CHOICE OF A MATE
[continued from yesterday]
...Again, since the Church regards marriage as a great Sacrament, she encourages her children to celebrate it with great pomp and festive joy. It happens as a rule only once in a lifetime and, therefore, is most fittingly accompanied with banquet and merry-making.
All these things, however, would manifestly be out of place during times set about for the more solemn religious exercises. The Church ordains, therefore, that marriages shall be discouraged during the seasons of Advent and Lent; in Advent until the feast of the Epiphany, in Lent until Low Sunday inclusive.
A marriage may, however, be permitted during these times, but it must be celebrated without any of that external display which would otherwise be so fitting on such an occasion.
A third condition for a lawful marriage is that neither party shall be engaged to any one else. There are three points of view from which a previous engagement must be regarded. It has a personal aspect, a legal aspect, and an ecclesiastical aspect.
No man of honor will enter into a new engagement until he has been formally released from any previous engagement in which he may have become involved. It would, perhaps, be needless to say that he ought not to make serious overtures to another partner until he has been released by the first; for, oftener than otherwise, it is the appearance of a new face which is the cause of dissatisfaction with the old one.
A man in such a predicament owes it both to himself, to his previous partner, and to his prospective partner to arrange an honorable settlement as soon as possible. The claims of society demand that neither girl should be kept in a false position. The previous partner, too, may have legal rights to compensation for breach of promise.
Then again there is the ecclesiastical aspect of the matter. The law has recently been changed, and henceforth only those engagements hold good in ecclesiastical law which have been made in writing, signed by both parties and signed by the parish priest or ordinary, or at least two witnesses.
Of course, couples may marry lawfully without such an agreement in writing, but without such an agreement the engagement will not be binding in conscience or produce any canonical effect. It would produce a legal effect and a social effect; it would hold good in the eyes of the law of the country and in the eyes of all respectable society. Nay, more, although there would be no obligation to marry, although the espousals were invalid, through want of proper formality, still those invalid espousals would render a person liable to all due restitution or damages just as if they were valid.
Thus the Church protects the weaker party in two ways:
First, she gives the warning and protects young people against imprudent engagements, — engagements entered into without deliberation, and under circumstances when innocence and ignorance hinder the due consideration of the dignity of the Sacrament.
Secondly, she obliges the guilty party to make fitting restitution for all the material loss which the innocent party may have suffered in consequence....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.