Q: “We attended the Easter Vigil with my family and afterwards my mom asked me if we would ever consider getting our marriage blessed, since we were not married in the Catholic Church. That got us thinking, what would we need to do to enter into a sacramental marriage?
A: All Catholics who marry without a priest or deacon present, or who lack a “dispensation from canonical form” when they exchange vows in the presence of ministers from other religious traditions or civil officials, are not sacramentally married. But they can become sacramentally married through convalidation (that’s the Church’s name for the steps a couple follows to become sacramentally married). The usual first step is to contact your local Catholic parish.
What will the priest or deacon do to get things going? He will talk with you about your desire and your situation in order to ensure three things are present: your capacity to marry (are you able and free to marry); your consent (can you say yes to the promises of a sacramental marriage); and canonical form (the necessary conditions for a valid marriage). It would be nice to give you a cookie-cutter schedule of how this plays out, but each couple’s situation is treated uniquely because no two situations are the same.
Even though the steps vary in each case, the Catholic Church’s excitement for the couple is constant. The Church is ready and willing to accompany couples who seek to add new meaning — supernatural meaning — to their marriage by dedicating their union to God and his loving mission in the world. It is a privilege to foster a couple’s sacramental life so that they can experience the power of God’s grace, which helps them keep their commitment and find joy together.
One of my favorite quotes from Pope Francis is: “It is the presence of the Lord, who reveals himself and the gift of his grace that will render your marriage full and profoundly true.” I am so grateful this couple (and hopefully others who are civilly married) want to enter into a sacramental union.
By Alice Heinzen
Director, Office for Marriage and Family Life