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Can my spouse or fiancé/fiancée be my sponsor?
It is permitted but not recommended. Your sponsor should be someone that you can talk to with frankness and objectivity about your faith journey. If you have doubts or difficulties with a point we discuss in class, you may not feel as comfortable voicing those feelings to a spouse or significant other as you would with a sponsor from whom you have a little distance. If you don’t have a close friendship with any practicing Catholics that you can ask to be your sponsor, we will be happy to match you up with a St. Monica parishioner (perhaps even an RCIA team member) who would be delighted to be your sponsor.
Can I become Catholic if I am divorced, or if my spouse is divorced? What if I am married to a Catholic and we were not married in the Catholic Church?
There are two situations in which someone’s marital status might cause a delay in his or her process of joining the Catholic Church. These situations should be recognized early on so they can be dealt with and remedied if possible.
First, a prior divorce is a problem if (1) you are divorced and are currently married to someone else, or (2) you yourself have never been divorced, but you are married to someone who was married and divorced before you married him or her. The problem arises because the Catholic Church does not recognize civil divorce, and so the prior marriage bond is assumed to still be in existence (making the current marriage situation irregular). If this is your situation, we need to discuss the Catholic annulment process, which involves asking a department of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas to investigate the prior failed marriage to see if perhaps it was never a valid marriage from the Catholic perspective, and thus not an obstacle to the current marital relationship. If you are in this situation, talk to Mariangela Byrne or another RCIA team member right away. The annulment process will need to be pursued and completed before you can be received into the Catholic Church.
Second, wholly apart from the issue of divorce, you are in an irregular marriage situation if (1) you are married, (2) you or your spouse (or both) were baptized Catholic before that wedding ceremony took place, and (3) the wedding was not a Catholic wedding (i.e., it was not performed by a Catholic priest, deacon, or bishop before at least two witnesses). This situation often arises along with the first situation described above — a Catholic may decide to marry outside the Church because he (or she) or the other person (or both) are previously divorced and have not obtained a Catholic annulment, and thus cannot marry in the Catholic Church. But this situation can also arise without any divorces being involved, if the Catholic spouse simply did not insist on a Catholic wedding. If no divorce is involved, then this irregular marriage situation can be cured simply by having the couple make their wedding vows in the prescribed Catholic form (in a Catholic church, before a Catholic clergyman and at least two witnesses). This is called a “convalidation” of the marriage. This can generally be accomplished during the several months between the start of RCIA and the Easter Vigil Mass, but there are some steps that have to be fulfilled before the convalidation can take place–and before the non-Catholic spouse can be received into the Church. So it is best not to dawdle in taking care of this problem.
We will cover the Catholic Church’s rather stringent teachings about marriage and divorce during our RCIA class. There are also some good, small books available if you’d like to read up on the subject. We recommend Annulment: 100 Questions and Answers for Catholics by Pete Vere & Jacqui Rupp (2009), and 101 Quick Questions With Catholic Answers: Marriage, Divorce, and Annulment, by Jim Blackburn (2011).
What’s a Confirmation name? How should I go about deciding which saint name to take for my Confirmation name?
When you are received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, you will receive the sacrament of Confirmation. We believe that Confirmation is a perfection of the grace received in Baptism and a special reception of the Holy Spirit hearkening back to the events of Pentecost. A traditional part of the sacrament is the Confirmation name, which is the name of a Catholic saint chosen in advance by the recipient of the sacrament. The priest will use your Confirmation name when he confers the sacrament on you.
There are various reasons you might pick a particular saint for your Confirmation name. You can simply choose a saint you particularly admire because of his or her life and virtue. You can choose a saint who is the patron saint of some endeavor or cause or state of life that you feel particularly close to. For example, St. Thomas More is a patron saint of lawyers, and St. Luke the Evangelist is a patron saint of doctors. Lovers of music might choose St. Gregory the Great or St. Cecilia, both of whom are patron saints of music. Persons of French heritage might choose St. Joan of Arc, and people of Irish heritage might choose St. Bridgid or St. Patrick. Persons who suffer from a particular affliction might choose a saint who suffered similarly, as St. Monica did from her ill-tempered husband and wayward son.
You may choose the name you were given at Baptism (if it is also the name of a saint). And you may choose the name of a saint of the opposite sex. I know a woman who took the name of St. Francis of Assisi, and I know a man who took the name of St. Cecilia.
The practice of choosing a Confirmation name has ancient roots. In the early days of the Church, pagans would abandon their old names and take new Christian names to show their new identity as Christians. When the monastic movement arose in the late 400s, monks would often take a new name to indicate their new vocation. This practice is still observed in some religious orders. The taking of a new name is symbolic of your new identity as a Christian. (This historical information taken from The Sacraments: Source of Our Life in Christ p. 62 (Midwest Theological Forum 2009).)