It Takes Three: A Wholistic View of Marriage

The last few days there’s been a lot of buzz around the Catholic Blogosphere about the purpose of Marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, this is awesome, and with society continually pushing the boundaries of marriage, we should be continually re-examining and re-evangelizing what marriage is.  The two most popular articles have been “Marriage Isn’t for You” and its aptly titled response “A Response To: Marriage Isn’t for You“.  While both of these articles are beautiful and make important points about the selflessness and God-focused nature of marriage, I think they miss the bigger picture, and are perhaps better when considered two sides of the same the coin. So who is marriage for?

Marriage is for Me.

We can try all we want to remove ourselves from the focus of marriage–whether for reasons of humility or whatever–but in reality I think we need to remember that we are still part of this marriage, and we have to put our own personal effort into making it work.  My wife and I recently had a relatively serious argument about a decision I made, and both of us were feeling hurt and unloved because we thought the other was being unsupportive.  Only when I realized that my feelings were both selfish and prideful was I able to move on and forgive my wife (and myself) for feelings that were causing disunity in the marriage.  And believe me, it wasn’t easy, and it took prayer and grace from the Sacrament to let go of that anger that was so easily felt.  

The point here is that if we push to ad-absurdium the fact that marriage is self-less and for our spouse, we risk missing the essential focus of marriage as a vocation and a path to sanctification.  My marriage to my wife should make me a better man, a better Christian, and a better person, and indeed I think it has to start with me allowing God to transform myself in humility, self-giving, and love, before I can expect my wife to be transformed by the marriage.

Marriage is for my spouse (and others)

“Marriage Isn’t for You” had it right in some sense…a husband or wife who is focused solely or predominantly on themselves is not fulfilling their marriage or bringing it to its full fruition.  While we do need to make sure we are allowing the challenge of marriage to transform and sanctify ourselves, it is equally if not more important, that we bring our spouse to heaven.  Not only is it for your spouse, but it requires a spouse that is equally committed to making the marriage work.    Furthermore, a solid marriage is needed to adequately and healthily raise children in the best possible situation.   It is also a reflection of the inner love of the Trinity, the devotion to and effectiveness of the Sacrament, the fruitfulness of faith in family life, and the positive role of the domestic church in the universal Church and society.  In this way marriage is not for “you” or “me” but for the good of my spouse, my family, the world, and the Church.

Marriage requires God

This brings me to my third point… and I think the “Response” article was close to making this point but I’d like to refocus it.  While it can be argued that marriage is “for” God (although the implication or nuance of God needing marriage makes the theological part of me cringe a bit), I believe that it is more accurate to say that marriage requires God.  Yes, insofar as a healthy marriage glorifies God, does his will, and brings about the Kingdom of God, marriage is for God.  But I think the greater point here is that marriage, in a sense, subsists, in God.  It is hard, some days its the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, and its a lifetime commitment to daily choose to love this person and act on it.  Love like that cannot be sustained without grace–a grace that comes most fully through God and the sacrament of marriage.

It Takes Three

I don’t “disagree” with anything the authors of the other posts said.  I think they are very beautiful, pertinent, and well written messages that present a piece of the marriage puzzle.  The most important thing however, is that Christian couples realize that God needs to be at the center of their relationship for it to be most fruitful.  If marriage has only one person invested, it will fall flat on its face.  If it has two, it may hobble along for a while, but will be crippled.  If it has three people–husband, wife, and God–the marriage will dance and bare abundant fruit for the couple, the family, and the Kingdom of God as whole.

 

Did I miss anything?  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below!

You’re Still Beautiful America: Towards a Renewed “Nationology”

I’ve become a big fan of Matt Maher’s new song “Woke up in America” but its gotten me thinking not only about what he’s trying to say about our wonderful country, but also about my own feelings about our “national identity”.

Currently I’m in an ecclessiology class for my graduate program.  I would like to propose here that, just as many our problems in the Church arises from how we perceive the Church to be (our ecclessiological identity), so do most of the problems of our nation arise from our “nationology”.

While I often amn  discouraged by the sate of our nation, Matt Maher’s song reminds me of a couple points.  First, patriotism is a virtue, one that falls under that of Justice.  Not only is it good to support our country, but it is proper and right ordered to do so–to some extent.  Therefore, to what extent should have “patriotism” for a country that is in error concerning many of its values and workings? 

Patriotism is basically having love for your country–especially in history, culture, physical beauty, etc.  America has much to offer from most of these–we have beautiful landscapes of every variety, we are a “melting pot” nation where people of every culture is welcome (which helps us form our own unique culture), and we are a champion of freedom, democracy, hardwork, and social mobility.  All of these things it is proper to love.

However, there is much about the country we cannot love.  While we both democracy and capitalism are inherently good structures, both in our country are inherently broken.  As a country we are individualistic, God-less, against life, materialistic, and petty.

What causes this?  Our idea of what america is, about what constitutes a nation…our “nationology”.  I believe that in general, we view our nation as merely a group of individuals, under the charge of a group of individuals, with a purpose of promoting the good of each and every individual person.  Each of these views is not, in and of itself, wrong, but they are all incomplete and when held without balance lead to an inadequate view of what our country is and thus how we live as a country.

–Yes, our nation is a group of individuals.. but as the virtue as patriotism shows us (and as most american’s would admit, though they live contrary), America is so much more than that.  It is about the beauty of the land, the freedom, the men and women who have given their lives, and that it is a GOD GIVEN GIFT that we are able to live with all of these blessings.  The problem is that most people live their day to day lives without remembering this fact.

–Yes, our nation is run by a group of individuals… and when we focus on that is when we realize the inherent problem with that fact.  Human’s are flawed, therefore a country that is run merely on human values, according to human ideals, and only concerning the will of human’s, will always be gravely flawed.  The fact that we must daily try to remember, the two phrases that will save us, are currently frequently being petitioned for removal–1) One Nation Under God, and 2) In God We Trust.  This reminds us that, though separation of Church and State is inherently good, they cannot be completely separate.  We must not live to merely human values, standards, and desires, but must always be careful not to cultivate a country, culture, and worldview that forsakes God’s will.

–Finally, while each individual person has a right to be happy, and the country and government has a responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that each person flourishes, a focus on individual good leads to a country that is broken and fractured.  We must instead be focused on the “common good”, an idea that isn’t necessarily foreign to America, but which seems to get pushed aside for the individual good.

I believe that if we do all these things–move towards a more collective worldview, remember that God is a necessary aspect of our country, and love America for the appropriate reasons–we will be a happier and more prosperous country, and other countries will have more respect for us.

Our “Nationology” must be more than an individual survival of the fittest.  We must remember why America is beautiful, and continue to work to make it even more so.