by Patrick Miron
“Seven Sacred Gifts”
The Seven Sacraments Instituted by Christ.
“All Saints have a past, all sinners a future.”
A “sacrament” as defined by the Catholic Church, is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give the grace that it signifies. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing the sick (Extreme Unction), Holy Orders and Matrimony.
Why is there a need for sacraments?
Souls and bodies have similar needs. When a body is born it requires nourishment, guidance and love. When we become ill, we require medical attention. Our souls have similar needs. They are brought into spiritual life by Baptism, made strong by Confirmation, nourished by Christ Himself in Holy Eucharist, healed by Penance, loved in death by Extreme Unction; and guided in life by our holy priests in Holy Orders. Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia
Why seven sacraments?
The number of sacraments was determined as necessary, and instituted by Christ Himself. This is a dogma of our faith and was defined at the Church Council of Trent. The Bible is replete with numbers, and they are of specific significance and understanding to the Jewish community, God’s chosen people. The number ”seven” connotes complete, even perfect. That is why so many today, when asked what is their lucky number, reply seven. Christ selected seven as to include the special spiritual needs all of His children, by offering extra opportunities for the grace necessary to reach our final goal which is heaven. Strictly speaking, all of the sacraments are not absolutely necessary for our salvation, as “God, grace and the soul are all spiritual beings.” (Catholic Encyclopedia) Two sacraments however are absolutely necessary for adult salvation: Baptism and Holy Eucharist, and Baptism is necessary even for infants. cf. Jn: 3: 5, 6: 47-53
If all of the sacraments are not, strictly speaking, necessary, why did Christ institute them?
Grace itself is a free gift from God who Himself is the very origin of all grace. Life is more a spiritual than a physical battle, and grace is an essential weapon of this war for or souls. Christ desires us to win and gives sufficient assistance to each of us to respond to His call.
Free gifts are usually a sign of affection, even of love. Such is the case in the institution of the seven sacraments. Christ loves us so He wished to offer and make available to us signs of His love and His hope for us. The sacraments require a desire to be loved, and willingness and desire to participate in them, in order for them to have their designed effects.
Just what is a sacrament?
The word sacrament in Greek means mystery. In it’s broadest sense, a sacrament is something hidden and sacred. Sacraments are God’s response to man’s desire to be led by things corporeal and perceptible, spiritual and intelligible. (St. Thomas Aquinas) Sacraments are an outward sign of God’s love and desire to save us, by offering special additional graces, through their proper administration and acceptance.
There are three essential signs of a sacrament:
*A sensible sign (able to be perceived by and through the senses.)
*Instituted by Christ, as the origin and source of all grace.
*Have the power to produce grace, which is to say that the form and ceremony of each sacrament properly administered and received, has the God given power itself to produce and give the grace that it signifies. The sacraments act ex opere operato, literally by the fact of the actions being performed, confer the grace they signify.” CCC 1128
Baptism, the Sacrament of entry into unity with God, sacrament of initiation
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Eph: 4: 4-5 “ Baptism is true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit.” Pope John Paul II: Novo Millennio Ineute, January 2001
Some general facts:
Christian baptism may only be validly administered and received one time, as this sacrament leaves an indelible mark on the soul. We are permanently sealed and identified as chosen heirs of the kingdom, and have been called by name. Faith is a gift from God; that can be accepted or rejected by our free will. Baptism is essential for salvation, at least by intent. CCC 1129.
Like a newborn babe, we come into Christ Church spotless and free of the stain of all sin. Even the stain of “Original” sin is removed. Baptism should be received as soon after birth as convenient, certainly within one month. The normal form for this sacrament is “holy (blessed) water,” and the usual words by the delegated minister, (usually a ordained priest – pastor, bishop or deacon, but could even be a Protestant minister) are, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” while pouring the water over the head of the person being baptized three times. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Mk. 16: 16
“In the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, during the blessing of the baptismal water, the Church solemnly commemorates the great events in salvation history that already prefigured the mystery of Baptism: Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power. In Baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament.” CCC 1217 “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ “ Jn: 3: 5
The Three forms of (ONE) baptism:
Baptism with Holy water
Is the normal, most common and required form of baptism. It is a grave obligation for each of us to in charity, to baptize an adult that is in danger of death, if we are not sure that they have been baptized. This presumes their desire to be baptized. In danger of death we may also baptize an infant that normally, but not necessarily, presumes that this would be the desire of their parents. Water, even if not blessed is to be used, saying the words; I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, pouring a small amount of water on the head with each pronouncement.
Baptism of desire
This is valid if a soul desires to come to The Lord but has not the opportunity to be formally baptized. Such might be the case in countries where Christ faithful are persecuted, or if one should die while receiving instruction before coming into the Church.
The third form of baptism is Baptism of Blood
When a child of The Christ sheds their blood in defense of the Church and faith that Christ founded, they are baptized in their own blood. Similar to the blood Christ shed on the cross, their blood becomes the blood of salvation. CCC 1258
Confirmation, the Sacrament of anointing
Jesus returned to the synagogues of His home territory in Galilee, “In the power of the Holy Spirit” and He read to them from the sacred scrolls where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. “Jesus went on to inform them: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” cf. Lk: 4: 14- 21
The symbolism of anointing with chrism, the same pure oil of olives mixed with balsam, and specially blessed by the Bishop, used in Baptism signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. CCC 695
We are created to know, love and serve God in this world, in order to be happy with Him in the next. In the service of the Lord, we are termed “the Church militant” for good cause. We are soldiers for Christ in the very real and ongoing battle for souls, ours and those of all who are placed in our life path, it is certain that no one is placed in our path without cause. They are there to assist us, to divert us to hell, or to be influenced by us to also join the cause of Christ and his Church, the way to salvation. Like Baptism, Confirmation too is a sacrament of initiation into the Catholic Church, and it too leaves an indelible mark on the soul and may only be received once in a lifetime.
Because Confirmation, as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a duplication of the Gift of Himself to the Apostles, our first bishops at the first Pentecost, and its purpose is to strengthen and enlighten. This sacrament is commonly bestowed by the local Bishop with a special holy oil (pure oil of olives), called chrism or myron, which is specially formulated, blessed by the bishop in a dedicated ceremony, and is set apart for “the sanctification of men (all in Christian initiation).” All baptized Christians need to be confirmed as this sacrament of anointing completes the graces offered at baptism.
Since Vatican II, there have been three changes in the ceremony for Confirmation. The sacrament is preceded by the formal renewal of baptismal promises, during baptism these promises are often spoken for the candidate, by the sponsor due to the age of the baptized. Confirmation is now conferred during the Sacrifice of holy Mass, and Holy Communion is received. This requires that the candidate for Confirmation be in the state of grace. The sacrament is still validly received in mortal sin, and the sacramental character is imprinted on the soul if properly motivated by desire, and with valid form and matter and purpose, but the grace conferred by the sacrament is not received until that person is again in the state of grace. cf. Basic Catholic Catechism CCC 1351
The effects of Confirmation
Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
*It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”
*It unites us more firmly to Christ.
*It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.
*It renders our bond with the Church more perfect. It gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Eucharist: The sacrament of Christ Himself
“God is the only source of happiness; happiness is in Him alone, and He has reserved the right to bestow it through Himself. And well it is that we have to go to God Himself to find happiness.” Saint Peter Julian Eymard: Holy Communion, pg. 80 The Eucharist is the Sacrament of love par excellence. Certainly the other sacraments are proofs of Gods love for us; they are gifts of God. But in the Eucharist we receive the Author of every gift, God Himself. “ Pg. 81
All sacraments, all Catholic doctrine and dogma both lead to, and emanate from the Blessed Sacrament which is Christ Himself.
Complete perfection and perfect love are embodied in this, the goal of all sacraments, and the most perfect gift of God of Himself to us for our nourishment, enlightenment, happiness and our peace. Nothing, absolutely nothing can replace the Splendor, the Majesty, and the power to heal and to save as can Jesus Himself in the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion. Therefore we must, imperatively speaking, we must, unite ourselves with Jesus in the Eucharist as often as we are able, even at great sacrifice, daily if possible, if we are to grow spiritually, and know, live, and share our faith. There is no greater source of the supernatural grace we need to get to heaven.
Jesus, in His glorified body and blood, total humanity, and total divinity in the gift of Himself, can only be had in the only Church that Jesus Himself founded; the Catholic church. Other Christian denominations celebrate only a remembrance of Christ, while we actually share in the Real Christ. There exist no better reason to be an informed, practicing, Roman Catholic! Nowhere else can one find the Real Presence of Jesus here on earth.
The fourteenth century author of The Imitation oF Christ, Thomas A’ Kempis, reminds us of the great honor that Christ bestows on His holy (Catholic) priest. An honor bestowed the very same evening that He created the perpetual gift of Himself, the gift of perpetual earthly residence, the Holy Eucharist, brought to earth countless times each day, by their hands and their prayers.
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the chalice, after supper, saying, ‘This chalice is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 1 Cor: 11:24-25
“The priesthood is a great mystery; how great a dignity is that of a priest! He has been given powers not granted to the angels; for no one but a priest duly ordained in the (Catholic) church has the power to say Mass. to consecrate the body of Christ.” Only a man, properly ordained, has this powerful privilege. As Christ Himself ordained the form and format of this Most Blessed Sacrament, its structure cannot be changed by anyone other than the Supreme Pontiff. The elements of unleavened bread and real wine may not be either altered or substituted. The words of Consecration not only may not, absolutely cannot be changed.
So not to embarrass us, and to not frighten us by His Glory and Splendor, Jesus Christ chose to become the Bread of Life, our most basic of food, for He desires to nourish both our bodies and our souls. In fact, he desires it so very much that He chooses to Himself be that very nourishment, in the appearance (form) of bread and wine, which becomes His Body and Blood, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The same Jesus who died for us, would abase Himself even more than He did in His Holy Passion and Death in order to remain with us and available to us. Jesus loves us so much that He desires to remain concealed in our mist, visible to all and available to all in the holy tabernacles of His Bride, His Church.
Recent changes allow for, even strongly recommend, daily, if possible, reception of the Jesus in Holy Communion. This has become necessary, because of the grip and influence Satan has on so many souls today. Conquered by pride, greed, and lust, only the Redeemer, Jesus Himself, can save us. In our working toward sainthood, the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself, must be our closest friend, and is certainly, our strongest allay. The graces offered and received through proper reception of Christ in Holy Eucharist are quite special. They can enlighten the mind to God’s plans and will for us today, this hour and even this minute. Our will is strengthened to fight off temptations, discouragement, even depression. Frequent Holy Communion places the soul in total abandonment to God’s will, which allows Him to use us as He desires, and when and how He desires. Through Holy Communion, Christ is directly and personally invited to work miracles in our lives. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
The Sacrament of Penance, / Reconciliation, / Confession the sacrament of reconciliation with your God, your Church and yourself
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ Jn: 20:19-23
With privilege and honor come responsibility and duty. This sacrament attacks our pride by not only asking, but also demanding, that we both seek forgiveness and in turn forgive others. Asking for forgiveness and forgiving are as closely joined as newlyweds are on their honeymoon night. And similarly there is a certain trepidation, release and joy in the process. Both require love. “The sacrament of Penance restores the life of grace in us, heals us. But is a violent remedy, a victory dearly bought, which leaves us weary with battle.” Saint Peter Julian Eymard: Holy Communion pg. 91
At the root of fear and refusal to go to Confession to a priest are the prideful thoughts that either we are not sinners, which is of course absurd. Or that this sacrament of Penance is simply for those “wanna-be” pious – type Catholics. The simple truth is that it is not God who benefits from the sacrament of Penance; it is we who gain the benefit. God gains nothing but performance of His Holy Will, while we stand to gain grace, even grace and entrance unto salvation.
There are elements of logic and even genius in the form and format of the Sacrament of Penance. Pride is the inhibiting instigator of refusal, and humility is the balm of relief. Satan tells you “no,” you don’t need it, Jesus who is love, says, “yes you do.” Who do you listen to, who should you listen to?
The sacrament is absolutely required when we are not in the state of grace due to Mortal sin, and strongly suggested for what is termed, a Catholic’s “Easter duty.”
This involves as a sign of unity with Christ Church, receiving Holy Communion worthily at least once each year. Though not strictly required for those in the state of grace, a minimal annual utilization of the sacrament of Penance is strongly recommended. This is normally completed between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday.
Three elements are required on the part of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction. Confession is only valid when these three elements are present, and confession is made to a duly ordained and authorized priest, granted the faculty to hear confessions. In danger of death, any priests may validly hear one’s confession. Do not be afraid to ask a priest for a special time, or to make an appointment for Confession. It is after all, his job, and your salvation. Don’t be thwarted by posted confession times. Don’t abuse the good service of your priest, but do get to confession regularly!
Is true and sincere sorrow for having sinned. Sinning is a desire, at least implicit, to be separated from the grace of God. All mortal sins must be confessed, and all, or at least some venial sins should be confessed. Confessing ones sins to a priest is a needed manifestation of this contrition. It is not sufficient to simply tell God that you are sorry, even if you are sincere. Yet true sorrow is a necessary element of a personal confession. God has determined and designed His forgiveness, to come through Him, by your actions and the actions of the priest in and through the sacrament of Penance. You must be sufficiently sorry, willing to accuse yourself, willing to properly confess at least all of your Mortal sins.
The forms authorized by the Church include person-to-person (called auricular confession), penitent to confessor, recitation of all serious mortal sins, and most, if not all lesser venial sins. Confession can be “face-to-face,” or in the more traditional, veiled format. The priest must say: “I absolve you from your sins”, and you then must make “satisfaction.”
General absolutions are for emergency situations only, such as war or natural disasters. Even then, they are valid only on the condition that you will make a personal confession as soon as practical reality permits. Some errant clerics, including a few bishops abuse the privilege of General Absolution regularly. These confessions are neither valid nor licit. All serious sins must be, need be, and should be confessed in a personal confession to have the desired effect of forgiveness by Almighty God of your sins.
Is a “cause and effect” situation. When I was teaching religious education to junior high and high school students, I would bring in sections of 2”x 6” lumber on which I had written, “your soul.” I would then without discussion pass out hammers and nails and allow them to hammer as many nails into the boards as they desired, with a caution to be careful and a reminder that we would have to pull out all of the nails. Once the nails were removed, we would began our discussion of the need for the sacrament of confession by explaining what sin is, the two categories of sin and their effects on the soul, and end up by explaining that confession remove both sin and the guilt of sin. The “soul –boards” before sin were without blemish, the nails (sins) changed that, and confession removed the sins (nails). Now look at the boards and see the difference. Nail holes, the effect of sin remain. Retribution must be made for damaging your soul,. Not for the benefit of God, but for the benefit of our salvation. Mortal sin kills the soul! It is completely shut off from God, and if a soul dies in this state, it will be damned to hell for all eternity. One might think of the soul as an electric master switch that is very badly corroded. The electricity can’t get through. Similarly, a soul in mortal sin prohibits grace from getting through.
The normal form of confession:
*The priest greets the penitent, who responds making the sign of the cross, and proclaims: “Bless me father for I have sinned.” He then tells the priest how long it has been since the last confession.
*A Scriptural passage is read (usually, but not always)
*The penitent confesses all mortal sins and most, if not all venial sins. If only venial sins are present, and confessed, true sorrow must be present for at least one of them in order for the sacrament to be received validly. (In absence of Mortal sin(s), one can also confess a prior serious sin.)
*The priest offers encouragement and advice, and imposes a penance. You will be welcomed back like the story of the son who squandered away his inheritance, but was welcomed back with a joyful celebration by his father. Jesus Himself told us there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, than a hundred with no need of repentance. Cf. Lk.11: 7 Satan imposes a fear, not born in either charity or fact. “Be not afraid.”
*The penitent expresses sorrow by making an act of contritution.
*Absolution is given. This is the key: The priest, acting on behalf of Christ must pronounce the words of absolution: “ I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The confessor will prescribe certain prayers or pious acts for penance. These prescribed acts must be fulfilled.
Like all sacraments, reconciliation requires sacrifice, but the rewards far exceed them. “Go in peace.” What an incredible message, and what complete joy!
Anointing of the sick: Sacrament of special graces for the needy
“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Jas: 5: 14-15
“The sacrament of Anointing is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ to give the sick spiritual assistance, strengthen their supernatural life and, if need be forgive their sins. Moreover, if God wills it, anointing restores physical health to the body of the Christian who is seriously ill.” Basic Catholic Catechism pg.123
Who may receive the sacrament of Anointing of the sick?
The sacrament of Anointing is available to all baptized persons who have reached the age of reason, (CIC 891, usually around the age of seven), is seriously ill, or is of advanced age. It may also be received before surgery, if a dangerous illness is the cause of the surgery. This special gift from God may be received as often as warranted. It may be applied even if the sick person has lost their senses, or even if they are unconscious. The sacrament may be applied conditionally, if the priest has a reasonable doubt about the death of the victim.
The Form for the sacrament of Anointing.
The priest uses special olive oil that has been previously blessed by the bishop or an authorized priest. The priest begins by stating: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.” The sick person responds, “Amen.” The priest continues, “May the Lord who frees you from your sins save you and raise you up.” The sick person again responds “Amen.” The forehead and hands are anointed. In case of necessity, one anointing is sufficient, and it may be a different part of the body. However the entire formula is to be recited each time.
The spiritual effects of the anointing
“For persons who are unable to confess their sins or even give some sign of sorrow, anointing may be the only way that they can be saved. This assumes that they have unconfessed grave sins on their souls which the sacrament of Anointing certainly removes that the person has at some time been sorry for their sins, at least out of fear of God’s punishment.” Basic Catholic catechism, page 125
*Forgiveness of the guilt of unremitted sin, even grave sin for which the person has at least imperfect sorrow.
*Remission of the temporal punishment still due for remitted sin to such a degree that the expiation can be complete if judged by God.
*Supernatural patience to bear with ones suffering.
*Extraordinary confidence in God’s mercy.
*Special infusion of moral courage to resist temptation of the devil (who NEVER gives up).
The bodily effects can be restoration of heath if God sees it will be for His greater good and the salvation of the sick person.
Holy Orders: The power of Christ perpetuated
“Do this in memory of me.” Lk. 22:19
It is through Holy Orders, instituted by Christ on Holy Thursday, at the Last Supper, when he said and “Ordered” His Apostles to, “do this in memory of Me,” that the hiearchal priesthood was instituted.
We are reminded by Thomas A’Kempis, “the priesthood is a great mystery; how great a dignity is that of a priest! He has been granted powers not even given to the angels; for no one but a priest duly ordained in church (The Catholic Church) to say Holy Mass, to consecrate the Body of Christ.” (To transform what was merrily unleven bread and ordinary wine into the Real Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of our Savior, Jesus Christ.)
Christ instituted only one church and one hierarchical priesthood.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders was so immense that it was actually instituted by three separate actions, at three separate times by our Lord. This is especially significant as it demonstrates in the clearest possible manner, the intention of our Blessed Lord.
Holy Thursday: The Last Supper
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. “And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Lk: 22: 19-22
Easter Sunday Night:
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jn: 20: 22-23
Before Christ Ascension back to the Father:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Mt” 28: 19-20
Only men, always a priest
By God’s personal choice, and unchangeable design, the hierarchical priesthood has always been, and must always remain male gender only. God could have chosen differently, but did not. Holy Orders is a Sacrament whose form was selected by Christ and cannot be changed. Indisputably male gender and female gender physiology differs and is yet another valid reason, why the Catholic priest, who is commanded to “do this in remembrance of ME (literally ME), and therefore MUST BE male gender in order to act “persona Christi.” CCC 1548
There exists no greater truth, no greater blessing in the theology of our beliefs than the doctrine of Christ Real Presence, body, blood, soul and complete Divinity, really, truly, and substantially present in our midst, and only available to us through the mystery and power of God’s love and providence, through the hands of His validly Ordained Catholic priest.
There exist no reason of greater value or important, for being an informed, practicing Catholic, than to be able to really receive worthily, the Sacred Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, the Son of Mary, and the crucified Son of God into our bodies, in an intercourse more intimate, more noble, more complete than any other. Our Lord and our God, our King and our Savior loves us this much, desires to be with and in us this much, abases Himself this much in the manifestation of perfect love. It is Catholic priest who make Jesus available to us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. There is no greater privilege, and no greater honor among men.
Always a priest
Because of the indelible mark of Ordination on the priesthood, a priest always remains a priest, and can never become a layman in the identical sense that we are. There is a formal release process entitled Laicization, which if granted allows for cessation of formal duties, and may permit marriage. This has been granted to a very large number of priests in the post Vatican II era because many men who took vows really did not accept the Churches teachings on priestly celibacy, and chastity which has long and prudent roots in tradition.
The main duty of a priest is to live a life of holiness. Example is always the best teacher. Priest receive special graces in order to lead others to Christ. The Ordained ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the people of God by teaching divine worship, and pastoral governance. CCC 1592
Marriage: the sacrament of life-long commitment and procreation
“And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’ ‘To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ ” Gen: 1: 28, 3: 16
In this chapter we will deal primarily with marriage as a Sacrament instituted and raised to a level of a lifelong supernatural Covenant Contract, by Jesus Himself. “He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.’” Matt.19: 8-9
Catholic sacramental marriages, between two baptized persons (one male and one female) are in a very real sense brought to fruition by the bride and groom whom by their choice, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, commit to the married life. They really “marry” each other, by the exchange of their vows of commitment. That is to say that their will and desire to marry, so long as it is unimpeded, is that act which brings the sacrament of Marriage into being. “In the Latin rite, the spouses as ministers of Christ grace mutually confer on each other the Sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.” CCC 1623
*The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and women, free to contract marriage.
*Mutual consent is essential to the marriage. Without free consent, a valid marriage does not exist. Free will of both spouses is absolutely necessary for a valid marriage to take place.
*The words’ “I take you as my husband/wife”, is consent that binds for life. No authority on earth, not even the Catholic Church has the power or right to set aside a valid, licit consummated marriage.
*A sacramental marriage is liturgical act and therefore is appropriately celebrated in the public liturgy of Holy Mass, where the Body and Blood of Christ are made present and received.
Therefore the sacrament of Penance is foundational to the sacrament of Matrimony.
*The priest (or assisting deacon) receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church, and with the blessings of the Church. (In special limited and authorized cases, it may even be a lay person).
“As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.” Dan.2: 42
Mixed marriages, that of a Catholic and none-Catholic requires a dispensation from the local bishop. This is most often granted.
Our Church prudently recommends marriage between practicing Catholics because experience and Tradition show and prove this to be the best possible union. Mixed marriages may “work,” but the union is unnecessarily made difficult because of the inherent difference, priorities, and often, different values. Try to have your children associate with other Catholic youth. You and they will likely be happier in unions of both Spirit and heart.
There is evidence that by the third generation of a mixed marriage, that most offspring of those marriages will not be practicing Catholics. Why? Being an informed, practicing Roman Catholic is difficult, and requires commitment, sacrifice and obedience to Church and God’s laws and rules. If one parent didn’t have to do it, why should I?
The purpose of marriage is procreation, not simply recreation.
“The ordering to the natural ends of marriage—the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring—is intrinsically present in masculinity and femininity. This theological characteristic is crucial for understanding the natural dimension of the union. In this sense, the natural character of marriage is better understood when it is not separated from the family. Marriage and the family are inseparable, because the masculinity and femininity of the married couple are constitutively open to the gift of children. Without this openness there could not even be a good of the spouses worthy of the name.” Pope John Paul II, “God Himself Is The Author Of Marriage”
Pope John Paul II repeats what Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae, telling us in truth and Tradition that married Catholics, for that matter, no one are to use unnatural methods of birth-control. Similarly masturbation is too prohibited, and both are grievously sinful. Why you might ask? Because the gift of procreation in divinely created by Almighty God for His good, the creation of His children. Neither man nor women have the right to impede God’s design and will. God’s divine will must always supersede our own, usually selfish will. (Pjm)
I struggled with this issue for along time. In my own Pre-Cana marriage instruction, in the late 1960’s (Detroit) we were advised that the use of artificial birth control was a matter of “personal choice,” which we exercised until many years later when I read Humanae Vitae and discovered that this was a lie. God as the Creator of all life, justly demands the right to decide who will be born, and when. Sex is to be mutually enjoyable, and is a reward for the pains and difficulties of married and family life. When we impose physical constraints on the will of God, we do so selfishly, and become, without due regard to the needs, (physical, emotional and spiritual), of our marriage partners, selfishly focused primarily our own physical “needs”. We are really operating at a base nature, unfitting for those Created in the image and likeness of God. This is and is intended to be a sacrifice, a sign of our love for each other and for God, our Creator. We are to give ourselves to our mates as often as requested, willingly, joyfully and completely unless there is illness or a physical reason not to. Otherwise we might contribute to our partner seeking to fulfill his or her sexual desires in a sinful manner. Sex should never be a tool of argument, or used to attain ones way in marriage. Marriage is for lovers.
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.” Heb: 13: 4
A good marriage is a full partnership, BUT…
In every organization, in every business, in every society, someone is in charge. Marriage is a partnership, with the man always as the head partner. That is the way God intends it to be, and that is why we have complementary, but importantly different physical, emotional, and intuitive attributes. The planned feminization of man has had a disastrous effect on marriages and on society, and the Catholic Church. God made us different for His purposes, and a man leading the family is paramount among them. Still marriage is not a dictatorship; it is a partnership, with as many as possible joint decisions, and shared responsibilities. But the man is to take, absolutely must take, (and be permitted, even encouraged to take) the leadership position.“ Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects (and supports) her husband. cf Eph. 5:21-31