Reflections from Scripture and Theology

                          ON MARRIAGE AND ANNULMENTS
                         IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Rev. Fr. Charles E. Irvin, B.A., B.B.A., M.B.A., M.Div., J.D.
Rev. Fr. Steven J. Raica, B.A., M.A., M.Div., J.C.L., J.C.D.
Note: Canon Lawyers no longer care to use the term “annulment”. They have no shorthand word as yet to denote the fact that this is an internal Roman Catholic “procedure for declaring the invalidity of a marriage”. Because there is a separation of Church and State, this procedure has nothing to do with the status the parties (or their children) in civil law. The following essay was written when the term “annulment” was still in usage.

                                        PRIMARY SCRIPTURE

A topic as fundamental as this one must necessarily begin with an examination of our primary Christian documents, the Gospels. The fact that the words of Jesus about divorce are repeated verbatim in all three of the Synoptic Gospels tells us that the very first Christians who knew and lived with Christ regarded this particular teaching of Jesus Christ as having the utmost importance. We must, therefore, regard the followings words of Christ as having the highest possible significance.
“Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ Moses allowed us, they said, ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no long two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide. Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.” (Cf. Matthew, 5:31-32 and 19:3-9; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18).
The idea that a genuine marriage is indissoluble rests at the very core of the Gospel of St. John. One could argue forcefully that marriage is the Prime Sacrament in St. John’s entire sacramental system. One could shatter all contrary arguments with the fact that the central reality of St. John’s entire thinking is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the marriage of God and Man in Jesus Christ, a covenant bonding that can never be broken, even by Man’s futile attempt at Deicide.
                                       THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION

Because Jesus Christ has declared marriage to be indissoluble, when the Sacrament of Matrimony is genuinely present, it cannot be declared null even under the “Power of the Keys” given to Peter and the Twelve by Christ. This is not because the Church lacks the will to do so, but because it lacks the capacity. The same principle holds true for Baptism and Holy Orders. The Church cannot “unbaptize” anyone once they are validly baptized, nor can the Church “unordain” someone validly ordained into Holy Orders. All three of these Sacraments participate in the indissoluble covenant bonding between God and humanity in the new and everlasting Covenant established by Jesus Christ in His incarnation and resurrection.
Theologically speaking the Sacrament of Matrimony is an actualization of the marriage between Christ and His bride, the Church, and it is a bonding that can never be ended. In Christ, God has married humanity in a covenant bonding that no human force, institution or choice can overcome. This is why the first miracle reported in St. John’s gospel occurs at a wedding, in Cana of Galilee, and ends with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the Last Supper, in which the Bridegroom says to us, His beloved Bride: “This is my body, take it and make it one with yours. This is my blood, my life, take it and mingle it and make it one with yours. I am marrying you, and even though you crucify me, crown me with thorns, pierce my side, and bury me in the earth, I will come back out of the grave to love you, because nothing can make me not love you.”
The Sacrament of Matrimony actualizes this love of God, makes it human flesh and blood, makes it a part of human living. All Christian marriage is built on this fundamental reality, a reality that is indissoluble and which can never be shattered.
In giving their consent to each other baptized couples confer the Sacrament of Matrimony on each other. Their consent to mutually give themselves as total gifts each to the other is a juridic act to which the Church witnesses and ratifies as the family of faith to which the couple belong. Such a union is presumptively authentic and valid unless and until that presumption is overcome. In an annulment process the Church examines the interior nature of the mutual exchange between the parties and then ratifies the fact that some vital and necessary element or elements in that exchange of consent were missing in either one (or both) of the parties involved. Of course external elements could invalidate the exchange, but the great majority of annulment cases involve an interior discernment.


There are people who question the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is involved in annulments at all, claiming that annulments are “Roman Catholic divorces.” There are others who decry the interior discernment, claiming that it is “invasive, intrusive, paternalistic and degrading.” On the other hand, there are those who say that if the Sacrament of Matrimony was not truly present in a marriage then it is proper for Christians to call upon the Church to declare that to be the case. It is the duty of the Church to protect the integrity of the Sacraments and to inform us whether or not they are validly present in our human activity.

That raises a second fundamental question. If it is proper for the Church to employ the annulment process, what criteria should the Church use to determine whether or not the Sacrament of Matrimony is validly present or not in any marriage under question? While in a few instances involving external forces the Church’s tribunals use the same criteria employed by civil courts, nevertheless we must hold to the principle that civil divorce cannot dissolve the Sacrament of Matrimony; a divine institution cannot be terminated by a human institution. However the Church has within her range of responsibilities the duty to determine whether or not that which was instituted by God was truly present. This is equally so with respect to all of the Sacraments. The Church and the State have separate and distinct legal systems and it is important here to strictly observe the separation of Church and State and not mix the elements proper to each.

                                GENERAL MISCONCEPTIONS



1 – If my marriage is declared null my children will be illegitimate.
2 – Annulments take years to complete.
3 -Annulments cost thousands of dollars and are given only to the rich and famous.
4 – Annulments are always granted, especially in the United States. The “American Church” is at variance with the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.
5 -Annulments are hardly ever obtained.
6 -The Catholic Church thinks that all non-Catholic marriages are invalid.
7 -Only marriages lasting a few months and without children are considered for the                   annulment process.
NOTE: The Catholic Church does not “grant annulments,” it simply declares the juridic fact of nullity. The jurisprudence is one of witnessing to the reality of what is present or not present in a marriage presented to it, determining whether what is present in that relationship is consonant with what it understands to be essential to the nature of a marriage.          

                         THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCH

One of the duties of the Church is to witness to the presence of Christ reaching us and sharing God’s life with us in His Sacraments. One of the Church’s concomitant duties is to tell us when a sacrament is truly present and when it is not. The Church ought to tell us whether or not a priest validly offers the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Holy Mass, when he uses pizza and beer instead of bread and wine. Similarly, the Church ought to tell us whether or not the Sacrament of Baptism is authentically administered when the one baptizing uses rose-water and glycerin instead of water. Likewise, the Church has the duty to witness to whether or not the Sacrament of Matrimony is validly present when either one or both of the parties offers the other a consent to marry that is a radically defective consent.

 A divorce is the ending of a marriage contract by the civil power of the state; the state uses its power to rescind the marital contract. An annulment, however, is a determination by the Church that the requisite elements for the Sacrament of Matrimony were not present in the first place when the parties exchanged their consent. Behavior patterns of either or both persons, either early on in the beginning or later on in their relationship, can provide strong indications of a fissure that must be traced back to the beginning of their union. The evidence must demonstrate that the requisite consensual elements were missing all along.
The Church’s annulment process does not negate the truth that a loving, spousal relationship was present and that the children born of that union were legitimate. The Church’s annulment process does not deny the civil recognition of the previous union, or its social or anthropological validity. Annulment is a very limited thing, focusing strictly on the essence of the commitments made, each party to the other. For there to be a valid marriage, sacramental or not, certain necessary components must be present. And while it may be alleged that the children of an annulled marriage are second class citizens in the Kingdom of God, the reality is that the graces of the Sacrament run (or do not run) to the spouses, not to the children. Simply because their parents did not share in an authentic Sacrament of Matrimony does not mean that the children born of that union received any less than a full measure God’s graces. Nor can it be properly said that children born of parents who are not baptized are deprived of God’s graces.
The Roman Rota (so named because of the rotating teams of three judges) is the highest marriage tribunal in the Roman Catholic Church, adjudicating as an appellate court petitions for declarations of nullity within the jurisprudence of the Catholic Church. The Rota has made some remarkable decisions based on Pope Paul VI’s teachings on the nature of marriage found in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae and based also on subsequent papal teachings. These Rota decisions have opened the way for declarations of freedom to marry again in the Catholic Church that were previously not thought possible. This has been brought about by newer understandings of the nature of matrimonial consent and the psychological capacities needed to support such a commitment to a lifetime of co-partnership between a man and a woman.
Since the Second Vatican Council, marriage is seen not simply as a legal contract. It is seen rather as a covenant between a man and a woman to establish and live together in a partnership for the whole of life, “communio totius vitae.” A careful reading of the Nuptial Blessing, a beautiful and essential part of the Nuptial Mass, reveals much: “Father, by your plan man and woman are united, and married life has been established as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood. Look with love upon this woman, your daughter, now joined to her husband in marriage. She asks your blessing. Give her the grace of love and peace. May she always follow the example of the holy women whose praises are sung in the scriptures. May her husband put his trust in her and recognize that she is his equal and the heir with him to the life of grace. May he always honor her and love her as Christ loves his bride, the Church.

In the twenty centuries of Church history the science of psychology has appeared and developed only within our century. This has given us new insights as to the nature of consent, commitment to another, and the psychic capacities necessary to support decisions to live in total commitment to one another. Revisions were proposed for the Church’s Code of Canon Law based on these newer psycho/spiritual understandings. Much of the content of those revisions is now available for use in advocating annulments in the Church’s diocesan marriage tribunals. They are being used successfully. It is a wondrous and joyful thing to behold the return of Catholics to the sacraments, sacraments which had been denied them in the past because of the previous state of matrimonial jurisprudence in Roman Catholic church tribunals.

                                    MARRIAGE AND VATICAN II

One of the basic sources for these new annulment possibilities is found in the Second Vatican Council. The Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) defines marriage in terms significantly differing from those pertaining to legal contracts. Contracts speak of rights, duties, and property. Those are terms involving property and ownership rights. They are inadequate notions relative to the inter- relationships between human persons committing themselves to living Christ’s covenant love in their lives. They are inadequate tools to be used in discerning the commitment spouses give to each other in what God has joined together.
In addition, Vatican II does not speak of marriage in terms of “primary” and “secondary” purposes. In his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI shifted the theological focus on the fundamental elements of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Humanae Vitae, along with other papal encyclicals, presents marriage as a total partnership in all of life, a “communio totius vitae” as Pope Paul VI put it. The covenant love of a couple, said the pope, must be human, total, moral, and fruitful. Marriage is seen no longer exclusively in terms of the giving and receiving of rights, duties, and obligations. Nor is it seen primarily in terms of reproduction. Marriage is now to be seen in terms of God’s unbreakable commitment to belong to us forever in love, a love that is, at the same time, generative and creative.
There is cause for alarm in the woeful lack of understanding in the minds of many couples regarding the basic Christian reasons for marriage. All too often pastors find themselves talking with persons who want only a pretty ceremony that is somehow vaguely blessed by the Church. This is little more than a license to live together. Even worse, it reduces the covenant nature of this commitment, and the total love that it entails, along with the meaning of the relationship as a Sacrament of Christ, to the level of a mere legal agreement.

                                      MARRIAGE AS A SACRAMENT


The Christian covenant of matrimony is something which has elements within it that the couple do not determine for themselves. These fundamental elements of the Sacrament come from One who is beyond the will of the partners. They come from Christ, the One who gave Himself to us, Body and Blood, in an Everlasting Covenant. The terms of the covenant are His, not ours. And the same is likewise true for divorce. The law against divorce is not a law invented by the Church. It comes from Christ who told us: “What God hath joined together, man must not divide.”
The Sacrament of Marriage is an outward and visible sign of that inward spiritual reality that is God’s love, God’s Word made flesh in the human condition. In Christian marriage Christians ‘ordain’ themselves to minister to each other (and others) a sort of love that is divine. Their own human love remains, of course. And it retains its own integrity. But the couple’s human love in the Sacrament of Matrimony contains within it the special power of God’s Covenant love, a love that is for the whole of life in its complete totality, a partnership love, a covenant of love that goes beyond a mere legal contract. Christians give themselves, therefore, irrevocably, so that if one party fails or hurts the other (or even tries to crucify the other), the covenant relationship remains. Contracts are terminated by breaches, covenants are above and beyond breach of contract.
Moreover, Sacraments are acts of a community of faith; they are for the Faith Community as a community. They are not simply acts of private individuals. While it is true that each spouse in a marriage partnership needs affection, approval, affirmation, and acceptance (and rightfully we should expect such), it is nevertheless true that others who relate to the partners in marriage need their support, the strength and power of their relationship, and the Spirit within their love. This is especially true when children are conceived and raised. The marriage relationship is placed in the hands of God in order that His grace and power might work through, with, and in that marital love. This is absolutely and fundamentally necessary for the psychic, emotional, and spiritual health of children. They need a vital, stable, and loving bond between their mother and father more than they need bread and milk.
In the Christian context there is a recognition that God has given Himself to us in the mode of a Covenant. He has “married” himself to humanity. As a result, He can never not be integrated or “married” to our humanity. He has therefore not given himself to us in the form of a contract. His commitment to us, springing out of the Jewish Covenant and coming to us in the Christian Covenant, comes to us in these terms: “I will be your God and you will be my people, and I will love you no matter what happens. Even though you ignore me, even though you go whoring after false gods, and even though you try to crucify me, I will still be your God. You cannot escape me or avoid my relationship with you.” And in the Word becoming Spirit-filled flesh, the nuptials are consummated. It can be seen, therefore, that it is no accident that the Gospels begin with the first miracle of Christ occurring at a wedding feast in Can of Galilee. The Last Supper is, as the Book of Revelation puts it, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
                             VALID NON-SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGES                          

In Roman Catholic theology, a marriage is a sacrament when two baptized Christians give themselves to each other in a proper forum and with the requisite interior dispositions and capacities. The Church quite properly recognizes that other marriages may have all of the requisite elements but involve unions where either one or both of the parties are not baptized. In cases where such marriages break down the Church’s jurisprudence is based on what is known as the “Pauline Privilege” and the “Petrine Privilege.” A discussion of the jurisprudence involved in such cases is more appropriately done in a separate essay. Persons involved in the breakdown of marriages wherein one is baptized and the other is not should consult their local priest or call their local tribunal for assistance in such instances.

                                        MARRIAGE AS COVENANT

We see now that the Church regards marriage as a commitment in the nature of a covenant, that is a commitment to share in a partnership in all of life. The consequence is that if either party willfully excludes a commitment to that total community of life (or any part thereof) then there is no covenant commitment, no Sacrament. There is, on the contrary, a falsification of what the Sacrament of Matrimony is all about.
The Canon Law of the Church reads: “Marriage is that intimate partnership for the whole of life between a man and a woman which by its very nature is ordered to the procreation and education of children.” Note the significance of this language. It does not speak in terms of rights, duties, and obligations. Nor does it speak of primary and secondary purposes of marriage. Rather it places primary emphasis where it should be placed, namely upon the total community of life of the couple, that basic necessity needed for the emotional, psychic, and spiritual health of their children.
What, then, are some implications? First of all, Christian married couples commit themselves to love in such a way that their love overflows, becomes a fountain so to speak, into the lives of others. They are not only a sign of God’s love in our world, they are a source of it. They are a Sacrament. Theirs is a community act, not just the act of two isolated egos. They live so as not to be merely a duality of egos, totally dedicated only to themselves alone. To expect that is to falsify God’s love in a narrow and confined exclusivity. Christian couples destine and ordain themselves in the Sacrament of Matrimony to live for others, for their children, their friends, and for the Other who is God.

                                    MARRIAGES AS FALSE SIGNS


Now while the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Marriage is something that is precious to Catholics (and the Catholic Church will always hold on to the injunction of Christ not to dissolve that which has been joined together in God) nevertheless people should not be held to marriages which have such defects within them as to render them false signs of God’s love for us. This is particularly so when those marriages failed because of a radical defect in their constitution or that the intentions of the parties were not consonant with the Church’s understanding of the essential nature of matrimony. Those radical defects may have existed through no willful intention of either or both of the parties in that attempted marriage. Consequently even though we cannot put asunder what God hath joined together, we have the duty and the right to examine what hath allegedly been joined together in God. A reading of Galatians 5:16 ff. is helpful in discerning the signs of the presence of God in any relationship. These verses give us good indices, among a wide array of others, to judge whether or not a marriage is really a Sacrament of the presence of God in our lives.
Since human life is not absolute, we are touched by death in all aspects of life. Thus faith can be lost, grace can be lost, and marriages can appear to “die.” And out of a desire to cover up death we often use cosmetics in order to avoid facing it. Thus when relationships between human beings deaden we often cover up by suppressing, repressing, denying, or appealing to law, duty, and obligation in order to maintain at least the appearance of a relationship. Most of the time this is done to avoid looking at radical defects that existed in those relationships from the very beginning.
Perhaps some examples of marriages that have “died” would be helpful on this point. Consider alcoholism, chronic alcoholism, the sort that completely anesthetizes the heart, mind and soul of one of the partners such that the other has no hope of ever living in a covenant of love with a genuine partner. Can we call such a relationship a Sacrament of God’s love? Or suppose that one of the partners is psychosexually fixed in a homosexual orientation, such that change is, in the judgment of experts, impossible. Can we consider such a person to be a true partner in the Sacrament of Matrimony? Or suppose an alleged partner in marriage is so psychologically fixated in adolescence that he or she cannot maintain sexual fidelity in a permanent commitment to only one other. Is such a relationship a “sign of God’s covenant love among us”?
Perhaps, also, a young man is raised in a family that has a history in which the men regard women as objects, objects for sexual gratification, trophies that have been “won,” or possessions that add value to the perception the men have of themselves. Perhaps, too, women are married out of political expediency for the men. In any event and for a host of reasons, women can be married because they are objects instead of persons. Certainly such an intention, however conscious or unconscious, would be little more than a simulation of marriage diametrically opposed to the Church’s basic notions of marriage.
There are other instances, to be sure, used in Catholic Church annulment jurisprudence to declare alleged marriages invalid. These are cited as just a few examples in order to demonstrate that marriages can and do appear to be superficially real but in reality are deadened by one or more radical or intentional defects hidden deep within them.
To hold people in such “marriages,” or never allow them to remarry simply because policy is more important than people, is to embark upon a course that is cruel and inhuman. Marriages can fail through no fault of the persons involved. Bad marriages falsify the sign of God’s love in our world. The Catholic Church recognizes that reality. For this reason, the Church undertakes a careful judicial discernment to investigate the marriages of persons seeking to clarify their status in the Catholic Church.


                                    THE ANNULMENT PROCESS



When two baptized Christians marry they enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony in the act of giving their consent to each other, a consent which is witnessed by a clergy person acting on behalf of the Church. The bishop, priest or deacon receives the consent of the parties on behalf of the Church. This being so, the Church does not “grant” an annulment should that marriage break down. The annulment process is such that the Church is presented with the question: “Is it proven that the marital consent in this presumptively valid marriage is null because of a grave defect in the character of the consent given by either one or both of the parties involved?” The decision is either in the Affirmative or the Negative. The Church simply witnesses to the factually established data.
The consent can be analyzed in terms of the capacity to given valid consent, the will to give valid consent, and the proper form in which the consent is manifested. “Capacity” examines the intellectual and judgmental capabilities of the persons. Is the person or are the persons involved able to make a decision that has future consequences and obligations that constitute the fundaments of that consent? Some people are simply unable (beyond unwilling) to discharge obligations and commitments made, however well intentioned they were when they gave their consent. Some people “will it”, but cannot “do it” when it comes to giving one’s self over to another in a total communion of life.
Additionally, some lack the necessary will and capacity to remain sexually faithful for life; some people will not to have children of their marriage, and some have the intention of calling in the lawyers when the marriage becomes difficult to maintain. Such lack the necessary will to give valid matrimonial consent.
Both the party seeking the annulment, the Petitioner, and the party not seeking it, the Respondent, have rights that must be observed, the Respondent having in fact more rights than the Petitioner. The Respondent is has a right to a defense. Both Petitioner and Respondent must be notified that the case has been submitted and the Tribunal will examine the matter based on clearly stated and specific grounds. Both are notified as to the “joinder of issues,” that they have the right to an Advocate, the rights to inspect the acts of the case, to be notified of the decision of the Tribunal and the of their right to appeal.
What is closely examined is the “juridic act” constituted by the giving of consent. What was the nature and form of the consent, what “constituted” it? The Church has expectations as to the nature and quality of the consent to be given. Why? Because it is the duty of the Church to protect and preserve the integrity of the Sacraments, and the integrity of the Sacrament of Matrimony is found in the nature and quality of the consent given by the parties to the Sacrament of Matrimony.

                                    SOME ACTUAL CASES

Some examples of actual annulment cases might be helpful at this point.

If a marriage lasts less than a year, there is a strong indication that the marriage is null and void from the beginning due to a radical lack of capacity on the part of either or both partners. The same is true of teenage marriages, especially teenage marriages involving premarital pregnancy. Again, in conjunction with other factors, there may be a strong indication of nullity. For instance it may be able to be shown that genuine freedom of consent was absent along with a “reverential fear” of one’s parents leading to a combination of forces that void the authenticity of the commitment in the first place.
If any woman is pregnant at the time of the commitment and the marriage breaks up shortly after the birth of the child then there is an indicator of lack of free consent to a covenant relationship. Going further, if there is any psychological or emotional compulsion to marry (desire to get out of parents’ house, fear of parental disfavor for not marrying, shame over loss of virginity and possible discovery, or any other factor placing fear and force upon the decision to marry) then freedom of consent is vitiated and there is no free entry into a total commitment to five as partners in the whole of life.
If there is psychosexual failure on the part of either or both immediately subsequent to the marriage, or if bizarre sexual activity appears, then there is strong evidence to support the conclusion that either one or both lacked the capacity or intention to enter into a covenant relationship as true partners. Basic expectations with regard to sexual enjoyment of each other should be met.
If there is a serious lack of ability to make sound judgments about the character and personality of one’s own self, or of others, and if also there is a serious lack of seif awareness concerning one’s own capacities to give a responsive commitment to another, then it is possible to say that the attempted marriage was null and void. This is due to the presence of a radical defect in due discretion of judgment.
If one of the partners enters into marriage with conditions and prerequisites that run against the nature of marriage, we can demonstrate that the marriage is invalid. Such conditions might be a determination in one of the partners never to have children of the marriage. Or there may be a condition demanding the freedom to have sexual liaisons outside of the marriage. Or there may be an attitude that denies the other the expression of religion (inhibiting the partner from attending Mass or receiving the Sacraments), or finally, a precondition that either or both are free to leave the marriage if it no longer gives pleasure.
If one of the partners has no intention to live with the other as a genuine partner, if one treats the other as a servant or demands subservient obedience of the other so as to destroy any chance of a total partnership in all of life, then we can question whether true self-donation was given in the alleged marriage.

There are other possibilities, of course, and any dead marriage should be discussed with a well trained and sympathetic priest. Evidence of radical defects can surface years after any marriage ceremony, sometimes ten or fifteen years later, or even longer. This is so because all Christians have the will and determination to “make their marriages work.” No one likes to admit failure. Consequently, root causes of radical failure can be suppressed for years upon years.
Making a marriage work, willing to make it work at all costs, being faithful to one’s commitments, and following one’s duty are all laudable virtues, and certainly the Catholic Church supports such intentions. But we must remember that will, choice, decision, and commitment are all activities that are built upon and dependent upon the capacity to carry them out. One can decide to make a marriage work and it never will. This is true simply because decisions are built upon psychic capacities and if the capacities are not there then all of the decisions in the world will be of no effect. Will power alone is never sufficient.


The sacraments of the devil are doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair, and death. They can cause a marriage to die, or they can be signs of what appears to be a marriage but really isn’t. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (5:19 ff) gives us indices of the presence of our Ancient Enemy who works against the Holy Spirit. They are immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. If a so-called marriage is characterized by these then how can we call it a Sacrament of the presence of God’s love in out midst?
The signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit in any relationship are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and such like. These are the infallible signs of the presence of God in any marriage that is worthy of the name of Sacrament. It is to make these words become flesh that Christians ordain themselves in their marital vows. For Christian marriage makes no sense at all unless God exists; no couple can hope to live like that unless they depend upon the resurrected Christ, out of the tomb, living within them to empower them to love like He does.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”