Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

Just_divorcedFor parts one and two, click here

All right, now for the hard part.

From part two:

What about when a husband either “dumps” his wife or becomes abusive?  Situations like this might require separation, and the Church fully acknowledges this.  But why would the Church, under any circumstances, not permit the woman to remarry?


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Crowning_in_Syro-Malabar_Nasrani_Wedding_by_Mar_Gregory_KarotemprelIn part one, I talked about hermits and celibates, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

[Hermits] manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ.

(CCC 921 — italics mine)


Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, (. . .) are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.” By this solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is “constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.

(CCC 923 — italics mine)

If you’ve read part one (and I encourage you to do so), you may have noticed that I’ve changed my use of italics slightly.

In addressing the question of why the Church only recognizes the validity of sex within the bonds of the marital union, I want to draw attention to the nuptial character of Catholic spirituality. (more…)

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Nebraska_PosterFor part one, click here

So we’ve established that Woody and Kate Grant (Bruce Dern and June Squibb) do not enjoy a blissful marriage.  We can only assume that Woody’s deep discontent, which his supposed $1 million winnings are meant to alleviate, is tied to this.

It seems to me that there are two possible explanations for this.  First, Woody and Kate may have approached marriage with insufficient circumspection in their early days.  Kate comments that boys growing up in their hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska spent their young lives looking at the backsides of pigs and cows, and therefore were hopelessly lost at the sight of the first girls they saw.


Nebraska_WalkingBut there is another possible explanation.  What I have in mind here is the image of Woody walking, which is fairly constant throughout the film.

All sentient creatures have in common the trait of movement (though to varying degrees).  From my perspective as a Catholic Christian, I believe that such creatures are more like their Creator than, say, rocks and plants, which have no consciousness or awareness; as such, unlike the latter they tend toward motion, or activity (while God does not have to “move” as creatures do, since He is infinite and perfect, He is never idle).

With human beings, this goes a step further.  Our drive toward movement is not just physical, but also spiritual (and, as a derivative of both, psychological).  In the depths of our being, we are never satisfied.  We are always yearning for something more, something that seems within and yet painfully outside our grasp.

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_ChampaigneThis is because, as St. Augustine of Hippo famously said, our hearts are made for God, and are therefore “restless until they rest in (Him).”

bruce.dern_.et_.june_.squibb.dans_.nebraska.dr_It is quite possible that Woody and Kate approached marriage with the idea that it would be a “domestic utopia.” giving them perfect happiness.  One way or the other, it is clear that they were not approaching the whole question of marriage with any profound spiritual basis in mind.

Marriage is a glorious thing.  But if we are expecting it to be the one thing that will fulfill all of our deepest human needs, then we are placing a burden upon it that it is unable to carry.  In this way, we come to expect more of it and of our spouses than they are meant to give.  This expectation affects those who get married for that reason as well as those who avoid marriage because they are afraid of its imperfections; I suspect the latter tendency is, in part, what affects the generations that have followed that of Woody and Kate.

Indian WeddingBut if we view marriage as a calling, if we approach it with attention to the will of a Higher Power and see it as a common mission between husband and wife, that changes things.  If we see it as a sign to the world of the Great Bridegroom, Jesus Christ’s unwavering love for and fidelity to mankind and a foreshadowing of its perfect consummation at the end of time — a promise far more fulfilling than a million bucks — well, that changes things even more. (See my June 7 post for more on this topic)

Grant Family

“Nebraska” ends on a fairly positive note.  The members of the Grant family, having spent some time together on their unexpected trip to Nebraska and gone through a lot of interesting adventures, grow closer.  A situation like this reminds us of how God can, as they say, “draw straight with crooked lines.”  So thank you, Alexander Payne, for leaving audiences with hope rather than despair.

Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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Not to be a prude…but if you watch this trailer, just be aware that there is some profanity/obscenity in it.

Alexander Payne’s latest film, “Nebraska,” is probably the best comedy of the past couple years.  It might not be as much of a belly-roller as, say, “This Is the End” or “22 Jump Street;” but unlike most contemporary comedies, it manages what the genre actually does best: It incorporates an underlying layer of tragedy.

As the film opens, we meet Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), an elderly man walking alone in the midst of traffic in Billings, Montana.  We soon learn that he is trying to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect the $1 million he has won in a sweepstakes.

Film Review NebraskaWoody’s son, David (Will Forte) tries to get him to understand that this is a come-on, meant to lure him into buying a magazine subscription.  Nevertheless, Woody is convinced he has winnings to collect, and is determined.  For the sake of his father’s happiness and against the judgement of his mother, Kate (June Squibb), David agrees to drive him to Lincoln.  There begins the road trip that is the life of the movie.

Nebraska_PosterA few things struck me about this film.  First, and unmistakably, there is a sense of deep longing.  Our main character is nearing the end of his life with broken dreams and unrealized hopes.  Solace seems to come to him chiefly in the form of alcohol.  The sweepstakes, as his son shrewdly observes, has given him a newfound hope, something to live for.

June Squibb – Nebraska

Much of Woody’s discontent appears to be tied to his marriage.  We get the definite impression that this is an unhappy union from the perspectives of both partners (although Kate’s unhappiness with Woody seems more like frustrated love than anything else).

This doesn’t surprise me.  Much of the ambiguity, turmoil, and sadness of the human condition seems inextricably entwined with upsets in marriage…and vice versa.  Don’t get me wrong — marriage is beautiful and permanently essential, and of itself the source of nothing bad whatsoever; but if we recall that the Fall of mankind happened within the context of a marriage, we will not be surprised if the Fall touches marriage in a particular way.

What must be particularly upsetting for Woody and Kate is to see that their perseverance in matrimony is not reflected in their progeny.  Toward the beginning of the film, we briefly meet David’s live-in girlfriend, Noel.  To make a long story short, there is no hint of marriage and a surprising lack of commitment between them.

Stacy KeachTo make matters worse, Woody’s old friend and business partner Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) comments thus: “Divorce used to be a sin.  God must have changed His mind” (emphasis mine).

Imagine things from Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s perspectives.  They “stuck it out” for decades, each likely having to make very difficult sacrifices along the way…only to find their grown children (or at least one of them) not reflecting the validity of this commitment in their turn.  I imagine there are more than a few married couples from the pre-Sexual-Revolution days who have experienced similar disappointment.

Don’t misunderstand me: In no way am I suggesting that all, or even most — or even very many, for that matter — pre-1960 marriages were unhappy or driven by mere “stick-to-it-iveness.”  Nor am I suggesting that marriage is dead today.  What we are looking at here are two different philosophies of marriage and life, and this contrast bears very much on the storyline of “Nebraska.”

I’ll explore this topic in more depth in part two.

“Nebraska” poster obtained from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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KateriTekakwithaThere has been some buzz recently — in the media and elsewhere — about the status and value of celibacy among priests and religious in the Catholic Church.  Some have intimated that the Church is poised to change this particular discipline — namely, that those ordained to the priesthood or consecrated to the religious life as nuns or brothers are forbidden to marry.

Such intimations are over-hyped.  I do not see any dramatic changes to this coming during Pope Francis’ pontificate, nor any time soon.

Nevertheless, it has to be clearly understood that clerical and religious celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine.  The latter, from the Church’s perspective, is unchangeable, because doctrines pertain to the core truth about God, the Church, and humanity.  Disciplines pertain to how these truths are applied in particular historical and cultural contexts; these can be changed any time at the Church’s discretion, and often have been changed over the centuries.

The rules on clerical/religious celibacy have indeed changed since the early days of Christianity.  Could they change again?  Absolutely.

However, I fervently hope that they do not.  Let me explain…

It saddens me that so many of us have so great a misunderstanding of what celibacy is all about.  Once, when I affirmed that priests in the Catholic Church vow never to marry or have sex, someone asked me: “Why would anyone ever want to do something like that?”  It strikes people as unlivable, and even inhumane.

Like many other issues that come up frequently, the Church’s teaching on celibacy is inseparable from the Catholic understanding of human sexuality.  Contrary to popular belief, sex is not “dirty” or “taboo” in the mind of the Catholic Church.

From the Catholic perspective, it is not that the secular world values sex too highly.  If anything, it is that it values sex too little.  Sex, under the right circumstances, is one of the most beautiful, sublime, and sacred phenomena on earth.  To explore its full depth and breadth would require another full post.

If people “neither marry nor are given in marriage” in heaven (Matthew 22:30), it is only because by then, human marriage and sexuality (which go hand-in-hand, by the way) will have fulfilled their purpose.  Human sex reflects — nay, images — the love and union of the Blesséd Trinity, God in Three Persons.  The total self-gift of husband and wife to one another reflects Christ’s total Self-Gift to His Bride, the Church, into which all mankind is called…a gift that will finally be consummated at Christ’s return at the end of time.  The creation of a new human life through the sexual act reflects the fertile love of God, Who has given mankind the awesome privilege of participating with Him as “co-creators” of immortal souls destined for eternal joy.

Sex is a wonderful and glorious thing; but its purpose is essentially anticipatory.  It is a sign, a preparation, a foretaste, an “appetizer” of things to come…of a joy that surpasses all understanding.

FranciscanAmong the faithful, there are some people who say, “You know what?  I can’t wait for the end of the world to experience this joy.  I want to live the life of the Kingdom in the here and now.”

Such people are well aware of what they are giving up in order to do this, and they know that this kind of life is much harder here on earth than in the joy of heaven.  Yet they are pleased, in response to the conviction of a Divine calling, to become “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12).  In this way, they become an eschatological sign — a presence of the Kingdom in the midst of the world.

Escriva_at_Mass_1971 And when our priests take on this discipline, it becomes a particularly wonderful sign.  Here we have men who in a unique way make a living sacrifice of themselves, consecrated wholly unto Jesus Christ for the benefit of the flock.  Sure, it’s a great sacrifice to forego having a family.  But let it never be supposed that the priest is without a family; indeed, the family of his parish, or diocese, or universal Church (in the case of the Pope) owes so much to his spiritual fatherhood.

Let me briefly recap: Celibacy is not essential to the clerical vocation, and the Church can change it at any time; but I hope She will not, as it would deprive the Church of an inestimable treasure.

That’s my $0.02 for the day.  Take care.

Images from Wikipedia


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Wanted to share this brief video (it’s less than 5 minutes), which was a top entry in an online film contest that took place last year.

It features a young married couple who chose to manage their family growth using the Creighton Model, which is based on natural bodily cycles and, as I understand, has a 99% success rate.

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