Marriage is a practice common to all cultures in all ages. It is, therefore, a natural institution, something common to all mankind. At its most basic level, marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and mutual support, or love. Each spouse in a marriage gives up some rights over his or her life in exchange for rights over the life of the other spouse.

While divorce has existed throughout history, it has been rare until recent centuries, which indicates that, even in its natural form, marriage is meant to be a lifelong, union.

There are three basic requirements for a valid Catholic marriage:

  • The couple must be capable of being married—that is, they must be a woman and a man who are free of any impediment that would prevent marriage.
  • The couple must give their consent to be married — that is, by an act of their free will they irrevocably give and accept one another in order to establish marriage.

Note, there are also four elements common to natural marriage throughout history:

  1. It is a union of opposite sexes.
  2. It is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse.
  3. It excludes a union with any other person so long as the marriage exists.
  4. Its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract.

So, even at a natural level, divorce, adultery, and “homosexual marriage” are not compatible with marriage, and a lack of commitment means that no marriage has taken place.

The Supernatural Institution:

In the Catholic Church, however, marriage is more than a natural institution; it was elevated by Christ Himself, in His participation in the wedding at Cana (John 2.1-11),  to be one of the seven sacraments . A marriage between two Christians, therefore, has a supernatural element as well as a natural one. While few Christians outside of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches regard marriage as a sacrament, the Catholic Church insists that marriage between any two baptized Christians, as long as it is entered into with the intention to contract a true marriage, is a sacrament.

The Mark and Effect of the Sacrament:

The spouses are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage because the mark—the external sign—of the sacrament is not the wedding Mass or anything the priest might do but the marriage contract itself. This does not mean the wedding license that the couple receives from the state, but the vows that each spouse makes to the other. As long as each spouse intends to contract a true marriage, the sacrament is performed.

The Union of Christ and His Church:

This sanctifying grace helps each spouse to help the other advance in holiness, and it helps them together to cooperate in God’s plan of redemption by raising up children in the Faith.

In this way, sacramental marriage is more than a union of a man and a woman; it is, in fact, a type and symbol of the divine union between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Church, the Bride. As married Christians, open to the creation of new life and committed to our mutual salvation, we participate not only in God’s creative act but in the redemptive act of Christ.

Sacred Heart Marriage Preparation

“The Church has a responsibility to those who get married in church, to see that sufficient opportunity if provided for the couple to reflect on what their married relationship will entail.”

Couples are usually from our parish, but not always, and some also get married elsewhere.

The preparation consists of 4 sessions which last about an hour and a quarter each. They are split into

Who am I – What makes us tick

Communication, conflict and stress

Families past present and to come

What will keep your relationship going

At the first session we provide handouts which have suggestions for music, readings etc

The sessions are usually undertaken at home (the couples come to the providers). Times and dates are arranged to be mutually convenient.

At Sacred Heart Hillsborough, this opportunity is supplied by a series of evenings at the home of a married couple who have the experience of presenting these evenings and creating a friendly atmosphere for fruitful conversation to talk place.  The most important conversation in this process is the one that the engaged couple has between themselves afterwards, to explore each other’s “take” on what has been talked about.  There is nothing intrusive or dogmatic about the married couple’s approach to this, and there is absolutely nothing to worry about.  Their aim is simply to provide you with a context in which to explore between the two of you the most important themes of relationship, communication, and reconciliation of differences.

Those married couples who run these sessions at present are: Deacon Tony & Caroline Strike,

Andrew and Barbara Hartley,  Peter and Helen Roche, and Fran and Pete Shiel.

Arrange to meet with Fr Shaun first (tel. 0114 2343580), who will discuss the availability of the church with you, and find out the married couple that will be assigned to you, for your sessions.