Thank you for the very thoughtful response. Thanks for expressing your feelings. I think they are very similar to my wife’s. This helps me better understand her position. I think at the time priest told us that we were living in sin according to the Church she became emotional (however, concealed it very well) and was unable to fully express to me her frustration. It was a tense moment.
In response to your other points I have never heard of sanatio en radice…guess I should have investigated this situation further. I may have requested this route. However, at this point it really doesn’t matter because my wife has been gracious enough to move forward with our validation. But I would like to respond to your question of grace in marriage and offer my explanation because I think too that my wife is having difficulty understanding how and what grace is in marriage. And I will attempt this explanation on a very practical level. I’m in no way a theologian or an expert by any means, so here it goes.
Imagine a young college man and woman. Both living the typical American college life: going out on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights partying and every once a while “hooking up”, missing church on Sundays, etc. Basically, living a somewhat immoral lifestyle (i.e. not following the Lord’s commandments). Eventually boy and girl fall in love. Boy ask girl to marry. Girl says yes. A couple of days before the marriage the groom’s friends throw a bachelor party and bridesmaid’s throws a bachlelorette party. One last somewhat immoral night out before the big wedding for each of them.
Once the couple are married the lifestyle that they once lived as singles has changed…and more times than others, for the better. They both stop the “single lifestyle” and are living a more moral lifestyle through marriage. It is precisely through grace imparted to each spouse from God via the Holy Spirit that each spouse is living a more moral lifestyle (i.e. following the Lord’s commandments).
And this get us back to the larger question: how are we saved? I think both Catholics and Protestants can both agree that we are saved by grace. But why are we saved by grace? Because grace helps us to follow the Lord’s commandments. I think it was Jesus that said we must follow the Lords commandments to be saved. And again, grace helps us obey those commandments. Of course this all presupposes faith.
Thus, what Jesus did was build his Church on the Rock (Peter) to offer grace in a now normative way through the sacraments. Marriage is one of those. Its not to say that you cannot achieve enough grace outside the Church to obey the Lord’s commandment, its just that God has provided us a normal way though the sacraments of the Church to achieve grace.
I hope this helps on the subject of grace in marriage.
Also, I would like to suggest and I’m not 100% sure, that when a Catholic marries outside the Church the marriage is invalid; however when two non-Catholics marry outside the Church the marriage is valid. It is my understanding that in the former case the marriage is invalid because the Catholic denied the Catholic faith by marrying outside the Church. Please correct me if I’m wrong.