A very nice blogger priest, who calls himself Reverend Know-it-all, has posted a long series of semi-serious but rather perceptive and very pertinent observations about modern marriage in his own experience (hat tip to Father Z).
This long blog post has reminded me of two things: the sad scene at the beginning of the film “Gran Torino” – that has been haunting me since – and the less haunting, but cynically pleasant song “makin’ whoopee”, though as we are talking about Catholic marriage (and as we are at the vigil of, oh, that marriage) I should obviously not mention the point at all.
Without depriving you of the joy of reading the post, I would add some considerations:
1) the sense of the Catholic marriage as a sacrament has been profoundly damaged in the last decades. If one feels the need of having a DJ for the party after the marriage, then something is clearly seriously wrong. Again, one is reminded of the “Gran Torino” funeral scene.
2) I never cease to be amazed at why marriage be still so idolised by non religiously minded women, when the very same women are the ones who will file the vast majority of the subsequent divorces. With the exception of the minority of people who continue to feel the marriage as sacred and indissoluble (alas, not very many even among Catholics: Catholic Cologne has the same rate of divorce than neighbouring, Protestant Dusseldorf!) marriage is not a definitive choice anymore, but the indication of a serious attempt at most. The fire exit is, though, always there and firmly in the mind of both the component of the oh so smiling and beautiful couple (wanna be sure? Ask them if they are against divorce, or if they would be ready to solemnly and legally shut the fire exit….). It is therefore difficult to understand why – with the exception of the minority above mentioned – the female excitement should be so high, and this with regard to both marriage in general and, well, that marriage in particular.
3) Father know-it-all is suavely ironic, but we can’t forget that part of the guilt resides by the very priest, that in most cases goes along with pretty much everything he describes in his blog post without so much as a grunt, much less a stern reproach.
4) In many countries, like Italy, you can’t be married in the church (a holy cow of many women even in these “liberated” times) unless you subject yourself to a long (six month, I believe) pre-matrimonial course and I even know of several cases where the priest has been inflexible on this (which meant, nowadays, that the bride wasn’t pregnant). Such exercises go a long way to ensure that the couple really dedicate a lot of time preparing for their married life rather than merely for the marriage ceremony.
5) I often hear that it would be “better” for a couple to undergo a phase of concubinage before the marriage, “to see if things work”, but no one has ever proved to me with numbers that this is really the case, and the countries were such habit is common are those with the highest frequency of divorce.
Rather, it seems to me that people who are serious about their marriage as to not choose a phase of (gravely sinful, scandalous, and which even excludes from communion) concubinage are ipso facto those who bring the best ingredients for a successful marriage. Marriage doesn’t work because there was no serious breakdown during the warranty time, but because there is a serious intention not to have the breakdown in the first place.
6) Tomorrow there will be a historic marriage in this country. All the best to the couple, but he who whistled “makin’ whoopee” by the last royal marriage was rather the more perceptive, realistic chap; it there being not only a legal basis, but even a precedent for divorce, we all know what will happen tomorrow is a hope at best.
This is what happens when you take the sacrament out of the ceremony.