Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Just Get Married? :-o

Part four of four posts, based on a conversation with Mark Miloscia, Catholic Lobbyist for WA state legislature. Part one, part two and part three.

I asked him what he thought we should do about it. He looked at me as if I had asked a question to which the answer was obvious and said, "Get married." I appreciate the simplicity and directness of that answer, but I pressed him further. Given the fact that we live in a society that, for whatever reason, young men are not motivated to seek out marriage, I asked if he reccomended that we just get married out of a sense of duty. He answered unequivocally, "Yes."

I can agree with Mark in two points: I agree that marriage is a great good. For some people it may even be the greatest good this life has to offer, but for all it is a noble and worthy vocation. I can also agree that we are experiencing a shortage of Catholic marriages and that more Catholic young people should probably be pursuing marriage.

The streets having led on as they do, I am now come to the "overwhelming question."

What do we do about it. Mark's answer was one of childlike simplicity. "Just get married!" He even raised his eyebrows, like a ten-year old asking "Why aren't you married? I thought all grownup people got married."

From Shakespeare's dictum that the "path of true love never did run smooth," (at least I think that was the Bard, but I could be wrong) to the present day, it seems that that simple proposition "Just get married," has become fraught with complications. I notice that the ones who regard it with that childlike simplicity are either children for whom it is nothing more than a fuzzy imagination, or older people who have long since chosen their vocation, committed to it, lived with it, endured it, fallen out of love with it, all but given up on it, perhaps, but in the end stayed true to that commitment. From that perspective of a certain amount of security in their choices, even if it is only the security of having so much invested, no doubt it does seem like a simple choice.

One of my pet projects has always been trying to imagine everything from everyone else's point of view. I can see how, with a lifetime invested in living the marriage, all the decisions leading up to it might seem like not worthy of so much fuss. It's almost as if they say, "Mercy, child! You think this is stressful? You ain't seen nothing yet!"

An analogy would be the way I view basic trainees. I went through basic more than ten years ago. Since then I have been through multiple deployments, Sapper School, years of regular army training, Special Forces training, schools and places where a good day was worse than anything Basic Training had to offer. It is easy for me to look at the basic trainees and laugh with a certain superior attitude and say, "Awww! Did the big scary Drill Sergeant yell at you? Just wait until you get into the real army!" But I can't do it. I still remember what it was like. I was terrified. I was alone and isolated, I didn't like or trust my fellow soldiers and they didn't like me. We learned to get along but I had no real friends. To this day I do not like yelling, I don't like calling people names or hearing people called names. There is a certain irony in the fact that I practice killing people on a regular basis, but sarcasm shivers me to my very soul.

To the people in the midst of discernment it is a very real cross. It has to be. I didn't wake up one morning in the middle of Camp McCall North Carolina and find myself training to be a Green Beret. I had to go through everything that led up to it, and struggle and feel small and pitiful, and want to quit a million times. Of course to a Green Beret my little struggles would look small. But then again, I was small, and those struggles were making me bigger.

Mark's idea "Just get married," kind of appeals to me. That is, he appeals to duty, and I like duty. Duty is solid. Duty is not complicated. Just figure out what it is and the rest is simple. Everything is always simpler when you no longer have to worry about what or whether, but only how.

On the other hand, most people don't have that attitude, and I am not sure it is a correct one in regards to marriage. There is something to be said for doing the right thing, regardless of how you feel about it, but, as a reader reminded me in a post a few months ago, no woman wants to feel like she is a chore. The problem is at its root a problem of desire. Perhaps getting married out of a sense of duty is better than not getting married at all, and perhaps it is not. The problem runs deeper. The very fact that we are discussing what should be the most natural and desirable thing in the world as a duty, that in itself is evidence of a problem.

There are two answers to that. The first and simplest is that all we need is to be wakened. Most guys will probably find that it is pretty natural and even fun, being in love. Like when we were little and my older brother didn't want to do anything with the family on the weekends because he was a teenager. He would whine and moan about it, but once we got going he would get into it, and by the end he would be having more fun than anyone. I suspect that all those Catholic guys out there who, for whatever reason, just don't feel like dating, would probably find themselves enjoying it if they once got into it.

(Incidentally I also expect they would find themselves hating it often enough. Being in a relationship is hard work. It requires you to get up off the couch, stop playing WOW and pick up the phone and call someone, schedule activities and actually honor those commitments. Since this is a relationship with a view to marriage, it reuires you to get to know the person, pray with her, and ultimately to make a choice concerning her. It requires inventiveness, attention, commitment, sacrifice, and whole host of other bloody uncomfortable things. On the whole, video games are a lot easier. So is porn. So is hanging out with the bros (they don't give you hell if you don't call everyday.) Almost anything is easier. But that is not the way to holiness. For something that is handed out as free gift, holiness sure does take a lot of work.)

The second answer to the problem of desire (two paragraphs up, if my parenthetical paragraph distracted you. [I am noticing I have a thing for parenthetical phrases]) is much more complex. In speaking of rekindling a desire and passion for marriage as a vocation on a serious cultural level we are getting into a problem too broad for the tail end of an already overly long blog post, and too in depth for my powers of analysis at 9:40 PM, even after two beers. (They weren't really great beers. Not bad, but not spectacular. For spectacular blogging I reccomend spectacular beer.)

Individual choices. That's what interests me right now, and so that is what I will stick to for now. Goodnight, Y'all.


  1. Happy Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord tomorrow (well, almost today)!

    Another good post, and I think that the beers were at least great (if not spectacular):)... though I have never heard of the quality of the beer affecting the quality of the blog. You have done a lot of thinking/analyzing of this subject... and it is a great idea to try to imagine it from others' points of view.

    I definitely agree that marriage is not a 'duty' because I think that that attitude takes the beauty and depth out of marriage. It is a giving of oneself that can only be completed out of love. But it is hard, and will take lots of effort. Your idea about Catholic men wakening is an interesting one, though it sounds like a bit of a 'simple' answer... how would you waken them? Your second part on "desire" also sounds facinating, and I think that they are very much connected. In order to have desire you need to be wakened, but there is a bit of a need for desire to be wakened in the first place... a need to see the beauty/joy/etc...

    By the way, your analogy made a good point. People often forget the process, and often forget to remember those who are going through discernment or any other struggles. Foresight and hindsight are completely different then when you are actually there in the situation. Your 'pet project' is a good way of trying to understand each person and their individual choices. It is also a good way of learning about yourself (I do the same thing, so I know I have learned much about myself as I learn about others).

    Well, have a wonderful night and weekend.
    God bless,

    1. You are right, the two parts about desire are related. The first part would be the individual choice. You say that it is a simple answer, and ask how I plan on going about wakening people, but that is the second part. The first part refers simply to the inner dynamic of each man. As someone who is (or at least can be) quite content to live alone, work alone, and often even play alone, I found at one point that I simply lacked any active desire for relationship. I knew by reason that this was a bad thing, and so I set about the task of teaching myself to desire relationships. The awakening occurs because the desire for relationships is never really dead, so it isn't as if I am creating a desire ex nihilo. It is asleep and I am waking it up. It is used to being starved, and just like when I did survival training, eventually your stomach learns to stop feeling hungry. You have to eat in order to feel hungry again. Nowadays, although I still have a healthy dose of independence, I also have a close circle of strong Catholic friends, I know my family more closely than I did (we live on opposite ends of the country) and on a weekend I am likely to feel lonely if I do not spend time with people.

      In the same way, if a man realizes that he does not have any active desire for marriage and thinks he should change that, I would reccomend he find a single woman that he enjoys hanging out with and just ask her out for coffee and see what happens. Maybe nothing will come of it, but that is not really the point. The point is that he is opening himself to the possibility, and for most healthy people, eventually that dormant desire will awaken. You just have to give it room. That is what the first part refers to.

      The second part refers to the social question. How do I help other people to wake up. Unfortunately it is a question I have put only a little thought into, and as I have to leave for work, I will not be putting much more thought into it today.

      Thank your for your comment,
      God Bless,

    2. Thank you for your response, your point about the inner dynamic of each man is important. Sometimes all that one needs to do is open themselves to the possibilities. There is still much to discuss and ponder, however, as you say. I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a blessed beginning to Lent. There is much to pray for with Pope Benedict's resignation...

      God bless,

  2. One aspect I believe is a factor is the differnce in the romantic "love" of many books, movies, soap-operas... that is not all bad, but, is far short of a Godly love, a joyful, sacrificial love only looking to help the other be as holy as possible as quickly as possible, at any cost to the lover. The big question is: can we truly pursue both without implicitly saying the Godly love is not the greatest good?
    I know you know this and have written in the past quite well on it, just that I think it is a very big factor that could have been mentioned more here. How many young catholics have years of being reminded by their priests and parents what true love is and therefore have years of working to make it their love also? Without years of practice and praying, joyfully sacrificing your whole life for someone else is a pretty big step. Not impossible, "Nothing is impossible with God" Luke 1:37, but again, finding two someones with that kind of commitment to God first, takes time and grace.
    Just my thinking. God Bless you

  3. So...

    The question, I think, that needs to be asked in response to Mark's retort is not only "what do we do about this?" but also "where is God in all of this [meaning discernment, a plea for more quality, Catholic marriages, etc]?"

    Ryan, you have written about discernment before and I know that many people are asking themselves similar questions like the ones you propose. We are searching for answers and if- maybe I only speak for myself- we are doing things "the right way." The right way, according to Mark, being duty. But, who’s perception is this- God’s or man’s?

    On a related note- if I could summarize discernment in one word: allowance. Allowing God to love you. This would negate the “duty” argument not only for marriage, but any vocation.

    Why? First of all, because discernment centers around a relationship with God. God does not always love (call) us in the ways we want or expect. Thank God. He relates to us through humanity. Is it not His gift that a man befriend his wife? To marry solely out of “duty” rids of the sense of this gift.

    The second point is that duty is part of any vocation. However, it should not be why we choose that particular path. If we do, we have made a second class decision. It is similar to making a decision out of comfort and fear. We know how “fear of God” does not suffice as faith. It is merely a stepping stone to faith. How do we know? Because of Love. This is why loving God suffices as faith, even in our putrid humanity. He accepts us.

    Third and final point- love is a choice. Duty, also, is a choice but it is not love. It is a language of love. And, just as love is a choice, faith is a choice. We choose to love God and to be in relationship with Him. But, are we choosing to let Him love us? Are we stepping out of our perceptions of how love “should” be and letting Him show us how love really works? I’m not so sure.

    And this ^^ is what happens when you are interested in personal choice. :)

  4. A wonderful comment about 'Love' Emily, and the difference between love and duty. It clarifies a few points, and leads one to think. Great to read.
    God bless,

  5. Why thank you, Frances. Which reminds me to ask- do you have a blog too? If you do, I would be delighted to read it sometime, that I am sure. ;)


    1. Hello Emily, you're welcome. Also, thank you for asking about a blog:), a lovely compliment. I don't have one, though I have written once for my friend's blog "the feminine gift." I tend to just read/comment on several blogs that I enjoy/find thought provoking:) (including yours). It is a wonderful way to connect with other Catholics.
      God bless,

  6. Well written articles but not enough was said about what Catholic women should be doing to encourage marriage.
    There is an anti male, anti husband and anti father in many parts of society; even at Catholic schools and colleges. I would say at the least an unrealistic expectation of men and marriage at Catholic colleges. For example, if action speaks louder than words, every Catholic college graudate should be wealthy and the $27,000 wedding with a lengthy honey moon is not a financial concern: is that realistic? Would the average Catholic woman accept a quite dignified inexpensive wedding and maybe a nice dinner with family and friends and back to work after one or two night local honey moon?
    My born and raised Catholic worked as a receiptionist for a State Judge and was the legal witness to several civil weddings. She commented that it maybe as likely that the young couple with a beat up old car, she in her only dress and he in his only shirt, tie and jacket may have had as much of a chance at a good marriage as the couple with the church wedding complete with professional planners, a trip to New York for a bridal dress and matching bridesmaids dresses, the best caterer in town, ect. The couple with the beat up old car and very limmited funds remind a lot of Mary and Joseph.
    If women still want men to take the lead and pay for dating, do they expect the finest meals in the finest resturants with her date wearing a Tux and driving a new Lexus? Will a woman not gossip about the man who took who dinner but while a decent person is not rich, tall, a good dancer or up on current events?
    Do Catholic women ever defend good men or do they laugh along with the jokes about men, husbands, ect?
    For the situation to change, a lot is going to come down to the women to somehow prove they are worthy of a good man. In this day and age, the old Catholic tactics of brow beating or using guilt will not be effective on men.

  7. I have to respond, even though I am older and have married. I fall into your category of "individual stories". My wife and I actually GOT married on my 28th birthday, several years ago. The question that arises as a result of your blogs would be why did I wait until my 28th birthday. My wife and I dated for almost 5 years before we got married. Bottom line is that I was abused as a kid, and one of the consequences of my abuse was a very poor self concept. I was basically waiting for someone to like me and ask me to go out with her. I learned that men are mean, and I sought to be the best GUY I could be. I certainly didn't want to be a man. That extended into being a husband.