Marriage, also known as matrimony, is a sacrament in the Catholic Church; it is the union of one male to one female in order to come closer to God and is the appropriate venue in which to bear children. Marriage is a sacred covenant between each spouse with each other and with God.
A sacrament is an outward expression of inward grace. Sacramentally speaking, each spouse in the marriage acts as a conduit of God’s grace to the other spouse, hence the reason it is a sacrament. Christ is the source of this grace and the spouses serve as Christ to each other.
Conditions for a Sacramental Marriage
In order for the marriage to be considered a sacramental marriage, it must meet the following conditions:
- Each person must be baptised.
- Each person is entering into the marriage upon their own free will; neither person could be coerced into marriage.
- Each person must not be impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
Prior to marriage, a couple will be required to undergo marriage preparation. This is not wedding planning, but rather it is to help couples lay a strong foundation for their marriage.
A Catholic is permitted to marry a baptised non-Catholic and is referred to by the Church as a mixed marriage.
In a marriage ceremony, it is not the priest who marries the couple, but rather it is the man and woman who marry each other. The two joining in matrimony are the ones conferring the sacrament upon each other and not through the priest or deacon.
A marriage is considered consummated upon sexual intercourse of the married spouses. Sexual intercourse is considered the full physical expression of the joining of the man and woman in marriage and is analogous to God’s expression of love for us.
Children are often considered fruit of a marriage, but the ability to bear children is not a prerequisite to marriage. A married couple is not required to have children, but the Church teaches that if there is no reason not to have children that married couples should have children. Having children allows us to participate as co-creators with God and is one of the greatest gifts given by God.
Marriage is intended to be a union that lasts until the death of one of the spouses. It is a union that God has brought together and no person is able to dissolve that union. The annulment process is not a Catholic divorce, but rather it is a process that determines if the marriage was ever really a marriage (meeting the conditions above for a sacramental marriage).