Continued from LAST WEEK
Since marriage has always been the state of life, indeed the vocation, of the vast majority of the Christian faithful, it has been a central theme of the Church’s teaching and the canonical discipline rooted in that teaching. From the beginning, the Church’s approach to marriage has been anchored in a few texts from the New Testament, ranging from Christ’ condemnation of divorce as a distortion of the original intention for marriage and a concession to human hardness of heart (Mt 19:3–12; Mk 10:2–12; Mt 5:31–32; Lk 16:18); Paul’s response to questions from feuding members of the church in Corinth about marriage, divorce, and virginity (1 Cor. 7); and also, the reflection by the author of the epistle to the Ephesians on the analogy between the relationship of husband and wife and that between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22–33).
Basic requirements for a Holy Matrimony In order to be married in the Catholic Church, a man and a woman who present themselves for Holy Matrimony must meet the following requirements:
1. Must be at least 18
2. Never Married before, or if previously married, their spouse is now deceased.
3. Not related to each other by blood (first cousin or closer).
4. Both are capable of the marital sexual act.
5. Both intend to enter a permanent, indissoluble marriage, and to be faithful to each other for life.
6. Both intend to enter a marriage that is open to the procreation and raising of children.
7. One of the two must be a Catholic. Purpose of Holy Matrimony The Catechism teaches that Christ’s grace in the Sacrament of Marriage protects the essential purposes of marriage: the good of the couple and the generation and education of children. These purposes are protected and fostered by the permanence of the marriage bond and the mutual fidelity of the spouses. “What God has joined together; no human being must separate” (Mk 10:9). We have already noted that God’s plan for marriage involves a permanent covenant embraced by the couple.
The Church declares every valid sacramental consummated marriage to be indissoluble, that is, no one can dissolve the marriage bond. The Sacrament obliges marital fidelity between the spouses. Love has a definitive quality about it. It is more than a practical arrangement or a temporary contract. Marital intimacy and the good of the children require total fidelity to conjugal love. This flows from Christ’s own fidelity to the Church, which he loved so much that he died for her. By their mutual fidelity, the spouses continue to make present to each other the love of Christ and lead each other to greater holiness through the grace they receive from the Sacrament. Married love is ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children.
These are the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage. “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory” (CCC, no. 1652; GS, no. 48). The fruitfulness of married love includes the moral, spiritual, and faith life the parents hand on to their children. Parents, as principal educators of their children, are at the service of life. Together with their children, parents form what the Second Vatican Council called the domestic church. The Church lives in the daily life of families, in their faith and love, in their prayers and mutual care. The Catechism notes that “All the members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way” (CCC, no. 1657).
Not all married couples are able to have children. “Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning and can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality and of sacrifice” (CCC, no. 1654). Conclusion Every marriage will encounter difficulties at different times of their union. After all, when two imperfect people unite, it will be an imperfect union. But God instituted marriage to reflect his loving relationship with his Church (the bride of Christ), and we should do our best to live it out this love (Is.62:5; Rev. 19:7). Unlike competitive games, marriage is a partnership in which both parties win or else both lose. The husband and wife are responsible for each other both in time and eternity. Marriage should not be avoided but should be carefully prepared for (CCC 1632), which is a responsible role for both the couples and the Church Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2Cor. 13:11).
• Rev. Sr. Mary Judith Madueke EHJ, Director of Religious Education, Archdiocese of Lagos.