In yesterday’s blog I spoke about a dream I had that prepared me for what I would write today Valentine’s Day. In the dream Floris had past and I was marrying for the second time in my life, but it was different. I was physically walking down the aisle of strangers, looking for a familiar face in those few people in the pews and finding none. I was afraid of falling and not quite sure what I was getting myself into. And then looking up and seeing The Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall of the sanctuary and realizing that’s what marital love is – committing your life with the other person’s on a journey to who knows where!
To start to even speak of marriage especially in this day and age, when civil society is struggling with defining what marriage is, who can marry, and how many people can one person be married to at a time, we need to be clear on what type of marriage we are speaking. In America there are two types of marriage, a civil marriage performed by the state, and a sacramental marriage performed by a clergy of one’s religious persuasion. When I refer to marriage, I am speaking of the sacrament of marriage. Wikipedia defines the Catholic sacrament of marriage as; “A covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. [It] has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised”. Other religions define the sacrament in other ways, and I respect other religious freedoms. The point is in some fashion God is involved. It’s more than sharing finances or the right to visit one’s spouse in the hospital. It’s a lifelong commitment to one other person and the children you create – now that’s scary!
In my family I have seven nieces and nephews, six of which are of marrying age, and four of them have seven children between them, and not one marriage – sacramental nor civil! Of course, I love them all and bear no judgment on them, but it does cause one to ponder “why?” In the Catholic definition of sacramental marriage, one reason for the sacrament is for the procreation and education of offspring. But in today’s reality sex and marriage are so disconnected from one another. People start experimenting with sex in their early teens, but are encouraged by society to hold off on marriage until their mid-20’s. Even with new medical advances, sex and reproduction are disconnected because one no longer needs to have sex to bear offspring. Also with contraceptives, sex is no longer directly connected to the imminent possibility of getting pregnant. For the purpose of this article I’m not placing judgment on whether these are good or bad, right or wrong; I’m just saying what is there, so I can discuss sacramental marriage in modern society.
So what is the purpose of sex today? It feels good? Ok. But what’s its purpose? To bond with one’s partner one might say. Ok, I’ll buy that. But if one starts sex at 15 and is not going to marry ideally until 22, how many people are they bonding with? And when they do marry, how, or why will that be different from the others?
What would be the purpose of having a lifelong commitment to a person today? In other words, why do people get married today? Love of course one might answer! Did the reader notice in the Catholic definition of marriage “love” is not given as a reason for marrying? But in today’s marriages, sacramental or not, if love is not the sole reason, it is the primary one at least. What’s wrong with love Renee one might ask? My response is; absolutely nothing, we’re commanded to love everyone, so of course we’ll love the one we marry. No Renee, that gushy love! The kind that makes your tummy tickle and your feet itch! One might retort. Oh that kind of love, I might answer. Yeah, I remember, the kind that makes you believe it will be like this forever? Let me clue you in, it wears off it a few years leaving one believing they must have chosen wrong, and then they go in search of that endorphin, tummy-tickle high again. Building a marriage on that kind of love alone is like building a house on sand! Sooner or later it will crumble.
Falling in that type of love is good for the initial drawing together of two people, but then the real work begins in discovering commonalities and differences between one another. Also you have to become vulnerable and in need of that person in some way (other than that tummy-tickle love). I need you because I love you, not I love you because I need you. The two should have common interests and a similar foundation of beliefs about God, family & the goals of government, but enough differences that they can grow and learn from one another. Committing to live the rest of your life with one other person is serious and should be given time. Once the decision to commit has been made, it should be cheerful without regrets. Life will throw arrows that may pierce your heart, but hold on to one another, protect and respect one another’s dignity and life through those times.
In my dream I imagine that’s how terrifying it is for young couples to commit to the sacrament of marriage today. They fear they will fall because this is not how they’re use to ambulating through this world. All they know is strangers including the person at the other end of the aisle whom they will be committing to walking their life’s journey with. Once they accept the journey and see the heart of Jesus in their partner, their lives’ journey will be adventurous and joyous.