My computer died and of course I hadn’t quite absolutely completely backed it up super recently. Lots of excuses for why that might be so, but we’ll take them as read. I really hope that a certain generous friend can perform his magic and recover what is lost. I have that tight knot in my stomach whenever I think of it, so I’ll just… not.
Meanwhile, Will and the Chief made a command decision, based on a coming blizzard, to order me a new CPU — knowing that by the time I committed to a decision regarding laptops vs. desktops and Windows vs. Mac the point would be moot. So here Will is, getting it all organized while the world got thoroughly white.
|Phone pic, sorry.|
Yeah, that was last week. I’ll fill you in on all else that has been going on later — not least of which is the pending resignation of the Pope, which threw our household into a microcosm of the tizzy going on out in the world.
Speaking of Popes, it’s interesting to see the world’s reaction, which can sort of be summed up as “Why do we care, except to wonder why the Catholic Church isn’t just like us?”
And I chuckled as I thought of how I suggested, this Lent, reading what might possibly be considered the most retrograde, dusty, and shockingly old-fashioned bit of unwanted advice ever to be foisted on a mocking world. It was bold, you must admit.
But, just on the assumption that it might turn out to be the most scorned doctrine that is true, just as it’s the most despised of men who comes to save, let’s take a quick look at the beginning of Casti Connubii (“Chaste Wedlock” in case you were wondering — documents are named after their first words in Latin — a charming antiquated touch that might work for title-impaired bloggers as well, come to think of it).
I was so heartened by the response to my suggestion that we read it together – in the comments and in your emails to me. And if you want a printable, non-parchment-paper-Vatican-style-unreadable version, go here for a nice clear PDF.
Dear Katie sent me this:
Then this week:
The first meeting was phenomenal, and if some of our younger ones hadn’t gotten tired, we could have talked for hours. Next time we’re meeting in the morning over coffee & bagels, when everyone is fresh.
Wish I could be there! Doesn’t it sound like fun? Are you doing something like that? Let us know!
The thing is, the question of what marriage is gets buried under all kinds of tugs-of-war between and amongst folks who are only thinking about what they want. Here I don’t even really have in mind the current issue of same-sex marriage. I’m more pondering the confusion and ignorance — and consequent heart-ache — of people in general.
Is marriage an elevated kind of roommate situation, wherein the subjects save a lot of money on rent, but have to accept haggling over household chores as a necessary evil?
Is it a self-fulfillment quest? Something so individual it involves no one but the principals?
Is it a losing proposition, doomed by its premise (two people even being able to stand each other for an ever-lengthening life-span)?
You can see where the confusion sets in.
So the first part of the encyclical (up to paragraph 9) is that marriage is something given by God. He has an idea about it, and if we can accept and conform our ideas to His, we will achieve peace.
That’s the kind of thing that a lot of folks have trouble doing — conforming their ideas to someone else’s (well, when they think that the someone else has authority). That’s often a salutary impulse, as many authorities aren’t trustworthy, or at least need constant supervision to keep corruption at bay.
But if you think about it, God, by definition, must be Good and also True. So it’s a good idea to go there. Maybe we need some convincing on this, so, right, encyclical.
Early on in the document (paragraph 3), Pope Pius XI speaks of looking with a paternal eye on the universal world as from a watch-tower, and it’s lovely to stop worrying for a moment and feel the force of this metaphor. The watch-tower is the view from above — the place of vigil where the signs of danger are acted upon for the good of the innocents below. It’s a watch-tower over a forest, not a prison — a place where the vision can be clear and help can be quick.
And this is what he sees. Things in a bad way. But —
God has a plan; man can carry out that plan in each instance. A man and a woman freely enter into the married state — but they have no freedom as to what that state is. They can do well or ill. But they can’t change what the plan is.
Right off everyone is going to get twisted into knots over this, but it’s no use thinking of marriage — truly the very oldest institution there is–a covenant — founded, as the encyclical points out, in Genesis chapter the first — as something like a set of blocks that you can build what you want out of. It’s more like water that you can drink or not drink — but as to its use in your body, and its necessity, you have no say. It is what it is.
In order to understand what follows — and to catch the message, if there is one under the dust — we have to accept the premise that marriage is just this: Given by a loving God.
Maybe even, at this point, a little suspension of disbelief — even for a time — is necessary. Just try it. For now.
Tell us what you are thinking in the comments if you like, and if you are posting about it, leave a link for everyone — if you like. Let’s go slowly and talk about each section at a time. No rush.
Go here for a PDF file of the document. You can print it out if you like.