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The SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish is celebrating the Year of Catechesis from July 2022 – June 2023. The theme of the Year is: Journeying Together in Renewing our Faith. Each month, a new topic is addressed.


December 2022 Topic: The SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE


Marriage is a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. This partnership between the baptized has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament

The Catholic Church teaches that God Himself is the author of marriage. The bible begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and concludes with a vision of “the wedding-feast of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9). Through marriage a man and a woman become one flesh, signifying the unbreakable union (Gen. 2:24; Mt 19:6)

The first inclusion of marriage among the seven sacraments occurred at the Council of Verona in 1118. The Council of Trent (1545) reaffirmed the institution of marriage as a sacrament instituted by Christ and the Church’s authority is mandated to regulate it.

A man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life by means of a matrimonial covenant.

Marriage is both a Contract and a Covenant. The concept of marriage as a CONTRACT emphasis;

  • The secular and human nature of marriage (natural and social institution).
  • Mutual rights and obligations of the spouses.

The concept of marriage as a COVENANT serves to broaden and enrich the concept of Christian marriage by linking it to;

  • The covenant between God and His people
  • The Pauline image of the Church as the spouse of Christ (i.e Marriage symbolizes the union of Christ and the Church; Eph 5:21-25)

The dimension of marriage as an intimate sharing of life and love.

Marriage has existed as a natural and social institution, although sacred, from the very beginning of creation. It is Jesus who elevated it to the dignity of a sacrament. In His presence at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, the Church sees the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence and hence a sacrament. The Code of Canon Law, Can. 1055 states that, a valid matrimonial covenant cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.

In marriage the partners “establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life.” (Can. 1055). This partnership is a communion between two equal partners that goes beyond physical sexual union. In concrete terms, the partnership of the whole life means that, the destinies of the partners are inseparably intertwined ‘in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.’ Only death of one of the spouses or a decree of annulment or dissolution of the marital bond by a competent ecclesiastical authority can terminate the partnership.

The ends of marriage are;

  • good of the spouses (Conjugal love and companionship)
  • Procreation and upbringing of the children (Becoming co-creators with God)

Since the achievement of the ends of marriage is somewhat beyond the power of the spouses, the failure to attain them does not in itself affect the validity of marriage. For example, even though marriage is ordered to the procreation and education of offspring, childless marriages are presumed to be valid. Only if one or both spouses intentionally refuse to get a child, then, they contract marriage invalidly.

‘Properties’ means the qualities that flow from the very nature of marriage itself, so that without them there can never be a real marriage. The essential properties of marriage are;

  1. Unity

Unity signifies exclusivity of marriage bond, i.e., sacrament of marriage excludes polygamy or polyandry. In marriage, a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other. To include anyone else within this privileged sphere of marital intimacy violates the unity proper to marriage. Christ totally and undividedly gives himself to the church; the same should happen between spouses.

2. Indissolubility

Man must not separate what God has joined togetherMk 10:9. Sacrament of marriage is a perpetual relationship which not only should not be terminated but cannot be terminated; even if the couple’s existential relationship is irretrievably broken. A sacramental marriage that has been validly contracted and subsequently consummated is absolutely indissoluble.

  • If one or both spouses did not freely and willingly give marriage consent. Where marriages are arranged by parents and elders, the parties must at least freely consent to the person proposed. Expect the spouses; NO human power, parents, family, state or Church can supply matrimonial consent.

 

  • If it is contracted by person(s) who; lack sufficient use of reason, who suffer from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties, or who are not able to assume the obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature.  Profound mental retardation, manic depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychological immaturity, alcohol dependence, homosexuality and other sexual perversions are some of the causes of incapacity to contract marriage.

 

  • If it is contracted by person(s) who are ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between man and woman ordered towards their mutual good and the procreation of children by means of sexual cooperation.

 

  • If error concerning a  person This happens when the contracting party, wanting to marry a determined person, marries someone else by mistake. For example; banns are published for the marriage of Mary and John, but on the wedding day, it is not John but his brother James who exchanges consent with Mary who is totally unaware of it. Mary, therefore, enters marriage in error concerning the person of her partner.

 

  • If error concerning a quality of the partner A quality of person could be moral, physical, social, religious, or legal in nature. For instance, John Marries Mary believing that she is a nurse. He then discovers after the wedding that Mary is actually an accountant working in a hospital. Discovery of the absence of such a presumed quality after marriage may result in a serious disruption of marital life and eventually in the declaration of invalidity of marriage.

 

  • If a party is manipulated to enter to marriage by the other party or third person by deliberately concealing a disruptive quality. Had the party known about the fraud prior to marriage, s/he would have never consented. Qualities that might be grave enough to nullify a marriage when concealed are: prior illicit pregnancy, homosexuality, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual dysfunction (impotence), prior vasectomy or tubectomy, previous marriage, prior crimes like murder, mental illness, infertility, serious infectious diseases, etc.

 

  • If the one who contracts marriage is in error about the unity, indissolubility, or sacramental dignity of marriage.

 

  • If one or both parties who contract a marriage deliberately exclude marriage itself or some essential element or property of marriage. For example, if Jane marries peter (a wealthy businessman) in order to share his wealth, Jane invalidly contracts that marriage.

 

  • If a person is compelled to choose marriage by force or grave fear which is inflicted from without. Since marriage is contracted by the free consent of the parties, a marriage that is forced against one’s will is invalid.

 

  • If the Contracting person(s) suffers one of the following impediments (restrictions to the freedom to marry in the interest of common good);
    1. Below the age of 18 years
    2. Impotence = inability to have the marital act, i.e., sexual intercourse, on the part of the man or the woman, a permanent (i.e., incurable) condition, existing before the marriage.
    3. Prior valid Marriage Bond. This impediment ceases either with the death of one of the spouses or by the dissolution or annulment of the bond of marriage.
    4. Disparity of religion or denomination. If one marries a non-Christian or a non-Catholic, permission (dispensation) from the Bishop must be procured, through the Fr. In-Charge, before the marriage is celebrated.
    5. Holy Orders. A Deacon, Priest and Bishop invalidly attempts marriage unless he receives dispensation from the Pope.
    6. Perpetual Vow of Chastity. Those bound by a public perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institutes (e.g., Nuns, Brothers, Religious Priests) invalidly attempt Marriage. For the validity of marriage, one has to obtain dispensation from the competent church authority.
    7. Abduction. A man who abducts or detains a woman for the purpose of marriage cannot validly marry her, at least not until she has been freed in a safe and free place and willingly agrees to marry him.
    8. Crime. Anyone who, with a view to entering marriage, causes the death of one’s own spouse or the spouse of an intended marriage partner, or conspirers with that person to kill the spouse of one of them, invalidly attempts marriage. Dispensation from this impediment is reserved to the Pope.
    9. Consanguinity. Consanguinity is the blood relationship between persons who descend, either legitimately or illegitimately, from a common ancestor. E.g., one cannot validly marry his first cousin, second cousin or even third cousin. If one intends to marry a person who is related to him by blood or adoption, he/she must seek the guidance of the priest.

The sacrament of marriage is a gift received, but also contributed to by the spouses who offer the gift of themselves to each other, and their union to God. Their formation in this dynamic structure of mutual self-gift is life long as they accompany one another, their families, and the Church in the family’s pilgrimage to the Father’s house.

Remote preparation includes infancy, childhood and adolescence, and takes place first of all in the family and also in school and formation groups as a valid assistance to the family.

This is the period in which respect for all authentic human values both in interpersonal and social relations is transmitted and instilled. This leads to formation of character, self-esteem and self-control, the proper use of one’s inclinations and respect for persons of the other sex.

In the weeks before the wedding ceremony, the immediate phase of marriage preparation takes place as a spiritual oasis in the midst of the hectic nature of this time. Contrary to the hecticness of how this period is typically experienced by the engaged, it is essential that the parish assist the couple in taking time for quiet contemplation and prayer through retreats, spiritual direction, other forms of reflection, reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, preparation in regard to the elements and meaning of the wedding liturgy, and the support of mentor couples, clergy, laity, and religious who accompany the engaged.

After the celebration of the sacrament of marriage, the couple is invited to find a “home” in the parish community. The couple is invited to join such Groups like; St. Valentines Couples, Marriage Encounter, CWA, CMA, e.t.c. Families, by their nature, accompany one another through prayer, listening, and generous solidarity in times of joy, need, and in the celebration of the gift of life

The following documents are required when one is booking for a marriage celebration in the Parish:

  • Parties original baptismal Cards, even if from another denomination,
  • Filled prenuptial enquiry form,
  • Marriage Licence from Civil Marriage Registrar’s office,
  • Decree of Dispensation if any, e.g., if it’s a mixed marriage,
  • Filled Marriage Banns Forms,
  • Copies of National ID Cards,
  • Certificate of pre-marital preparation course,
  • Marriage Civil Certificate if the couple has already contracted marriage at Attorney General’s Office.
  • In case of widows/widowers, authentic civil or ecclesiastical certificate of death/burial of their departed spouses with whom they were canonically married.
  • Declaration of nullity or dissolution decree if one or both of the parties was/were married in the Catholic Church before.

The Law of the Church requires that Marriage banns be announced in the Church at least three times. The purpose is to:

  • reveal any impediment
  • reveal any other possible invalidating factors such as psychic illness, gross personal immaturity, force and fear, etc.
  • inform the Parish Community of the upcoming marriage of the future spouses and to request from this community its prayer and participation.

The spouses declare their consent “before God and the Church.” Hence, it is appropriate that they celebrate the wedding in the PARISH CHURCH. Garden weddings are not permitted in the Archdiocese of Nairobi

Catholics can celebrate marriages on any day that is convenient for them except on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. If marriage is celebrated on a day that has a penitential character, especially during the season of Lent, the priest should advise the couple to take into consideration the special nature of that day and season. As per the Kenyan Marriage Act 2014, all marriages shall be celebrated between 8 O’clock in the morning and 6 O’clock in the afternoon.

The Marriage file for each couple has to be properly stored and preserved in the Parish Archives at least for twenty-five years. A copy of the marriage certificate is to be given to the couples, while the other one is to be sent to the office of the Registrar of Marriages.

The following are the effects of the Sacrament of marriage

  1. The sacrament of Matrimony establishes a perpetual and exclusive bond between spouses. God Himself seals the consent of the spouses.
  2. A Marriage that is concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved.
  3. This sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace necessary to attain holiness in their married life.
  4. This sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace to accept responsibly the gift of children and provide for their education.
  5. Christ dwells with the spouses to strengthen their covenant promises, to bear each other’s burdens with forgiveness and kindness, and to experience ahead of time the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

From a valid marriage there arises a perpetual and exclusive bond. A marriage that is ratified (marriage between two baptized persons) and consummated (Occurrence of the first conjugal act) can be dissolved by NO human power and by NO cause, expect death.

However there three special circumstances in which the bond may be dissolved;

  1. If marriage has never been consummated after the celebration of the marriage rite in church between spouses who are both baptised. The dissolution is granted only by the Roman Pontiff
  2. If a natural bond of marriage exists between two unbaptized persons (Man and woman). The bond can be dissolved if one of the persons decides to leave the marriage and get married to a catholic or he/she decides to convert and become and a catholic and re-marry. The dissolution is granted only by the Roman Pontiff
  3. If a non-baptized partner refuses to live peacefully with the baptized partner and departs. The dissolution is granted only by the Local Ordinary.

It is true; the Catholic Church doesn't recognize divorce because she teaches that marriage is permanent.

Christ said, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mk 10:9). What He is saying here is that, in marriage, God joins people together for life. He actually makes the two into one. He binds their souls together. And no one, not even the Catholic Church, is powerful enough to break that bond. It can't be done.

The Church doesn't make up power. She only has the power that God gives to her. So the Church isn't saying "We won't give divorces." She is saying, "We can't. God didn't give us the power to take apart what He puts together." He didn't give that kind of power to anyone, not even His Church.

What, then, is an ANNULMENT? Annulment isn't just "Catholic divorce." An annulment doesn't say that two people were married and now they are not married. Annulment says that, for some reason, a marriage never took place to begin with.

When a couple applies for an annulment, they go to a marriage tribunal. That tribunal looks back at what was going on at the time of the couple's wedding to see if the actual marriage took place. They interview each partner and other people who knew them then to find out what their attitudes were toward the marriage. If either was not committing to a real marriage or was for some reason not able to freely make a commitment (severe immaturity, emotional or mental illness, coercion, etc.), the tribunal declares that no marriage existed and the people are free to marry others. Their marriage hasn't been dissolved. It is only declared that the marriage never existed in the first place.

The Catholic Church views polygamy as morally wrong due to the fact that, God gave us the Sacrament of Marriage as an unbreakable bond between one man and one woman. A polygamous man who wishes to marry one of his wives in the church is to approach his priest to be guided on the possibility of such a marriage, and the conditions/procedures set down by the church.

LGBTQ Activists strive to reconstruct social roles based on transitory desirers rather than the actual biological characteristics that are foundational to marriage and family. “Tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2357) and so same sex unions are not allowed in the Catholic Church.

The Latin Church considers the spouses themselves as the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony, not the officiating priests or deacons as prevalently believed. The role of the officiating minister (priest) is then to preside over the liturgical rite of marriage and to ask for the manifestation of the consent of the contracting parties and to receive it in the name of the Church

A Catholic marriage will be valid only if the spouses exchange their consent in the presence of an authorized minister of the church and at least two additional witnesses. The sole function of these two witnesses is to witness to the fact that the marriage was legitimately celebrated. They should possess the use of reason and capable of understanding the events they are witnessing. Hence, non-Catholics could also be assigned to be the witnesses at a catholic marriage. But couples are encouraged to pick witnesses who could be able to journey with them as they live out their marriage obligations and life

Both the Catholic and non-Catholic party in the new marriage must make promises of freedom to the Catholic party to practice and to bring up the children in the Catholic faith.

  • Putting other things first before your partner

This does not mean you put your relationship in everything you do, but try as much as you can to consider being there for your relationship. Do not be too busy with other staff and leave your spouse unattended to.

  • Money

This can be a huge problem for couples as it brings unnecessary stressors and fights into relationships. It’s an issue that needs to be managed with prudence.

  • Controlling your spouse and the marriage

Don’t be a controlling partner. Give your spouse some space to breath and be his or her own person. Suffocating your partner brings frustration that can cause marriage breakage.

  • Taking your partner for granted

Let your partner know that you appreciate him or her.

  • Failing to romance your partner

Set aside at least one night per week for you and your spouse. Use this regular ‘date night’ to share your hopes and dreams. ‘We all want to be made to feel special.’ Kate Wachs.

  • Failing to understand that marriages have ups and downs

Marriage is all about good times and bad ones. Incredible moments in marriage do not happen every day.

  • Not talking about feelings

Talking about feelings is important and essential for mental health. Not talking about feelings can sometimes cause the couple to speak to each other without much feeling, even coldly, thus becoming more and more estranged.

  • Being more attached to your smartphone than your spouse

The internet offers us a lot of reasons to be online all the time; TikTok, Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube…e.t.c. The more we are connected to the internet and the smartphone, the less we are anchored in reality and involved in working on our relationship, devoting our time to our spouse. We need to find a healthy balance.

  • Failing to work on your attractiveness

Some people will fail to appear attractive to their spouses just because they are in together now. This is too wrong. Remain attractive as you used to when you wanted him or her in. Be the attractive woman he met for the first time and be the attractive man you were when you asked her out.

  • Not talking about problems

Lack of communication is one of the common reasons for divorce. We should not overlook contentious and difficult issues in our marriages. Those undiscussed problems, the ones regularly swept under a rug, accumulate and can eventually explode

Married couples, who purify themselves by the many trials and difficulties of the married life, attain a high degree of sanctity. Men and women who faithfully maintain the marriage union, despite the challenges they may be going through, lead a heroic life and accept in a truly moving way the reality of the sacrament of marriage.

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