Category Archives: Family Life

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony & AMAZING GRACE!!!

AMAZING-GRACE1

The President went from rainbow coloring the White House to singing Amazing Grace, all in the same day (6/26/15).  Wow.  Imho, that was quite the spiritual and intellectual contortion.  Let’s hope he has an analgesic for his soul and mind.  He’s gonna need it.

Unions, “marriages”, not in line with God’s commandments, limit, inhibit, mortally wound? their supply of sanctifying grace.  How, in the world, can hope remain?

-by Paul McLachlan (© 1997)
Thomas More Centre Winter School
St Leo’s College, Brisbane, UK
19 July 1997

“I have been asked today to tell you something about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This is obviously because of my vast experience in this area, having been married for 3½ years so far, which by modern standards, appears to be quite a feat!

Marriage is a hot topic these days. Statistics tell us that a sizeable proportion of them are doomed to end in divorce, the majority of couples live together before they marry and about 10% of couples with children decide never to marry at all. And, we are told, Catholics are living together, divorcing and remarrying at about the same rates as the rest of the community.

Magazines, talk shows, pop psychology self-help books, even Catholic Marriage Preparation materials will all tell you everything you could want to know and more about the relationship of marriage, how to sustain it, how to improve it. You can get advice almost anywhere on how to get hitched, how to be enriched and when to ditch.

If you were to judge what marriage is and should be by reading the magazines or watching television or by talking to people on the street, you’d be led to believe that it’s a relationship founded on sexual compatibility and romance. If the sex goes bad or the romance dies, then the couple can walk away from the marriage. How do you work out whether you are sexually compatible. Well, of course, you try before you buy! You make sure you have a sufficient number of sexual partners (the prevailing wisdom is that the appropriate number is about 12) to work out what you like and what you don’t like so that when Mr or Ms Right comes along, you’ll know he or she is the one for you as soon as you sleep with him or her. You live together before you’re married, often before marriage is ever mentioned or contemplated, and often for several years before deciding to marry. You judge the strength of a marriage by how romantic it is: how often does he bring home flowers unexpectedly, how often do you go away for romantic weekends at luxury hotels, how often do you get breakfast in bed, how often does he tell you he loves you?

Marriage is no longer meant to stifle your individuality. Couples rewrite their vows to read something along the lines of: “I take you as an individual. I want to help you reach your full potential. I want to help you reach your own goals and dreams.” Children are a real dilemma. Do you have any at all? How much will they cost? Should we have just one or two? Children come after the mortgage has been paid off, after the trip to Europe, after studies are over and careers are firmly established. Then when they come, they’re treated as little more than accessories. Pay someone else to look after them during the week and complain about your lost freedom on the weekend.

Marriage is seen as a social construct built to protect sexual intercourse, or as a prison with woman chained to the sink and the children. The secularization of marriage so that it is merely a legal contract with attendant rights has led to demands that those rights be extended to those who live as though they were married, even homosexuals. These days, we define ourselves by our “sexuality” and our view of sex is warped by the omnipresent, omnipotent eroticism of the media.

Is it any wonder people are asking why they should get married in the first place? Who’d want to be?!

But, then, that’s what happens when you reduce marriage to just another human relationship, or worse still, an animal relationship. So, I’m not going to say another word about the relationship of marriage. Instead, I’m going to talk about Catholic Marriage, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. How is that different from the mere “relationship of marriage”? There are three things about a Catholic marriage that make it far more than just a relationship: it is a Sacrament, it is a Vocation and it is a path to Sanctity. Three things that we so often forget.

Path to sanctity

Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, repeats again for our modern ears the truth that each and every one of us is called to holiness, called to be a Saint. Saints are not meant to be isolated, rare individuals. You don’t have to be a monk and shave your head, or a contemplative nun to be a Saint. Every single one of us, no matter who we are or what we do is called to be “perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect”. That is what God expects from us! That is what we are called to strive for throughout our entire lives! So many of us are happy to live each day just getting by when it comes to God and our Faith. We go to Sunday Mass, we pray every once in a while. But “holiness”, “piety”, “sanctity” … no thanks, too hard, too different! Who wants to walk around with a halo on their head?!

There’s a tendency to think that holiness is for the Pope and priests and nuns who give up their lives for God, for people who lived in another age when there were kings and queens and crusades and inquisitions. People who have day jobs and are married with children just don’t have time for all that praying and helping the poor and smiling at everyone. You can’t wear sackcloth to work! Maybe this view has arisen because so many of the Church’s great Saints are priests and monks and nuns. But don’t forget all the married Saints as well. Our Patron Saint, St Thomas More was a married man. He died for his faith and for refusing to renounce allegiance to the Holy Father leaving behind a wife and several children…

Marriage should not be an obstacle to our growth in holiness.  (Ed. HARDLY!) The Church teaches very clearly that God gives us marriage as a way of becoming holy.

So, if you’re married, or think that’s what God has planned for you, there’s no excuse! You still have to be a Saint, and use your marriage as the means to that end, not as the excuse if you don’t make it!

Vocation

That leads me to my next point. One of the other things that makes Catholic marriage different is that it is a true Vocation.

Most of us tend to think that only Vocations to the priesthood or religious life are Vocations. That may be because the vast majority of people marry rather than live a life totally devoted to God. It may be because of the notoriety of the supposed shortage of Vocations to the priesthood in the Western World. It may be because the Church has always affirmed that a Vocation to Consecrated Virginity or Celibacy is more exalted than a Vocation to the married state.

Nevertheless, it is very clear that the Church teaches that God has a plan for each of us which He invites us to participate in. He created us, He knows us through and through, and He has a special role for each of us in this life. A select few, He calls to live lives devoted entirely to Him so that we can all have a foretaste of how He wants us all to live in entire union with Him in Heaven. Many others He calls to be married, so that we have someone to help and to help us reach Heaven, and so that we can beget even more Saints.

But, whatever we are called to be, it is clear that God is calling us to some particular state in life. Each of us must pray hard to discern what our Vocation in life is. And once we have discerned it, we must embrace it wholeheartedly.

OK, now how much more dignified does marriage seem already: it’s not just something you fall into: God calls you to be married, He wants you to be married, and He wants you to use your marriage as the way you become a Saint!

But hold on, I’ve left the big guns for last…

Sacrament

The most important thing about Catholic marriage, the thing that sets it apart from all other relationships, from civil marriage, from Jewish and Islamic marriages, is that Catholic marriages are sacramental.  (Ed. visible signs of grace!)…

We forget so often that marriage is a Sacrament. I suspect that it is so easily forgotten because none of us really understands what a Sacrament is!

So, maybe it’s worthwhile going back to basics to look at just what a Sacrament is. First of all, though, we need to understand what Grace is.  (Ed.  ALL is grace!!!)

“Grace is nothing else but a certain beginning of glory in us.”  St. Thomas Aquinas

“God gives each one of us sufficient grace ever to know His holy will, and to do it fully.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6 

There are three types of Grace: Sanctifying Grace, Sacramental Grace and Actual Grace. We receive Sanctifying Grace at our Baptism. We lose it completely when we commit a mortal sin. It is the presence of Sanctifying Grace in the soul that we refer to when we say we are in a State of Grace. We need Sanctifying Grace to be saved, to make it to Heaven, even if we have to take the “scenic route” through Purgatory on the way. If we are in a state of mortal sin after Baptism, then the Sacrament of Penance restores sanctifying grace to our souls. The worthy reception of all the other Sacraments, including the Sacrament of Penance when we are not in a state of mortal sin, increases sanctifying grace in our souls. Each Sacrament also imparts a special Sacramental Grace to us. This is a special Grace that is different for each Sacrament. Actual Grace is the grace that God gives us when we call on Him to help us, to give us strength not to sin.

A “Sacrament” then, is an effective sign which imparts Grace instituted by Christ. It is a channel between our souls and the graces poured forth by Our Lord on the Cross. It infuses the soul with God’s Grace.

And so, that is what is so incredible about Catholic Marriage, what makes it more than a mere relationship. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, not only do you receive an abundance of Sanctifying Grace, but you receive a special Sacramental Grace which elevates the natural order of Marriage and perfects it giving you the right, as a gift from God, to receive from Him whatever Actual Graces you need throughout your married life to live the Sacrament in the way God intended.

When we say that we take our spouse, “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”, God is giving us the promise of His guaranteed assistance to cope with the sickness as easily as with the health, with the bad times as easily as with the good. People say to couples who have remained successfully married, “How did you do it?!”. People say to Mothers who have had 10 children, “How on earth did you cope?!”. People say to spouses who have forgiven the serious failings of the other: “How could you forgive?!”. The answer is very simple: “Through the Grace of God!”.  (Ed. AMEN!!! -Mary D. McCormick & all other mothers!  The hardest job in the world!)

Pope Pius XI in his landmark encyclical on Christian Marriage, Casti Connubii, in 1930 wrote:

“By the very fact, therefore, that the faithful with sincere mind give such consent, they open for themselves a treasure of Sacramental Grace from which they draw supernatural power for the fulfilling of their rights and duties faithfully, holily, perseveringly even unto death. Hence this sacrament not only increases Sanctifying Grace, the permanent principle of the supernatural life, in those who … place no obstacle in its way, but also adds particular gifts, dispositions, seeds of grace, by elevating and perfecting the natural powers. By these gifts the parties are assisted not only in understanding, but in knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully putting into practice those things which pertain to the married state, its aims and duties, giving them the fine right to the actual assistance of grace itself, whensoever they may need it for the fulfilling of the duties of their state.”

These days, the Wedding is so often a time of fear, uncertainty, and even secret pessimism for the couple. Couples sign pre-nuptial agreements in case it doesn’t work, in case they fall out of love, in case they can’t cope. But, Christians have infused in their souls since Baptism the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Their pre-nuptial agreement is the common Faith that God will give them all the assistance they need, the Hope that they will never reject His assistance, and the Love of God and of each other that will make their home a piece of heaven on Earth.

But, marriages do fail. Catholics do get divorced. Catholic husbands and wives commit adultery. Catholic couples do reject children in their marriages. That is because, however abundantly it is poured out for us, Grace cannot override our Free Will (more’s the pity!). We must respond to God’s Grace, we must choose to accept it, to call on it. We must not place obstacles in the way of His Grace. That means we have to try and live our Sacrament every day in a way that doesn’t hamper God’s assistance or Graces. More about how to do that in a minute…

The Church teaches that the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders impart a “character”. In other words, they place an indelible mark on our souls. While we can’t see it yet, it shines forth in the supernatural realm. That is why these Sacraments can only be received once. Holy Matrimony does not impart a character, instead it creates an indissoluble bond between the couple which is only broken by the death of one of the spouses. St Paul has taught from the very beginning that this bond is a great mystery because it is the same bond which unites Christ to His Bride, the Catholic Church. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St Paul says: “Wives be subject to your husbands as the Church is subject to Christ. Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church!” What an incredible responsibility! To love one another as much as Christ loves His Church! Each and every Christian marriage lived to its potential is a concrete sign to the world of the love Christ has for the Church, for the obedience the Church owes to Her Lord, to His promise to be with Her always even until the end of time.

Is it any wonder then that alone among all the religions and faiths of the world, alone among all the Christian Churches, the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church proclaims today with as much force as ever that Sacramental Marriage is indissoluble, that only those marriages that are judged never to have existed in the first place because of some defect or impediment can be dissolved?!

We are not called to love until the love dies, we are not called to stay together until the children are grown, we are not called to stick around only until the sex gets boring or our individuality is repressed: we are called to be a living witness of the love of Christ for His Church and the unbreakable bond between them.

And it is because of that unbreakable bond which is created by the Sacrament that many have compared the Sacrament to those Sacraments that impart a character, that consecrate us: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. Again, Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii wrote:

“If, however, doing all that lies within their power, they cooperate diligently, they will be able with ease to bear the burdens of their state and to fulfill their duties. By such a sacrament they will be strengthened, sanctified, and in a manner, consecrated. For, as St Augustine teaches, just as by Baptism and Holy Orders a person is set aside and assisted, either for the duties of Christian life or for priestly office and is never deprived of their sacramental aid, almost in the same way (but not by a sacramental character) the faithful once joined by marriage ties can never be deprived of the help and binding force of the sacrament.”

God understands that it is not easy to live holy lives, it is not easy to sustain a lifelong relationship. All these things take sacrifice and effort. But, thankfully, He never leaves us to our own resources. He gives us the Graces throughout our entire married lives to carry whatever crosses He sends our way. He never asks us to do the impossible.

That is a privilege that comes about through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, as a special privilege for having accepted God’s call to live the married life. That mere fact alone is enough to show you how different Sacramental marriage is from any other form of relationship.

You have no right to call on God’s grace simply because you have contracted a civil marriage. You have no right to call on God’s grace because you’re in a de facto relationship. But, you have the incredible right to call on the Grace of God to help you through all that life throws at you because you are sacramentally married.

In Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI also recalled how St Robert Bellarmine had likened the Sacrament of Marriage to the Blessed Sacrament. He says:

“Let them constantly keep in mind that they have been consecrated and strengthened for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament, the efficacious power of which, although it does not impress a character, is undying. To this purpose we may ponder over the words full of real comfort of holy Cardinal St Robert Bellarmine, SJ, who with other well-known theologians with deep conviction thus expresses himself. ‘The sacrament of Matrimony can be regarded in two ways: first in the making and then in its permanent state. For it is a sacrament like to that of the Eucharist, which not only while it is being conferred, but also while it remains, is a sacrament; for as long as the married parties are alive, so long is their union a sacrament of Christ and His Church.”

How, then do we live our marriages so as to reap the benefits of the Sacrament and please God? St Augustine teaches that there are three “blessings” of marriage, or in Natural Law terms, three “goods”: fecundity, fidelity and indissolubility. These three goods apply to all true marriages, even marriages that are not sacramental. The Church also teaches that marriage has two main purposes: the more important is procreation, the begetting and education of Children, raising them to worship God; the second, is the consortium vitae, the companionship and union of married love.

To live our marriages in a way pleasing to God, to take full advantage of the graces He offers and not put obstacles in their way, we must always respect these blessings and ends of marriage. Without going into much detail, because they are topics in and of themselves:

  1. We must respect the blessing of fecundity in marriage: entering marriage with the intention of never having children is a grave wrong and more than likely grounds for an annulment because you aren’t consenting to be married at all; blocking God out of your fertility, using technology to control it, limiting family size without serious reason are all attacks on the blessing of fecundity, contrary to God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply”, contrary to the generous love we are called to live every day, contrary to the faith and trust God wants us to have in Him. The atrocity of procured abortion is a direct attack on the fecundity of marriage. Resorting to technology for the conception of children, as Pope Paul VI terms it in Humanae Vitae, deliberately removing the unitive purpose of sexual intercourse, attacks the good of fecundity.
  2. We must respect the blessing of fidelity in marriage, we must fulfil the purpose of a communion of mutual benefit, the consortium vitae. Adultery obviously attacks this, but so does “adultery of the eyes and the heart”. Contraception and premarital sex in their own ways also attack the blessing of fidelity because they muddy our vision of sexual intercourse. Instead of a truly holy act, when each spouse says to the other, I love you with my whole self, I give you my whole self, they are led to treat sex as a means solely of deriving personal pleasure, to treat each other as objects of gratification rather than to give themselves as subjects of love. Doing the dishes strengthens the blessing of fidelity, holding each other while you watch the children sleep strengthens the blessing of fidelity, the million and one ways of saying I love you, I am yours, we are one in flesh and mind all strengthen the blessing of fidelity.
  3. And finally, we must respect the blessing of indissolubility. We must not treat marriage as a transitory thing, temporary or impermanent.

Apostolate

And it doesn’t stop there! The Church is calling married couples more than ever to change the world, to evangelize. The Second Vatican Council in its decree Apostolicam Actuositam said that the witness of Catholic couples faithfully living their marriages according to God’s will, their witness to the indissolubility of marriage, is part of the most important aspect of the apostolate of the laity. We have to be out there as shining examples of the truth about marriage.

The Holy Father also exhorts married couples in Familiaris Consortio to be the primary force in the Apostolate to married couples, teaching other married couples the value of the Church’s teaching on the family, sexuality, on birth control, on marriage itself.

We can’t sit and wait for our priests to give homilies on these things. The last 30 years have shown that they won’t! We have to live by example, we have to take advantage of the opportunities to witness to other couples, particularly those preparing for marriage. And most importantly, we have to raise our children well. Sadly, Catholic schools seem to do more to undo a child’s Faith than they do to foster it these days. We have to ground our children in the Faith so that they too are examples throughout their lives. It’s no small task, but with the Grace of God and a love of His Church, we’re up to it!

And the first step to take in restoring the esteem and value of marriage for Catholics is to restore the high esteem that celibacy and virginity previously held in the Church. Pope John Paul says in Familiaris Consortio, explaining the Church’s teaching that celibacy or virginity is preferable to marriage, that the truth of this can only be understood when marriage is also highly valued. Because if you value marriage, how much more do you respect those who have given up that great blessing for the love of God and the sake of His Kingdom?

How to get hitched

Well, hopefully by now, I’ve completely sold you on Marriage and all of you who think that that is your Vocation are going to set about finding a partner with great zeal! But, where do you look? How do you find someone?!

Well, again, you’re not going to get far if you follow the advice they give on radio talk shows or in Cosmo, if you ring the psychic hotline and ask “Is he the one?”. It’s no secret that compatibility and communication are the buzzwords for a successful relationship (even if Grace is the buzzword for a successful marriage!). I’ll assume that God and your Catholic Faith are the most important things in your lives: not your studies, or your careers or your material worth. If God and your Catholic Faith are not the most important things in your lives, then why on earth not?!

If your life is Christ-centred and faith filled, you should be out their looking for someone else who is Christ-centred and faith filled, someone who will understand your faith, who will understand why you love God so much because they do too, someone who you’re not going to have to fight with to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church and bring your children up in the Faith.

They’re scarce as hens teeth, I know! But, look, there’s a room full of people here who probably fit that description, most of them single! Nightclubs are not where you’re going to find a wife or a husband! Work is not where you’re likely to find one either. It’s at Mass, in Catholic Groups and Associations (and I mean, capital C Catholic, not your average youth group or Catholic singles group which tend to be anything but).

And you have to pray! Monique and I found each other on our knees, literally! She prayed, as young women do, to St Joseph on his feast day that he would find her a good Catholic husband. Her parents nabbed me because they saw me praying the Rosary all the time after Mass. Before long, we were praying the Rosary together, and then, angels started whispering things in our ears about how God wanted us to be together.

So, there you go! Talk to each other at Mass! Be brave, go out with people you meet at Church. There are over a billion Catholics in the world! Chances are God has at least one of them in mind for you!!

So, go find them, get married, “be fruitful and multiply” and hopefully, one day, we’ll be singing together in the Heavenly Choir rubbing shoulders with all God’s other married Saints!”

Love,
Matthew

Marriage: A Hard Discipline Over a Lifetime

catholicmonarchy

I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.” -GK Chesterton

Old joke, but too true!!!  Out of the mouth of babes, Catholic school children, when asked “What are the seven Sacraments?”  Answer:  “Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and … Martyrdom!” 🙂

revstephenfreeman

-by Rev. Stephen Freeman

“‘When couples come to ministers to talk about their marriage ceremonies, ministers think it’s interesting to ask if they love one another. What a stupid question! How would they know? A Christian marriage isn’t about whether you’re in love. Christian marriage is giving you the practice of fidelity over a lifetime in which you can look back upon the marriage and call it love. It is a hard discipline over many years.’ – Stanley Hauerwas

No issues in the modern world seem to be pressing the Church with as much force as those surrounding sex and marriage. The so-called Sexual Revolution has, for the most part, succeeded in radically changing how our culture understands both matters. Drawing from a highly selective (and sometimes contradictory) set of political, sociological and scientific arguments, opponents of the Christian tradition are pressing the case for radical reform with an abandon that bears all of the hallmarks of a revolution. And they have moved into the ascendancy.

Those manning the barricades describe themselves as “defending marriage.” That is a deep inaccuracy: marriage, as an institution, was surrendered quite some time ago. Today’s battles are not about marriage but simply about dividing the spoils of its destruction. It is too late to defend marriage. Rather than being defended, marriage needs to be taught and lived. The Church needs to be willing to become the place where that teaching occurs as well as the place that can sustain couples in the struggle required to live it. Fortunately, the spiritual inheritance of the Church has gifted it with all of the tools necessary for that task. It lacks only people who are willing to take up the struggle.

Marriage laws were once the legal framework of a Christian culture. Despite the ravages of the Enlightenment and Reformation, the general framework of marriage remained untouched. The Church, in many lands, particularly those of English legal tradition, acted as an arm of the State while the State acted to uphold the Christian ideal of marriage. As Hauerwas noted in the opening quote, marriage as an institution was never traditionally about romantic love: it was about fidelity, stability, paternity and duty towards family. The traditional Western marriage rite never asked a couple, “Do you love him?” It simply asked, “Do you promise to love?” That simple promise was only one of a number of things:

WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her, in sickness, and in health? And forsaking all others, keep thee only to her, so long as you both shall live?

And this:

I N. take thee N. to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death; according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I plight thee my troth.

Obviously, the primary intent of these promises was faithfulness in all circumstances over the course of an entire lifetime. The laws that surrounded marriage existed to enforce this promise and sought to make it difficult to do otherwise.

Divorce was difficult to obtain – long waiting periods were required and very specific conditions had to be met for one to be granted. Churches made remarriage quite difficult, to say the least. Obligations to children were very well-defined and grounded in parental (biological) rights and obligations. Indeed, there was a large complex of family laws that tilted the culture towards marriage at every turn.

Of course, none of this would have represented any benefit had it not also reflected a cultural consensus. Contrary to popular sayings, morality can indeed be legislated (laws do almost nothing else). But moral laws are simply experienced as oppression if they do not generally agree with the moral consensus of a culture. The laws upholding marriage were themselves a cultural consensus: people felt these laws to be inherently correct.

Parenthetically, it must be stated as well that the laws governing marriage and property were often tilted against women – that is a matter that I will not address in this present article.

The moral consensus governing marriage began to dissolve primarily in the Post-World War II era in Western cultures. There are many causes that contributed to this breakdown. My favorite culprit is the rapid rise in mobility (particularly in America) that destroyed the stability of the extended family and atomized family life.

The first major legal blow to this traditional arrangement was the enactment of “no-fault” divorce laws, in which no reasons needed to be given for a divorce. It is worth noting that these were first enacted in Russia in early 1918, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. The purpose (as stated in Wikipedia) was to “revolutionize society at every level.” That experiment later met with significant revisions. The first state to enact such laws in the U.S. was California, which did not do so until 1969. Such laws have since become normative across the country.

These changes in marriage law have been accompanied by an evolution in the cultural meaning of marriage. From the earlier bond of a virtually indissoluble union, marriage has morphed into a contractual agreement between two persons for their own self-defined ends. According to a 2002 study, by age 44, roughly 95 percent of all American adults have had pre-marital sex. For all intents, we may say that virtually all Americans, by mid-life, have had sex outside of marriage.

These are clear reasons for understanding that “defense of marriage” is simply too late. The Tradition has become passé. But none of this says that the Tradition is wrong or in any way incorrect.

Of course, there are many “remnants” of traditional Christian marriage. Most people still imagine that marriage will be for a life-time, though they worry that somehow they may not be so lucky themselves. Pre-nuptial agreements are primarily tools of the rich. Even same-sex relationships are professing a desire for life-long commitments.

But all of the sentiments surrounding life-long commitments are just that – sentiments. They are not grounded in the most obvious reasons for life-long relationships. Rather, they belong to the genre of fairy tales: “living happily ever after.”

The classical Christian marriage belongs to the genre of martyrdom. It is a commitment to death. As Hauerwas notes: faithfulness over the course of a life-time defines what it means to “love” someone. At the end of a faithful life, we may say of someone, “He loved his wife.”

Some have begun to write about the so-called “Benedict Option,” a notion first introduced by Alasdair MacIntyre in his book, After Virtue. It compares the contemporary situation to that of the collapse of the Roman Christian Imperium in the West (i.e., the Dark Ages). Christian civilization, MacIntyre notes, was not rebuilt through a major conquering or legislating force, but through the patient endurance of small monastic communities and surrounding Christian villages. That pattern marked the spread of Christian civilization for many centuries in many places, both East and West.

It would seem clear that a legislative option has long been a moot point. When 95 percent of the population is engaging in sex outside of marriage (to say the least) no legislation of a traditional sort is likely to make a difference. The greater question is whether such a cultural tidal wave will inundate the Church’s teaching or render it inert – a canonical witness to a by-gone time, acknowledged perhaps in confession but irrelevant to daily choices (this is already true in many places).

The “Benedict Option” can only be judged over the course of centuries, doubtless to the dismay of our impatient age. But, as noted, those things required are already largely in place. The marriage rite (in those Churches who refuse the present errors) remains committed to the life-long union of a man and a woman with clearly stated goals of fidelity. The canon laws supporting such marriages remain intact. Lacking is sufficient teaching and formation in the virtues required to live the martyrdom of marriage.

Modern culture has emphasized suffering as undesirable and an object to be remedied. Our resources are devoted to the ending of suffering and not to its endurance. Of course, the abiding myth of Modernity is that suffering can be eliminated. This is neither true nor desirable.

Virtues of patience, endurance, sacrifice, selflessness, generosity, kindness, steadfastness, loyalty, and other such qualities are impossible without the presence of suffering. The Christian faith does not disparage the relief of suffering, but neither does it make it definitive for the acquisition of virtue. Christ is quite clear that all will suffer. It is pretty much the case that no good thing comes about in human society except through the voluntary suffering of some person or persons. The goodness in our lives is rooted in the grace of heroic actions.

In the absence of stable, life-long, self-sacrificing marriages, all discussion of sex and sexuality is reduced to abstractions. An eloquent case for traditional families is currently being made by the chaos and dysfunction set in motion by their absence. No amount of legislation or social programs will succeed in replacing the most natural of human traditions. The social corrosion represented by our over-populated prisons, births outside of marriage (over 40 percent in the general population and over 70 percent among non-Hispanic African Americans), and similar phenomenon continue to predict a breakdown of civility on the most fundamental level. We passed into the “Dark Ages” some time ago. The “Benedict Option” is already in place. It is in your parish and in your marriage. Every day you endure and succeed in a faithful union to your spouse and children is a heroic act of grace-filled living.”

We are not promised that the Option will be successful as a civilizational cure. Such things are in the hands of God. But we should have no doubt about the Modern Project (Ed. the current trend) going on around us. It is not building a Brave New World. It is merely destroying the old one and letting its children roam amid the ruins. (Ed. another Dark Ages of civilization)”

Love,
Matthew

Sacrifices of Joy

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“I will offer sacrifices of joy…”
Psalm 27:6

These He will accept.  These will be worthy offerings.

-by Rev. Gregory Smith, O. Carm.

There is no quality quite so fundamental to the Christian character as the spirit of sacrifice.

From its birth in the Christian life each soul is pledged to a life of violence. The life of Christ comes to us as the spoil of conflict — Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando/Death and Life contended in a spectacular battle, –Victimae Paschali Laudes — as the fruit of the most awful violence ever wreaked upon human nature. This is the life into which we have been baptized. “Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?”

Conflict, warfare; not peace, but the sword; a kingdom that suffers the assault of violence; self-denial, drinking of a chalice of pain — in composite it is the Cross that casts its bright shadow over the whole of the Christian life. In selfishness, to reject the selflessness of the Cross is to reject the happiness at its most abundant source for “by the wood of the Cross came joy into the whole world.” In any walk of life the sign of success as Christ sees success is the sign of the Cross. A share in the victory and in the Victor’s spoils won on the Cross is granted to every Christian who will match, not counting the cost in niggardliness, the generosity of Him Who paid in precious price the last drops of His blood. This is the way of the Christian life for priests and religious, for married and single, for youth and adult; an inescapable way, than which there is no higher way above nor safer way below; it is the highway of the holy Cross, the path of sacrifice.

Holy Orders and Matrimony

The priest, essentially a man of sacrifice, comes into the holy place to cast himself prostrate in the sanctuary, while all the people pray to all the saints for him that he may become a worthy servant of the altar for the building up of the body of the Lord. The virgin, woman of selflessness, makes by the altar the vow that binds her to the service of one Love. Her love song of praise will be her daily sacrifice: “Offer to God praise as your sacrifice.”

It is but right then that man and woman about to enter upon the life of Christian marriage make their vows by the altar. Marriage for the Christian is quite different from any other marriage. “This is a great mystery — I mean in reference to Christ and to the Church.” The first glory of Christian marriage is that it is the sacramental image of the union of Christ with His spouse, the Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish, “born from the side of our Saviour on the cross like a new Eve, mother of all the living.” (Mystici Corporis).

Since it is on the Cross that Christian marriage finds its supreme significance, it is but fitting that man and woman should enter into the holiest place in the world to stand by the altar of sacrifice, there to vow that they will give themselves to one another and to Christ in their children. Here the Church, sacrificial spouse of the great High Priest, suggests that they be reminded that they are dedicating themselves to a life of painful giving which only the alchemy of love can transmute to pleasure. “Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And where love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.” Having said so much, the ritual instruction places the measureless love of the Cross as the standard of Christian married love: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Marry to Give Not to Get

Not for more delightful getting do Christians marry, but rather for more fruitful giving. Since Christ entered His creation to be found among us as One Who served, every Christian vocation entails a deliberate entry into the service of God, in the person of His Son, Whom we see not only in Himself, but also in “the members of His body, made from His flesh and from His bones.”

The vocation of Christian marriage, precisely because it is Christian marriage, can never be a narrowing experience that restricts the view or contracts the interests of man and wife, each wrapped up in the other. Rather, Christian marriage, because it is primarily concerned with the community, widens the vision of two individuals to embrace the good of the whole of God’s family, and calls them with sacramental power to exercise their noble functions in the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Sacrament of matrimony, in which the parties become ministers of grace to each other, ensures the regular numerical increase of the Christian community, and, what is more important, the proper and religious education of the offspring, the lack of which would constitute a grave menace to the Mystical Body.” (Mystici Corporis)

With husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the Church; with wives subject to their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ, both are charged with implementing in their common life their daily petition to the Father: “Thy kingdom come!” No less than, and in a measure, because grace can only build on nature, before the priesthood those who enter the holy state of Christian marriage are thereby constituted servants of God and ministers to His Church.

To give all to one another in loving devotion; to sacrifice everything, that in their homes as in the smallest cells of the Body of the Lord the life of the Head might flourish; to be faithful stewards of the God’s treasures born of their flesh in the full knowledge that they are God’s children first and only He can make them precious; to give all and not to count the cost of giving — this is the way to sanctity, the only success in Christian marriage.

Practical Suggestions

…Married life is a veritable school of sacrifice; the Christian home a training ground of discipline. Wherever people live together in any sort of common life, there are bound to be differences of opinion and clashes of personality. This is as true in every home as it was true among the apostles. So must father and mother bear with each other and both of them with the children, the faults of each contributing to the sanctifications of all. Bearing with patience, correcting where parental correction is demanded — firmly and with kindness, and over and over again with patience — this is the daily school of sacrifice that is family life.

Return to the Altar

…To the altar by which it was established the Christian family ever returns to re-enkindle its ideals and to refresh its spirit [Ed. THROUGH GRACE!!!]

Crucifix, Hub of Home

… in the Catholic home it is the Cross of Christ which is the ever present reminder of the spirit of this house…Wise those parents who build their homes upon the solid foundation of the altar, for though rains fall and floods come and winds blow, their homes will not fall because they are founded on rock, and the rock is Christ. ”

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Love,
Matthew

Sacrament = Catholic Marriage

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There are different types of “unions”, apparently, to varying permanence, apparently, with different meanings, apparently.

-by Marc Barnes

“The indissolubility of marriage is not natural. I could not agree more with Dan Savage when, in the great American tradition of offering unsolicited advice, he told heterosexuals that this till-death-do-us-apart stuff is an impossible expectation. Indissolubility, by his view, cannot be a norm. Perpetuity can only be a preference. If we could “acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted,” instead of mindlessly pumping a deflated, Disney-born mystique of forever-and-ever, we’d be closer to an honest and natural marriage contract.

“Inseparability,” which makes Savage grimace so, does not belong to marriage considered as a civil institution — state-permitted divorce and remarriage assure us of the fact. “Inseparability” does not even belong to marriage as a natural institution. Aquinas argues that “‘offspring’ and ‘fidelity’ pertain to matrimony as directed to an office of human nature” (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 49, a. 3) but not indissolubility, and this seems to hold — if a man divorces his wife, remarries, and begins a new family, nothing in the order of nature could argue that he is still husband to his first wife.

The bizarre promise of “forever” made by two beings who have no assurance of “forever” could only have been instituted by an equally bizarre faith. It was neither nature, nor the State, nor even the Old Law of the Jewish people that so radically defined marriage. Typically, it was Jesus. He argued that soluble marriage was a human tradition, “traditional marriage” at its finest, and that under His New Law the following divine ordinance applied: “What God has joined let no man tear asunder” (Mark 10:9).

Augustine follows this up, arguing for the inherently sacramental, God-given character of indissolubility: “In the sacrament it is provided that the marriage bond should not be broken, and that a husband and wife, if separated, should not be joined to another even for the sake of offspring.” And Aquinas again:

“Inseparability, which is denoted by “sacrament,” regards the very sacrament considered in itself, since from the very fact that by the marriage compact man and wife give to one another power the one over the other in perpetuity, it follows that they cannot be put asunder. Hence there is no matrimony without inseparability, whereas there is matrimony without “faith” and “offspring,” because the existence of a thing does not depend on its use; and in this sense “sacrament” is more essential to matrimony than “faith” and “offspring” (q. 49, a. 3).

It is easy to miss the revolution slipped into the thomistic shuffle. The condition of inseparability in marriage comes from the divinely instituted nature of the thing, and it is this condition which, in a certain sense, is most essential to marriage. One can be married without children, one can even be married and unfaithful, but one cannot be married and separable. Thus “inseparability, which pertains to sacrament, is placed in the definition of marriage, while offspring and faith are not. Therefore among the other goods sacrament is the most essential to matrimony” (49, a. 3).

Maybe it’s his Catholic upbringing shining through the sex-column cliches, but Savage is absolutely correct — indissolubility is far from natural. It is supernatural. The sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a radical shift in the tradition of marriage that cannot be defended on purely human terms. If we think we can treat marriage as a purely civil and social institution and retain what is essentially sacramental, attempting to magic up from the order of nature what is born in the order of grace, we’ll end up disappointed with just how difficult “forever” really is.

Now there is something wonderful here, and it confuses the issue. When Christ said “what God has joined let no man tear asunder,” he said it in the context of restoring an original institution, arguing against a culture of divorce and remarriage that “in the beginning it was not so.” Thus, in a certain sense, we can say that indissolubility belongs to marriage by nature, insofar as it was, prior to the Fall of Man, the “natural” state of marriage. It is true what Pope Paul VI says, that “although the sacramental element may be absent from a marriage as is the case among unbelievers, still in such a marriage, inasmuch as it is a true marriage there must remain and indeed there does remain that perpetual bond which by divine right is so bound up with matrimony from its first institution that it is not subject to any civil power” (Casti Connubi, 34). But it seems to me that the fact that indissolubility belongs to unbelieving, non-sacramental marriages, far from arguing that indissolubility is of nature or of law, argues that unbelievers, in some way, partake in the order of grace. “From God comes the very institution of marriage, the ends for which it was instituted, the laws that govern it, the blessings that flow from it” (Casti Connubi, 9), and if our marriage is indissoluble, and we retain the character of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ even if we divorce and remarry, even if we claim by law and nature to have shuffled them off, it is because we have entered an institution that neither civil laws nor nature can dissolve, whether we meant to enter into marriage as a “divine institution” or not.

The married Catholic is unique because he has the capacity to know that what he does is not of man, but of God, and that in his marriage what is natural is perfected by what is divine. I say he has the capacity, because American Catholics tend to have a lame notion of Holy Matrimony as a kind of “Catholic version” of marriage, as if we replace judges for priests, drink more at the reception and voila, the sacrament! But our own tradition, which no one reads, makes it clear that the sacrament, while it does “add on” to what we might call “natural marriage,” is an addition that transforms and perfects what it is added to. The difference the sacrament makes is simple, but it only becomes clear to the Christian: Man and woman become more than themselves — they become signs of Christ’s marriage to his Church. To marry is to have one’s earthly fidelity and fecundity shot through by divine mysteries like rising sun through stained-glass, revealing to oneself and to the world the colors, contours, and splendor of Christ’s love for mankind. It is for this reason that the sacrament adds the terrifying condition of inseparability to marriage — Christ does not love us conditionally, or for a time, but forever. So with what foolishness we consider Holy Matrimony “basically the same” as marriage considered as a civil or natural institution! Holy Matrimony is different, and it’s high time we investigated the difference such a sacrament makes.

Love,
Matthew

The State is Unnecessary

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-“Progress of the State” quadriga at the base of the capitol dome, St Paul, MN.

-by Marc Barnes

The State is unnecessary for the existence of marriage. As that Venerable Badass, Pope Leo XIII, put it in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, “Man is older than the State and he holds the right of providing for the life of his body prior to the formation of any State.” More directly related to marriage, the selfsame Pontifex sayeth: “No human law can abolish the natural and primitive right of marriage, or in anyway limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage, ordained by God’s authority from the beginning. “Increase and multiply.” Thus we have the family; the “society” of a man’s own household; a society limited indeed in numbers, but a true “society,” anterior to every kind of State or nation, with rights and duties of its own, totally independent of the commonwealth.”

This the heart of a radical Catholic politic, the fierce validation of the family as “totally independent of the commonwealth.” People fall in love, marry, and perpetuate the human comedy through the creation of smaller people, all without giving a single damn about the State. This seems self-evident. But this also means that the argument for the preservation of “traditional marriage” as a necessary institution for contributing progeny to the State is, at best, wonky. I suppose one may make a baby with a mind to the maintenance and health of the commonwealth, but this is an unnecessary addition. One may equally, ethically, naturally, and in affectionate accord with the Patriarchs of the Western Church, say “screw the commonwealth, we’re making a person as a distinct locus of value, lovely in itself, apart from any possible ends,” and proceed thereby.

Within its proper limits, the State does no more than regulate “the civil effects of marriage” (Canon 1016). Which leads to the not-so-shocking conclusion that, to the Catholic, there is no such thing as a “civil marriage” at all — there is only the State regulation of the effects of a sacramental or natural marriage on society. At best then, the State can be a help or a hindrance to natural and sacramental marriages. Currently, it is a hindrance.

Marriage, according to the Church, is an institution directed to several ends. Unity and indissolubility (without which a marriage cannot be said to exist), conjugal fidelity and the generation, nourishment and education of offspring (which are the natural ends of marriage), the signification of Christ’s love for his Church and a remedy against sin, and the mutual help of the spouses.

If we briefly compose a tally, we will find that the State is inadequate in regards to every good the Church claims makes marriage marriage. Against the good of indissolubility, civil marriage proposes divorce, remarriage, and pre-nuptial agreements. Against the good of conjugal faithfulness, civil marriage legalizes and decriminalizes adultery. Against the good of offspring and their education, civil marriage permits contraception, sterilization, abortion — and the public school system. And as far as concerns the strictly sacramental effects of marriage, the State ranges from indifferent, as they should be, to ominous, as when we see the religious criminalized for keeping their marriage-related activities strictly within the bounds of nature and the sacrament.

So the question becomes, what is the responsibility of the married Catholic in a State which is antagonistic to every conceivable end of marriage, long before any discussion of gay marriage? Surely the first step is to repudiate the State, and to live intentionally within a marriage “independent of” a crooked commonwealth; to live a marriage which recognizes the State as unnecessary, insufficient, and finally incapable of establishing, legislating, or sustaining it. By seriously downplaying the bloated and self-appointed importance of the State in matters of marriage, remembering that the fullness of marriage resides in nature and the sacrament, and that no marriage in the universe has ever come from the State — only then can we speak seriously about “fixing” it.”

Love,
Matthew

Deal or No Deal – Marriage or No Marriage

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“Whatever marriage is said to be contracted, either it is so contracted that it really is a true marriage, in which case it carries with it that enduring bond which by divine right is inherent in every true marriage; or it is thought to be contracted without that perpetual bond, and in that case there is no marriage, but an illicit union opposed of its very nature to the divine law, which therefore cannot be entered into or maintained.” (Pius XI, quoting Pius VI, Casti Connubii, 34)

-by Marc Barnes

“The intention of perpetuity, or no marriage at all. Cold, Pope. Real cold.

But what it means is that, insofar as it is the law of the State to allow divorce, remarriage and pre-nuptial agreements, a civil marriage is no marriage at all. If a couple were to take as their inward intention what the State takes as a possibility — that their marriage could be dissolved, children split between them, and provisions made for this event prior to the marriage itself — then they would not, in the eyes of the Church, be married. They would enjoy the pleasures of an illicit union.

I am not arguing, of course, that the majority or even any non-sacramental marriages are illicit unions. I am arguing that, from the Catholic point of view, a couple is required to spiritually reject the very constitution of a civil marriage, to “fill it up” in their intention what is lacking in its legal structure — by committing to stay together. A State marriage is only a marriage if it is, in intention, anarchic; a rebellion against the dismal, defeatist proposition offered by the State, which, devoid of grace, can only ever plan for the worst in man — the inevitable boredom of his marriage and the dissolution of his promises.

If this is true, then the idea of “protecting State marriage” or “preserving the civil institution of marriage” against being altered in its very meaning by an alteration of definition from husband and wife to a sex-blind affair — it seems paltry. Marriage is already, prior to any concerns over the manner in which the sexes constitute its essence, a rebellion against the State. To “save civil marriage” by maintaining it as “one man, one woman” would be to save an institution that the Christian, and indeed, every human looking to make one life out of two people, is called to reject. Any civil marriage, entered into as such, is an illicit union, no matter how stupendously straight or gloriously gay a couple has the pleasure of being.

This, on its own, should be sufficient to call into question the unfortunate position that Catholics, myself included, often take — that of the guardians of traditional marriage. Far from preserving and guarding an institution of the State, the role of the Catholic is to reject the State, question its foundations, and introduce something entirely new — entirely nontraditional. Indeed, it was precisely in rebellion against the human tradition of divorce and remarriage that that Rabbi, Jesus, said: “What God has joined, let no man tear asunder,” and everywhere Christianity spread, it struggled to break the tradition of polygamy, religious prostitution, divorce and remarriage. Christianity, as we will see, murders the all-too-human tradition of solubility with the frightening call to indissolubility.

Of course, one might argue that in preserving marriage as an institution of husband and wife is the preservation of natural law rather than civil law, but it is doubtful to me whether the violation of natural law is best corrected by the State, or, to say it positively, that “things acting in accord with their nature” is a goal achievable through the State — especially when our State codifies all manners of distortions of the nature of marriage long before any discussion of gay marriage. But we’ll get there: To start, I only want to disrupt the Good Traditional Marriage vs. Bad Gay Marriage narrative, to aim towards the possibility of a creative, fruitful separation of civil and sacramental marriage, or rather, towards the acknowledgment that the Catholic and his State haven’t meant the same thing by the word “marriage” for quite some time. There’s some fresh air in this for the Catholic with the lungs for it. In a worldly city gone soggy with the separation of word from meaning, it is good to remember, in a desert-father fueled spirit of repudiation, that we do not do as the world does.”

2 Cor 4:4

Love,
Matthew

Why is Catholic Marriage different?

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In my experience trying to understand Catholic teaching on marriage, the language is more like love poetry than a practical, utilitarian assembling of rights and functions.  See Song of Songs.  WIFM = What’s In It For Me? is definitely NOT the Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage, quite the contrary, quite;  even though, culturally, we may use the same word to describe a dramatically different understood reality.  If our current crisis causes this greater clarity to come more fully into focus, grace doth abound.  Rom 5:20.

In this season of marriage ceremony, let us pray for those who take on this most solemn vocation.  I have recently begun attending a secular support group to offer support to divorced men and fathers as they bear the cross of divorce and separation from their children and the torture of the family court system, biased against men.  Please pray for all who suffer this most desperate of crosses, regardless of their sins.


-by A. David Anders, PhD

Catholic teaching on marriage elicits more practical opposition and misunderstanding than perhaps any other Catholic doctrine. When I ask people what is keeping them from full communion with the Catholic church, Catholic teaching and the canon law on marriage rank high on the list.

The reason for the opposition is easily understood.  Christ calls married couples to lifelong fidelity, no matter what. A valid sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved for any reason by any power on earth. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6) This teaching seems so difficult that the apostles themselves could hardly believe it. “If this is the situation between a husband and wife,” they said, “it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)  Christ himself admitted that the teaching was impossible without grace: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” (Matthew 19:11)

Some Protestant denominations wish to make an exception to this law in cases of adultery or abandonment. They base this exception in the so-called “exception clause” of Matthew 19:9. But St. Paul explains Christ’s teaching very clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:10: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  For this reason, the Church allows for the “separation of bed and board” in cases of abuse and neglect, but in no way countenances the remarriage of those separated while the true spouse is still living.

Why? Why does Christ call Christian couples to such a high standard of fidelity, even to the point of embracing the cross of suffering? The reason is that Christian marriage is no mere human contract. It is a mystical participation in the sacrificial, self-giving love of Christ for his Church. (Ephesians 5) It is a special vocation to holiness, an ecclesial state in the same way that priesthood or religious life is an ecclesial state. Christian marriage participates in the sacramental mission of the Church to bring Christ to the world. St. John Paul II wrote that “Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.” (Familiaris Consortio)

The really glorious news is that God never calls us to a task without giving us the means to accomplish it. For this reason, the sacrament of marriage is accompanied by astonishing graces that are unique to the married state. The Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes) put the matter quite beautifully:

“Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother. For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.”

To be sure, not all married couples experience or enjoy the full benefit of these graces. The increase of sanctifying grace in the sacraments calls forth our willing cooperation. Pope Pius XI explains: “[since] men do not reap the full fruit of the Sacraments . . . unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field.” (Casti Connubii)

In order to reap the full benefits of sacramental marriage, one must live a sincere, faithful and generous Catholic life. St. John Paul II explains:  “There is no doubt that these conditions must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in His grace, and frequent recourse to prayer and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. Thus strengthened, Christian husbands and wives will be able to keep alive their awareness of the unique influence that the grace of the sacrament of marriage has on every aspect of married life.” (Familiaris Consortio).

Christian marriage is an awesome calling. Like all the sacraments, it is “a mystery,” but a mystery of astonishing fruitfulness. The law on Christian marriage is arduous because the end of Christian marriage is so sublime. Through it we are “caught up into divine love.”  The Council teaches: “Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.” (Gaudium et Spes)”

“…Thy Kingdom come!  Thy will be done!  On earth, as it is in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

May 1 – St Joseph the Worker, Patron of Men, Husbands, Fathers & the Family

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-“The Dream of St Joseph”, by Anton Raphael Mengs, circa 1773/1774, oil on oak, 114 × 86 cm (44.9 × 33.9 in), Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, Austria

I think a subtitle of this feast should be “The Physical Labor of the Lord”, to celebrate God’s enshrinement, sanctification, participation in holy work:  muscles, mind, sweat, and the dignity and joy of it.  The Talmud states that if someone has a religious question and the rabbi is unavailable, they should consult the carpenter/mason, one who works on walls, windows, doorways and the like.  Joseph and his foster Son’s trade appears to have had some religious authority associated with it.

In thinking of St Joseph, the first characteristic, most precious, and most relevant to today is his obedience.  He was willingly, lovingly obedient to the will of God, all his life.  He never thought of what he should do instead of what God wanted, and when he learned what God wanted, he did it straight away, without question, hesitation, or guarantee.  Mt 1:24.  He had his uncertainties, his doubts, his concerns, his worries, of real practical necessities, but he trusted, in faith, always, and bent to the will of the Father, even when that was most difficult, all of his life.  St Joseph, Obedient Servant of God, pray for us!

Most privileged, even more than all the priests of Jesus Christ to follow, he held, truly, the flesh & bone, body & blood, warm & youthful human body of God in his arms.  He had the extreme privilege to let God, immediately before him, obedient to Joseph as parent, (Oh! The irony!) know He was loved, by word and deed, to wipe His tears, stroke his hair, rub His back, to tickle Him, to remonstrate with Him, and bring forth a smile when anything else was shown, to encourage Him, always.  Blessed Joseph, Most Privileged of Men, pray for us!

I have a growing and burning, maybe you can tell, passion for and devotion to St Joseph.  I think he is a key to renewal of the Church in the modern world.  I do.  Not some fairy tale character, but a masculine man of action, humble enough to realize he was not God nor entitled to anything; risk-taking, intrepid, resourceful, and obedient to the will of God.  I do.  I love St Joseph.  I do.  St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us!

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-by Dr. Taylor Marshall

“Where does Joseph sit in heaven? Is he in the front row? Is there anyone ahead of him?…When I was a brand new Catholic; I think I had been Catholic maybe three or four months, I was in confession and I confessed, you know, maybe having a disagreement with my wife or a fight or something like that, or difficulty with the kids and the priest through the screen said, well, you should have a devotion to St. Joseph, which I knew that, and he said, St. Joseph had a wife and he had a child and he can really help you and inspire you.

I ended up leaving that confession and being like, yeah, but Joseph’s wife was sinless and his son was God,  🙂 so I don’t really see how Joseph helps me out there. So, I’m gonna show you how I kind of passed through that way of thinking and I found Joseph to be so helpful. I’m gonna answer all those questions today. But first, before we answer these questions I’m gonna read a passage from Sacred Scripture. It’s my favorite passage about St. Joseph but it never mentions the word Joseph once. You’ve probably read it or heard it in mass dozens of times and you’ve never thought of Joseph, but I’m gonna suggest to you that it is, in fact, about Joseph.

It’s from the Gospel of Matthew 20:20-29:

“Then came to Jesus the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her two sons adorning and asking something of Him. He said to her, “What whilt thou?” She said to Him, “Say that these my two sons may sit, the one at your right hand and the other at thy left in thy kingdom.” And Jesus answering said, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He said to them, “My chalice indeed you shall drink, but to sit on my right or left hand is not mine to give you, but to them for who it is prepared by my Father.”

And the ten having heard it were moved with indignation against the two brothers. But, Jesus called to them and said, “You know that the princes exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you, but whosoever is great among you let him be your minister and he who will be first among you shall be your servant. Even as the son of man has not come to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life as a ransom for many.” When they went out from Jericho a great multitude followed Him.”

Okay, so the two brothers and the mother come and they want to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus and He says, you can’t have that spot because it’s been reserved or prepared by my Father in Heaven. So, that means that from eternity past, all the way in the mind of God, God had reserved in Heaven two places for two people. One to sit at the right hand and one to sit at the left hand and it wasn’t for the Apostles, for a different two people.

Now, who sits at the right hand of Jesus? Mary, right? We know that Psalm 44/45:9, it’s in the liturgy…

“The daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory. The queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing surrounded with variety,” right.

The tradition is, if you see every single Catholic painting and mural all over Europe and the world, the Blessed Mother is on the right hand of Jesus. She’s enthroned on the right hand. It comes from that Psalm; that’s the tradition. Also, in Catholic churches, traditionally, when you’re facing the altar, right, you’ll see that Our Lady is usually on the left hand, and in traditional churches there will be an altar to Our Lady on the left as you’re facing the alter and on the right there’s an altar or a statue to Joseph.

If you think about Jesus being enshrined in the tabernacle on his right hand would be that shrine to Our Lady and on the left would be Joseph, and you can see where I’m going with this. Joseph, we know in scripture that God, the Father, preserved a place on the right and left hand of Jesus Christ and all of us know who’s on the right hand but we never think about that left hand. So, that means that God, the Father, prepared a place on Christ’s left hand in glory forever. So, who gets that spot? Well, it’s pretty obvious, Joseph. In the Catholic tradition it is Joseph. This raises a question. Where does Joseph fit in the Bible? Is he in the Old Testament, is he in the New Testament? He’s right there on the edge. He dies, tradition says, before Jesus died on the cross but he’s there at the nativity of Our Lord so he’s sort of straddling, so where do we place him?  Is he a Saint of the Old Testament like Abraham, Moses, and King David, or is he more of a Saint of the New Testament. Where does he fit? Well, many theologians, Catholic theologians have weighed in on this and they say that Joseph belongs to what’s called the hypostatic order.

So, we’re gonna get a little theological here but don’t worry, this is pretty simple stuff. Christ has two natures. He’s fully God and he’s fully man, so decided at the Council of Chalcedon AD 451…Okay, so he is fully God and fully man. In order for him to be a man He was born of a virgin, our Blessed Mother, Our Lady, right? However, it is necessary in God’s order, the natural order, that children be born in nuclear homes, right, nuclear families, so God saw it fitting that not only would the Son of God be born of the Virgin Mary, He would have to be born to a family.

You can’t just have Mary and the Baby Jesus sleeping outside on park benches, right? They had to be protected. In the first talk today we talked about the role of being a protector of your realm. So, God had to appoint a father figure, a protector, a guardian for Mary, who is the Immaculate Conception, and Jesus Christ, Who is the Son of God.

And so, what this means is that St. Joseph really stands above even the Old and New Testament in this special class, which we call devotionally the Holy Family. The Holy Family. They’re the Old Testament saints, you know, matriarchs, and patriarchs, and they’re the New Testament saints. We all live in the New Testament. The New Testament continues until the end of time, the new covenant, but Jesus, Mary and Joseph stand in a certain sense above it and they are – a priest told me he councils and gives spiritual direction to seminarians and he always reminds the seminarians, he says, when you go into a church, most Catholic churches have the tabernacle and then Mary and Joseph.

He says, always remember that when you’re a priest, when you’re serving in the Church, because it’s not Peter and Paul, it’s Joseph and Mary, and that shows in the Catholic Church the family represented perfectly by the Holy Family has a certain precedence. The priesthood is there to serve and lift up the family, so don’t ever ever be overly impressed with your collar.  You’re there to serve the family.”

“Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God,” -Pope St John Paul II

St Joseph, Most Respectful Lover of Women, pray for us!  St Joseph, Model for all Men, pray for us!  St Joseph, Glorious in Your Gracious Restraint & Self-Control before God and Womanhood, Most Blessed Exemplar of Men, pray for us!

“The Creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; the child of a prince, to a peasant.” -St. Anthony of Padua

Love,
Matthew

Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful, Fruitful Love, A Fountain of Grace

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At 49, I like to kid myself I still possess some modicum of “hipness”.  I was never a hipster, really, to begin with, but, I guess, I teach them and have to try to keep the lectures, at least, mildly interesting?

However, it does come as a shock when current, less-than-attractive fashion is pushed right onto my nose?  🙁  I have recently heard two sermons from campus ministers, who are closer to the battle, per se, than yours truly.  There was so much despair.  It really took my breath away.  So much despair…in general, and particularly about marriage.  🙁  Young people have the meme in their heads, why bother?  Why not just live for myself?  Always?  Why not?  Why bother?  Why go through the pain and the suffering of dating?  The compromises of living with the other gender, whom completely DO NOT GET IT!!!!

My observation is that evil is always directly opposed to good.  You know it’s evil because of this orientation.  Cleverly disguised, well-marketed, slick, shiny, attractive, alluring, but a lie.  Evil is always a lie; he is the father of lies.  Evil NEVER tells you the Truth, that’s how you know it’s evil.  Evil always tells you what you WANT to hear, but you know, in your heart-of-hearts, it is a lie.  Evil HAS a feeling.  It does.  It damnably does.  Evil NEVER entertains, even for a hair-splitting fraction of a second the possibility of the Cross.  Never.  That’s another way it identifies itself.

If, as Catholic theology tells us, sacraments are fountains of grace, what more appropriate means, or motivation does Evil have or need than to dissuade us from the life giving waters of grace?  To be deprived of His Grace is to become the slave of sin and evil.

-from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/marriage/the-meaning-of-catholic-marriage/

-by Alice Von Hildebrand

“In our society, the beauty and greatness of married love has been so obscured that most people now view marriage as a prison: a conventional, boring, legal matter that threatens love and destroys freedom.

“Love is heaven; marriage is hell,” wrote Lord Byron 150 years ago. At the time he could not have foreseen the incredible popularity that his idea would have today.

In our society the beauty and greatness or married love has been so obscured that most people now view marriage as a prison: a conventional, boring, legal matter that threatens love and destroys freedom.

My husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand was just the opposite. Long before he converted to Roman Catholicism, he was convinced that the community of love in marriage is one of the deepest sources of happiness. He saw the grandeur and the beauty of the union of spouses in marriage — symbolized by their physical union which leads in such a mysterious way to the creation of a new human person.

He recognized that love by its very essence longs for infinity and for eternity. Therefore, a person truly in love wants to bind himself forever to his beloved — which is precisely the gift that marriage gives him.

In contrast, love without an unqualified commitment betrays the very essence of love. He who refuses to commit himself (or who break a commitment in order to start another relationship) fools himself. He confuses the excitement of novelty with authentic happiness.

Such affective defeatism — so typical of our age — is a symptom or a severe emotional immaturity which weakens the very foundation of society. It is rooted partly in a misunderstanding of freedom. Many people criticize marriage because they fail to realize that a person also exercises his freedom when he freely binds himself to another in marriage.

These critics of marriage do not see that continuity — and especially faithfulness — is an essential characteristic of a truly great personality: he chooses to remain faithful to what he has seen, even though his vision may later become blurred.

In matters of love and marriage, “hell” does not come from fidelity; it comes from lack of fidelity, which leaves men technically unbound but actually solitary: trapped in a shallow arbitrariness and a stifling subjectivism.

Indeed, contrary to Lord Byron and to popular belief, marriage is the friend and protector of love between man and woman. Marriage gives love the structure, the shelteredness, the climate in which alone it can grow.

Marriage teaches spouses humility, making them realize that the human person is a very poor lover. Much as we long to love and to be loved, we repeatedly fall short and desperately need help. We must bind ourselves through sacred vows so that the bond will grant our love the strength necessary to face the tempest-tossed sea of our human condition.

For no love is free from periods of difficulties. But (as Kierkegaard aptly remarks), because it implies will, commitment, duty, and responsibility, marriage braces spouses to fight to save the precious gift of their love. It gives them the glorious confidence that with God’s help, they will overcome the difficulties and emerge victorious. Thus, by adding a formal element to the material element of love, marriage guarantees the future of love and protects it against the temptations which are bound to arise in human existence.

In a relationship without commitment, the slightest obstacle, the most insignificant difficulty is a valid excuse for separating. Unfortunately, man, who is usually so eager to win a fight over others, shows little or no desire to conquer himself. It is much easier for him to give up a relationship than to fight what Kierkegaard calls “the lassitude which often is wont to follow upon a wish fulfilled.”

Marriage calls each spouse to fight against himself for the sake of his beloved. This is why it has become so unpopular today. People are no longer willing to achieve the greatest of all victories, the victory over self.

To abolish marriage is, Kierkegaard tells us, “self- indulgence.” Only cowards malign marriage. They run from battle, defeated before the struggle even begins. Marriage alone can save love between man and woman and place it above the contingencies of daily flux and moods. Without this bond, there is no reason to wish to transform the dreariness of everyday life into a poetic song.

Sacramental marriage

In Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, my husband introduced these themes which illuminate the value and importance of natural marriage and show the role that marriage plays in serving faithful love.

At the same time, my husband saw that even in the happiest of natural marriages, mortal man — the creature of a day (as Plato calls him) remains terribly finite and limited. Consequently, every merely natural love is necessarily tragic: it will never achieve the eternal union for which it naturally longs.

But when my husband converted to Catholicism, he discovered a wonderful new dimension of marriage: its sacramental character as a fountain/font of grace. St. Paul illuminated the sublime dignity of sacramental marriage in calling it a “great mystery” comparable to the love of Christ for His Church (Ephesians V: 32). Natural love pales in comparison to the beauty of a love rooted in Christ.
As a sacrament, marriage gives people the supernatural strength necessary to “fight the good fight.” Every victory achieved together over habit, routine, and boredom cements the bonds existing between the spouses and makes their love produce new blossoms.

Also, because it explicitly and sacramentally unites the spouses with the infinite love that Christ has for each one of them, sacramental marriage overcomes the tragic limits of natural marriage and achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires. It is therefore understandable that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, my husband (who was already the great knight for natural love) became an ardent knight in defense of the supernatural love found in sacramental marriage. His enthusiasm for the great beauty and mystery of faithful love in marriage led to the writing of this work.

It is therefore understandable that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, my husband (who was already the great knight for natural love) became an ardent knight in defense of the supernatural love found in sacramental marriage. His enthusiasm for the great beauty and mystery of faithful love in marriage led to the writing of this work.

History of marriage

The preparation of Marriage actually began in 1923 when my husband gave a lecture on marriage at a Congress of the Catholic Academic Association in Ulm, Germany. The lecture was a resounding success.

In the lecture he argued that one should distinguish between the meaning of marriage (i.e., love) and its purpose (i.e., procreation). He portrayed marriage as a community of love, which, according to an admirable divine economy, finds its end in procreation.

Even though official Catholic teaching had until then put an almost exclusive stress on the importance of procreation as the purpose of marriage, the practice of the Church had always implicitly recognized love as the meaning of marriage. She had always approved the marriage of those who, because of age or other impediments, could not enjoy the blessings of children.

But conscious that he was breaking new ground in making so explicit the distinction between the purpose and the meaning of marriage, my husband sought the approval of Church authority. So he turned to His Eminence Cardinal Pacelli, then the Papal Nuncio in Munich. To this future pope (Pius XII), my husband expounded his views, and to his joy, received from the future Pontiff a full endorsement of his position.

Cardinal Pacelli’s approval coupled with the success of the lecture on marriage encouraged my husband to expand and develop the lecture into the small volume which you now have in your hands.

Since its first publication in German, Marriage has been translated into most of the major languages of Europe, where it has never lost popularity. When it was first translated into English during World War II, critics received it very favorably and the book enjoyed great popularity, remaining in print through four editions over fourteen years.

It gives me great joy to greet this new edition, which once again makes Marriage available to English speaking readers after an absence of nearly 30 years.

Especially today, this book — revealing the sublime Christian vocation of marriage — is a must for anyone who is anxious to live worthily this great mystery of love.

Thomas a Kempis tells us that “love is a great thing.”
So is marriage.”

Love,
Matthew

Love: Free, Total, Faithful, Fruitful

Portrait of Happy Family In Park

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Jn 15:2,16

Love is not love if it is not, or lacks the opportunity, to be fruitful.   I know of, at least, two couples, one Catholic, one not, who were expressly told by their physicians it was not possible for them to have children.  And, voila!!!  One dear friend I know laughed in her doctor’s face when told she was pregnant.  The miraculous, blessed humor was on her, gentle reader.  Praise Him!!!  This does happen.  AND, who can debate fruitfulness in love, single or married, is not found in adoption?  🙂

-from http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-morning-homily-marriage-should-reflect-christ-s-fruitful-love-for-his-church

Pope’s Morning Homily: Marriage Should Reflect Christ’s Fruitful Love for His Church
15 Married Couples Join Pope for Mass in Casa Santa Marta

Vatican City, June 02, 2014

Pope Francis celebrated Mass this morning with a group of married couples at various stages in their life’s journey in attendance.

Reflecting on the readings of the day, the focus of the Holy Father’s homily were on the faithfulness, perseverance, and fruitfulness of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church – three characteristics that are also at the heart of Christian marriage.

Fifteen couples, celebrating between 25 and 60 years’ of marriage, were present at the Mass in Casa Santa Marta to give thanks to God for the milestones they’ve reached.

After the readings of the day, Pope Francis spoke about the three pillars of spousal relationship in the Christian vision of things: fidelity, perseverance, fruitfulness. The Holy Father said that Christ, Himself, is the model measure of these, which the Pope called the “three loves of Jesus”: for the Father, for His mother, and for the Church. “Great” is His love for the Church, said Pope Francis, adding, “Jesus married the Church for love.” She is, he said, “His bride: beautiful, holy, a sinner, He loves her all the same.” His way of loving set the three characteristics of this love in relief.

It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church. It is a fruitful love. It is a faithful love,” the Pope said. “Jesus is the faithful one. St. Paul , in one of his Letters, says that, if you confess Christ, He will confess you, before the Father; if you deny Christ, He will deny you; even if you are not faithful to Christ, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself! Fidelity is the essence of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ love in His Church is faithful. This faithfulness is like a light on marriage. The fidelity of love. Always.”

Always faithful, and also indefatigable in its perseverance – just like the love of Jesus for His Bride.

“Married life must be persevering, because otherwise love cannot go forward,” the Pope continued. “Perseverance in love, in good times and in difficult times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family. Persevering: they get up every morning, the man and the woman, and carry the family forward.”

Then the Holy Father discussed the third characteristic: fruitfulness. The love of Jesus, he said, “makes the Church fruitful,” providing her with new children through Baptism, and the Church grows with this spousal fruitfulness.

Love,
Matthew