Perhaps by now many of you have heard that Darlene Herber accepted the position as front office assistant. She is already doing a fine job, and I am grateful for her willingness to join us.
Many thanks to all those who worked to make the wine and beer tasting event such a success. It was a wonderful evening of fellowship with parishioners from all three campuses.
On another note, please be informed that we have to put the children’s choir on hold until further notice. Rachel Jones, given the changing dynamic of her job, realized she would not be able to lead that effort. I appreciate those youth who called in to be a part of the children’s choir workshop and choir. We will be in touch with you as we figure out how to move forward.
Here’s the main teaching of this letter: “Consent makes marriage.” When a baptized man and a baptized woman give themselves to each other unconditionally, fully, permanently until-death-do-they-part, with an openness to life, God uses their consent – their full gift-yes to each other – to create a permanent bond that no power on earth can destroy. The Church so values and appreciates this amazing, beautiful bond that She is very cautious not to tread upon it in a way that ignores it or disrespects it.
This is why when a man or woman comes to the Church with a second marriage, and one of the parties has already been married before, we insist on studying their situation, so as to figure out if we can “convalidate” the current marriage, i.e., connect their current marriage back to the Church, “bless” their marriage. In order to do this, we often have to help one of the parties obtain an “annulment”.
What’s an annulment? Although on the surface it might look like an act of the Church that makes a former marriage “null”, this is not what “annulment” means. An annulment is a study the Church undergoes to determine if there was some impediment, some blockage, which prevented full consent on the day the prior marriage was supposedly effected. Consent makes marriage. On the day of the prior marriage, was there great immaturity on the part of one party or the other? Was there some future condition that one party relied upon, even though it was not spoken? Was there some type of external pressure causing them to enter in the marriage? Was there some grave psychological wound that actually prevented one of the parties from fully making the gift of self? An annulment is a study by the Church to determine if something significant was missing at the time vows were made in that previous marriage. It is not an act of the Church that dissolves a marriage bond.
Sometimes it is something in the form of the marriage that was lacking. If a baptized Catholic ignores the Church and gets married in a courthouse or even in some other denominational church, or even in an outdoor park without the right permission the relationship with the Church (mediator of the Eucharist, and all the sacraments which receive power from the Eucharist) is harmed. Then you would have what is called a “lack of form” declaration of nullity. Those are much simpler, since it is so obvious that the right elements were not in place to create the permanent sacramental bond.
The Diocese has asked us to preach this weekend, as part of our ongoing observance of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Francis, about the “divorced and remarried”. There are many questions people have about why the Church will not allow the divorced and remarried – without a declaration of nullity – to approach the Eucharist. The quick answer is that a sacramental marriage represents and actually participates in the very love of Jesus Christ for his Bride, the Church. That love of Jesus Christ is a singular, whole, fully committed love for His Church. That singular love is most fully encapsulated in the Eucharist. If a man or woman has married a second time, and it is not clear that the first marriage was no sacramental marriage bond at all, then the person’s relationship with both spouses presents a contradiction with the singular love of the Eucharist, the singular gift of Jesus for His Bride, the Church.
So the Church asks divorced and remarried Catholics – who have not yet received a declaration of nullity – to abstain from the Eucharist until that time when the nullity of the first marriage can be declared. In the meantime, the divorced and remarried – without a declaration of nullity – are still invited to participate as fully as possible in the life of the community. They can still come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and participate in that worship, even if they don’t receive Communion. They have not somehow been “automatically excommunicated”, as some people mistakenly think. (We should never judge somebody in the congregation who does not join in the Communion line. There are several good reasons not to approach Communion. Even out of the devotion, a person might decide to refrain on a given Sunday, although the Church does encourage frequent reception of Communion. The point is that a couple should not feel embarrassed that they are not going up for Communion; and nobody ought to judge them for this.)
In addition to attending Mass, a couple could still participate in various services in the parish, Although it is true that neither party would be able to take a “ministerial role”. We would like couples who are divorced and remarried to participate as fully as possible, to feel as welcome as possible. I personally invite such couples to meet with me to talk about their state in life – especially to figure out if there is some way we could regularize their current situation, i.e., connect it back with the Church, such that they could come back to the Eucharist. I cannot promise a declaration of nullity in each case, but I am certainly willing to help a couple figure out how to move forward.
Although we do not publish the names of couples who are seeking a declaration of nullity regarding a past marriage, you should know that in my short couple years here at the parish, I believe I’ve worked with ten couples to regularize their situations; i.e., to help them obtain a declaration of nullity from the Church, so that their current civil marriage could be “blessed”, “convalidated”, “brought into the Church”. I am very happy to help such couples. It is my experience that their past suffering lays a foundation that makes their current discipleship all the more dynamic and powerful. We’ve all made some huge mistakes in life. God can even use those mistakes to humble us and make us holier, and lay a foundation for greater things to come in service to Him. St. Augustine, commenting on the passage from Romans 8:28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him,” boldly adds, “even in our sins”. God even uses our past failures to bring about greater glory. This can certainly be the case for the divorced and re-married. May all of those in this situation know God’s mercy and our love!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,