From a reader…
Many years ago when my wife and I got married we were not serious Catholics. We cohabitated before we were married, and I think we even may have lied to the priest about it but I’m not sure. I can’t remember. We went on to be very serious traditional Catholics and I’m wondering if the marriage is actually valid seeing as we were in a grave state of mortal sin when we received the sacrament. Thank you and God bless.
One of the challenges the Church faced after the first great age of persecution was the question of the validity of sacraments conferred by sinful ministers. Some held that sacraments were invalid if the minister was in a state of sin. The Church firmly ruled against this heretical notion (called Donatism after its primary proponent, Donatus, bishop of Carthage) and has maintained the orthodox teaching that sacraments do not require the minister of the sacrament to be in a state of grace. Sacraments operate “ex opere operato” not “ex opere operantis”, that is, the grace of the sacrament comes from the work that is worked, not from the worker of the work. Christ is the ultimate minister of sacraments. We depend on His holiness, not that of the human minister.
What does this have to do with marriage? In marriage, the Latin Church understands that the husband and the wife are themselves the ministers of the sacrament. The priest (or bishop, or deacon) is there as the official witness for the Church, but the sacrament is effected by a man and a woman exchanging their consent (plighting their troth, to put it more eloquently).
Whether or not you were in a state of grave sin at the time of your marriage, your exchange of consent brought into existence a real, valid, sacramental marriage. The graces of the sacrament appear to have opened you both up to the even more graces of returning to the active practice of your Catholic faith.
Nothing more than a good, cleansing confession is required for you to return to receiving Holy Communion again. Be joyful about the additional graces God will bestow upon your marriage, so that it will be a fruitful and blessed means for your salvation.