“Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us.” (Pope Francis, April 2, 2014)
To get married in Church means so much more than getting married in a church. Why?
We are all created in the image of God who is Love Personified. Human beings of all cultures, races and religions, aspire to love and be loved.
This love does not come from us, its origin is not from within us: it is from God. Through this love and our whole existence, God wishes that we come to discover how very deeply he loves us. It is in the signs that he sends us and in certain particular experiences that we live through.
When a man and a woman celebrate their marriage, they are a reflection of God who has marked them with the traits and indelible characteristics of his love.
A marriage of three
Marriage is not a symbol that resembles the love of God, like the leaves that flutter in the wind. Catholic marriage IS the visible sign (= a sacrament) of the real – although invisible – presence of God in the spouses’ love story.
God knows our desire for love, but also our limitations for loving.
Moreover, it is precisely to help us to become capable of loving as deeply as we would like to, without having to settle for a lesser love, that Jesus – God who became man – died on the cross for us and for his Church. That is the power of the glorious Cross: the death of our limitations for love, the infinite love of God that conquers the power that ego and death have over us!
Therefore, at each wedding, along with the spouses, Jesus also makes a commitment, as he did in Cana, in Galilee. Jesus offers them the same love as the one that he offered on the Cross. Invigorated and carried by this divine Love, the spouses are from then on able to love each other completely in their daily lives, in the little things and the bigger ones, as they mutually give their life as a gift to the other.
Therefore, marriage is a sacrament that is the visible and powerful sign of the invisible yet real presence of God’s infinite love for each of the spouses throughout their lives.
The four pillars of marriage
To truly love is to forget the self to devote oneself to the happiness of the other. For love to be true, the kind of love that fills the heart, it must express four elements: it must be total, free, faithful and life-giving.
1- Total love
“So, they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Matthew. 19:6)
Conjugal love is a commitment of the whole person – body, heart and mind – where the spouses aspire to become “only one flesh”, one heart and one spirit with their beloved.
Conjugal love does not keep anything for itself and places no limits on the gift of self.
2- A love that is free
To be a true gift, love must not be the result of an obligation or a debt: it must have liberty, be offered freely, be without condition, have no contract that dictates what each one must do for the other; love does not keep a score, it is given without counting the cost, without expecting anything in return.
3- Faithful love
People who love each other want to belong to one another forever, from youth to old age, until death, and beyond.
“It is difficult [to think] that the person who does not decide to love forever could really love for even a day.” (Pope John Paul II, April 8, 1987, Argentina)
Through the Sacrament of Marriage, God “seals” (=solemnly confirms) the union between the spouses and gives them the gift of the “indissolubility” of their marriage, the gift of a bond that will last forever, like his love for each of the spouses of all of humanity. The indissolubility of marriage is a gift that responds to the deep desires of the spouses.
“What God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
4- A love that is life giving
By its very nature, authentic love is immeasurably generous: it wishes to spill over and cannot be contained. It wishes to create something new, produce fruit; it desires to create life, give life. This overabundance of love that has become life is a child – or children – each one a unique gift from God’s love for the couple. If the couple cannot conceive, the overabundance of their love can be channelled into a plan to adopt or sponsor a child or children, or any other life-giving service to society.
“The overabundance of love will also be manifested through the couple’s friendships which will serve to nourish and support the couple. Also, those friendships of the couple will also heal the wounds of people who were abandoned, establish a culture of encounter, fight for justice (…) so that all may feel that every man is a brother (…) the life-giving effect of the couple will grow and translate itself in a thousand ways to make present the love of God in society.” (The Joy of Love, 183-184).
“To want to have a family, is to decide to be a part of God’s dream, (…) to join him in this great story of the building of a world where no one will feel alone.” (Pope Francis, 26 September, 2015, Philadelphia)
A perfectly natural love!
“ In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values."(Saint John-Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 13)
“Learning to love someone does not happen automatically (…) In reality, each person begins marriage preparation at birth. What they received from their family should prepare them to know themselves and to make a full and definitive commitment.” (The Joy of Love, 208)
You are getting married in the Church? Congratulations!
“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” (The Joy of Love, 1)
As a couple, it is important to know that marriage preparation is more about preparing for the rest your life rather than planning for a ceremony or celebration!
Did you know…
…getting married in Church is to enter into a union of three?
“To want to have a family is to decide to be a part of God’s dream, (…) to join him in the great story of building a world where nobody will feel alone.” (Pope Francis)
…will you make the commitment to God to let him fill you with his love to the point where it will spill over beyond your life as a couple?
…marriage is not a private project. You also make a commitment to those that you will meet throughout your life to help them to discover the love of God that will shine through you!
…the Sacrament of Marriage will make possible for you things that appear to be impossible on a human scale, but that you still deeply desire.
Catholic marriage is a very special plan. Are you aware of it?
Do you accept to receive the great gift and important mission that God wishes to offer you?
The Church is there to offer you the best marriage preparation possible for this bold plan for abundant love!
For further information:
“Christian marriage is a sign of how much Christ loved his Church in the covenant sealed on the cross, yet it also makes that love present in the communion of the spouses.” (The Joy of Love, 73)
The Church wishes to be close to each Christian couple and to accompany them in their growth. The Church desires that each couple discover the infinite love that God wishes to give to them, the mission that He would like to entrust them with, and the best way to overcome the difficulties inherent in this Christian vocation that is both beautiful and demanding.
“All marriages face difficult moments, but these experiences of the cross may make the path of love even stronger.” (Pope Francis, 2013/09/28)
Some advice from Pope Francis for dealing with difficulties and challenges in all marriages
“Their gaze now has to be directed to the future that, with the help of God’s grace, they are daily called to build. For this very reason, neither spouse can expect the other to be perfect. Each must set aside all illusions and accept the other as he or she actually is: an unfinished product, needing to grow (…) The blessing that they receive is a grace and an incentive for this journey that is always open.” (The Joy of Love, 218)
“To live together is an art, a patient journey that is both beautiful and fascinating. (…) Each day’s journey has a set of rules that we can summarize in these words: (…) “Please, May I? Thank you and I am sorry.” (February 14, 2014)
“Argue as much as you want. If the plates fly, let them fly. But do not ever end the day without making peace! Ever!” (October 4, 2013)
“The trials, sacrifices and crises of couples (…) represent pathways for growth in goodness, truth and beauty. In marriage we give ourselves completely without calculating, unreservedly, sharing everything: gifts and hardship, trusting in God’s Providence.” (October 25, 2013)
For further information:
Accompaniment - Groups
Family, Development and Education
Couples in Difficulty
Retrouvailles (soon to come)
Contact the Diocesan Centre for Marriage, Life and the Family.
“May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.”(The Joy of Love,325)
“Let us approach with care and affection those families who are struggling, (…) the ones that are broken (…) or that are suffering for many other reasons, let us approach spouses in crisis and those who are now separated. We want to remain close to all families.” (Pope Francis, 2013/10/25)
Separated/divorced persons who are not in a new union
If you are separated or divorced and are not in a new union, you are always a member of the Church by your baptism. Furthermore, your Christian life is still unfolding within the mission of your sacrament of marriage.
If you wish to remain faithful to your marriage vows, you will find great support and comfort in the Church: you will find the grace (strength) of God offered in abundance especially in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Familiaris consortio, 20 and 83).
In your lasting and exemplary faithfulness to the one who left you, you are a witness to the magnitude and beauty of Christian marriage and to its indissolubility. What is more, by your faithfulness, you are a witness to the unconditional Love of God for each one of us.
Without knowing it, you are a prophet of God: you are a reminder to those around you that only God can fulfill the deepest desires of the heart; indeed, He can do so in marriage, with the help of a spouse, but He can also do it without an intermediary, by filling your heart with His Love, as He has done for thousands of years for monks and nuns who committed themselves to perpetual prayer.
Appearances are often deceiving: in reality, you are not alone.
Separated and divorced persons in a new union
If you are divorced and in a new union, you are always a member of the Church through your baptism. Contrary to what you may have read or heard, you are not excommunicated, as Pope Francis reminds us here:
The Church does not judge you; only God can search hearts and minds. No matter your state in life, by staying and participating in the life of the Church (especially in the Mass and through personal prayer), you will receive the grace (the strength) of God that will support you and illuminate your path toward the abundant life that God wishes to give you. The ways of God are mysterious; only He can make straight the wavy lines of our lives.
Above all, do not forget that you are not alone: the Church is there for you and with you!
Steps to be taken to obtain a declaration of nullity of marriage
If you are separated or divorced, whether you are remarried civilly or not, you may ask the Church to verify if the conditions that would have made your marriage valid as a sacrament (link to The Meaning of Marriage) were all present at the time you entered into it.
If that was not the case, you could receive, after your case has been studied, a declaration of nullity; this declaration of nullity is not a catholic divorce – a concept that does not exist in the Church, nor is it an annulment of marriage. It is more a declaration that the marriage that was thought valid was not; to be more precise, it never existed, because the necessary preconditions were not met.
To better understand the process for obtaining a declaration of nullity of marriage or for any other question, please contact the Ecclesiastical Tribunal.
“Marital spirituality is a spirituality of the bond, in which divine love dwells (…) Moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection.” (The Joy of Love, 315 and 317)
In his many speeches, Pope Francis, often addresses the subject of marriage and of the spirituality of the couple. An entire chapter of The Joy of Love is dedicated to it. Written in a way that is clear and accessible, we highly recommend that you read it.
Here is some advice and thoughts from Pope Francis that will enrich your marriage
“The most important thing is to walk together, (…) mutually helping each other, (…) to recognize our faults and ask for forgiveness, but also to accept the apologies of the other by forgiving. This is so important! “ (2013/10/04)
“Contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them (…) We are constantly reminded that each of those who live with us merits complete attention, since he or she possesses infinite dignity as an object of the Father’s immense love. This gives rise to a tenderness which can “stir in the other the joy of being loved.” (The Joy of Love, 323)
“The principle of spiritual realism requires that one spouse not presume that the other can completely satisfy his or her needs. The spiritual journey of each (…) helps to remove the illusions regarding the other, to stop expecting from that person something which is proper to the love of God alone.” (The Joy of Love, 320)
“The space which each of the spouses makes exclusively for their personal relationship with God not only helps heal the hurts (…) but also enables the spouses to find in the love of God the deepest source of meaning in their own lives.” (The Joy of Love, 320)