Lesson 31: The Sacrament of Matrimony
"Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.  Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord:  Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church.  He is the savior of His body.  Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.
   "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it:  That He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life:  That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.   So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. ; He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.  For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the Church:  Because we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.  This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church.
   "Nevertheless let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself:   and let the wife fear her husband." 
(Ephesians 5:21-33)

  1. What is the Sacrament of Matrimony?

  2.    Matrimony is the Sacrament made by Jesus Christ to sanctify (make holy) the lawful union of a Christian man and a Christian woman.

  3. Was marriage always a Sacrament?

  4.    No, marriage, although always a sacred union of man and woman, was raised to the dignity of a Sacrament by Jesus Christ.

  5. What does this Sacrament do for a couple?

    1. It unites them in an indissoluble (unbreakable) union until death
    2. It makes Sanctifying Grace grow in their souls
    3. It gives them special helps to perform their duties as married people and to overcome the difficulties that may come into their married life.

  6. Who may receive the Sacrament of Matrimony?

  7.    Only those who have been baptized and are free to marry.

  8. What is necessary to receive this Sacrament worthily?

  9.    You have to be free of mortal sin.

  10. What kind of sin is it to receive this Sacrament unworthily?

  11.    A mortal sin of sacrilege.
    However, the marriage is valid.

  12. Do Catholics have to be married at Mass?

  13.    No, but it is certainly fitting that they do so.
    The special Mass for a Catholic wedding is called the Nuptial Mass.  Traditionally, this Mass was not celebrated for a mixed marriage, nor during Lent or Advent.  But now it may be celebrated if the couple desires it.  Also, it can now be said during Lent and Advent, save from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday.

  14. What should a Catholic do who wants to marry?

  15.    Preparations for the wedding should be made with one of the priests in the bride's parish several months in advance.
    This time requirement varies from diocese to diocese.

  16. What is the only way a Catholic can be married?

  17.    Only in the presence of a Catholic priest and two witnesses.
    Occasionally other arrangements can be made, but this requires a dispensation in advance from the local bishop and can be done only for a sufficiently grave reason.

  18. What happens if a Catholic is not married by a priest?

  19.    A Catholic who goes through a marriage ceremony before anyone other than a Catholic priest is not married.
    Such a couple has to separate or have the marriage made valid.

  20. What if a Catholic goes through a marriage ceremony before a Protestant minister?

  21.    Such a person is not married and is guilty of mortal sin.
    Traditionally this sin also carried the penalty of automatic excommunication.  This meant that such a person could not receive any of the Sacraments nor have a Catholic funeral.  However, although this penalty no longer applies, a Catholic who goes through a marriage ceremony outside the Catholic Church still commits a grave sin.

  22. May a Catholic marry a non-Catholic?

  23.    No, except for a very serious reason.
    A marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic is called a mixed marriage.

  24. Why does the Church forbid mixed marriages?

  25.    Because of the danger of loss of faith on the part of the Catholic and of the children.
    The different religious beliefs of the parents cause serious arguments on such important matters as divorce, birth control, Sunday Mass, eating meat on Friday, and the Catholic education of the children.

  26. Were mixed marriages forbidden in the Bible?

  27.    Yes, mixed marriages were strictly forbidden by God.
    "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them.  Thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son:  For she will turn away thy son from following Me, that he may rather serve strange gods, and the wrath of the Lord will be kindled, and will quickly destroy thee."    (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)

  28. Who is the only one who can allow a mixed marriage?

  29.    Only the bishop, and he can give permission only for a serious reason.

  30. In a mixed marriage, what must the Catholic promise?

  31.    The Catholic must sign promises:
    1. To remain a Catholic.
    2. To see to it that the children are baptized and are brought up as Catholics.
    Also, the Catholic party must inform the non-Catholic of these promises.

  32. Are the marriages of non-Catholics valid?

  33.    Yes, provided all the laws of God concerning marriage are observed, the marriages of non-Catholics among themselves are valid and therefore cannot be broken.


  1. It is not the priest who gives the Sacrament of Matrimony; he is only the chief witness.  The bride and groom give it to each other.  The first gift they give one another is an increase of God's life -- Sanctifying Grace.  It is fitting indeed that this giving be done at Mass.
  2. Couples should remember that, through the Sacrament of Matrimony, they have the right to special helps to aid them in their problems.  God gives them, as it were, a spiritual bank account on which they may draw in times of difficulty.
  3. In a mixed marriage, the non-Catholic should be encouraged to take a course of instructions, so that he or she may learn something about the Catholic religion, since the children have to be reared in the Catholic religion.  So, if you intend to marry a non-Catholic, bring him or her to the priest to begin instructions three or four months before the wedding.
  4. Under normal circumstances, a mixed marriage can take place only in the presence of a Catholic priest and two witnesses.
  5. Non-Catholics can marry validly in the presence of anyone who can perform marriages legally (minister, rabbi, judge, justice of the peace, captain of a ship).
  6. Catholics may act as best man or bridesmaid at a wedding that takes place in a non-Catholic church only if it is a valid marriage.