Let’s talk about awkward for a minute.
How about when your family is talking about the wedding someone just went to: the flowers, the ceremony, how beautiful it all was. Being polite, you smile, nod your head, comment on how it sounds like it was a nice time. You’re trying to do the right thing, to take part in the conversation. Then they give you a look, and roll their eyes, turning their head as they pass judgement on you since they know you are not in favor of the wedding they attended, which was between two men.
Those moments are becoming more common now. For a long time, I found myself feeling bad. I would avoid the topic or jump ship from one conversation to another to avoid the comments about my archaic beliefs or the glances of disdain. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Maybe I was being a coward. I don’t know. All I know is that people have been going on and on about same-sex marriage, how the times and the people and the definitions need to change. Part of me felt bad for telling them that I disagree with them. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. And more than that, I selfishly just wanted everyone to be happy and like me. Oh, the vanity.
I re-read some of the Gospel of John recently, and it was a swift kick in the rear end that helped me stop being such a coward and helped me to stop apologizing for my beliefs.
” If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world…the world hates you” (John 15:19).
It was like I could hear Jesus, and just about all of the saints, telling me: Stop trying to make the world like you. Stop trying to make the world accept your beliefs. Stop trying to fit in with the world, because you don’t belong in it, and neither does your definition of marriage.
And the more I thought about it, the better I felt. Everyone has been talking about how the definition of marriage in America is going to change. Then I realized that, without everyone noticing, the definition of marriage in American society changed already. I mean, let’s take a look at the promises that are made in Catholic Rite of Marriage and compare them with popular practice.
Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
First off, thanks to premarital sex and cohabitation, most people don’t give anything to each other on their wedding day that they haven’t given them before. And to give freely withholding nothing? Most people caution young couples to get a pre-nup, keep a separate bank account, and have an “exit plan”. There are always well wishes for a lifetime of happiness, but there is also the thought of, “Well, if it doesn’t work out…” Sounds like reservation to me.
Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?
This is a promise, a vow, to love each other as man and wife, forsaking all others, through good times and bad. Even if the bad times are really bad. Seriously? Seems that today “the rest of your lives” is more like, “I’ll love you and honor you, until one of us decides not to.” We see signs along the highway that read, “Divorce, just $399! No spousal signature needed!” While those signs are probably scams, nobody can deny that divorce has become normal. Makes “the rest of your lives” sound kind of short.
Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the laws of Christ and his Church?
Children? Whatever. In today’s world, contraception is a necessity, children are a choice, and family is just an option. It all depends on what you want. If Catholics are trying to get with the times, we had better scrap this entire part of the rite. Or maybe change it to, “If you want to have children, that’s up to you. It really doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.”
Maybe there was a time when the world, the political authorities, and popular opinion viewed marriage as the Church does: an exclusive, conjugal, and committed relationship between one man and one woman, open to new life. Those days are long gone. For decades now, cohabitation, no fault divorce, contraception, and infidelity have sent society on an entirely different course from that of the Church. If secular marriages were honest, the vows would sound nothing like the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church. They would read something like, “I now agree to enter into this partnership, to share with you what I wish, to file a joint tax return, and to remain legally obligated to you for as long as we both shall choose and in so far as the state shall require.”
That might sound cold, and it might make it seem like legal marriage isn’t important, but that’s all that my marriage license from the State of New Jersey really means to me. It means nothing. What does have meaning for me and for my marriage? The vows my husband and I took at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. The promise to love each other as Christ and the Church, as described in Ephesians, chapter 5. The eternal love of the trinity that we are meant to reflect in the love which has brought us two, beautiful sons. That, my friends, is what marriage means to me. The state’s definition of, laws concerning, or rulings on marriage mean about as much to me as the paper they’re printed on.
While marriage is a public concern, it is, for us as Catholics, much more. It is the living out of a vocation from God. It is, by it’s nature as a sacrament, “out of this world”. Because of that, it will be hated by the world.
I think a bridal shower card I recently saw sums it up completely. It said, “I mean, if you’re going to live together anyway, you might as well get a bunch of presents for it.” Marriage in America has become just that. An excuse to put on some fancy clothes, have a party, and get presents. Many couples play the part of man and wife on their wedding day. They don the costumes and say the lines, but what are they really saying? What is really changing? Sometimes, it’s just bank accounts and last names.
So, while it will always be necessary to discuss marriage as a public issue, I refuse to stress about it, apologize for my beliefs, or have any anxiety about it. I will advocate for marriage to remain between one man and one woman, not because of animosity toward anyone, but because I believe that is what is best for society. I will stop apologizing for what I believe and stop trying to make everyone like me. I will love my husband, love my children, and all of those I come in contact with. I will attempt, in my actions and in my words, to show the world the beauty of chastity and marriage as taught by the Church.
And it will be out of this world.