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The Sacrament of Marriage

A primary responsibility of priests is the celebration of the sacraments.  Among them is the Sacrament of Marriage.  Deacons can also witness the Sacrament of Marriage.  I use the word “witness” deliberately because it is the couple that celebrate the sacrament with each other.  The priest or deacon serve as the official witness of the Church.  The priest or deacon presides over the ceremony.  (Please note if the wedding ceremony includes a full Mass, only the priest celebrates the Mass itself.)

Two weeks ago, I celebrated the marriage ceremony with one couple.  Later this year, I will preside at three other weddings and there are weddings already being scheduled for next year (wedding couples should always contact the church at least six months in advance, some churches require one year).

Certainly the wedding itself as a sacrament is certainly important.  Ultimately, it is God who provides the grace of the sacrament.  The priest or deacon is an instrument of God’s grace.  I always do my best to celebrate weddings with joy for the couple.  To help me do that I like to do the marriage preparation work with the couples, meeting with them a few times.  This serves two purposes.  First, it helps me to get to know them (and for them to get to know me) so we are not strangers at the wedding ceremony.  Secondly, I take it seriously to help make sure the couple is talking about the issues they may have to deal with in their marriage.  The example I like to tell them is that before they get married they should talk about how many children they want to have.  If one wants to have two children and the other wants twelve, they need to talk more before they get married.  If one says two children and one says three, they can work that out later. 

I think most couples have talked about the number of children they would like to have but some haven’t talked about finances or how they will work together to solve problems and challenges in their lives.  I don’t tell them how to do this.  I don’t have all the answers.  I see my role as to make sure they have talked about and know where each other stand.  Then, as a married couple, they can work together, two becoming one flesh.  Some couples wonder why they have to do marriage preparation (especially with a priest who isn’t married).  By time the process is complete, I think most couples appreciate its value.

Marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment.  Unfortunately, a lot of marriages end in divorce.  I hope what I offer in marriage preparation helps the couples.  Ultimately, I pray that the grace God gives them in the Sacrament of Marriage leads them to a long life together.

For more on marriage, check out my web page on “The Sacrament of Marriage.”

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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