When a couple marry in the Catholic Church, the ceremony speaks of love, permanent commitment, fidelity, openness to children, and perseverance in good times and bad. It is these qualities which make marriage a unique relationship. There is no other human relationship which requires so total a commitment between two people.
In fact, marriage is more than a relationship. It is a union, a communion, between husband and wife. Their life together is now very different from their lives as two separate individuals.
Once married, everything they do is done with the other in mind.
They do not lose their individual identity, but that identity is enriched by sharing life with the other partner. Their marriage holds out an extraordinary challenge: to become so completely united that everything they do, big or small, is geared towards strengthening and deepening their union. There is no development unless both develop, no happiness unless both are happy. And so their communion grows through their years together. It can never remain static.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is involved in a celebration of marriage in the Catholic Church?
The Rite of Marriage comprises four parts:
• The Introduction and Welcome
• Liturgy of the Word
• Liturgy of Marriage
• Concluding Rite.
During the Introduction, the couple declare their intention to marry and the assembly pray an opening prayer.
The Liturgy of the Word consists of Readings from Scripture (between one and three readings) and a homily.
The Liturgy of Marriage includes the exchange and reception of consent, the nuptial blessing, the blessing and exchange of rings, the Prayer of the Faithful, the Lord's Prayer.
During the concluding rite the civil documents are signed and the parents or family pray over the couple. This is followed by the blessing.
What is the difference between a Catholic marriage with a Nuptial Mass and one without it?
With a nuptial Mass you celebrate Mass and receive the Eucharist. If Nuptial Mass is not celebrated, usually Holy Communion is not distributed.
If both the bride and groom are Catholic and most of the congregation are likely to be Catholic the nuptial mass would be customary. If one person is not a Catholic, and a large number of the guests are not Catholics, then the couple may choose not to have a Nuptial Mass.
Can a divorced non-Catholic person remarry in the Catholic Church?
The non-Catholic would have to have an annulment or a dissolution of the marriage. The process depends on the situation of the earlier marriage.
If he/she married a Catholic in a civil ceremony without permission the annulment process will be straight forward.
If both people were baptised non-Catholics there would be a formal annulment process.
Whichever the situation, the couple would be advised to speak with either their parish priest or the personnel of the local diocesan marriage tribunal as soon as possible. It can be complicated so it is best to get advice first hand from your local diocesan marriage tribunal.
It is also best to make inquiries sooner rather than later to avoid upsetting marriage plans.
Can I marry a non-Catholic in the Catholic Church?
Provided that both persons are free to marry, it is permissible to marry in the Catholic Church. All that is expected is that the Catholic party will undertake to do what is possible to bring children up as Catholics and the non-Catholic is informed of this undertaking. The priest who is going to do the wedding will arrange the necessary paperwork for permissions and help you to plan a suitable ceremony.
The priest celebrant will give some direction about marriage preparation programmes.
Can a Catholic marry a non-Christian in the Catholic Church?
Assuming that both persons are free to marry, it is possible for a Catholic to marry a non-Christian (a person who is not baptised) in the Catholic Church.
It will be necessary for the Catholic to speak with the parish priest and obtain a dispensation to marry a non-Christian. This dispensation is readily given.
The Catholic person will be asked to make a promise to do all in his or her power in order that any children are baptised and brought up in the Catholic faith. The non-Christian person must be informed of this promise.
Parts of this material was prepared by Elizabeth Delaney sgs, Information Officer, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference with thanks to Catholic Ireland for the use of their content. Copyright © 2005.