during this time the couple will also be in contact with St. Columbkille’s Director of Music to arrange the music program for the ceremony.
1st meeting (arranged as soon as possible)
The goal of the first meeting is for the priest or deacon to ascertain the couple’s suitability for marriage in the Church. In addition, the priest or deacon reviews with the couple some of the administrative details that pertain to celebrating a wedding in the parish, including the provision of necessary sacramental records and the establishment of a firm date and time for the wedding, inclusive of a day and time for the required wedding rehearsal.
During this meeting, the couple should be prepared to also answer some of the following questions:
- What are your personal stories? When did you first meet? How did your relationship progress? How and when did you fall in love? Describe the proposal.
- What is your understanding of Christian marriage?
- Why do you desire to be married in the Roman Catholic Church?
- How do you want/need the Church to be with you and to support you during this time of being engaged and preparing for your marriage?
2nd meeting (5 to 8 weeks after the 1st meeting)
At the second meeting, the priest or deacon will complete with the couple a form called the “Preliminary Interrogatory” which collects general information about the couple and also asks the couple some general questions about their intention to be married in the Catholic Church. In addition, during this meeting there is conversation about any particular issues that may pertain to the upcoming marriage.
Between the end of this meeting and the final meeting, the couple, if they have not done so already, must attend an archdiocesan-approved marriage preparation program.
St. Columbkille suggests that couples attend the marriage preparation program offered at the Espousal Retreat House and Conference Center in Waltham, Massachusetts. Other approved marriage preparation programs are detailed on the Archdiocese of Boston’s website.
3rd meeting (1-2 months before the Wedding)
This meeting occurs after the couple has attended a marriage preparation program.
During this final meeting with the priest or deacon, he will assist the couple with planning the marriage ceremony at the Church. This includes prayers, scripture readings, and other sacramental details.
During this meeting, the man and the woman will also each be asked to consider receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation some time proximate to the wedding day.