May 10, 2012

Does Real Marriage have a Prayer?

In a world gone mad, does real marriage have a prayer? The hostile attacks of the government of Colorado on the institution of marriage as well as the wavering of the world’s most powerful leader on the same issue make it appear as if the demise of traditional marriage is inevitable.  Indeed, the matter is no longer discussed as one in which intelligent people might have principled disagreements.  Instead, anyone who supports marriage as an institution between a man and a woman ordered to family life is now branded by the media as either a coward or else prejudiced bigot. 

But this is nothing new.  It was not so long ago when a governor of Colorado called Cardinal Stafford sophmoric for defending the dignity of marriage.  Yet just as the sacred institution of marriage between a man and a woman cannot be destroyed by unjust laws and the irresponsible comments of those in power, those who defend marriage are not bigots, cowards or sophmoric.  Indeed, traditional marriage not only has a prayer, it is an answer to prayer, a God-given sign of hope in the midst of societal insanity.

Those who fearlessly protect the dignity of marriage and family life today are arguably our greatest heroes, the real champions of our society, the true leaders of our time.  Mostly normal people simply trying to live normal lives, they are being attacked and ridiculed  for no other reason than they have dared to have the courage to stand up for what is right and just.   Though they are thought to be despised, the teachings of Christ indicate that these ordinary people persecuted for the sake of righteousness are extraordinarily blessed.  The truth is marriage will always have a prayer, and so will those with the courage to stand for it. 

The best defense of marriage is for every husband and wife to renew their dedication to one another.  Faithfulness to the unique friendship made possible in traditional marriage protects life and love in society like no other institution of society can. Conversely, when the sacred bonds of this kind of love are made vulnerable to any kind of infidelity or selfishness, the rest of society suffers. When the pledges of husband and wife are forsaken, an anti-culture rooted in hubris and arrogance emerges. Neither life nor love are safe when the ancient death-wish that thwarts the proud takes hold in family life or the life of a civilization.  Steadfast fidelity to the vows of love of those God has joined together keeps hope alive not only for the man and woman who choose such a friendship, but also for the whole world.

When man and woman publicly and solemnly bind themselves together in an indissoluble sacred friendship, they reveal something of the communion which God desires to share with creation, a mystery that lives in the very heart of the Holy Trinity. Because of its particular radical openness to love's fecundity and fidelity, no other natural form of friendship is capable of signifying this divine mystery of love the way marriage does. Marriage reveals not only to the married couple but to the whole world dimensions of God’s love we cannot live without if we are to be fully human and fully alive.

Human society needs this most sacred of all forms of natural friendship. We see in the prophets of Israel as well as in the histories of Ancient Greece, Carthage and Rome, great civilizations, cultures and individuals advanced on the basis of having realized this or came to their ignoble end to the extend they failed to protect it. The married friendship of man and woman, in fact, is imbued with values the dynamism of which do not admit of being violated by political or cultural powers without grave consequences to the whole of society.

True married love is fully open to divine gifts which bless all of humanity when both husband and wife realize how precious the brief time they have together actually is.  In the daily struggles to be of one heart and one mind in this present life, both husband and wife begin to discover the true meaning of their lives and the deepest truth about love. By their bonds of love, married couples learn to be fully human and fully alive, even (especially) in the most heart rending of circumstances. Through all the hardships, sorrows and sacrifice that indissoluble fidelity in love and complete openness to fecundity demand, they catch glimpses of the splendor of God otherwise unknown in this world. It is in this context of mutual devotion that the gift of life is meant to be bestowed because only in the midst of these fires of love is the family hearth, in all its sacredness, forged.

Frail and embattled though the sacred pledges of man and woman in marriage might be, true married love judges the nature of a society, not vice versa. Other kinds of relationships might try to ape this kind of tender fidelity and radical openness to another's gift of fertility. Confused governmental authority might try to call all kinds of social bonds by the same name. A cynical entertainment industry might sneer at those who believe in real marriage and try to live it. Desperate political forces may well marginalize those who attempt to defend it. Yet against all these things that will most certainly perish, the truth of marriage endures for ever.

The life long bond between husband and wife points to a love stronger than death. Because of the mercy of God, the victory of those who are faithful to this gift and who stand firm in defending its dignity is assured. This is true even though dark days are ahead. This road to hope, is it not also the very pathway of every great marriage? Fidelity and confidence which pass through the Cross of Christ always discover anew the Way for true spousal love to advance in society, in families, and especially in one’s own life.

Marriage has a prayer because the fidelity for which husband and wife strive comes from prayer. Like marriage, prayer is also a pledge of friendship. It is a divine gift meant to indissolubly link God and humanity as friends forever. Unlike the bonds of marriage in this world, the extent of the friendship to which the bond of prayer opens us goes well beyond this world.  Yet earthly marriage needs this heavenly help.  On the basis of the fidelity of God discovered in prayer, marriage discovers the power of its fidelity and fecundity. Indeed, because of prayer, this most tender and yet embattled of all loves in our day unleashes divine power in a hostile world, the only power on which a culture of life and civilization of love can be sustained.