“May you live in interesting times,” is said to be a polite Chinese curse. The implication being, of course, that interesting times would be tumultuous and difficult times. Certainly, it would be reasonable to say that we live in “interesting times.” Almost every day we hear about war and rumors of war; there are worries about terrorists and unguarded borders; stories about horrible contagious diseases. We hear terrible stories about the Church, which should be the Rock of stability. More recently the worries have shifted to housing foreclosures, bank bailouts, and dropping stock market prices—some of which seems abstract, but which is directly connected to earning a living, paying one’s bills, putting food on the table, and having a roof over one’s head.
I would suggest to you that, no matter how “interesting” all of these things might be, there is a more “interesting” crises facing Western Civilization. That crisis is the crisis of the family. Seventy or eighty years ago our country went through the worst economic crisis in history. But most of the stories you hear about people surviving the Great Depression center around family and friends coming together very closely, looking out for each others’ needs, and being supportive—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
This reliance on the family is precisely God’s plan from the very beginning. The book of Genesis tells us that on the sixth day of creation “God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: «Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it....»”
The second chapter of Genesis gives a bit more detail: It suggests that God created the single individual, Adam—but then remarked that “It is not good for man to be alone: let Us make him a help like unto himself.” The creation of the woman out of Adam’s rib may be allegorical, but it certainly suggests the absolute unity with which a man is joined to his wife: “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh ... Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.”
Thus in a few chapters we see that the primary end of marriage is the bringing forth of children. We see that the secondary end is mutual help in a life long union.
Centuries later, when our Lord was questioned about the possibility of breaking this union, He referred His listeners back to this same passage in Genesis, about the man and woman becoming “one flesh,” and adding “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” That is a pretty significant statement—it might conceivably suggest that marriage was the first Sacrament—but if not that, it certainly shows that marriage is more than just an agreement or a civil contact that can be made and broken by mutual agreement. This union of a man and a woman in one flesh is something which God Himself has wrought, subject, therefore, to no human authority. Certainly, among the baptized it is a Sacrament.
If you have been following the Scripture outline that we print in the Parish Bulletin, you read the book of Tobias a few weeks ago during September. The sixth chapter is particularly significant here. The younger Tobias is about to take a wife—the very beautiful Sara. But Tobias is very much afraid, for Sara has been married seven times before, and each of her husbands was slain by the devil on their wedding night! The Archangel Raphael explains to Tobias that the devil has power only over those “who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding—over them the devil has power.” But those who enter marriage “with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust ... in the seed of Abraham they will obtain a blessing in children.”
A hundred years ago all of this was well understood by Western Society. Here is the United States, Catholics were in the minority, and the laws were made largely by Protestants. They were a tad softer on divorce than Catholics would have been, but by today’s standards they were rigorous! One had to prove real serious marital problems before the state would grant a divorce. Men were expected to look out for women, to protect them, and not to take advantage of them. Many states prohibited the sale of contraceptives. Sodomy was a criminal offense. Abortion was illegal in all fifty states. And no one’s wildest imagination could conceive of marriage being anything other than a union of one man and one woman—except, maybe, in Utah, but even they came around to monogamy eventually. Anything wilder than polygamy was the stuff of pornographic novels that most people wouldn’t dream of reading, and which had no influence on the laws of Christendom.
But today this plan of God for the continuance of the human race is becoming unraveled. Modernism, pervading the Church, brought about a change of emphasis on the primary ends of marriage, with “unity” or “well-being” placed ahead of the “procreation and education of children.” Modernism further suggested that there was no unchanging truth and no unchanging morality. Modernist priests gave the world some of the worst possible examples of unchastity—without criticism from higher authority, unless they got caught and convicted.
While the Church underwent what Pope Paul VI called Its “auto-demolition,” civil society tried to out-do It, turning at the same time to glorify drug use and self gratification at the expense of morality and responsibility. “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Those laws passed long ago by our Christian forebears were overturned one after another.
People who once thought of children as a blessing now see them as a sort of disease to be prevented by medicine, or by surgery if the medicine fails. People who once thought of marriage as the proper setting for begetting and raising children, now think of it as a temporary convenience, a tax shelter, and a way of getting health insurance. Without an understanding of marriage as the cleaving of two together in one flesh, and the going forth and multiplying, the clamor for men to marry men and women to marry women is simply the next loop in the downward spiral of our society—downward, away from God, and into the pit of Hell.
Christendom is shrinking as a percentage of the population and may soon be over-run in many Western nations. If there are bad economic times—and they sure seem close—they will be a whole lot worse without closely tied families. And how can we expect God’s help if we continue to flaunt His most fundamental plan in creation?
On a personal basis it is up to each and every one of us to make an examination of conscience, and change anything that we might be doing wrong—anything that might frustrate God’s intentions in sustaining the human race.
We are also very close to election time. Decisions about whom to vote for must weigh very heavily the candidates’ outlook on the protection innocent life, the dignity of marriage, and the protection of the rights of the family unit. In Florida we are being called upon this November 4th to ratify an amendment—to vote “Yes” on amendment 2, the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment—to insure that Florida’s definition of Marriage is in agreement with God’s definition. As I said last week, it is not enough to “render to Cæsar his due,” for in a republic we are obligated to pay attention to public issues, and to vote accordingly.
If we do so carefully, we may just escape the curse of living in “interesting times!