It is impossible to ignore the ongoing and hotly contested debate in our country about the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. The partisans on both sides of the issue have well-articulated arguments defending their positions and the issue is now before the Supreme Court to determine the future of marriage in California and possibly other states. What Christ gave us as a sacrament will have its “civil” future determined by a man-made institution. How did we arrive at this sad juncture in history?
I will reveal with little fanfare that I support the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage without question. I don’t have shades of doubt or a secret desire to see it altered in any way. I simply accept the teaching. This isn’t a blind leap of faith, although faith sometimes requires a leap of faith. I believe in the sacrament of marriage because Christ gave it to us, the Church has taught it for over two millennia and I understand the logic of it. “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601).
My belief in marriage and opposition to same-sex “marriage” does not make me a hater or bigot any more than my opposition to abortion and support of human life beginning at conception makes me anti-women. I believe the fundamental and God-given right of babies to live far outweighs a woman’s legal right to choose to end a human life. In my support of marriage, I believe (as does the Church) that a child needs and deserves both a mother and a father. Proponents of same-sex “marriage” will often point to the breakdown of the “family” and seek to expand the definition of a modern family as justification for the redefinition of marriage. Again, I follow the Church’s call to strengthen our families and lift up the vocation of parents to combat the erosion of the traditional family. We are not here to indulge ourselves in a world of moral relativism and personal pleasure, but instead to create loving homes, raise our children to love God, practice our Catholic faith and help each other to attain Heaven. “Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator” (Pope Benedict XVI).
So, what can we do? Sitting on the sidelines in apathetic silence will not help this cause. We can pray and let our voices be heard in the public square. Want to do more? Let’s practice what we preach. Instead of only saying we support the family and marriage, let’s truly invest in our marriages, treating one another with selfless love and raising families centered in Christ. Just like evangelizing to others can only be accomplished by a sincere, joy-filled sharing of the Good News and setting a good example, making marriage more attractive will only be accomplished by the world seeing more men and women committed to love, selflessness, humility, sacrifice, courage and devotion to Christ. How can we do this in a hostile secular world? Here are three ideas to consider:
- Get our priorities in order. Christ first, family second, work third. If Christ is not first in our lives then we are lost. One of the reasons for the breakdown of the family is that we spend too much time competing with Him for control. I lived that life for over twenty years and it wasn’t until I put my pride aside and surrendered to Christ in 2005 that I began to understand that I couldn’t fully love my wife and children in the way they deserved until I acknowledged Christ as first in my life. “Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries” (Pope Benedict XVI).
- View marriage as an apostolate and a blessed mission. “Christian couples should be aware that they are called to sanctity themselves and to sanctify others, that they are called to be apostles and that their first apostolate is in the home. They should understand that founding a family, educating their children, and exercising a Christian influence in society, are supernatural tasks. The effectiveness and the success of their life — their happiness — depends to a great extent on their awareness of their specific mission” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Conversations, 91).
- Remember marriage is a gift. “The category of gift (the disinterested gift of self) takes on special meaning in the marriage covenant. The spouses ‘mutually give themselves to and accept each other’ in a manner proper to the marriage covenant, a manner that presupposes their difference in body and sex and, at the same time, their union in and through this difference. This is a relationship that can be analyzed and interpreted in a variety of ways; the category of gift, however, has a key meaning here. Without it, there would be no way to properly understand and interpret either the marriage relationship as a whole or the acts of conjugal intercourse that are part of this relationship and have a strict causal connection to the emergence of the family” (Blessed Pope John Paul II).
I love marriage enough to defend it. I love and respect my brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree and I will respectfully listen to them even though I will not support their position or change my mind. We have changed and flexed on so many important principles over the years that we run the risk of having none left…and the world could use more unbreakable standards today. Look at the explosion of contraception usage around the world since the 1960’s, in light of the prophetic warnings of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, and the death of over 60 million babies since Roe v. Wade as two examples of what happens when we toss truth aside.
I can and will pray. I can and will speak up. I will commit every day to faithfully love my wife and children, to live out my vocation as a husband and father and to work hard to make my marriage of 18 years as rock-solid as possible. It seems to me that one of the most important and enduring legacies my wife and I can give to our children and the rest of the world is a successful example of a Christ-centered marriage.
“The world may disagree with the Church, but the world knows very definitely with what it is disagreeing. In the future as in the past, the Church will be intolerant about the sanctity of marriage, for what God has joined together no man shall put asunder; she will be intolerant about her creed, and be ready to die for it, for she fears not those who kill the body, but rather those who have the power to cast body and soul into hell” (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen).
Additional Reading on Marriage from the USCCB:
Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Along the Way was recently named a FINALIST in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. Learn more here. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon or www.liguori.org.
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Thank you! – The Editors