Thursday, September 24, 2009

Marriage, Catholic Beliefs, and This Catholic

Or, "Marriage, Sacraments, and All That"

My second-oldest daughter got married on the fifth of this month. I started writing this post before the wedding, but I've been a bit distracted, mostly by the impending death of my father.

One thing I'll say: My life hasn't been boring.

Yeah: My Wife's Catholic: and You Know What That Means, Heh Heh Heh!

Actually, quite a few people don't.

Quite a number of Protestant denominations take Ephesians 5:22 quite seriously. Odds are that you have heard this:
"Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord."
(Ephesians 5:22)
The problem is, that all too many people - men and (a bit surprisingly) women - stop reading there.

As a result, 'way too many couples live for years with the lord and master getting everything he wants. Then, if the jerk is lucky, the woman files for a divorce, or just runs away. Sometimes we end up reading another one of those 'black widow' news stories.

I suppose I need to say this: That's not how the Catholic Church operates.

I know: You may have had a run-in with a whack job of a Catholic layman, or maybe a priest, who was really big on keeping women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Some priests and alleged Catholic theologians have said some really odd things from time to time. (August 26, 2009)

Read the Book! It says be Subordinate to Each Other!

Here's the deal: That part of Ephesians runs like this:
"5 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 6

"Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.

"For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body.

"As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her

"to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,

"that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

"So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

"For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,

"because we are members of his body."
(Ephesians 5:21-30) [emphasis mine]
I'm one of those people who read a manifest, or a contract, before signing it. It takes a little time, but I like to know what I've given my word on.

With an agreement as important as marriage, I was particularly careful to know just what I was signing on for.

Even before I met my wife, I knew about that Ephesians thing. Not just the culturally-normative 'wives, thou shalt bring hubby his beer' part: the whole thing.

I also knew what Jesus had done for His Church. Knowing what was going to happen, he walked back to Jerusalem to be tortured to death. I'd just as soon not endure an agonizing death in order to serve my wife. But, if necessary, that's what I'd be required to do. Like it says, "...even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her...."

That doesn't mean I'm some kind of ideal husband - or even close to it. But I do know what's expected of me.

Marriage isn't All Death-By-Torture: There's Diaper Changing, Too

I haven't run into this in Holy Writ, but I think it's a good idea: change the diapers and clean out the toilet. Actually, I don't think it matters who does what when it comes to chores: as long as they get done, and everybody pitches in.

Let's See, Where Was I?

This post has been written over a span of about four weeks, so my writing's a bit more non-linear than usual.

Let's see:
  • "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."
    • Got that
  • Change diapers - make yourself useful
    • Right
I didn't go into that "Husbands, love your wives" thing as much as I could - but that's a key point.

A Catholic Marriage is a - "Sacrament"?!

I ran into a handy FAQ about marriage, Catholic style, on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. Here's the first point:
"1. Why does the church teach that marriage is a sacrament?

"The sacraments make Christ present in our midst. Like the other sacraments, marriage is not just for the good of individuals, or the couple, but for the community as a whole. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament. The Old Testament prophets saw the marriage of a man and woman as a symbol of the covenant relationship between God and his people. The permanent and exclusive union between husband and wife mirrors the mutual commitment between God and his people. The Letter to the Ephesians says that this union is a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church...."
("Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage," Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, USCCB)
So, as a Catholic couple, we're a living symbol of Christ and the Church. Hey, no pressure - - -.

Okay, so Marriage is a Sacrament: What's That?

There are seven sacraments: There are seven sacraments in all:
  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Eucharist
  • Penance
  • Matrimony
  • Holy orders
  • The anointing of the sick
  • (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210)
Okay. There are seven, and that's what they're called. But what's a sacrament?
"Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life."
(Catechism, 1210)
That'll have to do for now. I've put a link to the section of the Catechism that kicks off, down in "Background" - it's Section Two.
" 'The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.' "
After that there's a whole lot of counter-cultural stuff about loving each other, indissoluble unions, having children, and raising them with a love of God.

I won't kid you: marriage isn't for wimps. But do it right, and it's a hoot. In the case of me and my wife, I'm quite sure that God's been holding us up. It's not by my strength, that's sure.

The Catholic Church Has - You Guessed it - Rules About Marriage

For starters, the Church insists that those getting married be
  • Human
  • One man and one woman
    • No
      • Polygamy
      • Polyandry
    • Even if your culture says otherwise
    (Catechism, 1601-1658, Leviticus 20:15)
There are some minimum requirements too. Mostly that the two parties:
  1. Are free to marry
  2. Freely exchange their consent
  3. They have the intention to
    • Marry for life
    • Be faithful to one another
    • Be open to children
  4. Give their consent
    • In the presence of two witnesses
    • Before a properly authorized Church minister
    (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), "Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage")
That last requirement, #4, can be waived - but the waiver has to be approved by a church authority. (USCCB)

Getting married in the Catholic Church isn't as simple as getting hitched by Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapels Inc. - but then, the Church is helping you get ready for a lifetime commitment as a symbol of Christ's relationship with His Church.

Which can mean the psychological and spiritual equivalent of a decades-long marathon. Or, as in the case of my son-in-law's first marriage, the devotion, joy, sadness and loss of those decades packed into a very short span.

Either way, you're well-advised to get ready before tying the knot.

Catholic marriage being a sacrament is another reason why it has to be in a church (a cathedral will do, too) - unless there's a really good reason for doing it somewhere else. And then, you have to get clearance.

There's a Lot of Fun, Too

If you do it right, marriage can be a wonderful experience. I have a hard time imagining life without our six children - the four who lived to be born, and the two who didn't.

It hasn't been one long sweetness-and-light session. This morning, for example, my son and I had a few rather tense words about a particular activity: but we're okay now, and he's learned a bit about himself, I trust. So have I, for that matter. (I'd be more specific - but I'd have to clear it with him first: And I'm not delaying this post another day.)

And now, if I'm going to be a halfway-decent husband and father tomorrow, I have to tie this post up and get to bed. Goodnight, and my God bless you.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.