Marriage as a Natural Institution:
Marriage is a practice common to all cultures in all ages. It is, therefore, a natural institution, something common to all mankind. At its most basic level, marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and mutual support, or love. Each spouse in a marriage gives up some rights over his or her life in exchange for rights over the life of the other spouse.

While divorce has existed throughout history, it has been rare until recent centuries, which indicates that, even in its natural form, marriage is meant to be a lifelong, union.

The Elements of a Natural Marriage:

There are four elements common to natural marriage throughout history:

  1. It is a union of opposite sexes.
  2. It is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse.
  3. It excludes a union with any other person so long as the marriage exists.
  4. Its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract.

So, even at a natural level, divorce, adultery, and “homosexual marriage” are not compatible with marriage, and a lack of commitment means that no marriage has taken place.

Marriage as a Supernatural Institution:
In the Catholic Church, however, marriage is more than a natural institution; it was elevated by Christ Himself, in His participation in the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), to be one of the seven sacraments. A marriage between two Christians, therefore, has a supernatural element as well as a natural one. While few Christians outside of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches regard marriage as a sacrament, the Catholic Church  insists that marriage between any two baptized Christians, as long as it is entered into with the intention to contract a true marriage, is a sacrament.

The Ministers of the Sacrament:
How can a marriage between two non-Catholic but baptized Christians be a sacrament, if a Catholic priest does not perform the marriage? Most people, including most Roman Catholics, do not realize that the ministers of the sacrament are the spouses themselves. While the Church strongly encourages Catholics to marry in the presence of a priest (and to have a wedding Mass, if both prospective spouses are Catholic), strictly speaking, a priest is not needed.

The Mark and Effect of the Sacrament:
The spouses are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage because the mark—the external sign—of the sacrament is not the wedding Mass or anything the priest might do but the marriage contract itself. This does not mean the wedding license that the couple receives from the state, but the vows that each spouse makes to the other. As long as each spouse intends to contract a true marriage, the sacrament is performed.

The effect of the sacrament is an increase in sanctifying grace for the spouses, a participation in the divine life of God Himself.

The Union of Christ and His Church:
This sanctifying grace helps each spouse to help the other advance in holiness, and it helps them together to cooperate in God’s plan of redemption by raising up children in the Faith.

In this way, sacramental marriage is more than a union of a man and a woman; it is, in fact, a type and symbol of the divine union between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Church, the Bride. As married Christians, open to the creation of new life and committed to our mutual salvation, we participate not only in God’s creative act but in the redemptive act of Christ.


Contact the Parish Priest Father Jim Allen on 01772 962776
The following is a guide for prospective young couples wanting to marry in Holy Family or St Annes Westby:
“If you are thinking of getting married, it is nearly always necessary to give at least six months’ notice, and preferably more. This is to make sure that all the civil formalities and spiritual preparations can be completed in good time.

You need to visit the register office in the place where each of you lives in order to notify the civil registrar of your intention to marry and to get the blue certificates without which the priest will not be able to marry you. This MUST be done a month before your wedding but you should make a visit at the earliest opportunity to discuss the civil formalities with the registrar.

The Church law requires that couples marrying in a Catholic church are well prepared to receive the sacrament. The Code of Canon Law (§1063) states this as follows:

“Pastors of souls are obliged to take care that their ecclesiastical community offers the Christian faithful the assistance by which the matrimonial state is preserved in a Christian spirit and advances in perfection. This assistance must be offered especially by…. personal preparation to enter marriage, which disposes the spouses to the holiness and duties of their new state…… and a fruitful liturgical celebration of marriage which is to show that the spouses signify and share in the mystery of the unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church.”

In addition to the regular meetings with the priest who will conduct the wedding ceremony couples are also required to complete an approved course of Catholic marriage preparation. Here at Cumbrian Martyrs’ there is a ten session course given on Christianity and Marriage, and this is obligatory attendance.

This usually is set up once you have had an initial meeting with the priest.

If neither one of you lives in our Parish you will need the permission of your own Parish Priest. When only one of you is Catholic that will be the Parish Priest of the Catholic partner. If in doubt check with the Parish Priest.

The Marriage Service is a Sacrament of the Church, a solemn exchange of vows between a bride and a groom. It is an act of worship to offer thanksgiving and praise to God for his blessing on the couple’s life together as husband and wife. All the music before, during and after the wedding liturgy reflects the Christian meaning of the rite. All music must be clearly and unambiguously sacred and taken from the repertoire of church music. The priest celebrating the wedding will be able to guide you.

Please note that in accordance with §393 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for England and Wales recorded music is not permitted in church nor secular music of any kind.

Sacred music is sung prayer, music that has been created in petition or thanksgiving to God. The wedding reception is the place for music from popular culture or favourite pieces that have been significant in your relationship.”
Father Jim Allen: October 2018