The Sacrament of Marriage
In a Christian marriage, the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1638
In the Sacrament of Marriage, a man and woman not only enter into a civil, contractual relationship with one another but perhaps more importantly, freely form a sacred covenantal relationship with God grounded in love. The love shared by the couple in this sacrament is a reflection of the love that God has shared with them from the beginning, a love that is freely given and always faithful, a love that is meant to last forever, that is both fruitful and mutually forgiving.
In the Diocese of Cleveland, the period of preparation for marriage begins at least six month prior to the proposed wedding day. Either the bride or the groom (hopefully both!) must be an active and participating member of our parish. The couple is free to choose either our pastor or one of the parish deacons to guide the pre-marriage process. We welcome Catholic priests or deacons from other parishes and also ministers from other denominations to participate in the liturgy to the extent that they are able to do so. We do not allow the sanctuary to be used for non-Catholic wedding services nor is Mulligan Hall available for wedding receptions. Small family gatherings after the rehearsal may be held in the hall or in the Parish Center.
We encourage you to begin your marriage preparation process as soon as possible after your engagement, just in case there are conflicts with Church law that must be attended to as part of the process. If you are already married and your celebration was civil in nature or took place in a non-sacramental celebration in another denomination, it is possible to look at your particular circumstances and seek to reconfirm your marriage as a sacramental union. If you have any questions, please contact any parish staff member.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.
The Church takes seriously the teaching of Jesus that a marriage between a man and a woman is not to be separated by any other human being. That being said, the Church also realizes that in spite of the very best desires, hopes and intentions of a couple, there may come a time and particular reasons why it is best for one or both of the parties to separate, severing the civil union that they had formed. While a divorce may serve as a legal end to a marriage, the sacramental bond formed by a couple in their marriage continues to endure. To put it another way, while the Church has no control over civil legalities, the laws of the state hold no sway over the Church’s sacramental life or its own system of canon law.
Annulments are often mistaken as a “Catholic divorce,” offering one an opportunity to marry validly in the Church for a second time. Annulments do not in any way address the civil and legal aspects of marriage. Rather, they only address the sacramental bond the couple sought to establish on their wedding day. While a legal divorce looks to the reasons that brought an end to a relationship, the annulment process explores the couple’s relationship prior to their marriage and the human realities of their families of origin to verify that for reasons specific to a particular marriage, one or both of the parties lacked the necessary personal freedom required to validly celebrate a sacrament. Impediments, often related to psychological immaturity, patterns of infidelity or issues of chemical abuse or addiction may be factors in the overall determination that a sacramental marriage did not and could not take place. Please remember that any declaration of an invalid sacramental marriage does not in any way, shape or form question the legitimacy of any children that were born in that union.
Every relationship is unique and so is the annulment process. Some questions of nullity can be handled quickly and inexpensively through a simple exchange of paperwork; other cases are more complex and time consuming. Contrary to popular belief, while minimal legal fees are associated with the annulment process, no one will ever be denied an annulment for an inability to pay for the process. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our pastor, Fr. Phil, to personally discuss your situation.