Importance of Sacramental Marriage

Dear Catholic Exchange,

I have read that if a person is not married in the Catholic Church, then he or she cannot receive The Eucharist and all the Sacraments. My sister is married out of the Church, and I do not know when is the right time or how to convey this to her without having an adverse reaction from her. While her faith is strong, her knowledge and understanding of the teachings and doctrines are not very strong. I am seeking God's guidance; however, I am still afraid to tell her that she cannot receive Holy Communion and that she should be married in the Catholic Church even if her husband does not want to convert. This is tormenting me, and I need clear advice on what to do.

Some tell me not to say anything and to pray for her — it's almost 8 years since she has been married.

God Bless,



Dear Judy,

Peace in Christ!

It might be possible to turn this around and make it positive. Your sister might have some understanding of what a sacrament is. The sacraments are a way Christ is present to us. The Church teaches that a valid marriage between the baptized is a sacrament through which the married couple can receive special grace. (Please see our Faith Fact Marriage in God's Plan – Discovering the Power of Marital Love).The following is from the Catechism (no. 1642):

Christ is the source of this grace. "Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony." Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb:

How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father? How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit. [Tertullian, Ad uxorem.]

Your sister might at some time or another be open to discussing the goods of a sacramental marriage and perhaps the convalidation of their marriage.

I hope this is helpful.

United in the Faith,

Eric Stoutz
Director of Catholic Responses
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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