June 22, 2012
Q. What’s the difference between the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church and civil marriage?
The difference is that in a Catholic sacramental marriage the couple enters into a life-long, unbreakable sacramental covenant with each other and God, whereas civil marriage is a legal contract between two individuals that can be broken in the future. However, when a couple celebrates the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church, the state also recognizes this marriage as a legal contract.
The first thing a couple needs to do is contact their local parish and set up a meeting with the priest or deacon who will advise and guide them in the marriage preparation process. This process includes FOCCUS and Marriage Preparation or Pre-Cana sessions or an Engaged Encounter retreat weekend and a follow up meeting with the priest or deacon.
Q. Is it necessary for us to receive the sacrament of Confirmation before getting married in the Catholic Church?
If at all possible, according to Canon Law, Catholics are strongly encouraged to receive the sacrament of Confirmation before getting married in the Catholic Church. However, it is not absolutely necessary nor an impediment to entering into the sacrament of marriage.
The priest or deacon, after meeting with you, will fill out the necessary forms for the required dispensation. If this is an interfaith marriage we recommend attending a marriage preparation program designed especially for interfaith couples. (You will find this option on the drop-down menu for “Marriage Program Selection” on the online registration form.) However, if that is not possible, you can attend any Pre-Cana program and bring to the facilitator any questions you might have.
Marriage Preparation or Pre-Cana includes the FOCCUS instrument with approximately 12 hours of marriage preparation sessions, which are usually held on weekends, and sometimes on weeknights. The sessions include presentations by facilitators; time for you and your fiancé to discuss important topics such as communication, conflict resolution, spirituality of marriage and family, marital intimacy, and more.
Pre-Cana is necessary because the Church has learned over the years how crucial it is, especially in our society today, to give engaged couples the support, formation, and instruction they need to meet the many challenges of living out the sacrament of marriage. We know that the family is the building block of our society and our Church, and the foundation of the family is a strong, healthy, and holy marriage.
Yes, you can participate in a Pre-Cana program either at you parish or at a diocesan location.
Resource: Marriage Preparation/Pre–Cana Calendar
No. We have found through working with many engaged couples that more time is needed to discuss and reflect on the topics presented. Most couples find the time and effort they spend on their Pre-Cana program to be very helpful and fruitful in their married life.
It is important for you to complete the Pre-Cana sessions six months to a year before the wedding. Marriage preparation is a discernment opportunity for the engaged couple to understand more about their vocation to marriage and family life.
FOCCUS (Facilitate Open Caring Communication Understanding and Study) is a pre-marriage inventory that includes such topics as communication skills, life style expectations, finances, spiritual values, financial issues, career, and children. Each of you responds separately to the questions in the inventory in an online format. After the inventory is scored, a trained facilitator presents the results and discusses them with you at a separate session, or during the marriage preparation session.
FOCCUS raises awareness about questions, attitudes, or issues that you may need to discuss further before you get married.
Q. We have much to prepare for our wedding day, but what are the most important ways we can prepare for a whole lifetime of marriage in the Catholic Church?
The most important ways you can prepare for married life in the Catholic Church is to renew your own life of faith and prayer by regular attendance at Sunday Mass, personal prayer, living out your faith in your day–to–day life, and by learning more about the spirituality of marriage in the Church.