About two years ago, Brenda and Jose Juan Botello were legally married through a civil process. They then had a daughter, Sofia. Earlier this year, the couple decided they wanted their marriage officially recognized by the Catholic Church.
“My husband and I made the promise to marry because we want to live with God, and we felt God’s call to bless our union, especially now that we have a family,” Brenda Botello said.
The couple, from St. Mary Parish in Melrose, expressed their desire to be married in the eyes of the Church and attended a marriage preparation course through the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family. They also met with Father Oswaldo Roche and a volunteer couple from their community who guided them through “Fully Engaged,” a Catholic premarital inventory designed to help engaged couples build a foundation for the sacrament of marriage.
Many couples who have been married civilly, or married in another faith tradition, are invited to come to the Church and be married through a process called convalidation.
“Convalidation is not just a ‘blessing’ of an existing marriage, it’s actually much more than that,” explained Patrick Flynn, director of the Office of Marriage and Family. “During this process a new, free act of consent is made. A convalidation requires three things: capacity (that both spouses are free to marry in the Catholic Church), consent (that both freely choose to marry), and the proper form (they are married in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon and two witnesses).
“It is beautiful when couples bring their marriage into the Church and give their free consent in the sacrament of matrimony. In a special way God’s grace through the sacrament is available to give them strength,” Flynn said.
Benedictine Father Efrain Rosado has been working with Hispanic/Latino couples in the Cold Spring area for several years. He said the majority of the couples he works with range in age from 20-45 and includes “couples living together and considering the permanent commitment of Christian marriage, couples in civil marriage seeking to have their marriage validated in the Church, couples married in the Church searching for skills and tools that will make their marriage life work better, and couples married in the Church who are dealing with entrenched or constant relationship problems.”
For the preparation of couples who want to convalidate their union, Father Rosado implemented a series of catechetical sessions and group activities in Spanish that focus on the values of the sacrament of marriage and Christian family life.
“These classes and activities are aimed at helping young and mature couples to know and understand how Catholic Christians should understand marriage as faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ and to encourage couples that are living together, or are married just under the civil law, to validate their union by obtaining the sacrament of matrimony,” Father Rosado explained.
In addition to these classes, the couples are required to attend a one-day retreat at the Office of Marriage and Family. They must also complete a pre-marriage inventory and study the “Fully Engaged” workbook.
“Christian Catholic matrimony is not only an image of God’s covenantal love, it is also a real and palpable symbol of his sacrifice at the cross and his definitive triumph over death, sin and corruption,” Father Rosado said. “Every bit of effort that we, as catechists, invest in inviting and bringing couples who live together into the convalidation of their relationship through the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony is of great value and transcendence. Our Church and its witness of Christian life to the world are strongly benefited by every couple that decides in honesty to incorporate the gifts of Christ into their relationship.”
The Botellos agree that going through the convalidation process was helpful, especially the teachings about finances and natural family planning.
“We enjoyed our wedding, and a peaceful feeling has settled between us. The best part of our wedding was seeing all our family and friends accompanying us during the Mass,” Jose Botello said. “We thank God for the peace he has brought to our family. We feel close to God and his blessing. We went to Mass, and we were both able to receive the Body of Christ.”
Their daughter, Sofia, was baptized during the wedding. The Botellos feel that throughout the entire convalidation process, they have grown together as a family in their faith and in their love for one another.
“God made us stronger in our promises to be a couple,” Jose said. “We are not alone. God is in our home and in the promises of loving each other.”