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Featured Article: I’m Going Home like a Shooting Star! The legacy of Sr. Thea Bowman - On June 17, 1989, less than a year before she died of bone cancer, Sr. Thea Bowman was invited to address the American bishops. Different as she was from this group-a Southern black woman, a nun raised among Protestants, a dying woman vibrantly alive-Sr. Thea was fully herself and very much at home. Read Full Story

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The Basics of Being Married in the Catholic Church

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To Marry or Not To Marry - That is the question!

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Rev. Raymond L. Harris, Jr.Life is shaped by the commitments that we make and by our ability to maintain them with the help of the grace of God. A vocation is a way of life that is offered to God because God has given us the opportunity to live it. Among the distinctive vocations in the Church is married life.

The purpose of this article is to provide basic information for Catholic Christians who want to be married. Some of the information is repeated in different sections to minimize the possibility of confusion. Further information is available from your parish clergy or diocesan chancery (i.e., the tribunal and/or another office that addresses marriage and family life). The reader should not rely on this article alone.

While this information is taken from the Code of Canon Law, I will not cite every relevant canon for the sake of simplicity.1 Canons regarding the responsibilities of the clergy in this matter are beyond the scope of this article.

What does the Catholic Church teach about marriage?

The Catholic Church teaches that it is a matter of divine revelation that God has established the institution of marriage between one man and one woman. A sacramental marriage is between the baptized. Otherwise, it is considered a natural marriage, whether it is: (1) between a baptized person and a person who has not been baptized; or (2) between two persons who have not been baptized.

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man or a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of the sacrament between the baptized. (canon 1055 §1)

The understanding that marriage is an unconditional covenant between one man and one woman is part of the "natural law" (i.e., it binds all persons regardless of whether or not they believe that God exists). The mutual giving and receiving of the consent by persons lawfully able to do so establishes a marriage. (canon 1057 §1)

Of course, love motivates them to establish this covenant. A loving relationship provides acceptance, affirmation, and affection for those who benefit from the relationship. In a relationship, parties accept each other for who they are and not what they perceive the other can do for them. They affirm what is for their well-being and salvation. They show affection, expressing care and concern appropriately, respecting their emotional and physical boundaries. However, the affection of the "one flesh" union is uniquely expressed between a married couple in the conjugal embrace. Quoting from the first book of the Torah, our Lord Jesus Christ taught,

But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate. (Mark 10:6-9)

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