Convalidation, BIG distances, logistics


Hello everyone - I just joined this site for answers and advice, and though I noticed several recent threads on convalidation, they don’t seem to have answers for me and my husband.

VERY LONG background: my husband and I are baptized Catholics; we both have also gone through Confession, First Communion, and Confirmation, though the ‘level’ of Catholicism differs greatly between us. My family is devoutly Catholic; my parents were from poor towns in Puerto Rico where the schooling was predominantly due to nuns, my siblings and I attended Mass every week, we all sang in the Church choirs, and though I have not attended formal mass on a regular basis for several years, I do attend any Catholic church I can, mostly between masses, and we moved to an area that while predominantly Catholic, leans more to the charismatic which I personally find, well, hard (considering that my childhood church was St. Pat’s in NYC, and I’m more used to incense and candles). My husband is, by his own admission, not so much a lapsed Catholic as much as a Catholic who was only taken to church for his baptism, first confession, communion and confirmation. When his mother passed away, while his father opted for a full funeral mass, my husband and his siblings could barely recite the Lord’s Prayer. He does carry a rosary that my mother (who adores him) had blessed for him, as well as a St. Christopher’s medal, again blessed, to protect him in his profession as a merchant mariner. Neither one of us has ever been married prior to our marriage, belonged to any other denominations. We have no children. Our marriage is strong and loving and we truly believe ourselves to be blessed.

When we were first engaged, we had looked into being married in a lovely simple chapel of the maritime academy my husband had attended, but logistics and his family dynamics made it difficult. We were living in New England (please, no lectures at this time about cohabitating), my siblings were starting families of their own and were scattered along the eastern seaboard, his family, who he has since distanced himself from, were making it very difficult. Plus the academy’s chaplain at that time was Protestant which made it even more difficult for me to arrange for a priest - again, we were not registered at a church near the academy - and, to add icing to the whole marriage cake, my husband had just started his career out at sea, and could not really plan on when he would be home.

So we eloped (with my mother’s blessing; my father had passed away two years earlier). We were married by a registrar in the UK (we are Americans) in 1997, and the initial plan was to have our marriage recognized by the church a few months later once my husband’s career and work schedule evened out. Well, those months turned into years, and every year we would still say on our anniversary that we were going to renew our vows in the little chapel by the sound.

A few years ago, we relocated to south TX for my work, and again, the logistics of the whole matter just got worse. I have not registered at any of the local Catholic parishes, though I will visit the minor Basilica near my office, mostly during off-times between masses (for such a large basilica, there are only a few masses offered, so my time in the church is spent in the back pew with my rosary, and if there is a novena being said, I will stay). As my husband did not regularly attend mass as a child, he does not attend mass, but will sit quietly by my side (he is learning how to say the rosary thanks to the handy little pamphlet my mother placed with his rosary).

When we recently visited my mother, on the way to Calverton (where my father is buried), we stopped by the academy which my husband attended and where we had originally planned our wedding. I’m pretty sure that Mom has connections in that not only was there a chaplain that was Catholic in his office (while a military academy, the school switches denominations every two years), but he answered our questions about convalidating (not renewing) our vows. He even offered to officiate at our convalidation since we plan to have this done for our 15th anniversary (June, 2012) But again, LOGISTICS. And possibly my husband…

To repeat, we’re Catholics, though not Mass-attending; we are not registered at a parish, we would love to have the marriage validated at the academy chapel, we are not sure where to start. I have sent an email to the Basilica, and am awaiting their response, but I wonder what I should have prepared. Getting our baptism records should not be a problem, nor proof of confirmation (if required; this seems almost optional in the web searches I have done). has anyone dones this - gotten all the paperwork/requirements done in one area, and the ceremony in another? We plan a small ceremony, mostly just my husband and I and my family, and perhaps a friend or two (my husband’s friends are also his colleagues, so it’s understandable if they are on ships at that time).

One thing which I think would become an issue is Confession prior to the convalidation; I have not gone to confession in decades, literally from the moment our parish priest in Saint Raphael’s told us that as long as we did not commit a Cardinal Sin (as in kill someone), that if we prayed and repented, we did not need to confess to a priest. My husband has been to confession exactly ONE time, and has made it clear that he will simply not go. He figures that God knows what is in his heart, and that any mistakes that he has made he has repented and prayed for guidance.

I know that he will go if that is what is needed as he wants the marriage validated in the eyes of the Church as much as I do (and oddly, for the past few years, it has been him that has kept the topic fresh). I just hope that for anyone that has read through this whole mini-novel, that any advice/recommendations for convalidating in our specific circumstance.

Thanks in advance.


Please make an appointment to see a priest in your local Catholic parish. It seems to me you are putting up more and more barriers for yourself and the validation of your marriage. Please stop doing this and have your marriage convalidated as soon as possible. Go to confession, begin attending Mass, and after the convalidation resume the sacramental life.

This is too important to keep putting off in the hopes of "someday" convalidating your marriage in some little chapel in the northeast. Get the priest, two witnesses, and make it happen now. You can always go to the little chapel and renew your vows later, have a reception or whatever.

In order to marry outside your diocese, you are going to need permission and paperwork, and someone on the other end delegated to perform the marriage. You are going to have to do the paperwork with your priest in the parish to which you do not yet belong.

Go see the priest. The fact you proclaim yourselves to be not-Church-attending and not intending to go to confession indicates there are some bigger issues here. A priest might not be willing to convalidate your marriage in such circumstances. After all, you are asking the Church for the sacrament of marriage and you cannot receive it while intending to remain in mortal sin by not going to confession and not going to mass.

Really, the first step is to see the local priest. So, as Nike says... just do it.


Thank you for your prompt answer (and the patience to read through my mini-novel)…I already contacted the local parish and have an appointment set up this Saturday to speak to a priest. It never occured to me that we could get our marriage convalidated here in TX and then having a vow renewal in NY. My husband is supposed to contact me from his ship this evening - this is something I think that the two of us will definitely discuss. I just wanted to have our marriage convalidated before our family, and not literally by ourselves and a pair of witnesses from the admin office (which is how our civil marriage occurred - we ‘borrowed’ two very nice people from the registrar’s office).

I also misstated (sp) myself with regards to confession; it’s not that I’m refusing to go, it is just that I haven’t gone for so long that I literally have forgotten HOW. I also thinks it’s simply being uncomfortable with a rite that was never encouraged for my husband by his family. I also was not aware that not going to confession nor attending mass were mortal sins - I usually look to my devout mom (who works in a small Catholic shop) as a focus on what is and is not ‘good’, and she has never once mentioned either being sins. I take your word for them and realize that there is more about being Catholic than simply saying that I am and having the Mass memorized (which I do, in both english and spanish).

I’ve been to church, just not as regularly as I know I should, having grown to prefer the simple act of sitting in a quiet church and praying by myself. I know it’s not the same thing as attending as a parish member, but I am more than willing to return to church; I miss it.

I will take your advice and speak both with my husband and the parish priest. Thank you so much for your advice.


Thanks for the clarification.

I’m glad you have an appointment with the priest. Just sit down with him and talk through everything. Regarding confession, he’ll walk you through it. Just say something like, “it’s been X years since my last confession, and I need help with the Order of Confession.”

The priest will help you convalidate your marriage and help you return to the sacraments.

I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of the US Catechism for Adults. It’s a great book, and written in an easy-to-read format. If you’re catechism consisted of “you’re fine as long as you don’t murder anyone” then I really think it was a bit inadequate! Not at all your fault, but as an adult we are all responsible for learning the faith in an adult way. No time like the present to pick up a book and brush up. Catholicism for Dummies is also very good, despite it’s name.


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