Tag Archives: God

Where did marriage come from?

June 6, 2012

2 Comments

Photo/makelessnoise Licensed under Creative Commons

I did a search on “marriage” recently and was blessed with more than 700 million results. It didn’t surprise me that Wikipedia was on top with this definition: “a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that creates kinship.”

I thought that was vague enough to please just about everybody. The Catechism’s definition is a little more specific:

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole 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. (CCC 1601)

A covenant, a sacrament—the Church not only has her own definition of marriage, she has her own language. The mainstream media doesn’t understand that language so we don’t see it in the paper, on TV or on news websites.

With this and the next few posts, I’m going to get into that language to try and discover what the Church actually teaches about marriage. I’m looking for answers in scripture and Church documents. Anywhere along the way, I’d like to know what you think–if these posts are helpful, if you have insights to share or if you have constructive criticism.

In the Beginning

After laying out the Church’s definition of marriage, my next question is, where does she say that it came from? Marriage is believed to predate recorded history in cultures around the world. Among other places, tribes in the Western Hemisphere practiced it before Europeans arrived.

In Judeo-Christian traditions, the book of Genesis records that God established marriage when He created Adam and Eve. (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18-24 RSV) While some skeptics claim the Genesis creation story is taken from a pre-scientific Babylonian myth,  I am basing these posts on my belief that it is the Word of God and therefore truth.

Evidence of God’s work in instituting marriage appears in Genesis 1: “God created man is his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” (Gen. 1:27-28)

Genesis 2 provides more detail:

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him … and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man … Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:18, 22, 24)

Jesus affirms the creation story when Pharisees ask Him about the lawfulness of divorce:

Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. (Matt.19:4-6)

The story of “the beginning” that Jesus describes differs from how many tribes in pre-Columbian America would tell it. Still, they understood God’s plan for marriage because it was part of the natural law, the foundation of many of our laws, which is known to all people.  The natural law by which those outside the Church reach this conclusion is the basis of the Church’s teaching on the institution and laws of marriage, as Pope Pius XI presents in his encyclical on Christian marriage, Casti Connubii:

… let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable  fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves.

This language of the Church is strong, affirming that her teaching on marriage, as established by God, is truth which doesn’t evolve. God’s law might seem  inflexible but in reading the Genesis story again, I see His care for the newly created humanity. The last verse, Genesis 2:24, shows that human beings, created as man and woman, were created for unity and through this unity they became one flesh, which from the beginning has a character of union, according to Catholic Encyclopedia.

In looking at the origin of marriage, St. Augustine sees this bond as kinship, which might be the strongest part of Wikipedia’s definition.

Forasmuch as each man is a part of the human race, and human nature is something social, and has for a great and natural good, the power also of friendship; on this account God willed to create all men out of one, in order that they might be held in their society not only by likeness of kind, but also by bond of kindred. Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading...

Empty nest moms, try some inspiration

April 16, 2012

0 Comments

“Small Mercies: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life” is an easy reading collection of anecdotes from which Nancy Jo Sullivan has reached back and harvested the God moments.

Those are the small mercies of the title, mercies she suggests her readers take the time to share with others as part of their own lives.

You can speed through Sullivan’s newest work in less than an hour, the language is that familiar. Written at her kitchen table in St. Paul, it’s the kind of personal, real-life prose that makes you almost feel that Sullivan is sitting with you at your own kitchen table sharing the stories over a cup of coffee.

The points she makes in each of the 20 short chapters aren’t rocket science, just, well, small mercies — good things not to forget, good things to remember to do. They touch on topics like unconditional acceptance, remembering one’s dreams, dealing with the loss of a marriage and a child, fear of the future, taking risks, heartache and, of course, hope.

A divorced Catholic, the mother of three daughters, one a Down’s Syndrome girl who lived to only 23, Sullivan senses God touching her life almost at every turn. She puts it this way:

“The most precious revelations of God’s love are often hidden in the ordinary moments that shape our days….We can find God’s small mercies in the mundane conversations we share at the kitchen table or in the unexpected chats we have with strangers. When we encourage a coworkers, support a friend, or receive the care of a loved one, God’s mercies shine brightly, like votive candles.”

More than a memoir

Women “of a certain age,” as they say, may best appreciate the voice that 50-something Sullivan writes from, that of an woman looking back at her motherhood years yet looking forward to being more than an empty nester, finding the courage to see herself as more than a wife and mother, grieving yet coping.

She has a great line there. After cleaning out photos of her grown children and filling 10 scrapbooks, she writes about finally being ready to move on. Her own future, as she put it, is “an empty scrapbook waiting to be filled.”

You’ll find gems of that kind of turn-of-phrase sprinkled throughout “Small Mercies.” It’s inspiring writing.

At times Sullivan seems to reach a bit to connect an anecdote with a spiritual lesson, but it’s a minor fault if a fault at that. If anything it’s a reminder to readers to look for God in all things. As Sullivan writes, “God is always closer than we think.”

At end of each chapter Sullivan uses the framework of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to invite reflection and offer thoughts and ideas for how readers, too, can share God’s small mercies and put them into practice for the next chapters in their own lives. For this Loyola Press 108-page paperback, it’s just the right, helpful touch.

Continue reading...

Cathedral packed for annual men’s conference

April 2, 2012

1 Comment

Featured speaker Matthew Kelly delivers remarks at the archdiocesan men's conference March 31 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

As I walked around the Cathedral of St. Paul at the annual archdiocesan men’s conference on Saturday, it was hard to ignore the large crowd of men gathered in the pews. In fact, I did not spot one empty spot, much less one empty pew. From front to back, from side to side, the Cathedral was jam packed.

I believe we can thank Father Bill Baer for that. He is doing a marvelous job as the chaplain of the new men’s apostolate, and the numbers show his success. He announced that 1,800 men came, which was 200 more than organizers had planned for.

A guy I went to grade school with, Kelly Scott of St. Charles Borromeo, came in after it started with his son, Luke. They looked high and low for a spot to sit, and apparently didn’t find one, as I saw them standing later on.

The big draw this year was featured speaker Matthew Kelly. According to his website, he was born in Sydney, Australia and began speaking and writing there in 1993. Since then, he has written 12 books and traveled to more than 50 countries to deliver a message centered on helping people become the best versions of themselves. Among his titles is a book on the Catholic faith entitled, “Rediscovering Catholicism.”

His talk was dynamic, and he both energized and challenged the men to be better Catholics and better versions of themselves. Be sure to watch next week’s edition of The Catholic Spirit for more on his talk and the conference.

For now, let me say that I found myself energized by Kelly. I have never heard him speak before, and only recently found out about his books. I walked away wanting to read at least one of them. For that, I can thank some of the guys I met who are huge Matthew Kelly fans. One of them owns all 12 books.

If anyone doubts that much is going on with men spiritually in our culture and our church, the men’s conference is proof that God is at work in the hearts and lives of men. I was very encouraged by what I saw. So, also, was Archbishop John Nienstedt, who celebrated Mass, gave a brief talk and delivered the final blessing at the end. I’m sure he is very pleased to see such a gathering of men at the Cathedral.

If Father Baer keeps this up – and I have every confidence he will – it’s only going to get better. The nice part for me is I get to document good news like this. And, meet lots of good men in the process.

Continue reading...

Is your spirituality expressed in these words to live by?

January 10, 2012

0 Comments

Here’s a philosophy of life worth adopting. It’s from illustrator Michele Wood:

“Follow the light along the path of God because there will be precious jewels to pick up on your way in life. The treasure will confirm the path you have taken is the right one.”

True for you?

 

Continue reading...

A whitetail in honor of Johnny McClure’s passing?

December 5, 2011

2 Comments

Not even 24 hours after returning from a wonderful trip to Montana with my family, I heard the tragic news about Johnny McClure, a member of my parish, Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, and a sophomore at Trinity School in Eagan, where I have been sending my kids for the last seven years.

Johnny died in his sleep the morning of Nov. 28, with no warning that anything was wrong. I got the news about 9:30 a.m., when someone from the school called with the news and said all students were being dismissed for the day.

Of all things, a deer sighting on Saturday evening, hours after his funeral, gave me some encouragement as I mourned the loss of Johnny and felt just a small portion of the pain his parents, Randall and Mary, and siblings were experiencing.

I had planned to attend the wake on Friday evening, but when I arrived at a little after 7 p.m., a line of greeters stretched outside the funeral home and around the corner. I didn’t think there was much chance I would get to greet the McClures before the scheduled 8 p.m. ending time, so I turned around and drove home. I talked to several people who waited in line more than two hours.

I chose to go for a walk that evening and offer prayers for Johnny and his family. I did the same thing the next night, and was greeted by several inches of fresh, powdery snow that made a distinctive crunching sound under my feet as I made my way down Hamline Avenue toward Highland Golf Course. During my 3-mile journey, an almost magical scene unfolded, with flakes falling quietly as I made new tracks in the now-snow-covered links. All of the white lit up the landscape under the soft glow of the city streetlights.

Normally, when I walk in the darkness, I cannot see very far in front of me. But, the fresh, white snow illuminated by the streetlight gave me visibility that stretched more than 100 yards. That made me optimistic that I might see a distant whitetail dining on the course’s lush green carpet. Over the past few years that I have taken walks and runs on the perimeter of the course, the deer have shown an affinity for the smorgasbord of browse contained therein.

Turns out I didn’t need such far-reaching vision to spot a deer. On the edge of the woods just past the police station near the corner of Hamline and Montreal, a doe was grazing in the snow to my left. She was beautiful, plump and completely unconcerned about my presence, even though I strode past her at only about 10 yards. Deer here are used to human presence, but almost always they still will pop their heads up and remain alert as I walk by.

Not this time. The doe looked up briefly and glanced at me, then quickly put her head down to continue feeding. During that brief time when her eyes locked onto mine, she seemed to be saying, “Look at me, see how beautiful I am and know that, in the midst of tragedies like Johnny’s death, God is still radiating his goodness to you and the whole world.”

Perhaps I had that sense because of the way the doe stood so peacefully in the falling snow, it’s beautiful, sleek coat softly glowing under the streetlight. Or, perhaps, it was because the words of Father Michael Keating’s amazing homily still were resounding in my mind. Or, perhaps it was a combination of both.

Whatever the reason, I finished my trek in the peace and comfort of God’s loving presence, which I prayed he also would give to the McClures. As Father Keating emphatically noted at the funeral Mass, “Johnny is fine.” It is the rest of us who are sad.

But, as Father Keating pointed out, such an event like Johnny’s death doesn’t go against the message or the season of Advent. Rather, it is as reminder that we are sojourners on this earth, and that our place is not here. Rather, our ultimate place is with God in heaven, a reality that Johnny McClure now knows.

As for me, I believe I saw a glimpse of Johnny’s heaven on a snowy Saturday evening in St. Paul.

Continue reading...

Baseball story mixes fastballs, faith and acts of kindness

December 5, 2011

0 Comments

Heaven is like a baseball game, and it’s what you do in life that determines if you’ll be in uniform for God’s team, the “Saints.”

Timothy gets a chance to pitch for the heavenly home team in “Timothy’s Glove,” Kathleen Chisholm McInerney’s new book for young people.

While there’s never really a doubt about the outcome of the game, the back-story about Tim’s journey to make a place for himself on the home-team squad is what the colorfully illustrated book is about.

Adults will find the simple tale plot line reinforces the types of acts of kindness and goodness that everyone wants to see grow in children, and if a sports analogy helps get the message across to young readers, great.

To find out more about “Timothy’s Glove,” check out the author-illustrator’s website.

 

Continue reading...

God and grace are everywhere in Brian Doyle’s world

October 31, 2011

0 Comments

It’s 5:59 a.m. on a Wednesday and I’m reading and laughing aloud at one end of the house, trying not to stir Sleeping Beauty at the other end. Five days later, at 6:05 a.m., instant replay. Brian Doyle and “Grace Notes” is to blame.

This is writing to savor in the silence and holiness before the rest of the world wakens.

Goodness the man can write.

Lord he can tell a story.

In “Grace Notes” Doyle tells 37 of them, about himself,  about his family, about people and things you’d never think someone would write about but when you’d finished reading you were glad Brian Doyle became a writer.

There’s a good balance of Doyle stories and other people stories in this 148-page Acta Publications paperback. He goes into tell-all phase about his interior life. He’s an amazingly acute observer of his kids and his wife, who he is quick to admit he doesn’t understand. That’s the laugh-aloud funny stuff.

But he’s at his best giving voice to others, a wonderfully eclectic mix whose lives you’ll be so glad you entered — even if vicariously through ink on paper.

There’s the woman on the bus who talks about wanting to have a child but whose husband is apprehensive, the parents dropping off their daughter for college and crying as they do so, the people behind the stories behind those white crosses we all see on the side of the highway.

Hope is everywhere

Doyle sees the grace in every corner of life. Here’s what I mean — you’ll recognize a key phrase in this quote:

“Look, I know very well that brooding misshapen evil is everywhere, in the brightest houses and the most cheerful denials, in what we do and what we have failed to do, and I know all too well that the story of the world is entropy, things fly apart, we sicken, we fail, we grow weary, we divorce, we are hammered and hounded by loss and accidents and tragedies. But I also know, with all my hoary muddled heart, that we are carved of immense confusing holiness; that the whole point for us is grace under duress; and that you either take a flying leap at nonsensical illogical unreasonable ideas like marriage and marathons and democracy and divinity, or you huddle behind the wall. I believe that the coolest things there are cannot be measured, calibrated, calculated, gauged, weighed, or understood except sometimes by having a child patiently explain it to you, which is another thing that should happen far more often to us all.

“In short, I believe in believing, which doesn’t make sense, which gives me hope.”

My favorite might be the story of the man who, as both a policeman in his town and a soldier, is the one who knocks on doors to tell mothers and father and wives and husbands that their son or daughter or husband or wife is dead.

The holiness pours from this man in his respect for people, his respect for life. Catch this, through Doyle’s writing: “You mostly just listen. People tell stories. Often their first reaction, after the initial shock and grief, is to tell stories….People tell me I should write them down but I feel that they are private stories, you know, stories that only came to me because someone’s heart broke in the kitchen.”

Finally, you won’t want to miss Doyle’s amazing lists of who is going to get into heaven and how they’ll be scrutinized — and by whom — before being allowed in. It’s priceless. Doyle is one of our generation’s great Catholic writers.– bz

Continue reading...

Catholic leaders’ new ‘To-Do’ list

October 14, 2011

0 Comments

Former Swiss Guard Andreas Widmer, writing in “The Pope & the CEO,” includes a “new to-do-list” in the book. (See the review.) Here is an excerpted version from the Emmaus Road book.

1. Determine who the five to ten most important people in your life are. . . . Ask yourself what small thing you can do to bring them joy every day or week. Then, in the next 30 days, do it.

2. Start keeping a personal log of God’s small wonders, small messages that he gives you every day. Think of it as a gratitude log. Review it daily and rejoice as you give thanks.

3. Think of the activities you enjoy most. Pick four, then make room in your calendar to do each one sometime during the next 30 days.

4. Diligently use up your vacation time every year. No excuses.

5. Make Sundays truly a day of rest. That means no “for profit” work. Instead go to church, and then spend the rest of the day with family or friends. Try the concept of finding ways to purposefully “waste time” with them.

Continue reading...

God has an ‘approval rating’?

September 30, 2011

0 Comments

I usually put a lot of faith in surveys.

I’m not so sure about this one.

Public Policy Polling has released the following bit of, well, I’m not sure “information” is the correct description, but you’ll see what I mean:

When asked if they approved of God’s performance, 52% of Americans say they approve, while 9% disapprove, and 40% aren’t sure. (Note, some rounding in the math!)

As a practicing Catholic, I realize I’m biased, but even though I consider myself middle-of-the road and certainly not conservative, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the traditional perspective here may very well be the correct one.

Friends, it ain’t us judging God’s performance that matters. It’s the other way around.

Ready for your own “performance review to end all performance reviews?”

Continue reading...

13 coolest, wisest, wittiest words ever uttered about prayer

August 19, 2011

2 Comments

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.” —Corrie ten Boom

“Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”  — Satchel Paige

“The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him.” — William McGill

“Many people pray as if God were a big aspirin pill; they come only when they hurt.” — B. Graham Dienert

“The trouble with our praying is, we just do it as a means of last resort.” — Will Rogers

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” — Abraham Lincoln

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” — Blessed Mother Teresa

“What we usually pray to God is not that His will be done, but that He approve ours.” — Helga Bergold Gross

“We must move from asking God to take care of the things that are breaking our hearts, to praying about the things that are breaking His heart.” — Margaret Gibb

“God has editing rights over our prayers. He will  . . . edit them, correct them, bring them in line with His will and then hand them back to us to be resubmitted.” — Stephen Crotts

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” — Corrie ten Boom 

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” — George Herbert

“Lord, please keep one hand on my shoulder and one over my mouth!” — Author Unknown

Continue reading...