Tag Archives: marriage

Love and Marriage and the Catholic Church

I’ve gotten several questions over the past few months about the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage.  It’s a topic I’ve written on before, but today I wanted to focus on the bigger picture.  Let’s put same-sex marriage aside for a just one second and discuss what love and marriage are supposed to mean to man according to the Catholic Church.

The official teaching of the Catholic Church for all persons—gay, straight, male, female, single, married, what have you—is that we are all called to chastity.

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Let’s just stop for a moment and think about how counter-cultural that idea alone is.

As a Christian, I don’t believe that two unmarried people should live together as if they were married.  I don’t believe that any person—married or single—should look at pornography.  I believe, as Jesus teaches, that any man who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (and vice-versa).  I believe that the marital embrace ought to be reserved for, well, marriage.  I believe that a valid marriage is binding until death.  I also believe that marriage is for both the procreation of children and for the unity of the couple.

Let’s face it, you guys.  In eyes of the world, we’re nuts long before you even introduce the idea of same-sex marriage.

But this is sort of where the problem lies.  Like the frog slowly boiling in the pot, we’ve gradually become accustomed to the way the rest of the world views sex, love, and marriage (and unfortunately, it’s usually presented in the that order).  We invite all sorts of misrepresentations into our homes in the TV shows and movies we watch.  We stand by silently as our friends move in with their significant others before marriage.  Artificial contraception is accepted as normal— even responsible— for the unmarried and married alike.

We excuse our silence in the face of all of this because, “it’s not our place to speak up.”  It’s not our place to impose “our views.”

This could be why the rest of the world is— somewhat justifiably— so confused and so angered by our stance when it comes to things like same-sex marriage.  We don’t make a huge fuss when it comes to all of the other ways in which society has skewed the truth about sex, love, and marriage—why are we picking this one to be so upset about?  It’s a valid question.

Many other people in the Christian blogosphere have already made this point.  And by it I don’t mean to say that we’re so far gone that we should just let this one slide, or even that same-sex marriage is “no big deal” because we’ve already accepted so many other misrepresentations of what God designed sex and marriage for.  It is a big deal—but it’s also in some ways just the next [il]logical step along the slippery slope on which we’ve set ourselves.

So what’s a Christian to do in the face of misrepresentations of the truth about love?

We start living out the truth—the whole truth—of God’s plan for love in our lives.  Instead of opening up a book on what the Bible says about same-sex marriage for the sole purpose of winning the argument in the Facebook comments, let’s open up the pages of Scripture and ask God to write His Law on our hearts.  Let’s begin to speak up when love is misrepresented, and make an effort to stop welcoming the lies into our homes without so much as batting an eyelash.  And let’s do all of this not because we’re angry, but because it genuinely breaks our hearts to see love misrepresented as something less than what it is.

We’re called to be light to the world.  Are we living our lives in such a way that people are surprised to learn that we believe in the truth about God’s plan for love, marriage, and family life? 

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On Patience and the Number 235

235 days until my fiancé and I “tie the knot.”

That’s 33 weeks and 4 days, or about 8 months— incase you were wondering (I have become really good at counting backwards since getting engaged).

Fun Fact: Patience is very difficult for me.

Shortly after my fiancé and I became engaged four months ago, people started asking me when the Big Day was going to be.  My reply has been met with varying reactions…

There was the, “Wow, that’s quick!” reaction.  There has also been the, “Oh, why are you waiting so long?” reaction.  And I’ve also had several of the, “Oh that’s a perfect amount of time to plan a wedding,” reactions.

To be perfectly honest though, my feelings (and those of my fiancé) often are much more in line with the second reaction.  It feels incredible to know and be planning for getting married, but at the same time, 8 months can feel like an awfully long time away from now.  We got engaged for a reason—we want to be married!  So what’s the deal with all the waiting??

While yes, it does take a lot of preparation, time, and of course a good chunk of money to plan a wedding, we didn’t necessarily choose a 1-year-engagement because we were trying to ensure the perfectly planned and executed party.  We chose a date that made sense for a number of reasons and we started planning.

In other words: the date is on the calendar; the church and reception sites are booked with actual money; thus, we are stuck with December 22nd.

Realizing that fact is actually very liberating (once I convince myself that whining won’t help the date come any sooner and reflect on the fact that God probably had us pick this date for a reason).  There is nothing I can do to make my wedding come sooner.  It’s not sad; it’s just the way it is.  Just like there may be nothing you can do right now to make summer break come any sooner.  Or just like there may be nothing you can do right now to know with absolute certainty what God is calling you to do next year.  As Christians, we just have to live in this moment with our eyes fixed on God; and trust that everything else will fall into place.

So as for me, all I can do is live within God’s love and trust in the fact that He intends to use every last one of these 235 days to prepare Tyler and me for the sacrament of marriage.  And I guess that is pretty neat. 🙂

Ask Mary: I really, really don’t want kids.

Question:

I’m an 18 year old female college student, and I have just gotten back in touch with Catholicism…

…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into my faith, but there is something that REALLY continues to rub me wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed about it, but I am not getting any answer. I’ve researched it, but just hear the same things over and over and it just doesn’t sit right with me, and that is the issue of contraception. I’ve read humanae vitae, I’ve researched “natural family planning”, and it all still leaves me completely unsatisfied still. I see where the Church is coming from on this issue, however, I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children.

This just honestly does not sit right with me…Some women love being mothers, and being a mother is certainly an honorable duty, but I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I’m very ambitious and have goals of working for the Department of Defense, not sacrificing all my happiness because the Church says I should.

I was considering getting an IUD. I am not in a relationship currently and have no plans of having sex any time soon, but just in case, I know for SURE that I don’t want children for at least 5 years. I know the Catholic church hates “the pill” because there’s this ridiculously tiny chance that sperm and egg meet, but with an IUD, that never happens. 

Is it still just so completely wrong? I’ve prayed and prayed about this issue, and have not received any answer it seems. I just get that same feeling I always have had. I don’t think birth control is such a horrible sin against God like people make it out to be. Prayer, research, and everything keep me coming to the exact same conclusions! I don’t want to say that God says it’s alright because I don’t know, but I’m not feeling a ridiculously large objection here!

What do you think? I’m just horribly frustrated. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Answer:

Thanks for this question.  I would like to begin my answer by asking you a question of my own…

You say in your last paragraph, “I don’t want to say that God says it [birth control] is alright because I don’t know.”

My question is this: Why don’t you know?

A lot of people see the “rules” of our Catholic faith as something that tie us down and keep us from being free to discover God and the truth on our own.  But this is a huge misunderstanding.  For one, God is infinite, and so far beyond our human capability to understand that, were it not for Him reaching down to us and divinely revealing Himself to us, we would never be able to ascend to Him on our own.  The truth is that, far from hampering our ability to know and understand truth for ourselves, the teachings of the Church (which come from the Holy Spirit revealed to the apostles and their successors) are precisely what enable us to understand truth in the first place.  When we live the teachings of the Church, we become more—not less— free to discover truth, beauty, and goodness (and thus, God Himself).

My point: You actually do know what God says about birth control.  He has told you in the moral teachings of the Church, that practicing artificial birth control is not, has never been, and will never be true, beautiful, or good for you.

 

Why Not?

Now, I could be totally off here.  But it seems to me that your understanding of why the Church “hates” the pill is because it can, at times, act as an abortifacient?

That may be true…but that is not the only reason.  The Church is also against condoms as a means of birth control, and they’re not aborting any babies either.  There’s something deeper to the reason for this teaching that you may be missing.

Let’s talk nature.  The natural end of sex is a baby, just like the natural end of food is nutrition.  Not every crumb of food we eat ends up being used to nourish our bodies.  And that’s ok.  Likewise, not every sexual encounter results in a baby.  And that’s ok, too.

But let’s say I decided I didn’t want to allow food to nourish my body at all—that I just wanted to enjoy the taste of it and nothing else.  I could make the decision to vomit every meal (or at least the majority of meals) I consume.  …But then you’d call me bulimic, because that behavior is disordered (hence the term “eating disorder”).

Likewise, I could decide I just want pleasure of the sexual encounter, without giving any real opportunity for the natural end (procreation) to occur.  …But the Church would call that disordered because, well—from a purely natural standpoint—it is.

I know you said you’ve read it, but I’d like to direct your attention to paragraph 17 of humanae vitae for further clarification of the Church’s teaching on contraception:

Another effect [of the use of contraception] that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Many may read this and scoff, but I think it’s pretty apparent that the widespread use of contraception has in fact led to this result.  Sex has become little more than pleasure, and no longer a total gift of self (after all, you are holding a part of yourself back from your partner when you use contraception, so you cannot truthfully say you are giving yourselves entirely to one another in that union).  As a result, those with whom we engage in the sexual act when we are using contraception become, for all practical purposes (and whether we are conscious of it or not), nothing more than objects we use to bring about our own pleasure.  We may tell ourselves it’s ok because the using is mutual.  Call the Church crazy, but it has always held, and will always hold, that the mutual using of one another for pleasure is not love.

NFP, IUDs, and The Pill

Natural Family Planning can be very effective when practiced properly.  And while you should not practice NFP with a “contraceptive mentality,” not every Catholic couple is necessarily called to have 12 children, either.  The following is an excerpt from a brief article that I think does a good job explaining the Church’s teaching with regards to the choice to have children:

There is no decision more serious to a Catholic couple than whether or not to participate with God in bringing a new human person into existence. The more serious a decision, the more it is due prayer, discussion and discernment. I teach my seminarians in Denver that God has a plan for every married couple; that the plan includes how many children they should have; and therefore if a couple is concerned about doing Jesus’ will, they should try to discover whether Jesus wishes them to have more children. They should have all the children that Jesus wants them to have, no less, and no more. Therefore, whenever they are conscious that they might become pregnant, they should discuss and pray over the question: “Does Jesus want us to have another child?” The idea that this question is intrinsically tainted with selfish motives is rigoristic and should be rejected. Every potentially fertile couple, as well as infertile couples capable of adopting, has the responsibility to ask it.

Finally: birth control pills and IUDs (in addition to the spiritual and emotional damage they can cause) are also associated with many other medical problems.  And since you’re not yet married nor planning to get married anytime soon, there should be no reason why you’d be considering getting an IUD at this time anyway.  (By the way, it is definitely not true that an IUD cannot cause an abortion).

The Church Wants You to Be Happy

If you get one thing from my reply, let it be this: God wants you to be happy even more than you want yourself to be happy.  And seeing as He created you and thus knows you better than you know yourself, He knows better than you do what will make you happy.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m NOT saying: “God knows that 12 kids is really what makes every woman happy…so just drop this whole Department of Defense dream and start popping out babies.”  (There are many examples of women in the Church whom we revere as saints that never had children!) What I am saying is this: you can’t be as happy as God wants you to be if you are disobeying the teachings of the Church that He established.  They are there for a reason—and that reason is your happiness.

I don’t know what your vocation is.  God could very well call you to marriage, religious life, or even to the consecrated single life.  I can say with 100% certainty that whatever He calls you to, it will make you happier than you ever imagined.  I can say with 100% certainty that eternal happiness is not something we have to wait until we die for.  It is something that can begin right now by clinging to God in prayer and by living in accordance with the teachings of the Church (even when we may not fully understand them yet).  I can say with 100% certainty that God will never desire for you to disobey the moral teachings of the Church, so if you think that you are hearing God tell you it’s ok, it’s probably not God’s voice you are listening to, but your own.

It’s a long answer, but it was a big question 🙂  I hope it provided some clarity for you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Matthew 6:34)

A woman visited her doctor. “Doctor,” she said, “I have a perfectly functioning circulatory system.”

“That’s good,” the doctor replied.

“Well,” she said, “I was wondering if you could give me a drug to make it stop functioning the way that it is supposed to.”

“That’s crazy!” the doctor replied. “Why would I give you something to make your circulatory system stop functioning well?”

“Ok,” the woman replied, “but how about my respiratory system. It seems to be working fine. Could you give me something to mess it up?”

The doctor was shocked. “Of course not! No doctor in their right mind would intentionally give you a drug to mess up a healthy respiratory system.”

“Well, how about my reproductive system?” asked the woman. “Can you give me something to make it stop functioning the way that it is supposed to?”

“Certainly,” the doctor replied. “We have all kinds of medicines to do that.”

Young, Catholic, and Engaged

Okay, first of all…I must apologize for my missing the past two posting deadlines.  Between Christmas and travel and family visiting, things just got busy—not to mention I was graced with a cold that made it difficult to string together complete sentences, let alone blog posts.  But enough excuses.  I’ve been really excited to tell all of you that, as of December 30th, I’M ENGAGED!!!

Tyler proposed last Friday at the beach, and we are planning to get married at the end of this year.  We’re both (obviously) really excited, and though we of course want this year to go by super fast, we’re also looking forward to what God is going to do in our lives over these next several months to prepare us, not just for the wedding, but for the sacrament of marriage.

Anyway, I start winter quarter today—pray for me!  I’m taking Johannine Literature and Christology & Soteriology.

Also, two friends of mine recently started a pretty awesome Catholic blog.  You can check it out here: AllYouCanEatCatholics.blogspot.com.  (They’re both insanely smart converts to Catholicism—one is earning his MA in Theology and the other is a design/graphics genius).

Happy Thursday!

Getting Married

Last week, a friend of mine shared this article with me and wanted to know my perspective on it.  In a nutshell, it’s an article written by a Catholic, basically arguing that Catholics should encourage their children to get married young.

From the article:

Many Catholics, like society at large, encourage their children to postpone marriage. Go to college. Get a job. Get financially stable. Date around. Find out who you are first, then consider marriage. Problem is, by the time you do all these things to find out who YOU are, the one things you can count is who you are is ‘not married.’ This is why people now do not get married until they are in their late twenties, if at all. By then, society has messed them up so much by a decade of self-centeredness that they will probably make lousy spouses.

While I don’t necessarily disagree with everything in the article, I think this is quite a jump to make.  Especially since I know there are many people who would LOVE to be married by 23, but that’s simply not God’s plan for them.  As unfair as it is to condemn young marriages across the board as being irresponsible or foolish, it’s just as bad to conclude that those people who get married in their 30s are selfish or will make “lousy spouses”.  Sheesh.

That being said, I do come from a family of people who happened to get married “young”.  My parents were married at 19, and all four of my siblings were married by their 25th birthday.  It wasn’t expected; it just worked out that way.  My dad wrote a guest post a while back about what a father ought to expect from a man wishing to marry his daughter (spoiler: there’s no age requirement—but men without concrete plans to support their families need not apply).

Every relationship is different.  While it would be wonderful if every couple could get married the second they knew they wanted to, often that’s not practical—nor is it prudent.  It’s ok to postpone marriage because you need to finish college first; not everyone can juggle both at the same time, and it certainly does not mean you’re selfish if you know yourself well enough to know that you can’t.

I do, however, feel compelled to say something here about chastity outside of marriage.  It’s difficult.  And quite frankly, dating the same person for ten years without getting married doesn’t make it any easier.  There may come a certain point when prudence calls for either getting married or breaking up, so as not to continue putting you and your significant other in unnecessary temptation.  Of course, if you love each other, breaking up may not seem like an option, and perhaps this is a reason why you shouldn’t be dating anyone if you know you’re nowhere close to being ready to get married in the first place.

Bottom line: this is a vocation we are talking about here!  It’s not something that can be figured out by a divine mathematical equation (i.e. If x = your age and y = the age of your significant other, multiply the difference by the square root of the number of years you have been dating and voila!  Your wedding date).  If only it were that simple.  🙂

Rather than encourage people to get married young as a means of avoiding selfishness, why not encourage and pray for them to practice charity no matter what age they are or state of life they find themselves in?

As St. Therese of Lisieux put it, “My vocation is love.”