The marriage preparation program at St. John's assists the pastor in preparing couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony. Catholic couples are encouraged to participate in the sacramental life of the Church so that they are continually enriched by the graces which flow from the sacraments. The bond between husband and wife is immeasurably strengthened by a life of shared faith in the heart of the Church.
Once you have made the decision to marry in the Church, you will need to contact the parish office at (301) 373-2281. Arrangements must be made at least 6 months in advance of the ceremony. Couples prepare for the sacrament through initial preparation with the coordinator, meetings with the pastor, and completing a marriage preparation option accepted by the Archdiocese of Washington.
If you are getting married in another state and are choosing to do your marriage preparation at St. John's, you may want to consider allowing more than 6 months for preparation so that the required documents can be sent and received in a timely manner for your wedding.
If you are having a celebrant other than our pastor perform your ceremony at St. John's, special permission must be obtained from the pastor and marriage preparation will be provided by the priest performing the ceremony. Please ensure that documentation is provided in a timely manner to St. John's.
Weddings are scheduled on Saturdays no earlier than 11:00 a.m. and no later than 2:30 p.m. unless special permission has been received from the pastor. Friday weddings may be scheduled after consultation with the pastor. Evening weddings on Saturday after the 5pm Mass must also be arranged with permission from the pastor.
St. John's Marriage Preparation Options
Discussion with the pastor assists the couple in selecting the option that best suits their needs.
For Better & Forever Sponsor Couple Program: The Sponsor Couple/Mentor Program was developed from the For Better & Forever Marriage Preparation Program. Sponsor couples work with engaged couples referred to our program by the pastor.
Engaged Encounter Retreats: Available in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC and also in other dioceses across the United States.
Catholic Marriage Preparation, LLC: Online interactive Mentor-led pre-Cana program. This program allows couples separated by military deployment or work related travel, etc., to work together on the pre-Cana program when they cannot attend together.
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ABOUT THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
- The Sacrament of Marriage, unlike a civil marriage, does not represent a contract, which has conditions agreed to by both parties and can be terminated. Marriage is a covenant, forming an unconditional union between a man and a woman before God that will last as long as they both live.
- The marriage covenant, once made, cannot be broken. "Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female? For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh... What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mt 19: 4-6)
- Marriage exists for two purposes: unity between the spouses, and the procreation and education of children.
- It has three characteristics: it is permanent (lifelong), exclusive (faithful), and fruitful (open to children).
- The marriage covenant can never be validly made between two men, two women, or more than two people of either sex. Human beings do not get to "redefine" what they want marriage to mean for them; God has already established marriage and defined it, and any attempt to redefine it is a sin against God's sovereignty. Those who have further questions about why the Church does not permit same-sex marriages, or why she advocates that marriage should be between one man and one woman even in the purely civil sphere, are encouraged to read this brief article from Catholic Answers, or this more thorough article by Bishop Thomas Paprocki.
- Civil divorce is not normally a valid option in the eyes of the Church; however, it can be allowed in situations where there is no other way to guarantee the protection of certain rights for separated spouses or to ensure the care of their children. (CCC #2383) However, it should be noted that civil divorce does not dissolve the marriage covenant. (CCC #2382)
- Even where civil divorce is allowed, remarriage without a prior declaration of nullity (or "annulment," as it is commonly called) is never an acceptable option. This would constitute living in a state of continual adultery, violating the 6th commandment. "'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'" (Mk 10: 11-12)
- A declaration of nullity is not a "Catholic divorce." It does not break an existing marital covenant. It is merely a recognition that such a covenant did not exist in the first place.
- A thorough investigation is needed to determine whether or not the marriage covenant was truly made. There are many reasons that would permit a declaration of nullity (parental or other pressure to marry, lack of intention to keep the marriage vows, intention never to have children, etc.).
- No one has a right to an annulment. The spouses are bound to the decision of the marriage tribunal even when they strongly believe that their marriage was invalid.
- The Church recognizes that there are situations where a married couple can no longer live together (domestic abuse, serious substance abuse, etc.). In these cases the Church follows the words of St. Paul and insists that the two live chastely: "To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) - and that the husband should not divorce his wife." (1 Cor. 7: 10-11) (cf. CCC #1649)
- Because God is the creator of the Sacrament of Marriage, and not the Church, even non-Catholics are morally bound by the marital promises of permanence, exclusivity, and fruitfulness.
- The Church considers civil marriages contracted by non-baptized persons to be binding "natural" marriages; however, Catholics are required to marry in the Church since their marriage is not a "natural" but a sacramental marriage and involves public and not merely private vows.
- There are two cases in which an existing marriage may be dissolved. The first is when a marriage involving at least one baptized person is performed but never consummated; such a marriage may be dissolved by the pope with good reason at the request of one or both spouses. (Canon 1142) The second is the so-called "Pauline privilege." This occurs when two non-Christians marry, one of the spouses later converts to Christianity, and the non-believing spouse wants to leave the marriage as a result. (cf. 1 Cor. 7: 12-16)
- The matter of the sacrament is a man and a woman. The form is the exchange of approved wedding vows.
- The ministers of the sacrament are the man and woman themselves. The priest or deacon is present with the other guests as a witness to the marriage.