Saturday, October 20, 2012

Year of Faith: On Christian Marriage

Year of Faith 20: On Catholic Marriage: I was surprised once when a parishioner told me that they can not get married yet in church because they had not been civilly married yet. I told them that sacramental marriage and civil marriage maybe done at the same time in church. In fact, that is the requirement in every church. When you apply for church marriage, you will be required to present the app
lication for civil marriage. Pastors apply for a license to marry citizens civilly. Thus, it is not true that couples need to have a civil marriage first before they can apply for sacramental marriage.
Once, I was invited to officiate the marriage of a parishioner. I was told that the place of marriage was in Paco Park. I assumed it will be in the church. When I arrived for the wedding, I realized that it will be done in the garden outside the church and that another pastor, licensed to marry citizens civilly, will preside. I asked my parishioner about it and it turned out that it was a civil wedding! I explained to him that I can not take part in the celebration. At another time, I was invited by a parishioner to their wedding reception. I did not question anymore why I was not invited in the wedding rites. I thought they had another priest who officiated. When I got to the reception, I came to know that their marriage was civil and not church. I told them that they should still get married in church. The answer I got was they thought, having been civilly married, they are already considered married and can now live together. I clarified to them that they were married according to law, and thus, are considered married legally. However, as far as their faith is concerned, they are still unmarried.
I was also told by a number of people that sacramental or church marriage is easier to "annul" than civil marriage. The answer is both yes and no depending on how you would look at it. One clarification, sacramental marriage, when valid from the very beginning can not be annulled for whatever reason. Thus, when "annulment" cases are heard in church, what is being determined is whether there was defect at the time they are being married. In that case, the declaration of nullity in the church is actually a declaration that there was no marriage from the beginning. In civil marriage, "annulment" means more. Even if civilly valid, marriages may be invalidated for some reasons, the famous being psychological incapacity on the part of a partner.
Sacramental marriage is more than just a rite. It is a sacrament as the name suggests. As a sacrament, it is a channel of grace from God. Couples are married not only for their own purpose. God has a purpose for them. The couple serve to witness to the love of God for us and our love for Him. Couples have the responsibility to mirror God's presence and care for us. This is clear in the marriage rite. Unfortunately, couples who are married in church do not take very important note of this. Marriage is a vocation not only for the couples themselves, but for God's purpose. Yes, they need to pro-create, and build a family where God's love may find a concrete relevance for the couple and the children. But it is not a private affair. They have the responsibility to share that love and faith to others. From here, all other challenges regarding married life are founded. Whatever problems, issues, questions, confusions, and other concerns, will find a satisfactory response in God's loving invitation and purpose.
Therefore, Sacramental Marriage is sacred! It is a means to salvation. Let it be that way!

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