Vol 12 Issue 5 ~Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
February 2, 2019 ~ Candlemas
1. What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
2. Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
3. Saint Blaise
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
On the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade the Governor of New York State signed a bill that allowed babies in the womb to be murdered. Even further, the bill includes that a doctor doesn’t have to be present for an abortion and if a child survives an abortion, the abortion provider has no responsibility to resuscitate the child as also that if a mother who is with child is killed, the unborn child isn’t also killed; nor is an unborn child deliberately killed in the womb considered a homicide. Yet, the same state prohibits the execution of a rapist murderer. Such diabolical laws—because the devil is a murderer from the beginning (cf. John 8:44)—are irrational and evil. It is irrational, because today, with C-sections and babies able to live independent from the womb and develop into normal children and adults after 22 weeks (five months) from conception, birth becomes not ex parto but ex sinu from the womb. So the decision that a baby is a human, according to pro-abortionists, isn’t from birth, but whether the mother wants the child from conception. As such, if she does she will do everything to see that the child is healthy and develops from fetus to adult and call it a baby, a child, an adolescent according to stages in development. If she does not want the child, she calls it a fetus, a tumor, an unwanted intrusion, an unplanned pregnancy, etc. In a society whose ethics are relative—situational ethics—abortionists have no problem switching terms to accommodate the situation and thereby using a euphemism for murder: removing fetal tissue. They do not describe the dismembering of the child limb by limb and decapitating the head. They do not use the term killing a child. But that is exactly what they do. One may ask, if it is murder, how can one so seemingly nonchalantly execute it? Even in ancient history, as is read in Sacred Scripture, mothers willingly sacrificed their children to the gods. In ancient Sparta the law commanded the parents to place the newborn child outside overnight and only if it survived could it be allowed to live. The mentality then, as today, was to obtain something greater and justified killing defenseless babies who could not comprehend that those who should sacrifice themselves that the child might live choose instead to sacrifice the child that they may have something more. But even this opened the door to simply do away with a responsibility and engendered sacrificing a child for no other reason. These nations became barbaric, cold and numbed towards life and brutal to one another, enslaving whole peoples and ending the lives of those considered unfit. As New York and California forge barbaric laws, falsely calling them progress, we should recognize it for what it is: a regression into primitivism, that is, man living according to his animal instincts—according to the flesh (cf. Romans chapter 8).
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION?
by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
The Baltimore Catechism No. 3, [New York: Benziger Brothers (1943), 206-213] gave this instruction to the Catholic youth prior to 1964, whether in Catholic schools or CCD classes. The numbered questions are according to the No. 2, which is based on the 1884 version. Those questions not numbered are expansions for the higher grades. One must remember that it was expected that the students memorize the questions and answers, therefore the form.
330. What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is the sacrament through which the Holy Ghost comes to us in a special way and enables us to profess our faith as strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.
When did Christ institute Confirmation?
It is not certain when Christ instituted Confirmation, except that He did so before His ascension into heaven; but it seems probably He instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper, when He promised to send the Holy Ghost to enlighten and to sanctify His followers.
Why is Confirmation so called?
Confirmation is so called because this word means “strengthening”, the chief effect of his sacrament being to strengthen us in our faith and religious practices.
Why are we called soldiers of Jesus Christ?
We are called soldiers of Jesus Christ because it is our duty to follow our Lord faithfully and to fight our spiritual enemies, just as a soldier must follow his commander and fight the enemies of his country.
331. Who is the usual minister of Confirmation?
The bishop is the usual minister of Confirmation.
Can a priest ever administer Confirmation?
With the permission of the Pope a priest can administer Confirmation, and certain priests have this permission, such as those cardinals who are not bishops, parish priests in certain circumstances, most priests of the Oriental rites, and some foreign missionaries.
332. What does the bishop do when he gives Confirmation?
The bishop extends his hands over those who are to be confirmed, prays that they may receive the Holy Ghost, and, while laying his hands on the head of each person, anoints the forehead with holy chrism in the form of the cross.
What is signified by the extending of the bishop’s hands and the laying of his hand on the head?
By the extending of the bishop’s hands and the laying of his hand on the head is signified the descent of the Holy Ghost with His power into the soul of the person being confirmed.
333. What does the bishop say in anointing the person he confirms?
In anointing the person he confirms, the bishop says: “I sign thee with the sign of the cross and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
334. What is holy chrism?
Holy chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balm, blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday.
What do the oil and balm in holy chrism signify?
In holy chrism oil signifies the rich abundance of grace which God is giving the soul, and the balm signifies freedom from the corruption of sin and also, by its sweet odor, the sweetness of Christian virtue.
How many oils are used in the liturgy of the Church?
Three holy oils are used in the Liturgy of the Church—the oil of the catechumens, holy chrism and the oil of the sick.
What are some of the ceremonies in which these oils are used?
Some of the ceremonies in which these oils are used are: The oil of catechumens in the anointing of the breast and the back of one about to be baptized and also the hands of those being ordained to the priesthood; holy chrism in anointing the head of one just baptized, the forehead of one being confirmed, and the head and hands of a priest when he is consecrated a bishop; the oil of the sick in anointing one receiving Extreme Unction.
335. What does the anointing of the forehead with chrism in the form of the cross signify?
The anointing of the forehead with chrism in the form of the cross signifies that the Catholic who is confirmed must always be ready to profess his faith openly and to practice it fearlessly.
336. Why does the bishop give the person he confirms a slight blow on the cheek?
The bishop gives the person he confirms a slight blow on the cheek to remind him that he must be ready to suffer everything, even death, for the sake of Christ.
What does the bishop say when he gives this blow on the cheek?
When he gives this blow on the cheek the bishop says: “Peace be with thee”, which is a form of greeting to welcome the newly confirmed into the ranks of perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.
337. What are the effects of Confirmation?
Confirmation increases sanctifying grace, gives its special sacramental grace, and imprints a lasting character on the soul.
338. What does the sacramental grace of Confirmation help us to do?
The sacramental grace of Confirmation helps us to live our faith loyally and to profess it courageously.
339. What is the character of Confirmation?
The character of Confirmation is a spiritual and indelible sign which marks the Christian as a soldier in the army of Christ.
Why is Confirmation called the sacrament of the Holy Ghost?
Confirmation is called the sacrament of the Holy Ghost because it inspires the recipient to use fruitfully the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.
How are we made like the apostles through Confirmation?
Through Confirmation we are made like the apostles because from the Holy Ghost given us in this sacrament we receive light and strength, as the apostles did when the Holy Ghost entered their souls on Pentecost.
340. What is necessary to receive Confirmation properly?
To receive Confirmation properly it is necessary to be in the state of grace, and to know well the chief truths and duties of our religion.
What happens if a person receives Confirmation knowing that he is in mortal sin?
If a person receives Confirmation knowing that he is in mortal sin, he obtains no grace, and is guilty of a grave sin of sacrilege; but he receives the sacrament validly, if he has the intention of receiving it; afterwards, if he repents and is restored to the state of grace, he receives the delayed graces of Confirmation.
What is the Church law regarding the age for Confirmation?
The Church law regarding the age for Confirmation is that this sacrament is suitably given in the Latin Church at about the age of seven; but nevertheless it can be given before that time if a child is in danger of death or if the one administering Confirmation has some other good reason for doing so.
What is the usual practice in the Oriental rites concerning this matter?
In the Oriental rites it is customary for a child to be confirmed immediately after Baptism by the priest who baptized it.
341. After we have been confirmed, why should we continue to study our religion even more earnestly than before?
After we have been confirmed, we should continue to study our religion even more earnestly than before so that we may be able to explain and defend our faith, and thus co-operate with the grace of Confirmation.
342. Why should all Catholics be confirmed?
All Catholics should be confirmed in order to be strengthened against the dangers to salvation and be prepared better to defend their Catholic faith.
For what work does Confirmation prepare us?
Confirmation especially prepares us for the work of Catholic Action.
Is one supposed to have a sponsor for Confirmation?
One is supposed to have a sponsor for Confirmation as for Baptism, and in general the same qualities are required for godparents in Confirmation as for godparents in Baptism.
What is to be noted particularly about the godparent for Confirmation?
To be a godparent in Confirmation one must himself be confirmed; and ordinarily the one who was godparent at a person’s Baptism should not be godparent at his Confirmation.
Is there a spiritual relationship between a godparent and the one confirmed?
There is a spiritual relationship between a godparent and the one confirmed, which imposes on the godparent the obligation to care for the spiritual training of the godchild, but does not constitute an impediment to marriage, as does the spiritual relationship of Baptism.
(To be continued)
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
MATTHEW viii. 23-27
At that time: When Jesus entered into the boat, His disciples followed Him: and behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but He was asleep. And they came to Him, and awaked Him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up He commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey Him?
EXPOSITION FROM THE CATENA AUREA
23. And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him . . .
ORIGEN, Hom. 6 Ex. Var. locis: When Christ had performed many and wondrous miracles upon the land, He crossed over the sea that there also He might reveal the wonders of His works, whereby He showed to all He was Lord of both land and sea. Hence there is written: And when He entered into the boat His Disciples followed Him; and they were not weak men, but robust, and firm of faith. They follow Him not so much walking in His footsteps as keeping close to Him in holiness.
CHRYSOSTOM, Hom. 29 in Matt.: He took His Disciples with Him, and in a ship, to prepare them for two things: one, that they might learn not to let themselves be carried away by fear in dangers, and next that they should learn that when honoured they should comport themselves with modesty. And so that they would not think highly of themselves for this that having sent all others away He took them with Him, He permits them to be buffeted by the sea. When there was a manifestation of miracles He allowed the people to be present, but when terror and dangers are approaching He takes with Him only His Disciples, they who had to combat the world, whom He now wished to exercise in fortitude.
24. And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was . . .
ORIGEN, as above: Having gone up into the ship, He caused the sea to become stormy. Hence: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves. This storm did not arise of itself, but in obedience to the power Who had commanded it, Who bringeth forth winds out of his stores (Ps. cxxxiv. 7). A great storm arose so that a great sign might be given; and the more the waves beat against the little ship, the more did fear assail the hearts of His Disciples, and consequently the greater was their desire to be delivered through the power of the Saviour.
CHRYSOSTOM, as above: For though they had seen others receive favours from Christ, yet no one regards in the same way things done in the persons of others and those done to themselves, so it was necessary that through personal experience they should receive a clear understanding of the benefits which Christ had conferred on others. Accordingly He wills that this storm arise, so that being delivered from it they might have a clear sense of benefit received.
The storm was a foreshadowing of their future trials, of which Paul says: For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, of our tribulation, that we were pressed out of measure above our strength (II Cor. i. 8). And to give time for their fear to grow, there follows: But He was asleep. Had He been awake while the storm was on, either they would not have been afraid, or they might not have besought His help, or it might not have occurred to them that He could work such a wonder.
25. And they came to him, and awakened him, saying: Lord, save us.
ORIGEN: It is an astonishing thing, that He Who never sleeps nor grows weary, is here said to sleep. He slept in His Body, but in the Godhead He keeps watch: showing that He bore a true human body, that He had clothed Himself with what was perishable. In His Body therefore He slept, to make the Apostles keep watch, and lest we should also slumber in our souls. The Disciples were fearful, and so nearly out of their senses that they rushed upon Him; they did not beseech Him modestly or quietly, but rather awakened Him violently; hence follows: And they came to him, and awakened him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish.
26. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful?
JEROME: In Jonah we read of a figure of this kind; while the others are in peril he is safe, and sleeps, and is awakened. ORIGEN: O trustful Disciples, you have with you the Saviour, and you are fearful of danger? With you is Life, and you are apprehensive of death? But hear them answering: We are as children, and we are still weak; and so we are fearful. Hence follows: And Jesus saith to them: why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? As if He said to them: Since you have known me upon the land as possessing power, why do you not believe I have power also upon the sea? And though death assail you, ought you not meet it courageously? He that is of little faith, let him be reproved; he that is without faith, let him be despised.
CHRYSOSTOM, as above: Should anyone say that it was not an indication of little faith to come and waken Him, I say that this was a sign that they had not a fitting belief regarding Him. For they knew that being wakened He could command the sea, but that this He could do also while sleeping they did not yet know. For this reason also He did not perform this sign in the presence of the multitude, lest they be accused of little faith, but taking only the Disciples with Him, He first corrects them, and then calms the tempest of the waters. Hence follows: Then rising up He commanded the winds and the sea, and there came a great calm.
JEROME: From this occasion we learn that all creatures hearken to the voice of the Creator. For they that here were commanded heard Him commanding; not in the sense of those heretics who believe that all things are living, but, by reason of the Majesty of the Creator, the things which to us appear unperceiving, are to Him perceiving.
ORIGEN: He commanded the wind and the sea, and from a great tempest there came a great calm. It is fitting that He that is mighty should do great things; and so He Who a while before had stirred the deeps of the sea, now orders that there shall be a great calm: so that the Disciples, who had been grievously troubled, will now be wondrously made glad.
27. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this?
CHRYSOSTOM: In this recital it is also shown that the entire storm was at once put to rest: no trace of its violence remaining, which was unusual. For when a storm comes naturally to its end, the waves continue for some time to be disturbed: but here at once all is made calm. What before was spoken of the Father: He said the word and there arose a storm of wind (Ps. cvi. 25) Christ fulfils in this miracle: and by His word and command alone He calms and restrains the sea. From His appearance, and from His sleeping, and because He makes use of the ship, those that were present regarded Him as a man; now they are astonished, and so we have: But the men wondered, saying: what manner of man is this? For the winds and the sea obey him?
GLOSS: Chrysostom cites the comment: what manner of man is this? For sleep, and His outward appearance, showed Him to be man: but the sea and the calm proclaim Him God.
ORIGEN: But what men wondered? You do not think that the Apostles are here referred to? For nowhere do we find the Lord’s Disciples spoken of without due respect; but always referred to either as the Apostles or as the Disciples. The men therefore who wondered are they who owned the boat and were sailing it for Him.
JEROME: If anyone, contentiously, will have it that those who were wondering were the Disciples, we shall reply that they are rightly referred to as men, since they knew not as yet the power of their Saviour.
ORIGEN: Not as questioning do they say, what manner of man is this, but as asserting that He is so great that the winds and the seas obey Him. What manner therefore of man is this, signifies, how great, how strong, how wonderful? He commands all creatures and they pass not one step beyond His command. Only men disobey Him, and so they are condemned in judgement. Mystically, all we who are united with the Lord in the bark of Holy Church float above this stormy world. The Lord however sleeps quietly, lovingly awakening our fearfulness, and our turning to Him from evil.
HILARY, Ch. 7 in Matt: Or He sleeps in the sense that in our sleeping He is put to sleep in us. It especially happens that in time of danger we hope for help from God. Would that serene and tranquil hope should ever confide in the power of Christ watching within us to deliver us from danger!
ORIGEN: Let us turn quickly to the Lord, saying with the prophet: Arise, why sleepest thou, O Lord? (Ps. xliii. 23). And He will command the winds, that is, the demons who stir up the waves; that is, the princes of this world who persecute the saints, and He will make a great calm round about body and soul, and He will give peace to the Church, and tranquillity to the world.
RABANUS: Or again: The sea is the unrest of the world; the little boat into which Christ ascends signifies the tree of the Cross, by whose aid the faithful in Christ, crossing the waves of the world, reach to the heavenly city as to a safe shore, on which with Christ they land; whence later He says: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mt. xvi. 24).
When therefore Christ was placed upon the Cross, a great storm arose: because His Disciples were fearful by reason of His passion, and the little boat was covered with waves; for the whole fury of the persecution was around the Cross of Christ, where He slept in death; hence is it said: But He was asleep. His sleep was His death. The Disciples awakened the Lord when, terrified at His death, they plead in earnest prayer for His resurrection, saying: Save us, by rising again, for we perish, by reason of the tempest of Your dying. He rising up reproves the hardness of their hearts, as is elsewhere read. But He commanded the winds, for He laid low the power of the devil; He commanded the sea, because He brought to nothing the rage of the Jews; and there came a great calm, when the minds of His Disciples were comforted by the vision of His resurrection.
GLOSS: Or, the little boat is the Church on earth, in which Christ with His own crosses the sea of this world, and calms the waves of persecutions. Whence we wonder, and we give thanks.
St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr
1. A legend has it that Blaise, the Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, was beheaded in the year 316, under King Licinius, after he had endured terrible sufferings (whipping, and laceration with iron combs). He is said to have healed a boy who was choking to death on a fish-bone. For this reason it has been the practice from ancient times to ask the assistance of St. Blaise against ills of the throat (cf. the Blessing of St. Blaise). He is honored as one of the fourteen Holy Helpers and as a wonder-worker.
2. “The sufferings of Christ . . . overflow into our lives” (Epistle). St. Blaise had to bear many and great pains and sufferings. He knew, however, what Christian suffering is that it is a participation in the suffering of Christ. Through his suffering he earned, in a truly mysterious manner, fellowship with the suffering Redeemer. By his assent to martyrdom he repeated in himself the Passion of Christ, and allowed it to be reproduced in himself. Thus he earned his likeness to the Crucified, whom he followed with the fullest devotion. For him who believes in Christ, suffering loses the aspect of foolishness that it often has for those who judge only by human standards. And this is all the more true when the believer suffers in order to bring encouragement and salvation to his fellow men (cf. Epistle), because he is convinced that the sufferings of a martyr benefit the whole Church and each individual member. He suffers for souls, that they may obtain life through his mediation and that he may contribute toward their everlasting glory with God. There is a power in his martyrdom which permits the grace of God to flow yet more freely. “The sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives.”
“There is overflowing comfort, too, which Christ brings to us. Have we trials to endure? It all makes for your encouragement, for your salvation” (Epistle). What a consoling thought it is that all suffering is a holy, unselfish contribution toward the salvation of one’s neighbor, toward the establishing of the kingdom of God, and, hence, toward the glorification of God and of Christ! In addition, there is the consolation spoken of in the Gospel for the feast: “It is the man who loses his [temporal] life for my sake that will secure it [for ever].” St. Blaise’s suffering was great and therefore his “consolation” in heaven is great, as well. “Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor. Bidding him rule over the works of thy hands” (Gradual). “Lord, thou hast set a jewelled crown upon his head” (Communion), in the glory of eternal life with Christ. We congratulate St. Blaise on his participation in the suffering of Christ His was “salutary suffering,” for it merited participation in the glory of Christ. “In the cross is salvation,” not for St. Blaise alone, but also for us who suffer with Christ and for the sake of Christ, in a holy union with Him.
3. “The sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives.” That is the Christian conception of the suffering and misery of our life on earth-a fellowship with Christ in suffering, in drinking from His chalice with Him (Matt. 20: 22). We no longer stand alone in our sufferings, abandoned to our human frailty. On the contrary, the redeeming and sanctifying power of the Passion of Christ becomes operative in all suffering borne for His sake. Our Lord infuses something of the power, value, and fruitfulness of His redemptive suffering into every hardship and anxiety borne in a Christlike manner. In this way the suffering of the Christian, through the power of the Passion of Christ working in him, becomes a constructive force for the redemption and sanctification of his own soul and also an effective aid toward the redemption, salvation, and sanctification of the souls of others. It is a fruitful expiation and satisfaction; it is an effective apostolate; it is a holy participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer on the cross. Thus, St. Paul wrote: “Death [suffering] makes itself felt in us and life [grace] in you” (II Cor. 4: 12). Is not, then, the suffering of the Christian something holy, something great, something desirable-a grace?
In each holy Mass we entreat the most holy Trinity to allow our offering to “bring honor [to all the saints of heaven] to us salvation” (Offertory). Indeed, we enjoy a holy fellowship of goods based upon the “communion of saints,” together with Mary, St. Joseph, and the apostles and martyrs. Their merits and good works, their sacrifices and sufferings, their prayers and penances benefit us also. The prayers, sacrifices, and sufferings of the saints are ever so much more holy and effective in the sight of God than ours. But, since the saints labored and suffered on earth, not for themselves alone but also for the entire mystical body of Christ, their prayers, good works, sacrifices, and sufferings belong to us as well. In this way, it is possible for the saints to compensate for what is wanting in us. In this way, also, our prayers, works, and sufferings are effectively seconded and perfected by the saints of heaven. Hence we turn ourselves with perfect trust to the saints and blessed ones of heaven; they are, without any doubt, our loving, solicitous brothers and sisters in Christ.
Collect: O God, who dost gladden our hearts at each recurring festival of Thy blessed martyr bishop Blaise, grant, in Thy mercy. that we who keep his birthday may also enjoy his protection: through our Lord. Amen.
The Catholic Marriage Manual
Reverend George A. Kelly
Random House, New York 1958
“Until Death Do You Part”
WHEN you entered the state of matrimony in the presence of a priest, you made a sacred contract with your spouse. Holding the right hand of your partner-to-be, you took this solemn vow: “I take thee for my lawful wife (husband) to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Probably no other sentence you ever speak will have as much meaning as this one. It means that you agree to remain married regardless of disappointments, frustrations or hardships that may later arrive. And it means that the only condition that will terminate your marriage is death.
Everyone married in the Church takes that vow. Every bride and bridegroom has been made aware of its full and awesome significance. No matter how much you may wish at a later date to sever the marriage tie, you can never claim that you did not know the exact conditions of your marriage contract. When you stood before the priest, you knew that this was a sacrament, and that it was for life.
The Church teaches that the bond of matrimony lasts until the death of husband or wife for three basic reasons:
1. In instituting the sacrament, Christ decreed that no human being could revoke it. He said, ‘What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
2. You and your mate made a solemn contract when you were married, agreeing that your union was for life. You pledged before God that nothing—neither separation, divorce, nor an attempted marriage with another person—would ever destroy your true marriage bond.
3. It is for the good of husband and wife, for the bodily and spiritual welfare of their children, and for the good of society that the marriage bond cannot be broken, except by death.
You will recall the account in the Bible of the time when some Pharisees came to Jesus, asking: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?”
The Bible records that Jesus answered:
“Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?
“Therefore now they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
The Pharisees then asked Jesus: “Why then did Moses command to give a written notice of dismissal, and to put her away?”
“He said to them: ‘Because Moses, by reason of the hardness of your heart, permitted you to put away your wives; but it was not so from the beginning.’
“And I say to you, that whoever puts away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery.” (Matthew, 19:3-9)
From these words, some readers have mistakenly concluded that while Christ forbade divorce generally, He made an exception if the wife was guilty of adultery. Such a conclusion is unfounded, however, because Our Lord said without any qualification or limitation: “He who marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery.”
That divorce has been prohibited by the Church from its earliest days is proved by the words of St. Paul. In a letter written to the Corinthians almost twenty centuries ago, St. Paul stated:
“To them who are married, not I, but the Lord commands that a wife is not to depart from her husband, and if she departs, that she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And let not a husband put away his wife.” (1 Corinthians, 7:10-11)
So that no one could mistake the firmness of his teaching, St. Paul declared, later in his letter:
“A woman is bound as long as her husband is alive, but if her husband dies, she is free. Let her marry whom she pleases, only let it be in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians, 7:39)
The Church’s teaching has remained unshaken through the centuries. For example, in the fourth century, St. Augustine wrote of the sacrament of marriage: “The substance undoubtedly is that the man and the woman who are joined together in wedlock should remain inseparable as long as they live.” As a result of such teaching, the principle that marriage cannot be ended except by death was made a part of the civil laws of every Christian country by the tenth century.
Thousands of quotations could be offered to prove that the Church has always considered sacramental marriage to be indissoluble. For example, in 1880 Pope Leo XIII wrote: “It should further be known that no power can dissolve the bond of Christian marriage whenever it has been ratified and consummated; and that, as a consequence, those husbands and wives are guilty of a manifest crime who plan, for whatsoever reason, to be united in a second marriage before the first one has ended by death.” In his address “On Faith and Marriage,” in 1946, Pope Pius XII said: “Valid marriage ratified and consummated can be dissolved by no human power and by no other cause but death.”
Divorce was practically unknown in Christian countries until the beginnings of Protestantism. Some early Protestants interpreted Christ’s teachings to mean that a valid marriage could be ended by a husband or wife if his or her spouse had committed adultery. Others soon broadened the reasons for which divorces should be granted. Today, not even an attempt is made to justify divorce in terms of Our Lord’s teachings. Divorces are granted for an almost unbelievably wide and ridiculous variety of reasons, ranging from a husband’s refusal to take his wife to a movie because he preferred to watch a baseball game on television, to a wife’s “mental cruelty” in refusing to remove the rings around the bathtub after bathing.
Church teachings regarding divorce sometimes may appear unduly harsh to those outside the Faith, and in some instances even to Catholics. In some cases, it may even be true that a wife’s life would be happier if she could exchange her adulterous husband for a faithful one. A family might be happier without a shrewish woman who wantonly neglects all her obligations as a wife and mother. However, a few individuals will always be inconvenienced by laws intended to promote the well-being of all men. If you compare the tiny number of cases in which Church teachings may impose a hardship with the almost unbelievable damage that follows when free and easy divorces are permitted, there can be no mistaking the justice and wisdom of the Catholic position.
Consider the situation in the United States, where divorce flourishes. In 1890, one divorce was granted for every eighteen marriages performed. In 1920, the ratio was approximately one divorce for every seven marriages. In 1956, there were 377,000 divorces granted in the United States, and 1,569,000 marriages were performed—a ratio of approximately one divorce for every four marriages. The divorce rate in the United States is approximately five times that of Canada, three and a half times greater than that of England, and twice as great as that of France. With the exception of Egypt and possibly Russia, our divorce rate is now the world’s highest. Although divorce is permitted by many non-Catholic sects, probably no responsible religious, political or social leader in the country considers the breakup of marriage as anything but a tragedy. All recognize our divorce rate as an evil which is undermining the very structure of our society. And this evil results mainly from the fact that divorce is allowed.
In its practical application, the Church’s teaching that marriage must be permanent has these natural bulwarks:
1. That while there may be disappointments and disagreements in marriage, divorce is no solution; in fact, in many cases, divorce merely takes two persons out of a bad situation and tosses them into a worse one.
2. That many troubled marriages can be salvaged; that a husband and wife can usually find a way either to settle their differences or to live with them in relative harmony.
Almost all experts now recognize that most divorces create more problems than they solve. Magazines tell the stories of women who thought that a divorce court would grant them freedom but who found themselves chained to an appalling loneliness instead. Others discovered that they had stolen something precious from their children by denying them the companionship of a father, regardless of his shortcomings. Others, accustomed to being supported by a husband and untrained to earn salaries in business, found themselves forced to live under conditions of grinding poverty. When some divorced women sought new friends, they discovered that the word “divorcee” attracted only men interested in sexual satisfaction.
Those who had led active social lives as married women thought that things would go on after their divorce as before. But most of their friends were other married couples. Invited to dinner parties or other social events, the divorcees were “extra women” and created problems in entertaining that every hostess dreads. In most cases the number of invitations to social affairs dwindled gradually and finally stopped.
Similar problems affect the divorced male. Not long ago Paul Gallico, writing in the Reader’s Digest, told from his own experience how divorce can affect a man.
“I have been free now for three years, and I am prepared to report on what this marvelous freedom is like,” he wrote. “It’s the bunk! You don’t know how lucky you are to be married! The disadvantages of living without marital ties, particularly in middle life, far outweigh the delights. You find for the first time how loud silence can be in the chilly glamour of an empty home. The loneliness and silences close in when the rattle of one’s key in the front door initiates no answering sound. It is in this moment that the bark of a dog, the meow of a cat, or the chirrup of a bird is no substitute for a human voice. . . .
“No one really cares what happens to you. That is one of the meanings of this wonderful freedom. You are a man or a woman alone. No longer are you the first concern of another person. Nobody bothers about whether you are sick or well, happy or miserable, alive or dead. Friends do not close the awful gap that was once filled by someone called wife or husband. It just isn’t the same.”
Mr. Gallico quotes a friend who summed up the problem succinctly: “There were irritations in my marriage I thought were intolerable until I found that life without them was even more so.”
Almost everywhere, the testimony of those who have been through a divorce and its lonely aftermath is the same. Try anything else first, they say. Learn to accept your marital problems and live with them. Consult a marriage counselor. Visit a psychiatrist. Do anything—but don’t get a divorce.
(To be continued)
Father Krier will be in Los Angeles February 5 and in Pahrump, Nevada, February 14. He will be in Eureka, Nevada, February 19.
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