Marriage

How The Church Convalidates (“Blesses”) Civil Marriages

Perhaps the single greatest myth affecting Catholics who have experienced divorce is the misconception of the sacramental standing of a divorced person. Being divorced in no way separates a person from the sacramental life of the church. Indeed, participation in the Sunday Eucharist may be an instrument of healing after the death of a marriage. The impediment to sacramental participation arises when a person marries again without the benefit of the annulment process. A decree of nullity says that the marriage while legal civilly was never a union in the eyes of the Church. It says that one or both of the partners was not able at the time of consent to make the vow necessary for the marriage to be a sacrament. A decree of nullity is based on the disposition of the parties at the time of the wedding itself. There are three ends of marriage: fidelity (“I will love only you”); permanence (“I will be with you until death”) and generativity (“Our marriage will be life-giving”). If any of these ends were missing, that is either party was unable to make any of those promises freely, then there is a basis for annulment. If anyone finds him or her self in an irregular marriage situation and desires to rectify it, he or she should contact one of the priests of the parish. Our priests will give sound advice on how to proceed to regularize a marriage. Since the reforms of the Church after Vatican II, the annulment process has been streamlined. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia website has a wonderful resource on this whole topic. The website is great for general information, but we suggest first conferring with one of our priests who can help set you on the right path to resolve your particular situation. For a detailed treatment of this subject, please see the feature article, “How the Church Convalidates Civil Marriages” by Msgr. Joseph M. Champlin, in the February 2004 issue of St. Anthony Messenger.

Help For Rough Spots In Marriage (Retrouvaille)

Some married couples experience rough spots in their marriages. This is a program for couples that want to work through their problems rather than give up. Retrouvaille is a live-in weekend and post weekend program for married couples. During the weekend, a series of in-depth presentations are given to you and other couples like yourselves. Each presentation, given by one of three married couples and a priest, focuses on a specific area of a marriage relationship. After each presentation, you will have a chance to reflect on it by yourself, and then discuss it with your spouse in complete privacy. The weekend is not a spiritual retreat, not a sensitivity group, not a seminar, nor is it a social gathering. It is a way to put the past behind you and start ‘rediscovering’ one another again. The weekend is not a ‘miracle cure’; therefore, post-weekend sessions have been designed to continue the marriage renewal begun on the weekend. These follow-ups review earlier concepts in greater depth, present new ones and help you apply these concepts to your own marriage. More information about this worthwhile program may be found at the Retrouvaille website.

Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and postpone pregnancy. Approved by the Catholic Church, these methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an excellent publication dealing with this subject on its website. The publication is An Introduction to Natural Family Planning, developed by the Diocesan Development Program for Natural Family Planning, written by Richard Fehring, DNSc, RN Stella Kitchen, and Mary Shivanandan, STD.