Virtue of Study

Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary

Study wisdom, that you may give an answer to him that criticizes. (Proverbs 27:11)

God commands study. Lord Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part. Because she chose to listen, to learn, to exercise her mind, to study. [Spanish]

Our Creator has equipped us with minds, made to know the truth. Our bodies need food and fluids, so we get hungry and thirsty. Likewise, our minds need the truth. So we want to know, we want to learn, we strive to inquire. Our natural desire to know the truth leads us, ultimately, to God. Everything comes from Him and leads toward Him.

But of course the Lord did not equip us all mentally in the same way. He does not command us all to study the same things by the same methods. To the contrary, He has arrayed His all-but-endlessly beautiful universe to attract our study in an all-but-endlessly vast array of ways.

He gave us each our own particular interests and takes on things. We all have different kinds of minds. Some people like reading more than others. Some people like tinkering with engines. Some people like cooking, gardening, sketching, architecture, psychology, politics, math, equestrian dressage, blue-grass harmonics. You name it.

aquinas
see Summa Theo. II-II q. 166

All truth, all beauty, all healthiness and fullness comes from God. So the study of anything good and true leads to God. We individually study different good and true things, in different ways. But for each of us to come into his or her own, we each must study. To fully realize our potential, we must exercise and apply our minds in a humble, dutiful, disciplined, and focused manner.

Why? In Dante’s Inferno, the first thing that the poet’s guide says about the damned is: “They have lost the good of the intellect.” Heaven involves knowing The Truth fully, and resting in His utterly clear light. Hell involves losing the truth altogether and falling into the darkness of utter confusion.

God commands us to study. We can disobey, and go wrong, in two ways.

1. Because study requires strenuous mental effort, our lazy bodies rebel. It’s easier to doze than to read. It’s easier to eat dessert than to do experiments. It’s easier just to conform my shallow thinking to the same lame ideas that everyone else has, rather than seek wise counsel, engage in debate, and carefully form solid opinions of my very own.

Which Christian heroes do we most admire? The martyrs, of course. The martyrs throughout the ages have made it their business to seek the truth about God and to adhere to that truth with a deep certainty. A martyr’s well-studied conviction makes him or her fearless of death.

That’s what Mary did at Jesus’ feet: She courageously sought the truth about God. The truth to which she could cling with unswerving courage, deepening her knowledge by prayer and meditation.

So the first way we can go wrong in the exercising of our minds: failing to exercise them. Intellectual indolence. Becoming conformist mental couch potatoes. Cowards in the face of the difficulties involved in acquiring solid knowledge.

2. But there’s a second, equally dangerous trap. Namely: undisciplined, fruitless, shallow study—also known as empty curiosity. Minds running after trifles, fake news, or presumptuous over-statements.

Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to learn sublime wisdom. Grasping Jesus’ words required humble concentration. Because she did not hear idle gossip. She did not hear silly vignettes or sweet little romances. The Sermon on the Mount contains the most important wisdom ever imparted to mankind. But reading it isn’t exactly ‘entertaining.’ The gospels are no comic books.

Nor does it fall to us human creatures to study and learn everything. Mary never imagined, as she sat at Jesus’ feet, that she could learn things beyond the scope of her limited mind. We human beings take the most-important things on faith. We have great minds–compared to squirrels. But compared to God and His angels, even the greatest human geniuses know practically nothing.

Now, school kids of course think of summertime as a welcome respite from the rigors of study. But we adults cherish these months as an opportunity to follow Mary to the feet of the Christ. To put aside some of our usual workaday cares, sit quietly, and apply our minds to the truths that are worth living and dying for.

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Eating with Sinners vs. Shunning Gay “Marriage”

Christ dines with publicans sinners.jpg

“Why does He eat with sinners?” The Pharisees asked. We know the answer: “Because He came to call sinners.”

But what about shunning? Sometimes you have to refuse to eat with certain people, in order to retain some kind of personal integrity. We would certainly have to refuse to eat with militant white supremacists or plotting terrorists.

After all, Lord Jesus said: “If your brother sins against you, tell him his fault, between you and him…If he does not listen, take one or two brothers with you…If he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you as a Gentile.”

St. Paul wrote: “Do not even eat with anyone who bears the name of brother, if he is guilty of sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, or swindling.”

marriage_sacramentSeems to me that the most-confusing gray area for us right now involves “gay marriage.”

On the one hand, a “marriage” ceremony missing the necessary man or woman to complement the other woman or man—that certainly offends God. Offends all the good, honest, faithful husbands and wives who have ever sacrificed and co-operated as friends in order to bear children and raise a family. Offends everyone who tries to use the word ‘marriage’ in an honest manner.

The very idea that two people of the same sex can ‘marry’ lies so far beyond the pale of honesty, in fact, that we probably do best just to ignore it. Better to see the whole pretense for the pitiable charade that it is. And try to respond with compassion.

Because, on the other hand: Some men do fall in love with other men, and some women with other women. And we cannot say that everything about such friendships is evil. That would not be true, at least not in every case.

And the aspect of the friendship that is evil may not be any of my business. Since homosexual marriage isn’t “wrong”—it’s simply impossible—then homosexual immorality remains a purely private matter, in and of itself. And private immorality only becomes my business when someone involved chooses to make it so.

We traditional Christians rightly resent the “gay lobby” for going on the warpath and trying to force our hands against our consciences. But that means we also have no right to go on the warpath, either.

We can’t go to any gay “weddings” as joyful guests. But, by the same token, we can’t cut people off, either—at least people who haven’t made any threats of violence. Family Fourth-of-July picnics and Thanksgiving dinners don’t need to become morality battlegrounds. Sometimes it’s perfectly Christian to pass the potato salad, smile, and talk about the weather.

Juneteenth

freed slaves

Today we Americans commemorate the end of slavery here in our country. Word of Union victory–and emancipation of the quarter million slaves then living in Texas–reached Houston on June 19, 1865. Jubilation filled the streets.

Lord Jesus came into this world to liberate. He came to free every human soul from bondage. To turn us toward the infinite horizon of heavenly love. To teach us our true destiny–and how to achieve it, by loving God and neighbor.

Christians respect the dignity of every human person, made free in the image of the sovereign God. Our heavenly Father summons all of us to eternal love. We recognize everyone’s right to respond freely to God’s call.

From the Catechism:

The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold, or exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. (para. 2414)

From an 1830 Handbook of Christian morality, written by a German bishop:

The state of slavery, and any treatment of human beings as slaves, turns people who are persons into mere things, turns people who are ends in themselves into mere means, and does not allow the responsibility of people for what they do, or do not do, to develop properly, and in this way cripples them in their very humanity; hence it is contrary to the basic principle of all morality.

Two years ago, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., acknowledged with shame, sorrow, and contrition, the fact that the University, and the Georgetown Jesuits, had trafficked in slaves. Among other acts of reconciliation, the University renamed one of its buildings. It had borne the name of Fr. Thomas Mulledy, SJ, who had engaged in the slave trade. Now it bears the name of one of the slaves he traded.

Fr Thomas Mulledy SJ
Father Thomas Mulledy SJ

A Virginian, Father Mulledy played a significant role in the early life of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. He participated in the solemn consecration of St. Peter’s church in Richmond in 1834.

The following year, one of Mulledy’s brother Jesuits, Father James Ryder, spoke at St. Peter’s on the subject of slavery. He spoke to assure everyone that the Catholic Church by no means opposed it.

In what was then the cathedral of our diocese, Father Ryder referred to abolitionists as “wicked would-be philanthropists,” with whom “only madmen or traitors” would co-operate.

Of the abolitionist movement, Ryder declared: “The Catholic will shrink from shaking the polluted hand that would sow the seeds of confusion and horror in the fair fields of the South, rifling the domestic happiness of the master and his slave. [Abolitionism] is not religion. It is not piety. It is a profanation of the gospel.”

Pope Pius VII erected the Diocese of Richmond in 1820, but we did not have a resident bishop until 1841. Bishop John England of Charleston, SC, served as a de facto spiritual leader. But he did not prove to be a genuine spiritual leader at all, on the subject of slavery.

In fact, Bishop England died, in 1842, while in the process of explaining to the world that Catholics do not oppose slavery. Even though the pope had declared in 1839 that we do. Even though the great Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell had challenged his Irish countrymen in America to oppose the servitude of their black brothers and sisters.

Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O’Connell

Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland to hear O’Connell. Douglass said that O’Connell had “shaken American slavery to its center.”

But Bishop England, and the American Catholic Church as a whole, not only failed to take up O’Connell’s challenge, but proceeded to impugn O’Connell’s judgment, and to pile up spurious distinctions to defend the enslavement of black people in the South.

The typical historical narrative regarding American slavery neglects one crucial set of facts. In the early nineteenth century–over fifty years before the Civil War–our mother nation of England actively sought to bring slavery to an end, throughout its entire sphere of influence. The Holy See intervened repeatedly to aid this effort. Most of the western world had come to recognize that slavery offended the dignity of man.

The western world, that is, minus the United States. Andrew Jackson and his partisans pushed in the other direction. The United States took away from the Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, and Mexicans, the land that became Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas–in order to expand chattel slavery. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny provided the mythological cover necessary to mask the brutal immorality involved.

All of this happened during the nascent days of both our diocese and of the American Catholic hierarchy as a whole. Bishop England bragged about how the American bishops, assembled in Baltimore in 1840, did not regard slavery as immoral.

Now, we must note that the Catholic Church occupied an almost unimaginably weak position in American society at that time. Bigoted mobs subjected us to repeated acts of violence and arson. And the South had so few Catholics that everyone reasonably wondered if Catholicism could survive here at all.

But all that does not change the fact: We American Catholics profoundly failed to confront the evil of slavery. Our Church not only absented herself from the abolitionist movement; we not only ignored the moral clarity provided by leaders like Daniel O’Connell–we actively opposed the cause of justice for the slaves.

We cannot honestly commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of our diocese without acknowledging this lamentable fact.

 

 

New Commandment of Charity

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

At Holy Mass today, we read:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

Some points on this, from the Catechism

1. Charity = love God above all things, and love my neighbor as myself, for the love of God.

2. We learn what charity is from Jesus. He showed the divine love by loving His own chosen ones to the end. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

3. We must love our enemies.

4. “Charity is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

5. Charity makes a Christian a child of God. We obey Him not out of fear, or for the sake of some short-term gain, but because we love Him as our Father.

6. Divine love makes us joyful, peaceful, and merciful. Also generous and friendly. And willing to correct others.

Love Your Enemies: Two Dangers

greco_christ-traders-temple

Love your enemies.

The Lord has commanded us to love our enemies. Seems like we face at least two dangers when it comes to obeying this command. [Spanish]

1. What if I’m such a coward that I don’t have any enemies? How can I do good to those who hate me, if nobody hates me, because I don’t stand for anything?

When our Lord Jesus walked the earth, many people loved Him. And many people hated Him. He had friends. And He had enemies. How did the Christ of God make His enemies?

Remember when He drove the money-changers from the Temple? It made His disciples think of a verse from Psalm 69. Zeal for your house will consume me.

The zeal of Jesus Christ. He made bitter enemies because: Zeal for true religion consumed Him. He would stop at nothing to keep open the path of humble and honest communion with God. He showed untiring patience and tender gentleness. But He also showed fiery contempt for anyone who would block the path of true religion.

He loves every soul. But the honesty and humility that a soul needs, in order to live in friendship with God—that kind of honesty and humility does not come naturally to us sinners. We are much more inclined to proud hypocrisy. Christ made enemies precisely by denouncing that proud hypocrisy.

The_Head_of_Christ_by_Warner_Sallman_1941So “love your enemies” means: make some enemies. If I don’t have any courage or any zeal for God, I will inevitably wind up a party to something corrupt. I will just “get along” to the point where I lose myself. I will become a crippled nothing, languishing in the half-realization that I have betrayed my conscience. For short-term peace. So many times that I hardly know how to examine my conscience anymore.

The Lord said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth… I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Following Christ’s path of principled consistency divides us from others. We can’t make friends with sin or with any kind of spiritual mediocrity.

Ok. But there’s another danger, when it comes to Jesus’ command that we love our enemies. Mistaking friend–or even potential friend–for enemy. In other words, “love your enemies” also means: Whatever you do, do not define yourself by what you hate.

Yes, hopefully we hate sin. Hopefully we hate ignorance and malice. But our hatred of evil doesn’t make us who we are. Our love for God, and for His people, makes us who we are. And that requires that I constantly grow as a person, allowing God to expand my soul.

By sending His Son to live among us, and die at our hands, and conquer death for us, God has extended His loving hand to every human being. He wills to save sinners, not condemn them. God wills only goodness and life for His creatures.

When we follow the path that Christ followed, the path of universal love—even loving our enemies—then we grow. We expand ourselves. And, by God’s grace, sometimes we turn enemies into friends.

So while we must hate sin and evil, none of us grow by hating. We grow by loving holiness and knowledge, loving the beautiful goodness of God, and loving my neighbor for God’s sake.

This, of course, requires enormous humility. And careful prudence. Let me listen carefully to what everyone says, waiting till last to speak myself. Let me try to find a way to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

And let me remember always that I am certainly every bit as obstinate and difficult as the person who annoys me the most. Let me be patient with everyone, as I hope everyone will be patient with me. Which means being patient with myself, too, of course.

Love your enemies. I think we imagine this is enormously difficult. But it’s actually considerably harder than that.

I must have the courage to reject any compromise that betrays God’s love, otherwise I won’t have the right enemies in the first place. But I must also have the humility to acknowledge: I have an awful lot to learn about God’s love.

No way we pull this off, both zeal and humility. At the same time. Unless we receive heavenly aid.

But that’s why we frequent the church. That’s why we go to confession and to Mass.

Help us, Lord, to make the right enemies. Then give us the humility to love them enough to turn them into Your friends.

Adam and Eve on Valentine’s Day

everib

Leave it to the good Lord.

By pure happenstance of the Lectionary: We read at Holy Mass on Valentine’s Day about God putting Adam and Eve together in the garden. Because “it is not good for man to be alone.” God told us: be fruitful and multiply. Which means men and women falling in love, exchanging Valentines, getting married, and having families.

Which came first? Mankind or the other animals?

Holy Scripture does not exactly answer this question. But the order in time matters much less than the order in being.

We human beings, alone among the animals, can conceive of the world as a whole, as God does. We alone can give distinct names to all the various parts of the world, the creatures that make up God’s creation. Alone among the animals, we form a spiritual bridge between the earth and the mind of God. The marriage of a man and a woman gives us a visible image of the union between God and mankind brought about by the God-man, Jesus Christ.

We know that the pro-abortion, “pro-choice” position betrays the truth. One way you can tell: the very euphemism that the pro-abortion movement chooses for itself. “Reproductive rights.”

Algae “reproduce.” Plants, bugs, other animals—they “reproduce.” Human beings marry. Human beings have families.

If you use words that apply to lower creatures to defend your position when it comes to human beings, you can be sure that you have strayed into a territory where violence reigns. “Reproductive rights” is a phrase from Orwell’s 1984, a mask to cover over systematic bloodshed.

On the other hand: Love. Marriage. Family.

That is the way that God gave to mankind, in the garden, before the Fall. The original gift of God—love, marriage, and family–makes Valentine’s Day happy.

The Border Wall is Illegal

Walk the Border

No one asked me who TIME Magazine’s Man/Person/People of the Year should be. But if they had, I would have said: Isn’t it obvious? Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch.

They started walking a year ago at Friendship Park in San Diego, California. They walked the entire US-Mexico border. They reached the Gulf of Mexico in August.

Two thousand miles, the same length as the Appalachian Trail. (That’s where they met, the two brave young ladies–hiking the Appalachian Trail a few years ago.)

…Some American Catholics cling to an “it’s all about respect for the law” position, when it comes to US-Mexico immigration.

This school of thought, as I understand it, runs like this:

“I am no racist. But I believe in respect for the rule of law. Would-be immigrants to the US must abide by our laws. If they enter the country ‘illegally,’ we have the right to deprive them of their liberty and deport them.”

Similar line of thought, when it comes to the military action ordered by the late, lamented George H.W. Bush in 1991:

“We Americans believe in the territorial integrity of sovereign states. Saddam Hussein violated international law by attempting to annex by force the neighboring sovereign nation of Kuwait. Therefore, the USA legally and rightly made war against Iraq, to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.”

Makes sense because: The territorial integrity of sovereign states is one of the fundamental principles of international law. Our own assertion of the right to deport “illegal aliens” is based on that very principle.

Problem is: The current US-Mexico border is the legacy of a gross violation of that legal principle.

Mexico City occupation by US

This has everything to do with Our Lady of Guadalupe, because the treaty establishing the current border was signed, under duress, in the shadow of the basilica housing St. Juan Diego’s tilma.

And it has everything to do with human rights and morality since we, the United States of America, re-imposed slavery in Texas by annexing it and taking it away from Mexico. We took Texas away from the country that had abolished slavery there in 1829–nearly four decades before we abolished it.

Yes, this is what I am saying: The USA does not have a legitimate claim to the current US-Mexico border. The current border is not legal, according the principles of morality and international law. It is simply the result of the disproportion of military strength between the USA and Mexico 170 years ago.

Christians believe in the rule of law. We do not believe that might makes right. Therefore, we have to recognize that the USA does not have the right to build walls or use military or paramilitary force along the Rio Grande/Sonora Desert/San Diego border.

If we want the rule of law to prevail, we should insist that the US-Mexico border be the subject of bi-lateral negotiations, facilitated by a disinterested mediator. Such negotiations could result in a confrontation with the wrongs of the past, and could lead ultimately to reconciliation and peace.

On the other hand, the position of the current presidential administration with respect to that border does not have a genuine legal or moral basis. We Catholics cannot legitimately appeal to a “rule of law” justification for supporting the border policies of the Trump administration.

Shunning Romanità

Fr. Boniface Ramsey

Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God… So do not be associated with them… Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:5-8)

Impurity and greed involve idolatry. The Catechism explains:

Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and serves a creature in place of God [2113]. In his original sin, man preferred himself to God. He chose himself over against God, against the requirements of being a creature of God… Man wanted to ‘be like God,’ but without God, before God, not in accordance with God. [358].

Do not be associated with such idolatry, insists St. Paul. In other words: shun sin; shun sinners; preserve the integrity of your witness to God.

Two points on this:

1. I could shun wrongly. That would involve idolatrously worshiping my own self-righteousness. So when it comes to shunning anything or anyone, let me always preserve romanità.

What does that mean? Romanità means having a universal, cosmopolitan outlook. Always give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Assume I have fellowship in Christ with everyone. Never interest myself in another person’s sins unless I absolutely have to.

2. Today Fr. Boniface Ramsey—the original Theodore McCarrick whistleblower—published a lucid summary of what he knew about McCarrick and when, and what he did about it.

One thing in particular that moved Fr. Ramsey to action: Seeing other bishops—men who knew that McCarrick had preyed on seminarians–seeing them graciously and fraternally interact with McCarrick at the altar at major Masses, like big funerals, etc—seeing them interact with McCarrick and not shun him.

How can you men of God and successors of the Apostles not shun this man, knowing what you know? That thought moved Fr. Ramsey to act, to write, to pester the hierarchy. May God reward him for it.

In sum, then: Without romanità, we risk becoming unkind and self-righteous. But too much romanità, and we become: Compromised in our integrity.

Lord, help us to know when not to shun. And when to shun.

Forty Years Ago Today

Pope John Paul II: His Remarkable Journey

Pope St. John Paul II began his ministry as the pope. Over the course of the ensuing quarter century, many of us came to revere John Paul II as a hero and a spiritual father.

During the 1980’s, when I was in high-school, some of us held on to the pope for dear life. It seemed like he alone, on the whole face of the earth, offered a brave witness to sexual sanity, to chastity–while everyone else was awash in condoms and broken marriages.

Many of us spent the 90’s reading John Paul II’s writings. He consumed himself with teaching the faith inherited from the Apostles. He traveled the world and used the power of his reverberating voice and magnetic charm to evangelize.

Technocrats and feminists hated his intransigence on artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, and the men-only ministerial priesthood. Political and aesthetic conservatives hated his rejection of the capitalist profit motive and his embrace of Vatican II.

But in the middle, we vast multitudes of spiritual children listened eagerly to the man we loved as a trustworthy father. A lot of us wept more bitterly on the day that he died than we had since we were babies. Mainly because we knew we wouldn’t hear the sound of his voice on earth again.

Looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, we can wish that JP II had applied himself more to the reform of the Roman Curia. We can wish that he had understood the sex-abuse crisis better–understood it more as a practical matter, rather than as a purely spiritual one.

st john paul ii

And we can recognize: The way Popes Paul VI and John Paul II defined the Roman papacy after Vatican II left a huge gap in authority. That gap has now brought the Church to the point of paralysis.

Bishops need a disciplinarian, too—just like priests, seminarians, doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, bricklayers, school children–everybody needs a disciplinarian. But the world’s Catholic bishops don’t have one. The whole post-Vatican II system of Church governance assumes that bishops will do right. But, as we now know all too well, often they do not.

So St. John Paul II had human faults, blind spots—which we did not want to see, as we listened to him heroically urge us on to holiness.

But let’s go back to October 22, 1978, to what he said in his homily that day. His words resonate today with even more force than they had then.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself…

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk….

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ… Christ knows ‘that which is in man.’ He alone knows it.

…Man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart… He is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

Non-Political Truths of Marriage

weyden_matrimony1A marriage is a marriage because a man and a woman make vows to God. Getting married is, fundamentally, an act of faith in God. And getting married always involves not just the two individuals, but also their families, the children the Lord pleases to give them, and all the people who will relate to them thenceforward as a married couple. [SPANISH]

The idea that the laws of marriage could ever be the subject of political dispute? Marriage as a political hot potato? That strikes us Catholics as strange and shallow. Marriage is not a “political issue.” Marriage is what Jesus Christ said it is: 1. God made us male and female. 2. A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh. 3. What God has joined together, let no man separate.

Marriage is not “political.” It is beautiful. Man and wife, united in an unbreakable bond, reflect the love between Christ and His holy People. Husband and wife, faithful through all trials, persevering through setbacks and defeats they never could have anticipated, but never giving up—that offers hope. That offers convincing testimony to the truth of the Catholic faith.

I don’t think I go too far when I say: The faithfulness of husbands and wives makes the world beautiful and trustworthy. Faithfulness made possible by the grace of God, delivered through the sacrament.

Marriage is not “political.” Marriage is spiritual. Discerning the will of God about marriage requires prayer and the regular, sustained practice of our religion. Remaining faithful in marriage requires prayer and the sustained practice of our religion.

And remaining faithful requires embracing the Cross. The world has never seen a marriage that didn’t involve a Via Crucis. If you won’t walk with Christ the Way of the Cross, don’t get married. That said, no one can get to heaven without walking the Via Crucis with Christ. So we all might as well prepare ourselves to follow the Way of the Cross, whether or not we have any thought of getting married.

Marriage is not “political.” But it is legal. Laws can cut like razors, both for good or ill, depending on your point of view. Without following the laws of marriage, you can’t obtain the sacramental grace of marriage. And no one loses the freedom to marry in a scenario in which the laws of marriage didn’t get followed.

elgrecochristcrossSome people think the Church’s marriage laws are too strict, making it difficult to get married in church. Some people think they’re too lax, allowing for too many annulments. No one says that the laws are perfect. But they are fundamentally reasonable.

You have to be mature and clear-minded in order to bring about the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Once that happens, it lasts until death. But sometimes it doesn’t happen, even when a couple tries to make it happen. Because they didn’t meet the legal criteria.

Which means that there is nothing faithless or unspiritual about petitioning for an annulment when you have a solid case for obtaining one. And there’s nothing faithless or unspiritual about Church tribunals granting decrees of nullity in accord with the law.

That said, there certainly is nothing faithful or spiritual about the kind of pride that would lead someone to try to grant him- or herself an annulment. Or the kind of pride that would refuse to seek an annulment when the law would provide for one.

Marriage is not “political.” But, by the same token, it is also not eternal. Christ was made lower than the angels “for a little while.” A man and a woman get married, and live the Christian married life, until death do them part, beautifying the world at every step… But it all lasts only a little while. In the grand scheme of things.

Some choose not to marry because they have no faith and would rather just skate along. Some don’t marry because they won’t make a commitment to love like Christ. Or they don’t know how. These aren’t worthy reasons.

But some choose not to marry because eternal life beckons. Even now, the Kingdom of Christ the God-man beckons. Not marrying because of that doesn’t mean rejecting love. It means embracing the Love that made them male and female in the first place.