There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the Mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and His desciples, to the marriage.--JOHN ii. I, 2.


The presence of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the Apostles at this wedding feast in Cana, and the miracle which our Saviour worked on the occasion, are a proof of the great excellence and sanctity of marriage. It was at this time, indeed, that marriage was raised to the dignity of a Sacrament.

I. Marriage between Catholics is a Sacrament, 1. From the beginning marriage was instituted by God as a natural contract. Thus Adam and Eve and the Patriarchs were truly married under the law of nature; Tobias and Sara and others, under the Law of Moses; and even to-day marriages between unbaptized persons, although not sacramental in character, are valid contracts. 2. Christ elevated marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament. As a mere contract marriage was ordained to the propagation of the human race, and the raising of children for God and society; but as a Sacrament it also sanctifies the parties and confers the special graces they need. 3. That matrimony is a true Sacrament has been the constant teaching of the Church and is the doctrine of St. Paul (Eph. v. 28). 4. In every Sacrament we have three things,--an outward sign, inward grace, and institution by Christ. In Matrimony the outward sign, is the natural contract expressed in words or signs; the inward grace is the supernatural help conferred on the parties, which enables them to bear the difficulties of their state and to perform their obligations towards each other and towards their children; the institution of marriage as a Sacrament by Christ we know from Scripture, tradition, and the positive teaching of the Church.

II. Christian marriage has the properties of unity and indissolubility. l. The unity of marriage forbids polyandry and polygamy, because these are opposed to the ends and purposes of matrimony, and were forbidden by Christ Himself (Matt. xix. 4-6); the former is opposed to the primary end of marriage, the latter impedes the secondary ends. 2. The indissolubility of marriage forbids divorce. The bond of matrimony is dissolved only by death, according to the teachings of Christ and St. Paul; hence the Church does not recognize the right of those divorced by the State to marry again during the life-time of either party. 3. The evils of polygamy are that it reduces woman to the condition of a slave, destroys peace and love in the family, and imperils the welfare of the children. Of this pagan and Mohammedan countries afford ample evidence. 4. The evils of divorce are: (a) that it is injurious to society, as destroying the principle of authority, promoting dissensions, encouraging sin and crime as a means to freedom, lowering the dignity of woman; (b) that it is injurious to the family, whose peace and stability it destroys; (c) that it is unjust to the wife and the children. The facility of divorce was one of the leading causes of the downfall of the Roman empire, and it is one of the chief menaces of modern society.

III.The advantages of Christian marriage, 1. The procreation and education of lawful offspring. The proper rearing of children not only secures the good of the Church and society in general, but also redounds to the welfare of the children and parents themselves. Race suicide (abortion, birth control, sterilization) on the contrary, injures the parents, prevents or destroys human life, defrauds society of its members, and robs heaven of immortal souls. 2. The second advantage of marriage consists in fidelity and mutual love and assistance. 3. The third advantage of Christian marriage is that it is an inseparable union, which makes the contracting of matrimony more serious, renders dissensions between the parties less frequent, and, in case of dissension, makes reconciliation more easy.

CONCLUSION. l. Because of the sacredness of this Sacrament people should not receive it without previous instruction, sufficient deliberation, prayer, and counsel. 2. As matrimony is a sacrament of the living, the contracting parties should be in the state of grace; they should, if possible, make a general confession beforehand, go to Holy Communion, and be married with a nuptial mass. 3. Married people should always try to respect the dignity of the Sacrament they have received and be faithful to the duties and burdens it imposes. 4. Mixed marriages are to be entirely discouraged because of the evils to the family, the offspring, and the Church which arise from them.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II


The preceding (see Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost) are the instructions which the pastor will communicate to the faithful on the subject of marriage as a natural contract; as a sacrament he will show that marriage is raised to a superior order, and referred to a more exalted end. The original institution of marriage as a natural contract had for object the propagation of the human race; its subsequent elevation to the dignity of a sacrament is intended for the procreation and education of a people in the religion and worship of the true God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ.


When the Redeemer would exemplify the close union that subsists between Him and His Church, and His boundless love towards us, He declares this divine mystery principally by alluding to the holy union of man and wife; and the aptitude of the illustration is evinced by this, that of all human relations no one is so binding as that of marriage, and those who stand in that relation are united in the closest bonds of affection and love. Hence the Sacred Scriptures frequently place before us this divine union of Christ with His Church under the figure of a marriage.


That marriage is a sacrament has been at all times held by the Church as a certain and well ascertained truth; and in this she is supported by the authority of the Apostle in his Epistle to the Ephesians: " Husbands," says he, " should 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."(1) When the Apostle says, "This is a great sacrament," he means, no doubt, to designate marriage;(2) as if he had said. The conjugal union between man and wife, of which God is the author, is a sacrament, that is, a sacred sign of the holy union that subsists between Christ and His Church. That this is the true meaning of his words is shown by the Holy Fathers who have interpreted the passage; and the Council of Trent has given to it the same interpretation.(3) The husband therefore is evidently compared by the Apostle to Christ, the wife to the Church;(4) "the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church ";(5) and hence the husband should love his wife, and again, the wife should love and respect her husband, for "Christ loved his Church, and gave himself for her"; and the Church, as the same Apostle teaches, is subject to Christ.


That this sacrament signifies and confers grace (and in this the nature of a sacrament principally consists) we learn from these words of the Council of Trent: " The grace which perfects that natural love, and confirms that indissoluble union, Christ himself, the author and finisher of the sacraments, has merited for us by His passion." (6) The faithful are therefore to be taught that, united in the bonds of mutual love, the husband and wife are enabled, by the grace of this sacrament, to repose in each other's affections, to reject every criminal attachment, to repel every inclination to unlawful intercourse, and in everything to preserve "marriage honorable . . . and the bed undefiled."(7)


The great superiority of the Sacrament of Matrimony to those marriages which took place before or after the Law, we may learn from the following considerations: The Gentiles, it is true, looked upon marriage as something sacred, and therefore considered promiscuous intercourse to be inconsistent with the law of nature; they also held that fornication, adultery, and other licentious excesses should be repressed by legal sanctions, but their marriages had nothing whatever of the nature of a sacrament. Among the Jews the laws of marriage were observed with more religious fidelity, and their marriages, no doubt, were more holy. Having received the promise that in the seed of Abraham all nations should be blessed,(8) it was justly deemed a matter of great piety among them to beget children, the offspring of a chosen people, from whom, as to his human nature, Christ our Lord and Saviour was to descend; but their marriage also wanted the true nature of a sacrament.

A further confirmation of this is that whether we consider the law of nature after the fall of Adam, or the law given to Moses, we at once perceive that marriage had fallen from its primitive excellence and sanctity. Under the Law of Moses we find that many of the Patriarchs had several wives at the same time, and, should a cause exist, it was subsequently permitted to dismiss one's wife, having given her a bill of divorce;(9) both of which abuses have been removed by the Gospel dispensation, and marriage restored to its primitive state.


That polygamy is opposed to the nature of marriage is shown by our Lord in these words: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh." "Therefore," continues the Redeemer, "now they are not two, but one flesh."(10) The Patriarchs, who by the permission of God had a plurality of wives, are not on that account to be condemned. The words of the Redeemer, however, clearly show that marriage was instituted by God as the union of two only; and this he again expressly declares when he says: " Whoever shall put away his wife, . . . and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery."(11) If a plurality of wives be lawful, we can discover no more reason why he who marries a second wife while he retains the first should be said to be guilty of adultery, than he who, having dismissed the first, takes to himself a second. Hence, if an infidel, in accordance with the laws and customs of his country, has married several wives, the Church commands him, when converted to the faith, to look upon the first alone as his lawful wife, and to separate from the others.


That marriage cannot be dissolved by divorce is easily proved from the same testimony of our Lord. If by a bill of divorce the matrimonial link were dissolved, the wife might lawfully, and without the guilt of adultery, take another husband; yet our Lord expressly declares that " whosoever shall put away his wife, . . . and shall marry another, committeth adultery."(12) The bond of marriage, therefore, can be dissolved by death alone, and this the Apostle confirms when he says: " A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord." And again: "To them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband." (13.) Thus to her who has separated from her husband, even for a just cause, the only alternative left by the Apostle is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. The Church, unless influenced by very weighty causes, does not sanction the separation of husband and wife.


That this the law of marriage may not appear too rigorous, its beneficial consequences are to be presented to the consideration of the faithful.

In the first place, they should know that the choice of a companion for life should be influenced by virtue and congeniality of disposition, rather than by wealth or beauty,--a consideration which confessedly is of the highest practical importance to the interests of society.

Besides, if marriage were dissoluble by divorce, married persons could scarcely ever want causes of dissension, which the inveterate enemy of peace and virtue would never fail to supply; whereas, when the faithful reflect that although separated as to bed and board, they are still bound by the tie of marriage, and that all hope of a second marriage is cut off, they are more slow to anger and more averse to dissension; and if sometimes separated, feeling the many inconveniences that attend their separation, their reconciliation is easily accomplished through the intervention of friends. Here the salutary admonition of St. Augustine is also not to be omitted by the pastor, in order to convince the faithful that they should not deem it a hardship to be reconciled to their penitent wives, whom they may have put away for adultery. " Why," says he, " should not the Christian husband receive his wife, whom the Church receives? Why should not the wife pardon her adulterous but penitent husband, whom Christ has pardoned? When the Scriptures call him who keeps an adulteress 'a fool,'(14) it means an adulteress who after her delinquency refuses to repent, and perseveres in the career of turpitude which she had commenced."(15) In perfection and dignity it is clear, therefore, from what has been said, that marriage among the Jews and Gentiles is far inferior to Christian marriage.


The faithful are also to be informed that there are three advantages which arise from marriage,--offspring, faith, and the sacrament,--advantages which alleviate the evils pointed out by the Apostle when he says, "Such shall have tribulation of the flesh,"(16) and which render honorable (17) that intercourse which without marriage should be deservedly reprobated.

The first advantage, then, is that of legitimate offspring,--an advantage so highly appreciated by the Apostle that he says, The woman ..." shall be saved through child-bearing."(18) These words of the Apostle are not, however, to be understood to refer solely to the procreation of children; they also refer to the discipline and education by which children are reared to piety, for the Apostle immediately adds, "if she continue in faith." " Hast thou children?" says Ecclesiasticus, " instruct them, and bow down their neck from their childhood."(19) The same important lesson is inculcated by the Apostle; and of such an education the Scripture affords the most beautiful illustrations in the persons of Tobias, Job, and of other persons eminent for sanctity. But the further development of the duties of parents and children we reserve for the exposition of the Fourth Commandment.

The next advantage is faith; not the habitual faith infused in Baptism, but the fidelity which the husband plights to the wife and the wife to the husband, to deliver to each other the mutual dominion of their persons, and to preserve inviolate the sacred engagements of marriage. This is an obvious inference from the words of Adam on receiving his consort Eve, which, as the Gospel informs us, the Redeemer has sanctioned by his approbation. "Wherefore," says our protoparent," a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one fiesh."(20) Nor are the words of the Apostle less explicit. "The wife," says he, " hath not power of her own body, but the husband."(21) Hence against adultery, because it violates this conjugal faith, the Almighty justly decreed in the Old Law the heaviest chastisements.(22) This matrimonial faith also demands, on the part of husband and wife, a singular, holy, and pure love, a love not such as that of adulterers, but such as that which Christ cherishes towards his Church. This is the model of conjugal love proposed by the Apostle when he says, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church."(23) The love of Christ for His Church was great, not an interested love, but a love which proposed to itself the sole happiness of his spouse.

The third advantage is called the sacrament, that is, the indissoluble tie of marriage. "The Lord," says the Apostle, "commandeth that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife." (24) If, as a sacrament, marriage is significant of the union of Christ with His Church, it follows that as Christ never separates Himself from His Church, so a wife, as far as regards the tie of marriage, can never be separated from her husband.



It is part of God's providence that when He sets before us an end to be attained He provides us also with the means of attaining that end. So in the case of marriage, having ordained it for the high purpose of preparing souls for heaven, God has endowed it with qualities which make it an apt instrument for the purpose for which it was instituted. These qualities are revealed in the truth of Christ and the Church. Christ's Church was to be one only, and it was to last until the end of time. The bond of Christian marriage must likewise be one only and must last until broken by death. Unity and perpetuity are the qualities which make the marriage state specially fitted for the great object of bringing children into the world, of nourishing them in body, mind, and spirit, of bringing them to the final perfection for which man was created. If the bringing of children into the world is attended with great pain and labor, the bringing of their souls to perfection is attended with still greater pain and labor. It requires nothing else than the united life and love of both parents. Now such is the nature of man and woman that they cannot love effectually with a divided love. Let either partner give the other the slightest cause for jealousy and there is an end of that perfect love and harmony in the family which is so needful for the well-being of the children. The archetype of perfect love is the mutual love of the three persons of the blessed Trinity. One of the fairest created reflections of that love is the triple love of family life, the love of husband, wife, and child. It will brook no intrusion from without. It cannot bear the prospect of it coming to an end. This is a fundamental and universal law of nature, a law of nature which is accentuated, ennobled, and made perfect by a law of grace. The Sacrament of Matrimony implies a special divine sanction to the laws of unity and perpetuity in the marriage bond.

The need of the higher sanction and help is seen from the passing nature of the merely natural charms. The mere physical pleasures pass away with their satisfaction. Youthful ardor burns out before the mature part of life is reached. In the course of a life so intimate as that of husband and wife many faults of character become exposed. Marriage certainly brings a revelation of many new beauties of character, but it also brings a revelation of many faults of character. It is fraught with disappointments even as with agreeable surprise. The fading of bodily beauty also tends to weaken the natural bond. When the hair turns gray, and the eye loses its lustre, and the features fall into wrinkles; when the general buoyancy and ardor of youth tones down into the prose of middle age; then indeed is there need of something more sustaining, something more lasting than the mere tie of natural affection or natural contract. It is found in the unity and perpetuity of the Sacrament. The Sacrament imparts all the courage, the energy, the refreshment, and the love needful to make the bond strong and lasting. It renews the youth of married life and makes it satisfying even in spite of years.

The Church claims to have the care of this Sacrament. The Church, therefore, has ever insisted on its unity and perpetuity. The Church regards the sin of adultery as something infinitely more heinous than any sin possible among the unmarried. The father who has to provide for his children must be certain that they are his own. He cares for them only on the supposition that they are his offspring. Any infidelity, therefore, on the part of the woman must of necessity tend to break up these sacred family relationships. A father cannot love and care for children who may be those of the man who has done him the greatest possible injury. And if a woman gives unswerving fidelity to her husband she has a right to claim an equal fidelity in return. Infidelity on the part of the man, although it does not act directly in rendering the offspring of the family uncertain, yet it strikes at the root of conjugal love, and thus almost directly at the foundations of family life. A violation of the sanctity of marriage then by either party is a double violation of God's law, a violation of chastity and a violation of justice. Hence, we have the most stringent laws against adultery, against polygamy, and against divorce.

Among the Jews the penalty of adultery was death by stoning. In the most savage races of the earth its punishment is immediate death. The law of Christ makes the law of nature and the law of Moses more perfect. This it does by all the conditions and rules which it lays down for the prevention of polygamy and divorce. By polygamy we usually understand the possession of two wives at the same time. The possession of two husbands at the same time is known as polyandry. Both are equally condemned by the Christian law. The cases of polygamy among the Jews are frequently quoted by those who want an excuse for disregarding the laws of Christian marriage. Attention must be paid to the circumstances of time and race. If polygamy was permitted, then it was for a special reason. And the permission was mere toleration. The circumstances of the times required that it should be permitted in order to avoid greater evils. Nevertheless, God did not cease to give signs to His people as to what was the great ideal. The most wondrous love song ever sung by man was that inspired by the Holy Spirit, --the song of songs which tells of the love between one bridegroom and one bride, the love which lasts till death. " One is my dove, my perfect one is but one. ... I to my beloved and my beloved to me, who feedest among the anemones. . . . Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy as hard as hell, the lamps thereof are fire and flames. . . . My beloved to me and I to him who feedeth among the lilies, till the day break and the shadows flee away." So the young Tobias could say to his wife Sara: " For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God." In praying to God for a blessing on his marriage he referred back to its original conditions: "Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth, and gavest him Eve for a helper. And now Lord thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever." And Sara prayed with him: "Have mercy on us, and let us grow old both together in health."

Further, the Church, although she insists that the marriage bond lasts only till death, although she allows remarriage after the death of one of the partners, yet she looks upon such remarriage as something less perfect. Her ideal is that a marriage should be so distinctly one and perpetual as to exclude any other marriage even after the first has been dissolved by death. A marriage is not merely a union of two in one flesh, but also of two in one spirit. The more perfect thing, therefore, would be to consider the bond of love lasting right through death. The reason why the Church allows remarriage after the death of one of the partners is because there are other ends of matrimony besides mutual love. To give expression to her wish, however, and to mark the distinction between the more perfect state and the less perfect state, the Church does not give the nuptial blessing in cases where the bride is a widow. She gives it where the bride is being married for the first time, even though the bridegroom be a widower. Having regard to the dignity of the bride, the Church in this case overlooks the defect in the bridegroom. Her end is achieved by withholding the blessing only in the case of the marriage of widows. She wishes to hold up an ideal, to emphasize the unity and perpetuity of the bond.

This brings us to the all-important question of divorce. If both the natural and divine laws maintain the unity and perpetuity of the marriage bond, then no power on earth, not even the Church, has power to grant a divorce. " What, therefore, God hath joined together let no man put asunder." Here, on the threshold of the question, it is necessary to make a clear distinction of terms. When it is said that no power on earth can grant a divorce, divorce must be understood in a particular and strict sense of the word. Let us distinguish, then, between three kinds of separation. First, there is a separation which implies that the husband and wife are allowed to live apart. It is called in juridical language a Judicial separation. It is called in theological language separatio a mensa et thoro, or separation from bed and board. Its meaning is that although the parties are separated from each other, yet they are not free to marry again. If they were allowed to marry again the separation would be said to be d vinculo, or separation from the bond. The actual contract or tie would be broken. Now the first kind of separation is allowed by the Church whenever there is a grave reason, such, for instance, as the misconduct of one of the parties. But the second kind the Church allows never. The bond which has been made by God may not be broken by man. One of the parties may forfeit certain rights of marriage through infidelity to the partner, but can never thereby acquire the freedom to marry again. And further, the Church makes no distinction in this respect between the innocent party and the guilty. A bond is a bond, the contract is a two-sided one, and, therefore, as long as the bond or contract remains it must bind both the parties. However unfair it may seem to the innocent party, yet it is God's law, and God will see to it that those who observe His law will, in the final balancing, receive! their just reward.

Then there is another kind of separation which is frequently believed to be a divorce and which is a source of much perplexity to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It is called a declaration of nullity. It means that that which has appeared to be a marriage is declared never to have been a marriage from the beginning. The parties have gone through the ceremony, but there has been some obstruction in the way which has prevented the knot from being tied and so the supposed marriage must be declared null and void.

There are cases in history where the Church had sanctioned the dissolution of the actual bond of matrimony, the peculiar circumstances of which must be clearly understood. It can only take place when the marriage has been merely ratified and not consummated. That means that the church ceremony has been performed, but the two have not yet become one flesh. In such circumstances the Church teaches that either of the parties may enter religion and take a solemn vow of chastity. By a divine dispensation the solemn vow of chastity renders the marriage bond dissolved, and the party who does not take the vow is free to marry again.

Within these limitations the Church is absolutely inexorable against any attempt at separation from the bond. She has suffered the loss of whole nations from the faith rather than sacrifice one jot or tittle of her principle. The care of the Sacrament has been committed to her keeping, and to have condoned a denial of the sacramental nature of the matrimonial bond, even in one case, would have been to renounce the divine charge given to her. For the English-speaking world the Pope's firmness, in refusing to grant a divorce to Henry VIII, must ever be a monument of the fidelity of the Church to the sanctity of the marriage state. And the famous Encyclical of the illustrious Pope, Leo XIII, must ever remain the charter of woman's dignity and safety as to her marriage right-- "The great evils," wrote the Pontiff, " of which divorce is the spring can hardly be enumerated. When the conjugal bond loses its immutability we may expect to see benevolence and affection destroyed between husband and wife; an encouragement given to infidelity; the protection and education of children rendered more difficult; the germs of discord sown between families; woman's dignity disowned; the danger for her of seeing herself forsaken, after having served as the instrument of man's passions. And as nothing ruins families and destroys the most powerful kingdoms like the corruption of manners, it is easy to see that divorce, which is only begotten of the depraved manners of a people, is the worst enemy of families and of States, and that it opens the door, as experience attests, to the most vicious habits, both in private and in public life."

Views subversive of the Catholic ideal are now very prevalent, and are becoming day by day more prevalent. In the matter of the sanctity of marriage, as in many other things, it is the Catholics who are the salt of the earth. While other religious bodies are prepared to give way under any specious pretext which may arise, the See of Peter proclaims the principle of no compromise. And when the Churches which ought to guard the sanctity of marriage show themselves weak and accommodating to the lower pleasures of man, we must not be surprised if non-religious bodies speak openly in favor of divorce and, all unashamed, make profession of free love. This, indeed, has come to pass. High time is it then for Catholics to make their voice heard in protest. Nay, absolutely imperative is it that Catholics should rally themselves anew with even greater loyalty around the teachings of Holy Mother Church who watches the marriage Sacrament so anxiously and sees its dangers so clearly. Legislation is made which may be irksome; but the irksomeness thereby suffered is trifling compared with the irksomeness thereby avoided. Let us admit boldly that the marriage state is fraught with difficulties, that love is liable to grow cold, that child-bearing is a burden, that the education of many children is a tax; on the family's resources, that a drunken husband is an almost intolerable nuisance, that a gossiping wife is a plague of a life; let us admit all this, but at the same time insist that the Sacrament of Marriage has power either to prevent or mitigate the evils. It restrains the passions. But let the idea of divorce once get established and there is an end of restraint. The passions are let loose and fall victim to every little counter- attraction to family life. The half-hearted partner who realizes that there is an easy escape from the burden of married life makes no serious attempt to bear it. Then comes the sad spectacle of a mother left alone with a house full of children and no father to provide for them; or what is perhaps even more sad, a father with a house full of children and no mother to take care of them. The Church's laws may be hard to bear at times. They are, however, as the yoke of Christ, sweet and easy to bear if only we spread them out over the short run of life.



I. Matrimony is a holy thing, being a Sacrament. Virginity and widowhood are both excellent, but our Lord raised neither to this dignity, whereas He applied His sufferings and merits to Matrimony, as well as to Baptism and Confirmation, and gives a peculiar grace by means of the outward signs. It is no easy matter for two persons to live together, pledged never to part, and to take upon themselves the heavy responsibility of bringing up children. The special grace conveyed by this Sacrament enables married people to fulfil their duties towards each other and towards their children. Marriage is undoubtedly a Sacrament, and it is called so not only by St. Paul, but also by the fathers.

St. Augustine says: " In the city of our God, on His holy mountain (i.e., in the Church), marriage is regarded not merely as an alliance, but also as a Sacrament."

St. Leo writes: " Union by marriage was from the beginning instituted in such a way as to contain within itself the Sacrament of Christ and His Church" (Epist. 92, c. 4).

The Council of Trent stated: " If anyone asserts that marriage is not truly one of the Sacraments of the evangelical law, instituted by Christ our Lord, or that it does not convey grace, let him be anathema" (Sess. 24, c. i).

A Catholic regards marriage not so much as a natural union, but as a Sacrament, deriving its efficacy from the sufferings of Christ, and no less holy and worthy of respect than Baptism or any of the other Sacraments.

Marriage gains an additional sanctity from the fact that it typifies the union of Christ and the Church. He, the only-begotten Son of God, came forth from the Father into the world, being influenced by His love for His bride, the Catholic Church, whose beauty He beheld from all eternity, and, as St. Paul says. He delivered Himself up for the Church.

The Catholic Church consists of all baptized Christians who believe what Christ taught, make use of the means of grace that He instituted, and are in communion with His visible representative on earth. This vast association of all the faithful is described symbolically as a spotless maiden, united to our Lord by His incarnation and redemption. Our human nature is now united so closely with His Divine nature, that "we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. v. 30).

This spiritual union of Christ and the Church is a type of Christian marriage. He left the Father and was united with the Church so as to form one body with her; and in the same way a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they are two in one flesh. Christ founded but one Church, from which He can never be separated, and so a man can have but one wife, and their union is indissoluble.

The Church, through her union with Christ, became a fruitful mother, bringing forth children in every age to people the kingdom of heaven; and in the same way Christian marriage is intended for the propagation of the race; but the children are to be brought up so as to complete the number of the elect, and be born " not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John i. 13).

When therefore St. Paul calls marriage a great Sacrament, he means that it is a Sacrament typifying the union of Christ and His Church, and it is great, because it represents the greatest of all mysteries, the Incarnation of the Word.

God Himself instituted marriage in Paradise, and it must therefore be an honorable state, pleasing to Him. Under the old covenant it was regarded as a disgrace not to be married, and a woman who had no husband, or whose marriage was childless, believed herself to be abandoned by God. In the New Testament preference is given to virginity, but our Lord was far from despising marriage; indeed, recognizing it as an honorable condition, He sanctified the natural union by the gift of sacramental grace. Our Lady and St. Joseph were married people, and Christ was a guest at the marriage at Cana in Galilee and worked His first miracle there. The Apostles speak of marriage as a holy state instituted by God. St. Paul says that he will lay down no law for his converts on the subject of virginity, because a special vocation is required to this state, and whoever does not feel himself called to it, is advised to marry.

II. There are three blessings peculiar to marriage, viz., children, conjugal fidelity, and the special grace conveyed by the Sacrament of holy Matrimony., We owe our existence to the marriage of our parents, and it is a great boon when a marriage is blessed with children. "A woman," says St. Paul, "shall be saved through child-bearing, if she continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety" (1 Tim. ii. 15). People have a very mistaken idea of marriage who complain of having children; and still worse are those who are ready to enjoy the privileges of married life but not its burdens.

The married state is, however, good and useful even when the blessing of children is denied by God, or when the man and woman mutually agree to refrain altogether from conjugal intercourse. "In our marriages," says St. Augustine, "the sanctity of the Sacrament is more highly prized than its fecundity. Among all heathen nations the advantages of marriage are its right to produce children and conjugal fidelity; among the people of God there is the further advantage of the sanctity of the Sacrament."

There are many instances of married couples who have preserved their virginity; such were St. Henry the Emperor and his wife Cunigunde, Marcian and Pulcheria, Count Elzearius and Delphine, St. Julian and Basilissa.

The second blessing peculiar to the married state is conjugal fidelity. This implies that the two persons, united by the holy bond of matrimony, never abandon one another even in time of trouble, but hold fast one to the other in loyalty and love, having common interests and remaining true until death parts them. This they promise solemnly at the time of their marriage, when they stand before the priest, God's representative, and all the congregation. It is a great consolation for each to know that there is someone pledged to love and help them, in sickness and health, in joy and sorrow. In order to strengthen and preserve this bond, God has made marriage indissoluble; nothing can sever it, and whoever leaves wife or husband and attaches himself or herself to another is guilty of adultery.

The third great blessing conferred by marriage is the grace peculiar to the Sacrament of Matrimony. The matter is the mutual surrender of the body, which takes place at the moment when the man and woman declare that they there and then marry each other. Thenceforth, as St. Paul says: "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (i Cor. vii. 4). This surrender, made by one contracting party, must be accepted by the other, and each signifies assent, this assent being the form of the Sacrament. As soon as these words have been uttered in the presence of the priest and witnesses, the marriage is completed and the Sacrament has been received, in consequence of which the following special graces are bestowed upon the married couple: (i) Grace to possess their vessel in sanctification and honor, as St. Paul expresses it (i Thess. iv. 4), or, in other words, to avoid any breach of the marriage bond; (2) grace to love one another, as Christ loves the Church, so that they may be one in spirit and will, as well as in body; (3) grace to overcome the difficulties attendant upon living together and bringing up children.

The married state is, according to the Council of Trent, a holy thing, and must be treated as such; it must be kept holy in the begetting and rearing of children, in the preservation of conjugal fidelity, and in the use made of the graces which the Sacrament of Matrimony confers upon those who receive it worthily, and ask God for aid to do their duty.

1. Eph. v. 28-31.
2. Tertull. lib. de Monog.; Aug. de fide et oper. c. 7; lib. nupt. et concup. ec. 10, 12.
3. Sess. 24. 4. Ambr. in epist. ad Ephes. 5. Eph. v. 23.
6. Sess. 24, de matrim. 7. Heb. xiii. 4. 8. Gen. xxii. 18.
9. Deut. xxiv. i; Matt. xix. 7. 10. Matt. xix. 5, 6.
11. Matt. xix. 9. 12. Matt. xix. 9; Luke xvi. 18
13. i Cor. vii. 39; 10, n. 14. Prov. xviii. 22.
15. Lib. de adult, conjug. ec. 6, 9. 16. i Cor. vii. 28.
17. See Aug. iib. 5, contr. Tul. cap. 5. 18. i Tim. ii. 14, 13.
19. Eccl. vii. 25. 20. Gen. ii. 24; Matt. xix. 5.
21. i Cor. vii. 4. 22. Num. v. 12, etc.
23. Eph. v. 25. 24. i Cor. vii. 10.

The Mass for Bridegroom and Bride

The Introit

May the God of Israel join you together, and may He be with you who was merciful to two only children; and now, O Lord, make them bless Thee more fully.

V. Blessed are all they that fear the Lord; that walk in His ways.
V. Glory be to the Father, etc. May the God of Israel, etc.

The Collect

Graciously hear us, Almighty and merciful God, that what is performed by our ministry may be abundantly filled with Thy blessing. Through, etc.

The Epistle

Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord; because man is head of the woman, as Christ is Head of the Church: Himself is Saviour of his body. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let women 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, with the laver of water in the word of life, that He Himself might present to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it may be holy, and without blemish. So also the men ought to love their wives, as their own bodies. He who loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh, but he nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ the Church; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great but I speak in Christ, and in the Church. Nevertheless, let each of you love his wife as he loveth himself; and let the wife fear her husband.

The Gradual

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine on the walls of thy house.

V. Thy children as olive plants round about thy table. Alleluia, alleluia.
V. May the Lord send you help from the sanctuary, and defend you out of Sion. Alleluia.

After Septuagesima, instead of Alleluia and V. is said the (TRACT).


Behold, thus shall every man be blessed that feareth the Lord.

V. May the Lord bless thee out of Sion: and mayest thou see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.

V. And mayest thou see thy children's children; peace upon Israel.

At Easter-tide the Gradual is omitted, and in its place is said:

Alleluia, Alleluia.

May the Lord send you help from the sanctuary, and defend you out of Sion. Alleluia.

V. May the Lord bless you out of Sion, who hath made heaven and earth. Alleluia.

The Gospel

At that time there came to Jesus the Pharisees, tempting Him, and saying: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" And He answered and said to them: "Have ye not read, that He who made man from the beginning made them male and female?" and said: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

The Offertory

In Thee, O Lord, have I put my trust; I said, Thou art my God, my lot is in Thy hands.

The Secret Prayer

Receive, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the gift we here offer up in behalf of Thy holy Law of Marriage; and as Thou art the Giver of the work, be Thou also the Disposer thereof. Through our Lord, etc.

After the Pater Noster, the priest, standing at the Epistle-side of the altar, and turning towards the bridegroom and bride, who kned before the altar, says over them the following prayers:

Let us pray

Be favorable, O Lord, unto our prayers, and graciously protect Thine ordinance, whereby Thou hast provided for the propagation of mankind; that what is now joined together by Thine authority may be preserved by Thy help. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

R. Amen.

Let us pray

O God, who by the might of Thy power didst make all things out of nothing; who when the foundations of the world were laid, and man was made on the image of God, didst so ordain the inseparable aid of woman, as to give her body its origin from that of man, teaching thereby that what it had pleased Thee to fashion out of one could never be lawfully put asunder; O God, who hast consecrated wedlock to so excellent a mystery, that in the marriage covenant Thou wouldst foreshow the mysterious union of Christ with His Church; O God, by whom woman is joined to man, and that union, established in the beginning, is gifted with a blessing, which alone was not taken away, either in punishment of original sin, or by the sentence of the Flood; look graciously down upon this Thy handmaid, now about to be joined in marriage, who heartily desires to be strengthened by Thy protection; may it be to her a yoke of love and peace; faithful and chaste may she marry in Christ, and be a follower of holy matrons; may she be pleasing to her husband like Rachel, wise like Rebecca, long-lived and faithful like Sarah. In none of her deeds may that first author of transgression have any share; may she abide firmly knit unto the faith and the commandments; joined in one union, may she remain ever constant thereto; may she fortify her weakness by the strength of a chastened life; in shamefacedness be grave, in modesty worthy of respect, in heavenly doctrines learned; may she be fruitful in offspring; may she be approved and blameless; and attain unto the rest of the Blessed, and unto the heavenly kingdom, that they both see their children's children unto the third and fourth generation, and arrive at a happy old age. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

R. Amen.

The Communion

Behold, thus shall every man be blessed that feareth the Lord; and mayest thou see thy children's children; peace upon Israel!

The Postcommunion

We beseech Thee, O God Almighty, to accompany with Thy gracious favor what Thy providence hath ordained; and preserve in continual peace those whom Thou hast joined in lawful union. Through our Lord, etc.

After the Benedicamus Domino, the priest turns toward
the bridegroom and bride, and says:

May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and may He fulfil His blessing upon you; that you may see your children's children unto the third and fourth generation; and may afterwards have everlasting life, by the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.

He then sprinkles them with holy water. Afterwards, bowing down before the altar, he says the Placeat, gives the Blessing, and ends the Mass as usual.

Prayer of Husband or Wife

O God, who hast ordered the holy state of matrimony, wherein I am engaged, grant me grace to comply with all its obligations, and to perform them in such a manner as is becoming a Christian, not an unbeliever. Preserve my love undefiled, according to Thy divine command, and let the duty of love help to conduct me with comfort through all the obligations and difficulties of my state. Grant me discretion to manage all circumstances for the best; a true love for peace; and such a discreet compliance as to resign my own thoughts and inclinations for preserving it. Inspire me with true humility and patience that I may submit to and bear with all crosses in the manner the apostle requires. Furnish me with all other helps that whatever difficulties may occur, I may persevere with cheerfulness in discharging the duties of my state, and never yield so far to any weakness, ill-humor, or impatience, as to weaken, much less to break, the bond which Thou hast sanctified, and which cannot be dissolved but by death. May I always be faithful and indefatigable in the discharge of the duties of my state, doing and suffering whatever falls to my lot, with such absolute submission to Thy will, that both in peace and trouble, in prosperity and adversity, I may ever remember to resign myself cheerfully, O God, to Thy pleasure or permission; and, under all difficulties, still labor to work out my salvation; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Other related links to the Sacrament of Matrimony

Music: Panis Angelicus by Cesar Franck