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WATCH: Convalidating a marriage in the Catholic Church

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CNS just posted this lovely video, spotlighting a recent convalidation ceremony in Virginia. Twenty-one couples that had been married civilly gathered to receive the sacrament of marriage:

Good Shepherd’s first convalidation ceremony occurred in 2002 and continued every two years until 2016. The event was such a success that the parish decided to have another this year.

Leah Tenorio, parish director of Hispanic ministry, has noticed that convalidation is helpful for couples and their children in building their faith.

“I also work with the children who are preparing for first Communion and oftentimes the children come to Mass with their parents, and if they’re not in a valid marriage, the parents, they can’t go to Communion,” Tenorio said. “It’s a blessing to see these couples that can go through this process of convalidation and then everyone can come to Communion together as a family.”

Receiving the sacraments together helps children understand their significant role in church life, Father Baez said, and it also “strengthens the bond of matrimony.”

The ceremony is important to the couples who want their marriage to be valid in the church.

“For the first time, they will receive the sacrament of matrimony and also holy Communion, which is a great joy for them,” Father Baez said.

Read more. And watch the video above.

What does convalidation entail?  From the USCCB: 

Like other couples in your parish or family, you may be wondering if your marriage is fully recognized by the Catholic Church. Catholic Church law ordinarily requires baptized Roman Catholics to marry before a priest or deacon. Unless they received a “dispensation from canonical form,” Catholics who exchange vows in the presence of ministers from other religious traditions or civil officials are not considered validly married in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

Regardless of what happened in the past, the Catholic Church invites you to bring new meaning to your lives by embracing the vocation of marriage and dedicating your family’s mission to sharing God’s love.

…One of the many benefits of a sacramental marriage is the power of God’s grace, which helps couples keep their commitment and find happiness together. Social scientists are finding that couples who recognize God’s presence in their relationship experience more satisfaction and are more likely to achieve lifelong marriage.

All in all, couples who choose to bring their marriage into the Church receive many gifts – peace of heart, oneness with the Church, the fullness of the sacraments, and God’s special blessing upon their marriage.

What if there is a Prior Marriage?

In the simplest terms, if a Catholic wishes to marry in the Church when there has been a previous marriage for either party, the partner in the earlier union must have died or the Church must have issued a declaration of nullity (frequently called an annulment) of the previous marriage.

The Catholic Church views all true marriages with respect. It presumes that they are valid. Thus, it considers the marriage of two Protestant, Jewish or even non-believing persons, any of whom marry according to their own tradition, to be binding in the eyes of God. Consequently, a tribunal process is required to establish that an essential ingredient in the relationship was missing from the start of the previous marriage.

For Catholics with a prior marriage outside the Church, the declaration of nullity is based on what is called a “lack of canonical form.” For Catholics with a prior “valid” marriage, the tribunal process is termed a “formal case.” Catholics should consult with their pastor if a declaration of nullity is needed.

Three Things that Make Marriage Valid in the Church

Three things need to be in place for a true (valid) marriage: capacity, consent, and canonical form. A valid Catholic marriage comes into existence when a man and woman who are capable, give consent to a true marriage, including all the essential properties of marriage, and exchange this consent in the proper form for Catholic weddings.

Convalidation is not simply a “blessing” of an existing union. It requires that a new, free act of consent be made.

Read more. If you’re interested in having your marriage convalidated, talk to your pastor.

Deacon Greg Kandra
Headlines and Homilies
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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