United in God’s grace: the importance of matrimony, plus why and how to convalidate a civil union

by Violeta Rocha

North Texas Catholic

A newly married couple from China pose for photos in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

FORT WORTH — Strengthened in her faith. That’s how Elvira Linares describes herself.

After 30 years living with her husband, Concepción Avila, Linares recently validated her marriage in the Catholic Church.

She says she is living “a wonderful, beautiful moment for which I will be thankful forever.”

Although very close to her Catholic faith, Linares, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton, was saddened by the fact that she couldn’t receive the Eucharist for many years because she and her husband had not received a sacramental marriage through the Church.

“In each Mass, during Communion, I saw everyone going to take Communion and I always thought, ‘What about me? When?’ and then ‘Finally, the day arrived!’ After praying so much to God, the day arrived. Because it was God who made it possible for us to get married!” said the native of Guerrero, Mexico.

According to Chris Vaughan, diocesan director of marriage and family life, the Church invites us to start the marriage relationship with the Sacrament of Matrimony. But if for some reason the couple marries only by civil court, “they need to know the importance of centering their marriage in Christ…to be in the grace of God,” he said. 

“We encourage people to get married in the Church, because of the grace that the Sacrament of Matrimony gives. The deepest way to receive the grace of God is through the sacraments,” Vaughan added.

Now that Elvira and Concepción validated their civil union before God, she is happy to have set a good example for her six grandchildren, ranging from four to 22 years old.

Vaughan added that Bishop Michael Olson has been very insistent on the value of marriage in the diocese and he commended the work of the priests in their parishes.  

“I think our pastors have helped a lot to make people understand the role of marriage,” said Vaughan. “People who come seeking validation are convinced that they can get closer to God through their marriage.”

“Bishop Olson wants us to know that marriage is not about celebrating a great party, but a true encounter with a living God, who loves us, who died for us, and who wants to be with us in paradise for the rest of our lives,” Vaughan said.   

Flor Alvarado, a parishioner at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in White Settlement, said her pastor, Father Manuel Holguin, has greatly boosted the importance of marriage in the parish.

“Thanks to God and Father Manuel, many people are now interested in getting married in the Church and participating in our marriage groups.”

Flor and her husband, Jorge Alvarado, have been married for 21 years. As a sponsor couple for the last six years, they accompany and guide couples that validate their marriage in the Church, serving as role models for them.

“It is so beautiful to see them uniting their lives before God. It is never too late to give a good example to your children, living in the grace of God, inviting Him into your marriage and family,” she said.  

Jason and Ines Roach married in the Church 11 years ago, and since the first few years of their marriage, have been a sponsor couple at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Arlington.

They have three children and feel “called to help others to fulfill the necessary requirements for the Sacrament of Matrimony…the diocese is making great efforts to prepare couples for their marriage and we want to make sure that couples know very well what the Church expects from them.” 

Steps for Marriage Convalidation:

  • First, inquire at your parish office and complete the necessary paperwork. The following programs are offered in English or Spanish at several times during the year.
  • Pre-Marital Inventory — More than 100 questions about personality, finances, intimacy, faith, abortion, etc. After answers are evaluated, the couple meets with their sponsor couple at their parish to discuss the answers and talk in depth about topics that may need further discussion and/or possible solutions.
  • Theological Formation — Discussion on marriage, its difficulties, and temptations. The program, “Today, Tomorrow, Forever,” can be taken in one day or in two different afternoons.
  • Natural Family Planning — This class includes four sessions in which the couple learns the Church’s teachings on artificial contraception and how to use and interpret charts for natural family planning.  


FORT WORTH — Strengthened in her faith. That’s how Elvira Linares describes herself. After 30 years living with her husband, Concepción Avila, Linares recently validated her marriage in the Catholic Church.