Q: Thank you for your great insights and all that you do for the Church. If I were to convalidate the marriage of a Catholic and a baptized Christian, and receive that Christian into the Church at the same Mass, which would you do first? Witness the marriage, then Profession of Faith and Confirmation? Or vice versa?
Or does it really matter? Thank you.
A: I generally think it’s better to keep these celebrations separate, if possible. That allows them to be celebrated with their full integrity—especially with the appropriate readings and presidential prayers.
But if there is a need, then you have to do something. It happens often enough in mission territories. But the Vatican doesn’t give us a template for combining these two ceremonies, so people are on their own.
I would conduct the rite of reception first, complete with confirmation. Then I would begin the wedding.
If the day you select for the celebration does not rank at levels 1-4 on the Table of Liturgical Days, then I’d celebrate all this within the Ritual Mass for Marriage with the appropriate readings.
Conducting the reception of the Christian into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church before the marriage eases a canonical concern—there’s more paperwork when a Catholic marries a non-Catholic.
Q: Recently (Oct 14, 2020) you responded to a question about convalidation and reception into full communion. While giving a clear preference for keeping these celebrations separate, you recommended doing the rite of reception first followed by the convalidation.
It has been my understanding, however, that the candidate for full communion is not able to receive the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist until their marriage issues are first resolved, so the convalidation must come first.
Can you clarify this for me? Thank you!
A: I could have been clearer on this.
You are correct that a candidate for full communion has to have the marriage issue resolved in order to receive other sacraments. My response pertained to combining a wedding and a reception into one Mass, rather than the canonical sequence of the separate ceremonies in the case of a convalidation.
So, to be clearer, in separate ceremonies, someone wishing to join the Catholic Church who is in an invalid marriage needs to have the marriage convalidated before they are eligible for reception, confirmation and communion. The convalidation of the marriage brings immediate benefits to the Catholic, who will then be able to return to the sacraments.
In this case, where the priest was combining the sacraments into a single ceremony, I think the case can still be made for receiving the baptized candidate first, since the wedding Mass has already begun. But if people want to follow the proper sequence absolutely, the marriage may be convalidated first, and then the priest who witnessed the vows would begin the rite of reception.
Q: I appreciate the response. I just went round and round with a new priest about this a couple weeks ago, who wanted to do the reception first and the convalidation second. He gave the same argument about less paperwork. He had wanted to do the convalidation in the same ceremony as the Catholic wife’s completing initiation with confirmation and eucharist, and the husband’s reception into full communion. Fortunately, he agreed to do convalidation earlier in the day, but then we still did the other two together, which don’t mix well.
I’m surprised, still, about your argument here that the wedding Mass has begun and so in that Mass the reception can be done before the convalidation. But thanks so much for your time!
OK, reflecting on this some more, I’m going to completely walk back this response.
Whereas I think it’s possible to have one ceremony in which the reception precedes the convalidation for reasons I’ve explained, it is preferable to have the convalidation first. That keeps the sequence in sync with the circumstances when the celebrations are separate.