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!

The Feminized Liturgy: A Response to The Catholic Gentleman

The Catholic Gentleman recently posted his arguments about why the Catholic Liturgy has become somewhat more effeminate since Vatican II.  His basic argument seems to be that various changes in liturgical practice (music, vernacular language, female liturgical ministers, etc.) have caused the liturgy to be something that men have greater difficulty engaging in fully.  While I agree with some of his arguments, I believe that the problem has for more to do with the type of men we are raising, rather than the liturgy we are celebrating.

My theological leaning.

Since The Catholic Gentleman was kind enough to give you his spiritual bias, I shall give you mine as well.  I consider myself neither Liberal nor Conservative.  If pressed I would have to say I have conservative leanings.  I value Church Tradition and the authority of the Magesterium, but also see the value in theology as continually unfinished and the development of doctrine.  I prefer a relatively conservative liturgy, but dislike the Latin Mass as well those that I believe are fundamentally misguided in their interpretations of Vatican II.  I receive communion in-hand because I believe it represents the fullness of the sacrament and sacramentality of the Eucharist.  However, I always make sure I get all of Jesus off my palms.  I prefer modern hymns that I can sing along to, over Gregorian Chant or instrumental music, but as personal preference, prefer not to have modern Christian rock as part of the liturgy (however, I recognize that in certain situations, it may acceptable).

What we agree on.

I wholeheartedly agree with The Catholic Gentleman that abrogations, perversions, and misinterpretations have manifested themselves in the various liturgies of various parishes since Vatican II.  I agree that the liturgy has become overall less appealing to men, and that women have begun to “dominate” the various roles of the Church.  I also of course, agree with all the doctrinal and dogmatic principles implied and expressed in his post–that women should not be priests, that the Eucharist should be received with reverence, etc.

What I disagree with.

Perhaps it would be easiest to take this point by point:

1) The “Novus Ordo” lacks order: While I agree that the “New Order” Mass lacks the regimentation of the Tridentine Rite, I believe that the argument that it lacks a proper sense of order to be misleading.  Yes, the priest can choose various Eucharistic prayers, but that does not take away from the order of the ritual that is occurring.  Each mass is essentially the same with the same formula, the same parts, the same number of readings, the same Eucharistic Sacrifice.  Besides, even if it was less ordered, it would not necessarily make it less masculine.

2) The Role of Women in the Liturgy:  This one is hard for me to comment on, because I’m still trying to decide where exactly I stand, and a lot of this argument consists of nuance and distinction.  However, I agree with the point that involving women in the Liturgy in certain ways can cause it to be less masculine.  I also agree with the point that certain activities and practices should separate men and women.  Boys need boy time, girls need girl time.  I also, in general, tend to be against (or at least hesitant about) the use of any lay people (male or female) when not needed in the liturgy.  That being said, I realize that many times the participation of the laity in such ways is necessary and allowed for by the Church in said circumstances.  I also must ask the question–is the lack of men participating in the liturgy in this way a cause of the feminized liturgy, or is it a consequence of it?  Correlation is not causation.

3) The Music is too Sentimental–I partially agree with this, although I believe that much of the argument about this, as well as some other things that will come up, is about preference.  Some men may actually like some of the music that is played at Mass (and most of them are written by men).  Much of the modern worship music listened to by devoted youth could be considered “sentimental”, but still we have many young men giving their life to God because this music is drawing them to Him.  Furthermore (and more on this later), shouldn’t we be raising men who are OK with being sentimental at the appropriate times?  Does God not want us to embrace him with our emotions as well as our intellects and obedience?

4) The Orientation of the Priest–I think this is much about perspective as well.  I think as long as the priest maintains clear duties and roles separate from the people it should be clear that he is leading us.  Any lack of understanding from this is not inherent in the orientation of the priest, but rather in the catechesis, collective conscience, and paradigm of the people who seek to put the priest on same sacramental and ontological level as the congregation.  Don’t get me wrong, the priest is part of the community, but even more so he is the head of it, and by Holy Orders is “ontologically” different from the congregation.  Does it really matter which way he faces, or is it more about the faithful’s duty to educate about the role of priesthood?  As far as I can tell, Vatican II says its ok for the priest to face the congregation.  At some level we have to accept that.

5) The Ancientness is Lost—ummm… sorry, but my understanding is that we are still participating in the saving act of Christ on the Cross which happened once and for all two-thousand years ago.  The Mass we celebrate today (Yes, the Novus Ordo) has many of the same elements it had both in its Jewish roots, and as the early Church Fathers celebrated, which can be seen from the writings of Justin Martyr.  The Eucharistic prayers we use date back to the words of Paul or the very first believers in the middle east.  We still use the Sign of the Cross, say the “Nicean Creed, and have elements of the Mass in Latin and Greek.  That seems ancient enough for me.  Perhaps this is another case of perspective?  Either way, the focus of the Mass is the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is just as ancient as it will always be.

6) No More Latin–Yes, Latin is important and is a crucial part of the culture, spirituality, and sacredness of the Church.  However, that does not mean it is essential to the liturgy.  I actually prefer not to celebrate in Latin, because I believe the vernacular cultivates a higher degree of participation than the Latin.  In Latin Masses I get distracted trying to figure out what is going on, in vernacular Masses I am free to allow my full understanding of the words to lift me up into worship and assent my intellect to God.  Is that not what ritual, liturgy, and Sacrament, is suppose to do?  Latin is actually detrimental to some.  Perhaps the idea that it sounds masculine is another matter of perspective.

7) Sacrifice is Downplayed–OK, I’ll grant you this one.  In the majority of Parishes the liturgy has become some sort of “feel good” “coca-cola Catholicism” that doesn’t speak to the sacrificial nature of a Man’s heart.  Some places have still got it, and it is encouraging to still hear parishes that support a spirituality of suffering.  However, the Liturgy itself cannot be blamed for this because it is not a universal problem–it is a decorating and homiletics problem.  The Liturgy itself is still very clearly the sacrifice of Calvary, and any misunderstanding again comes from bad Catechesis or paradigms.

Concluding Thoughts (The Real Problem).

I truly appreciate the intent of The Catholic Gentleman in exploring this difficult topic and for putting himself out there humbly and with the best of purpose.  However, I propose that a different question is actually at stake.

Is the Liturgy more feminine than it used to be? Maybe… especially in certain parishes.

Is it a really a problem?  Only insofar as it is inauthentic to the true teaching of the Church and causes a Mass to be illicit or invalid or fails to call the community as a whole to authentic worship.  When priests and lay people disregard crucial elements of the faith and liturgy as a matter of either personal preference or as blatant disobedience when both should be subject to the authority of the Church.

What is the real problem here?  We are failing to raise and catechize adequate men.  We are simultaneously raising men who are too feminine (and thus “feminize” the liturgy) and men who cannot comprehend or rejoice in true beauty.  Men should be able to embrace the sentimentality of the Catholic Liturgy.  We need men who can cry in front of their children, or who can say “I Love You”, but we also need men who can sacrifice their lives not only on a major scale, but in the little everyday things.  We also need to Catechize our men (and perhaps even more so our women) on the role of priesthood, the value of sacrifice, and the virtue of obedience.  Finally, we need to treat women properly and with a clarity of purpose so that they start feeling less obligated to act like men.  The Mass is beautiful and true in any form because it is the efficacious sacrifice and communal worship of God.  But how many of today’s men see the truth for what it really is, even if they are Catholic?  The problem is not the liturgy, its that men have forgotten how to recognize beauty in the everyday and worldly, and for many, truth has lost its appeal except for in the very depths of their hearts, which they have forgotten how to listen to.