Tag Archives: marriage

Why fruitfulness is an essential mark of marriage

July 17, 2012


Whether you consider them fruit or vegetables, tomatoes are evidence of nature’s fruitfulness. Photo/Andrew Fogg (ndrwfgg on Flickr.com) Licensed under Creative Commons

Gardening becomes more fun in midsummer when the first produce appears. I like spotting the tiny cucumbers and watermelons, and watching the tomatoes turn red.

As important as fruitfulness is to the natural world, the Church teaches that it also is one of the two meanings of the conjugal act in marriage. According to the Catechism:

 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.  (CCC 2363)

This idea of fruitfulness in marriage raises some interesting questions: What does the Church say is the essence of fruitfulness and how is it part of marriage? How do the body and soul interact when married couples have sex? Can a couple’s union still be fruitful when they’re not able to conceive a child?

Just as the vines in my garden produce fruit and vegetables,  the body can make present one tangible aspect of the fruitfulness of love–a new human being.  Bl. Pope John Paul II writes about how fruitfulness is part of the essence of the person in the Theology of the Body. The body can add a new dimension to the fruitfulness of spousal love,  in a way that the soul alone can’t.

Through their bodies, God allows married couples to participate in His creative action and possibly become parents.   The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes puts it this way: “…wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”

The Trinity as model of fruitfulness

God didn’t tell Adam and Eve to do anything that the Persons of the Trinity weren’t also doing—though not in same way. Love, consisting of both union and fruitfulness, is the basis of Trinitarian life and also of our being, Pope John Paul writes. Union and fruitfulness are also necessary aspects of spousal love.

Couples reach the peak of both unity and fruitfulness during sex, which is the heart of spousal love, according to Maria Fedoryka, associate professor of philosophy at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla.  During the conjugal act the body and the soul intersect and communicate in a special way, she writes in her article, “The Family in the Theology of the Body.”  (2012. Manuscript submitted for publication.)  They expand each other’s capacity and each acquires a new dimension. The spirit gains something new because of its connection to the body, she writes.

Love is about superabundance. Because fruitfulness is at the core of love, the spousal union creatively overflows beyond itself—or else it’s not love. A couple’s love becomes a physical reality when they conceive a child.

Obviously, love doesn’t take this path with every conjugal act. Pope John Paul writes in Donum Vitae,  “Nevertheless marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation.”

Marital act is fruitful even if couple is infertile

In the “noble and worthy” marital act by which life is transmitted, Pope Paul VI states in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, that an infertile couple always remains ordained toward expressing and consolidating their union. When couples can’t conceive or are not seeking to achieve pregnancy for a legitimate reason, they can express the fruitfulness of their conjugal act by serving others.

“In fact,” writes John Paul II, “every act of true love towards a human being bears witness to and perfects the spiritual fecundity of the family, since it is an act of obedience to the deep inner dynamism of love as self-giving to others.”

Clearly, to love means to be fruitful, but fruitfulness in marriage holds the potential for the most profound collaboration with God in the creation of new human life.

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Why men and women’s differences matter in marriage

June 27, 2012

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When Mark Twain wanted to highlight differences between the sexes, he filled in the creation story with the perspectives of the first man and first woman in his Diary of Adam and Eve:

Adam: The new creature says its name is Eve. That is all right, I have no objections. Says it is to call it by, when I want it to come. I said it was superfluous, then. The word evidently raised me in its respect; and indeed it is a large, good word and will bear repetition. It says it is not an It, it is She. This is probably doubtful; yet it is all one to me; what she is were nothing to me if she would but go by herself and not talk.

 Eve: This morning I told him my name, hoping it would interest him. But he did not care for it. It is strange. If he should tell me his name, I would care. I think it would be pleasanter in my ears than any other sound. He talks very little. Perhaps it is because he is not bright, and is sensitive about it and wishes to conceal it. It is such a pity that he should feel so, for brightness is nothing; it is in the heart that the values lie.

Twain’s account of the first married couple’s relationship comes out of his own study of human nature and because that nature is common to all of us, it’s not hard to imagine Adam and Eve having these thoughts. As he delves into the age-old topic of gender difference, Twain makes a good case for it being more than biological.

Besides anatomically, how exactly are men and women are different? Are those differences complementary? What does the Church say about how differences and complementarity affect a marital relationship? And in an age when divorce is common, can we believe in any kind of complementarity between men and women?

Complementary? How?

According to Bl. Pope John Paul II, a person’s gender is not an “attribute” but part of their essence.  As distinct as men and women are, they complement each other—not only biologically but individually, personally and spiritually, he writes in a Holy See position paper for the 1995 UN Conference on Women.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, a 20th century Catholic philosopher who influenced Pope John Paul, agreed that differences between men and women are not merely biological but are also metaphysical. They are two equal and complementary types of the spiritual person of the human species—two different expressions of human nature–with specific personality features, he writes in Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy.

Generally speaking, women have a unity of personality because their heart, intellect and temperament are more interwoven than those of men, according to von Hildebrand. Their inner and exterior lives come together in a “unity of style embracing the soul as well as the exterior demeanor.”

Men, he writes, have a specific capability to free themselves intellectually from the emotional sphere. They have their own particular creativity, and place somewhat greater importance on objective accomplishments.

These are characteristics common to many people, though not necessarily in the same proportion.

As different as men and women are, their complementarity runs just as deep, Pope John Paul writes in The Theology of the Body. Man and woman are two “reciprocally completing ways of ‘being a body’ and at the same time being human.” They are “two complementary dimensions of self-knowledge and self-determination and, at the same time, two complementary ways of being conscious of the meaning of the body.”

This difference and complementarity is most evident in Our Lady and Christ, von Hildebrand writes in Marriage: Mystery of Faithful Love.

“Raising our glance to the Blessed Virgin, we see that she, who of all creatures is most like to Christ, could not possibly be imagined as anything but a woman, and that she, Queen of all Saints, is womanly in the highest and most sublime sense of the word.”

Is complementarity important in marriage?

The Catechism says it is:

Physical, moral and spiritual difference, and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.  (CCC2333)

Men and women are spiritually oriented toward, and created for each other, von Hildebrand writes. They have a mission for each other—to enrich each other and to give one another the positive influence of the opposite sex, he writes. This influence of their complementary natures reveals a tension—and spiritual fruitfulness.

Von Hildebrand continues, “because of their complementary difference, a much closer communion and more ultimate love is possible between them than between persons of the same sex.”

The complementarity is reciprocal, von Hildebrand writes.  Marital love, which involves each giving completely to the other and mysteriously grasping the other’s full personality despite obstacles, “can exist only between two types of the spiritual person, the male and the female, as only between them can this complementary character be found.”

From Gen. 2:23, where Adam realizes who Eve is, John Paul II concludes in the Theology of the Body that femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity and masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Each conjugal union of husband and wife is a new discovery of that masculinity and femininity, he writes.

Unfortunately, some couples see more difference than complementarity in their relationships but knowing how marriage can work when husband and wife recognize who they are in Christ, gives hope for more holy marriages in the future.

In the Spirit of Christ, writes Pope John Paul, men and women can find themselves by discovering the entire meaning of their masculinity and femininity and by being disposed to make a “sincere gift of self,” whether or not they’re called to marriage.

In his “ghostwriting” of Adam and Eve’s diary, Mark Twain makes Adam seem a little reticent but Gen. 2:23 records his amazement upon discovering the “helper” God has given him:

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman …


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Where did marriage come from?

June 6, 2012


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.








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Minnesota Marriage: One Man. One Woman. Video #1

January 9, 2012


Marriage = One Man + One Woman 

Makes sense to me. Why would God have molded our bodies with different ingredients if the equation above were false? Plus, if an important aspect of marriage is to procreate–or embrace life–we obviously need those distinct private parts!

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’ ” (Gn 2:18)

If we were made to live our lives with a same-sex partner then, in my opinion, The Creator could have saved Himself a lot of work by merely devising a bunch of males or females to run around this world–not both sexes. We are His most blessed beings on Earth, and thusly He spent a lot of time going over our blueprints to ensure that we were perfectly designed for each other.

Wow…Thanks for this gift, God!

As scripture says, we were made to become “one flesh.” Human sexual union isn’t merely something biological; it’s also a theological and spiritual truth.

“The whole reality of married life, of course, is a sacrament. but nowhere is the ‘great mystery’ more evident than when the two become ‘one flesh’ ” (Christopher West in Theology of the Body for Beginners)

Defending Marriage

I have heard people say that the Church’s defense of marriage through the promotion of the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment is too “political.” Well, isn’t educating its flock one of the Church’s jobs? How else are we to really know and understand the beautiful aspects of our faith? I, for one, do not want to be part of a church that rests on its laurels and does nothing when we are straying from The Shepherd.

“The Church has no bayonets, nor does she want to coerce others. Rather, she desires to appeal to the consciences of all persons and to witness to those truths written on the human heart by the Creator…People are free to accept or reject the Church’s instruction, but she cannot remain silent because, in the words of Pope John XXIII, she has a responsibility given to her by Our Lord to act as mother and teacher of the nations so that all who would come to her fold might attain a fuller life on this earth and eternal salvation.” (From a recent article by Jason Adkins–executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference)

Video #1

This is the first in a series of videos prepared and paid for by Minnesota for Marriage in order to educate us about the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment. It was released a few days ago. The videos are in a question and answer format and will be available on a weekly basis. For example, some of the topics include:

• What is the Marriage Protection Amendment?
• Is there a clear and present threat to marriage in Minnesota?
• Why is marriage worth preserving?
• Isn’t marriage just about encouraging loving and committed relationships?
• And much more.

I’m so impressed that Kalley Yanta, a busy mother of six, has volunteered her time to host this dialogue. According to Hampton News, “Kalley, a former news anchor for KSTP-TV, gave up her 11-year career in broadcast journalism in 1999 in favor of a higher calling — motherhood. A native of South Minneapolis, Yanta (then Kalley King) enjoyed a career that took her to four different states and ended up in her hometown, where she met husband Jon Yanta, who proposed to her on a pilgrimage to Medjugorie.”

To watch the first one-minute video click here, and then please pass this on!



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6 Reasons Kids Do Best When Raised By Married Parents

November 3, 2011


We’ve had a whirlwind of family weddings and engagements lately. At my nephew’s rehearsal dinner this weekend, my brother-in-law said in his toast, “There is great joy in commitment.”

Licensed under Creative Commons

So true! But…

Did you know that the U.S. Census Report showed fewer than half the homes in the Twin Cities are headed by married couples? In 2007, nearly four in ten births were to unmarried women, many of them in cohabiting relationships (National Center for Health Statistics). Today the nation’s retreat from marriage and the rise of cohabiting households with children is the biggest threat to the quality and stability of family life.

Wanting to defend marriage, the Archdiocese has decided to educate the youth. It has put together a team consisting of  married couples and priests who will talk to high school students about why marriage matters. My husband and I are part of this crew (Can you hear my knees knocking?) and we believe it’s a great approach to this dilemma. The Archdiocesan initiative has required reading for us speakers, and I wanted to share with you some of the information we’ve learned about why children do best when raised by two married parents:

1) They will be healthier

In one Swedish study, boys who were reared in single-parent homes were more than 50% more likely to die from a range of causes–e.g., suicide, accidents, or addiction–than boys who were reared in two-parent homes. Parental divorce reduces a child’s life expectancy by four years, and there is a higher risk of infant mortality when parents are divorced. Interestingly, higher levels of children’s psychological problems are  associated with cohabitation.

2) Less likely to live in poverty

Most children who are not raised by married parents will live at least one year in dire poverty (Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty). On the other hand, married couples appear to share more of their income and other property, and they get more support from friends, civic institutions and extended families. They also receive more wealth transfers from both sets of grandparents than do cohabiting couples (Single mothers almost never receive financial help from the child’s father’s kin). And a fascinating find:  Married fathers increased their assets after babies were born, while single fathers saw their rate of asset accumulation decline. (Many studies show that married men earn 10%-40% more than their single counterparts.)

3) More likely to attend college

Interesting fact: Married couples contribute a median of $1,804 to college, divorced parents–$502, and remarried parents just $500. This could be a reason why children whose parents are married are more apt to go to college and have a lower  unemployment rate. Plus, as adults, they have a higher rate of occupational status and earnings.

4)Less likely to be physically or sexually abused

How many times do you read in the newspaper that a child has been killed by the mother’s live-in boyfriend? Although boyfriends contribute less than 2 percent of nonparental childcare, they commit half of all reported child abuse by nonparents. Studies show that children living in single-mother homes have increased rates of death from intentional injuries.  A study in Missouri found that preschool children were 47.6 times more likely to die in a cohabiting household, compared to preschoolers living in an intact, married household. And sadly, Preschool-aged children living with a stepfather are forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with both biological parents.

5) Less likely to use drugs or alcohol

Twice as many young teens living with single-mothers or a stepparent have tried marijuana. Teens living with biological parents are significantly less likely to use illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Why? Studies suggest children living with non-traditional families have more family stress, less monitoring from parents, and weakened attachment to parents–especially fathers.

6) Decreased risk of divorcing when they get married–or becoming unwed parents

Girls raised outside of intact marriages are three times more likely to become unwed mothers. When parents divorce they increase the odds that their children will divorce by at least 50%. So far, research shows that divorce affects three generations.


Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said, “The long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.” The findings of the social sciences confirm that the best environment for raising children is a stable home provided by the marriage of their parents.


I also agree with my brother-in-law; that there is great joy in commitment. And this joy trickles down to the children. A happy marriage is a great gift that parents can give to their kids–it helps the whole family embrace life!

(Compiled using Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [visit http://www.foryourmarriage.org ] & Why Marriage Matters by the Institute for American Values [visit http://www.americanvalues.org ] )


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Joke — no joke — just for Catholics

August 5, 2011

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Jim and Jennifer were at their wedding rehearsal on a Friday night when a tornado struck the church, collapsing the walls and roof and tragically killing them both.

They’d led good lives and went straight to heaven, where they asked St. Peter for a favor: Could they still get married?

St. Peter said, “Well, sure. Tell you what: I’ll come and get you when we can do that.”

Jim and Jennifer were pleased, but it was five years before St. Peter showed up and said they could get married.

And so they had their wedding. It wasn’t too long though that the couple realized they’d made a mistake. The went to St. Peter and asked if they could have a divorce.

“Well, we frown upon that here,” St. Peter said, “but let me see what I can do. I’ll call you.”

After waiting five years to get married, though, Jennifer was concerned that it might take just as long to start divorce proceedings. “How long will it take?” she asked.

St. Peter was miffed. “It took five years to bet a preacher up here. Who knows how long it will be before a lawyer shows up!”


Joseph’s Coat, the St. Paul walk-in center for the homeless and needy, will be doing it’s annual distribution of school supplies and backpacks Aug. 29 and 31, so there’s still time for all of us to donate so some kids feel good about going to school this year because they have a new backpack and school supplies like the other kids.

I’ll be taking the backpack pictured here and picking up crayons, pens, pencils, markers, 3-ring binders, looseleaf paper — all that good stuff you use to love to have — and dropping it off at 1107 West Seventh in St. Paul.

Donations are accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.

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Advice for a healthy marriage

July 19, 2011


If you know a man and a woman who just married or who plan to soon, pass along this advice from Mary T. Carty from her book “PMAT: The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test.” It’s the kind of thing every married couple — new, or even not so new — might tape to the bathroom mirror to read every day.

  • No two people are exactly alike.
  • No two people think exactly alike.
  • You cannot read your partner’s mind.
  • Your partner cannot read your mind.
  • We are human and make mistakes.
  • It is impossible to change other people.
  • It is possible to change your actions and attitudes.
  • Treat the other person the same way you would like to be treated.
  • People have different opinions, likes, dislikes, and beliefs.
  • It is a human quality to have and show emotions.
  • It is a human quality for your partner to have and to show emotions.
  • It takes courage to accept differences.
  • It takes courage to forgive.
  • Patience is a virtue.
  • No one is perfect.
  • Love conquers fear.
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Most popular stories of June 2011

July 5, 2011


Image licensed under Creative Commons license.

What happened last month in the Catholic world? Varied and numerous topics all right here:
Father Corapi leaves priesthood saying he can’t get ‘fair hearing’ on charges 0 comment(s) | 1000 view(s)

Marriage amendment deserves our support 0 comment(s) | 568 view(s)

Vatican today – June 27, 2011 0 comment(s) | 447 view(s)

Father Richard Hogan was a scholar, author, pro-life advocate 2 comment(s) | 378 view(s)

Order ‘saddened’ by Father Corapi’s decision to leave priesthood 2 comment(s) | 292 view(s)

Dress up, not down for Sunday Mass, even in summertime 7 comment(s) | 234 view(s)

Vatican today – June, 30, 2011 0 comment(s) | 224 view(s)

Cooking priest makes NFP sizzle 1 comment(s) | 219 view(s)

Priest says Catholic bloggers ‘an extraordinary reality’ in church life 0 comment(s) | 175 view(s)

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Most popular stories of May 2011

June 1, 2011


Archbishop OKs 18 priest assignments for archdiocese 0 comment(s) | 1221 view(s)

2011 Priest Ordinations 0 comment(s) | 789 view(s)

2011 Graduate Profiles 0 comment(s) | 707 view(s)

Many pastors will soon spring into new parish assignments 0 comment(s) | 518 view(s)

Eleven priests get parish assignments 0 comment(s) | 506 view(s)

Marriage amendment moves forward in Senate; Catholic bishops testify in favor 3 comment(s) | 490 view(s)

Seven men ordained transitional deacons 0 comment(s) | 453 view(s)

Preparing for the new Roman Missal 0 comment(s) | 403 view(s)

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Don’t expect to learn about marriage from an author who thinks she’s written the book about it

February 19, 2010


Committed cover“Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage,”

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Since her last book — “Eat, Pray, Love” — sold 7 million copies, I hoped for something worthwhile out of Elizabeth Gilbert’s supposed “making peace with marriage.”

What a waste of time.

If she hadn’t been an author with a  recent success, I wonder if any publisher would have bothered with this 280-page memoir that’s part pity-party, part narrow-minded opinion-spouting, anti-Christian, too much about her birth family and not enough research about the marriages of real people outside her circle of friends or Third-World villages.

Dozens of therapists, priests, counselors and pastoral ministers have written much more useful works about the sacrament, and they didn’t have to consistently bash organized religion over and over and over in order to do it.

Gilbert’s obviously writing for those who haven’t use for anything so trite as religion or church. Her consistently going back many centuries to bring up outdated views held by some church leaders in the distant past gets annoying, especially when she rarely quotes the sources of the “facts” she’s spewing upon the public.

Selective history

She attacks the concept of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman, spending page after page proclaiming the rightness of her belief in same-sex marriage. She claims marriage hasn’t historically been between one man and one woman, but it took all of six minutes for me to flip through Paul’s first letter to the people at Corinth to find in the seventh chapter of his letter, “every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.” That’s something he wrote in the first century, which to me makes one man, one woman marriage pretty historical.

Lord knows the Catholic Church through the ages wasn’t perfect, that abuses occurred, that religion was used for power by some. But Gilbert misses the point when she charges that churches are trying to “rule” when it comes to defining marriage; rather, churches and church leadership are working extremely hard to inform, advise and help society see the wisdom of one man and one woman as a relationship expressed by the word marriage, and that it is so much more than just a commitment.

Gilbert seems to get that when she finally works her way — painstakingly for the reader through her personal journey — to the contribution of a community to marriage.  There is a “collective accountability” about marriage that is supportive. As Gilbert puts it, “Maybe all our marriages must be linked to each other somehow, woven on a larger social loom, in order to endure.”

She seems to get it, too, when she makes the connection that a person can be happy in marriage because they know they are indispensable to somebody else’s life, because they have a partner, because they are building something together, something they both believe in.

Then she goes and ruins it again by male bashing — which I suppose an author is supposed to do in order to be published by someone like Viking and make it with the in crowd. Men, the claim goes, get more out of marriage than women do. What a one-sided, pessimistic point of view!

The world is bigger than Gilbert’s world

Perhaps it’s that attitude about “Committed” that bugged me the most. This is a writer who is so into her own world — her own issues — that’s she’s pulled together a bunch of research to fit her own views.

She’s ignorant of the views of one helluva lot of other people and makes leaps of judgement about the rightness of her own views.

My journalism professors in college would have graded work like “Committed” a “D” at best, marking it up in red with the questions, “Why so few sources?” and “Where’s your attribution?”

The single piece she writes that hit home was her analysis of the result of the intimacy of a long marriage: “It causes us to inherit and trade each other’s stories. This, in part, is how we become annexes of each other, trellises on which each other’s biography can grow.”

Other than that, isn’t until page 214 that Gilbert gives readers much of value when she quotes true experts on marriage — John Gottman and Julie Schwartz-Gottman — about conflict resolution.

My advice? Google Gottman and you’ll get good stuff on marriage from folks who one, know what they are writing about, and two, aren’t so self-absorbed as Elizabeth Gilbert. And, if you want to read a worthwhile memoir, try Patricia Hampl’s “The Florist’s Daughter.”  (see the review at http://bit.ly/cGydew) — bz

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