Getting Married in the Catholic Church
Christian marriage is a natural institution raised by Jesus Christ and His suffering on the Cross to also being a supernatural institution. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that marriage is an order in the Church, the order of spouses (see CCC 1537, 1631). While marriage is certainly a covenant between the couple, it is a covenant also with God administered by His Catholic Church. A covenant is an institution that makes a family where there was not one by nature. Coming to the Church for marriage in the Catholic Church means understanding and being adequately prepared for this vocation. It requires understanding the meaning of the vocation, of the covenant itself, and of the rights and duties of married couples. We live in a time in which marriage is misunderstood, attacked, and undermined. Relationships are more difficult than ever before and flourishing marriages are becoming rare. This means that the couples formation for marriage must address these challenges. Therefore, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter requires all couples seeking marriage to undergo proper marriage formation.
Christian Marriage, as are all the Sacraments, is intimately united to the Paschal Mystery and so if both partners are Catholic, it is normally celebrated within the Mass. The couple may choose the pastor or his associate as the official witness, or for a good reason another priest. However, parishioners must first contact and meet with the pastor at which time, their preferences can be made known. If the one of the partners is a non-Catholic Christian, is not baptized, or if one or both have been previously married we strongly recommend you contact the pastor as early as possible. These circumstances require additional time to address. If there was a previous marriage for either partner and no formal declaration of nullity (colloquially called an annulment) has been issued by a diocesan marriage tribunal, you must see the pastor immediately, certainly before making any plans.
In order to prepare the couple for the vocation of marriage, to prepare for its challenges, and to provide each couple with integral formation, we strongly recommend that each couple discerning marriage begin a process of discernment and formation as early as possible. Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church has partnered with Mother of the Americas Institute to provide parishioners with a program of marriage formation and facilitated discernment. This program, called The Great Mystery, may be started before the couple makes the decision to marry in order to discern in a systematic and thoughtful manner. Whether engaged or not the couple must start the program a minimum of one year before their desired marriage date. This program, called The Great Mystery, is developed to teach the couple the meaning of the Christian vocation of marriage, to understand the general challenges of married life, to identify and overcome any issues specific to the couple which might threaten a flourishing marriage, and to develop the virtue and spiritual maturity needed for a joyful marriage. More information on The Great Mystery can be found here. Couples interested in more information about this program should contact Deacon David Delaney, [email protected]. Couples who are engaged already should first make an appointment to see the pastor.
For couples who are unable to commit to at least a year of formation, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter requires a couple have a minimum of six months of preparation. Couples seeking marriage at Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church must make an appointment with and see the pastor NO LATER THAN six months prior to the desired date of marriage to permit six months of preparation. Moreover, with issues of scheduling and church availability, we strongly recommend you contact the parish at least 7-10 months before your desired date. In any case, you must NOT set a date or make any contractual commitments until after you speak with the pastor. If you are engaged, you should call the parish and ask for an appointment to speak with the pastor about being prepared for marriage, (210) 695-2944.
Facilitated courtship is offered at Our Lady of the Atonement, through Mother of the Americas Institute. It is currently available for a limited number of couples due to available facilitators. Couples will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. A couple should consider themselves in courtship when their relationship is exclusive (they have explicitly agreed not to date any other person) and they know each other sufficiently well to know they can trust each other to keep in confidence the private details that must be shared in order to fully discern a potential marriage. When the couple believes God may be calling them to marriage and are ready to discern the possible vocation between them more deeply and systematically through facilitated courtship, you should contact Deacon Delaney, [email protected].
For more information, see our tutorial on Holy Matrimony.