Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Church needs lay saints...
Yes, it needs saints, more than reformers, because saints are the most authentic and productive reformers. Every great period of renewal in the Church is linked to important testimonials of holiness. Without such testimonials, the updating undertaken by the Councils would be illusive.

But the conviction that we must share and spread this call to holiness is addressed to all Christians. This call is not the privilege of a spiritual elite. Nor is it for a few who feel heroic courage. Still less is it a tranquil refuge, suited to a certain type of piety or to certain eccentric temperaments. It is a grace offered to all the baptized, in varying forms and degrees.

It is not reserved for particular states of life, although some favor it, or for the practice of certain professions. St. Francis de Sales showed effectively that holiness, with piety or devotion, could be an attribute of men and women in any family situation or career. Thus lay people must be encouraged to live every aspect of their life in the world -- whatever the specific circumstances in which God has placed them -- in a holy manner, in faith, hope, and love. In this sense, there is a kind of holiness specific to lay people.

-Pope John Paul II, June 7th, 1986
Reposted from an earlier post...

Friday, October 14, 2005

I should append...

I should append to each of my reflections about marriage that these things are so easy to write about but are quite difficult to live out, human beings being what they are. Personally, I have seen a great amount of divorce throughout my lifetime, and I have witnessed its effects. Sometimes people enter into this without fully comprehending what they are consenting to; other times they were unwilling to communicate and actually develop a close relationship with their spouse, one based on real love and not just fuzzy feelings or infatuation. It is a comfort to know that my fiancee and I do not make these intentions alone and will not be left alone when times get rough; rather, we are entering into a sacramental bond through which God bestows grace for the purpose of bringing us closer to Him as we grow closer together in our relationship. I said before that what I say here may cause many of you married folk to roll your eyes because I speak from complete lack of experience. But we believe that we understand what we are consenting to, and we can only ask for your prayers of support!

UPDATE: Thanks to the contributors in the comment box for helping to clarify this -- When I said that "we understand what we are consenting to", I only meant this to mean that we understand that we are consenting to live out a mystery that is greater than these mere words (as represented by my recent reflections). We intend to live out what we understand Christ asks of us, but obviously how this is lived out as well as the sacramental mystery of what makes marriage what it is cannot be fully understood, especially beforehand. So that is why it is necessary for us to remain humble in the face of such mystery and grace and ask for your prayerful support.
What God Has Joined...

One aspect of the Catholic understanding of marriage that I have always admired is that it affirms the Christian understanding of the indissolubility of the marital bond -- that marriage is a sacramental covenant affirmed by Christ between man and woman, lasting until death. Obviously, this understanding is a difficult pill for our society to swallow, and it has prompted the Church to stand firm in defense of what it considers to be basic Christian teaching.

What we know about Christ's affirmation can be drawn from His words as related by Matthew (Ch 19:3-12) in the Gospels. In response to the questioning of the Pharisees concerning divorce, which had been allowed, Christ affirms the original quality of marriage by recalling Genesis 2:24, relating marriage back to the story of Creation as the union between man and woman:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?"

He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, men must not divide."

They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"

He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."
Christ raises marriage back to its original dignity. The "exception" clause is also very interesting. The word translated here as unchastity comes from the Greek word porneia. In other places, it is translated as immorality. Other translations render it in very loose terms, such as marital infidelity, although this doesn't seem very accurate. It most likely relates to an illicit sexual situation that distorts the state of the marriage, rendering it unlawful and invalid from the beginning. For example, St. Paul uses the same word, porneia, in his first letter to the Corinthians (Ch. 5:1) to describe an incestuous relationship, here translated as immorality but then explained:
It is actually reported that there is immorality (porneia) among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife.
Back to Matthew's account. Christ restores the original understanding of marriage as the union between man and woman as a divine embrace so tight that no man can separate it; and if a marital bond is lawful and valid (i.e. lacking any impediment, porneia), subsequent marriages, even in the presence of a civil divorce, would be considered adulterous. Yes, even Christ's disciples thought this was a difficult teaching, as Matthew continues:
The disciples said to [Jesus], "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry."

But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given... He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
So here we come to what happens when a couple receives this teaching. They affirm their intentions in marriage by expressing their freely given consent to the teaching of the Church. Their consent affects the validity of the marital bond. This would entail the intention to remain faithful in marriage, the intention to remain together until death, and the intention to be open to the gift of children. The couple is asked to declare their intentions and give their consent during the Catholic marriage ritual itself, so that all may bear witness to it. This is a very profound moment, one that I am very much looking forward to. The priest or deacon will ask:
- Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourself to each other in marriage?

- Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

- Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?
After the couple declares their intentions and consent, the priest or deacon will conclude:
You have declared your consent before the Church. May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with his blessings. What God has joined, men must not divide. Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Got back from Dallas last night; overall, a productive and very busy trip. I had some free time on Sunday, so I attended mass at St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Church (Anglican Use) in Arlington (which, I was surprised to learn, uses the Rite II liturgy in their sung mass), and after that, I visited the legendary Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, the site where President Kennedy was assassinated.


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