Matrimony is just a fancy way of saying “marriage.” When a couple ties the knot, they are engaging in matrimony. You can describe the actual wedding celebration as matrimony, and also the state of being married, although it’s a formal word most often used in documents and in the words of the ceremony. The Latin word for matrimony is matrimonium, which comes from combining mater, “mother,” with the suffix monium, “action or condition.” In the old days, matrimony was basically the same thing as making a woman into a wife and mother.
Technically, marriage is not simply a synonymous for marriage. As Fr. John Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, marriage “refers more to the relationship between husband and wife than to the ceremony or the state of marriage.” That is why, strictly speaking, the sacrament of marriage is the sacrament of matrimony. Through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Marriage is referred to as the Sacrament of Matrimony.
The term matrimonial consent is often used to describe the free readiness of a man and a woman to enter into marriage. This stresses the legal, contract or covenant aspect of marriage, which is why, besides being used to symbolize the Sacrament of Marriage, the term matrimony is still widely used today in legal references to marriage.
Like all of the sacraments, marriage provides a specific sacramental grace to those who partake in it. The venerable Baltimore Catechism describes the effects of marriage, which that sacramental grace helps us to achieve, in Question 285, which is found in Lesson Twenty-second of the First Communion Edition and Lesson Twenty-sixth of the Confirmation Edition:
The effects of the Sacrament of Marriage are: 1st, To sanctify the love of husband and wife; 2d, To give them grace to bear with each other’s vulnerabilities; 3d.To enable them to bring up their children in the fear and love of God.
- Why are church officials in the United States forced to be civil marriage officials? should that change
- Is marriage and/or marriage necessary for sexual activity to be morally acceptable? Why or not?
- Do civil same-sex marriages damage different-sex marriages? If so, how?
- What is/are the purpose or purposes of civil marriage and/or marriage?
- What is the appropriate role of religion in any discussion of civil marriage?
The Defense of Marriage Act decision can certainly be a true teachable and learnable moment.