"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring: this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." - The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1601
Couples contemplating marriage should contact our deacon or priest at least six months before their desired wedding to establish their freedom to marry and to begin a period of formation for this sacrament of Christ's love for his Church.
The institution of marriage was officially recognized as one of the sacraments of the Church at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Prior to this time, it had always been considered a religious reality distinctly different from non-Christian forms of marriage. St. Paul referred to marriage as a mysterion, or great mystery. Marriage was referred to by some of the early Christians writers, especially St. Augustine, as a sacrament, but the term had various meanings, all related to St. Paul's reference. Theologically, it is considered a sacrament because it images the union of Christ and His Church.
Unlike the other sacraments, marriage itself was not instituted by Christ. Since it predated Christianity, the Church teaches that Christ raised or elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. This is so because He recognized something fundamentally good in the marital institution. This good is grounded in the complementary relationship of the man and the woman. In the creation account of the Book of Genesis, the male is created first but is incomplete. Man, in the generic sense, is completed with the creation of the female.
The scriptural account states that the male could not find another creature that was fit to be his partner. This account goes on to state that the man and woman become one flesh. The "one flesh" union is a covenantal formula that refers not to the physical joining of the spouses but to the total human joining that comes about in marriage. This total relationship entails the giving of one spouse to the other for the purpose of aiding in the well-being of each other. This highest form of gift requires that the spouses be totally faithful to each other, a fidelity that is grounded in a special kind of love, referred to by St. Augustine as conjugal charity.
Marriage as a commitment or act is acknowledged in both civil society and law, and Church society and law. This is primarily because of the role it plays in the welfare of Church and society. For this reason, both secular and religious institutions have enacted laws for the regulation of marriage. These laws treat of requirements for marriage as well as standards for the way spouses relate to and treat each other.
The Catholic concept of Christian marriage involves much more than holding the wedding in church. What makes a marriage Christian isn't a church blessing added on to a legal contract. Christian marriage is a personal relationship of life-giving love in which two people make the love of Christ present to each other and become a sign of the love of Christ to those around them.
Scriptural support for Marriage from both Old and New Testaments is seen in Matthew 19:4-6 where Jesus says: "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning "made them male and female,' and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
See also: I Corinthians 7: 1-16, Ephesians 5: 22-23, Colossians 3:18-19, Hebrews 13: 4-7.