Tuesday, July 06, 2010

What is marriage?

It's one of the little games floating around the internet. Go to Google, type in "[your name] is" and hit enter. The search results are frequently hilarious or poignant, conveying things like "Maggie is a banana," "Maggie is the girl for me," or "Maggie is a poet." To make it work, you mustn't forget to put the words in quotes.

Play the same good with the word marriage, and what do you get?

Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut
marriage is good for you
marriage is dead
marriage is not hopeless after an affair
marriage is like drinking a Slurpee
marriage is an instrument of salvation for society

And the negative... "marriage is not"...

Marriage is Not a Private Affair
Marriage Is Not About Procreation
marriage is not a love affair
marriage is not the same around the globe
marriage is not built on surprises
marriage is not a sport
marriage is not a commandment

On a more scientific basis than a simple Google search, one can say that marriage is a social instrument that binds a man and a woman together in a semi-permanent way so that they share financial and legal responsibilities. That's how the law would define it.

As a Christian, I understand marriage to be much more. Marriage is a sacrament, a path to holiness, a channel of grace, a reflection of the marriage between Christ and the Church; the creation of a new family, the core building block of society, and the gift of children. Something that changes the soul for all time, like baptism; irrevocable, unbreakable, forever.

I understand that marriage is not: a civil right. Call me a bigot, but I do not believe marriage is something we have a legal "right" to. Once you study the Enlightenment all the talk about "rights" makes you giggle a little - people swallow their grammar school propaganda whole! I wouldn't be surprised if many of the same people who talk about "marriage equality" also believe that Christopher Columbus discovered America and George Washington cut down the cherry tree. Rather than a right, marriage is a calling, a vocation (voca = Latin to call) . Not everyone is called to marriage, and that is OK. It is not a negative judgment on them as a person. It means they are called to something else., something equally amazing.

I understand that marriage is not: something that can be begun or ended by the government. In a legal sense, of course, the state has the power to contract, annul, and end marriages. But legal marriage is not real marriage - the real marriage is the commitment that takes place between two hearts. It is too deep and important a thing to be the property of a low-level bureaucrat in City Hall. It is a spiritual state and as such can only be governed with any authenticity by the Church. What God has joined, it's literally impossible for man to tear asunder - man doesn't have the authority, or the ability, to do so.

I've got to stop writing now, but I'm still thinking about this. What is marriage?

Monday, July 05, 2010

I am going to start doing a little project

On vocations. Not focusing just on vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, or consecrated life. In Catholic World those are the vocations that get "talked up" because they seem to be the rare vocations... the path easily missed... the calling easily drowned out by the noise and distraction of our culture. Marriage, on the other hand, is the "natural" vocation, the seemingly more easy choice, the path nobody will look at you funny for taking, the expected thing to do. So we don't talk about marriage, much. Until someone tries to legalize homosexual "marriage" of course.

Despite the relative silence, there IS a vocations crisis happening in marriage, as well. A quick look at the divorce rates in our country makes that clear. And we can't blame it on the pagans or the ungodly liberals. Did you know what group has the lowest divorce rate in the USA? Atheists. Do you know what group has the highest divorce rate? Fundamentalist Christians. No joke.

Even Churches that follow the Bible's teaching on divorce are having problems. The Catholic Church in America has one of the highest rates of annulment of any Catholic country in the entire world. (I'm going to go into that topic more in a later post, what is an annulment, why is it NOT a "Catholic divorce," what makes it so different from divorce etc, but I'll leave it for now.)

The Church generally requires a lengthy preparation period during engagement, in which the couple has to discuss everything from faith to finances to sex with their priest and the specially-trained groups who run Pre-Cana programs. The intense Catholic system of pre-marital counseling is much admired by other denominations and by secular authorities. And yet later, so many of these couples are determined to have had an impediment to marriage. In my Cleveland diocese the mandatory prep period is at least six months. I have heard in other dioceses of waiting periods of nine months to a year. Is that the answer? Make it longer and more intensive?

I believe myself that I am called to marriage, and I believe I know who I am called to marriage with, but I am trying to stay open to whatever path God leads me on. To me there aren't a lot of resources for people who have discerned the marriage vocation and I'm going to be doing some investigating to see what I can find. Ooooo... this could be boring or it could be interesting! I guess we'll see :)