Monday, March 29, 2010

"The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children."

While doing research for my thesis, I have the pleasure of reading documents like papal encyclicals. Today I read Pope Pius XI's "Casti Connubii" (delivered in Rome on December 31, 1930) on Christian marriage, which followed the 1930 Lambeth Conference (Anglicans), which loosened the Protestant objections to birth control and, consequently, the binding of a true marriage. I enjoyed reading it immensely and it certainly made me think about many things, including the will of God over the will of Man. There was a passage or two which made the Libertarian in me flair up a little, but there was a comfort in it as well, knowing that one accepts things not because it's easy to understand the whats and whys, but rather because one must, and that understanding and grace to accept and be content will come, because there is God who loves us. He never promised an easy path to Heaven, but He still provided a way to get there.

I feel like life is currently a constant juxtaposition of my closely held beliefs and the actions of people I encounter in day-to-day life. Yesterday, my family attended an engagement shower where most of the couples there were cohabitating and didn't think twice about it. I talked to my parents about it in relation to my thesis (I know, it'll never leave my mind), in relation to Christianity, in relation to Catholicism and in relation to the health of society. It really ruffled me and partly because that kind of knowledge leads me to not be very excited about the wedding, which I know might seem rude, but I don't see this union as the noble institution that marriage is meant to be. One should be excited for marriages but I can't seem to give two figs about it.

Too much emphasis is put today on weddings being perfect. I don't like the term "the bride's day." Uh, I'm pretty sure there's a groom involved too, and two families coming together. With the divorce rate at about 50% too, I think weddings would be more exciting if people prepared more for the actual marriage, which isn't going to be all lovey-dovey. It's going to be Love, yes, wholly Loving the other person for exactly who they are and, from that, creating little souls to play with and educate and Love more than humanly possible, but it's going to be hard and it's going to be work and it's going to be the best part of life, if one lets it to be.

I love the way marriage is seen in the Book of Tobit. In Tobit 8:4-8, right after Tobiah and Sarah are married: "When the girl's parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, "My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance." She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.' Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age." They said together, "Amen, amen," and went to bed."

Instead, yesterday, the engagement shower seemed more like a thing to do, a time to get gifts, the next stage in the board game. It bothered me knowing they've already had sex, which isn't a novelty these days. I'm not completely naive, even I have been sheltered; I might prefer not to talk about things, but I know most of my friends from home have done it and I know most people I'll work with and meet after college will have already done it as well before marriage. I feel more prepared, however, then I did four years ago. I'm definitely more sure and set in my foundation, having truly grown in my faith; and tripped in my faith, and tried in my faith, and literally pushed to my knees because of my faith, which seemed so much simpler in my childhood catechism days.

I love that C.S. Lewis said “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.... A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” (Nicely said, Lewis.)

I know everyone's faced the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it is in this way that I look forward to leaving my Hillsdale bubble and being counter-cultural (like a salmon perhaps); part of being Catholic is living in the world without being of the world, and I'm almost ready to embark. I think. Almost. Okay, not yet, but I know God will provide me with the fortitude when the time comes.

Anyways, I've also been reading speeches by LBJ and company, but I don't feel like sharing his words of wisdom. They are motivated from quite a different source than where the Pope drew his inspiration. I hope you like and read more--it really is a beautiful open letter.

Casti Connubii excerpts:

"We have decided therefore to speak to you, Venerable Brethren, and through you to the whole Church of Christ and indeed to the whole human race, on the nature and dignity of Christian marriage, on the advantages and benefits which accrue from it to the family and to human society itself, on the errors contrary to this most important point of the Gospel teaching, on the vices opposed to conjugal union, and lastly on the principal remedies to be applied. ...We hereby confirm and make Our own, and while We wish to expound more fully certain points called for by the circumstances of our times, nevertheless We declare that, far from being obsolete, it retains its full force at the present day."

"This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love."


"These, then, are the elements which compose the blessing of conjugal faith: unity, chastity, charity, honorable noble obedience, which are at the same time an enumeration of the benefits which are bestowed on husband and wife in their married state, benefits by which the peace, the dignity and the happiness of matrimony are securely preserved and fostered. Wherefore it is not surprising that this conjugal faith has always been counted amongst the most priceless and special blessings of matrimony."


"All of these things, Venerable Brethren, you must consider carefully and ponder over with a lively faith if you would see in their true light the extraordinary benefits on matrimony - offspring, conjugal faith, and the sacrament. No one can fail to admire the divine Wisdom, Holiness and Goodness which, while respecting the dignity and happiness of husband and wife, has provided so bountifully for the conservation and propagation of the human race by a single chaste and sacred fellowship of nuptial union."


"All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: 'Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for honest wedlock, but for impure gratification; if both are not party to these deeds, I make bold to say that either the one makes herself a mistress of the husband, or the other simply the paramour of his wife.'"


"Evil is not to be done that good may come of it."


"Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother's womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven."


"This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man."


"To conclude with the important words of Leo XIII, since the destruction of family life 'and the loss of national wealth is brought about more by the corruption of morals than by anything else, it is easily seen that divorce, which is born of the perverted morals of a people, and leads, as experiment shows, to vicious habits in public and private life, is particularly opposed to the well-being of the family and of the State. The serious nature of these evils will be the more clearly recognized, when we remember that, once divorce has been allowed, there will be no sufficient means of keeping it in check within any definite bounds. Great is the force of example, greater still that of lust; and with such incitements it cannot but happen that divorce and its consequent setting loose of the passions should spread daily and attack the souls of many like a contagious disease or a river bursting its banks and flooding the land.'"


"But not only in regard to temporal goods, Venerable Brethren, is it the concern of the public authority to make proper provision for matrimony and the family, but also in other things which concern the good of souls. Just laws must be made for the protection of chastity, for reciprocal conjugal aid, and for similar purposes, and these must be faithfully enforced, because, as history testifies, the prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are established, which is the moral order, is weakened and where the very fountainhead from which the State draws its life, namely, wedlock and the family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens."


  1. A purely secular comment:

    A bride prepares for her wedding day in anticipation of it being the "happiest day of her life." Doesn't that imply that EVERY DAY AFTERWARD will be less happy?

    Not a great outlook for marriage, no?

    A Catholic comment:
    When I went to the wedding of Emily Stack (my grand-big), the minister said, "These two stand on the threshold of eternity as one soul." I'll never forget it. When I'm ready for marriage, it will be with a man with whom I am prepared to join my soul before God. The thought makes me excited, not panicked.

    Speaking of Catholic ... Miss Robison, I will be coming into the fullness of the Church on Saturday! I'm so excited, and I have you, in part, to thank for it. You are a constant example of the goodness of faith, and it's not just me that's noticed. Mwa! Sisterly love to you!

  2. Stace, I don't necessarily think that sentiment negates that every day after the wedding day will be "less happy" per se, but I think it put human limits the extent of God-given happiness. It makes a happiness scale based on events, though, not a life.

    My wedding day will certainly be one of the happiest of my life, but what about the days when I’ll bring little souls into the world? That will certainly be a happy day. I like to think happiness is a state of mind, a choice to be happy and content, as the apostle Paul called us to be. Yes, I certainly have misgivings about people who put all their energy into one big event when the real happiness is yet to come in the form of unconditional love of a family unit.

    That's a great way to look at marriage: the joining of souls! I love when that word is taken seriously. Lewis said there is no such thing as an ordinary person; it makes a person view the world differently to know each person reflects a different facet of God's Love and Goodness.

    Stacy, I AM SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED FOR YOU. My family always goes to the steps to pray the rosary between 12-3 on Good Friday (the forecast says it's going to be sunny, but it always rains at 3 p.m.) and I will say a rosary for you. I am so happy and humbled that I contributed to bringing you into full communion with the Church, and I look forward to continuing on the journey with you! Love you, my sister-friend, and pax Christi this Easter season.