I was thinking about my marriage the other day. If you know me well, you know that I am a re-married widower. After eight months in that state I married Mariellen, the woman who sits at the other end of the couch from me now. While Sheila, may she rest in peace, was dying she found time to concern herself no little with making sure I would be well matched and cared for once she had died. So, she advanced, in her subtle wife’s way, Mariellen and me. It is a story some of you may have heard. And, she had help from higher powers. That is a story fewer folks know, but no less true for all that.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think it is one of the greatest truths in the universe, the truth about marriage, sacramental marriage, marriage until death do us part… When Sheila had finally finished her work here on earth I gathered the kids and said, “The best part of us is gone.” I was talking about the family, of course, but more. I was talking about who I was with her, what we were together, our sacramental, blessed, matrimonial union; the married-for-life singularity we had been for the past 34 years, 3 months, 11 days, 11 hours and 47 minutes since we became a new “person” who had formerly been two and were now one.
The Catholic Church teaches us that upon his ordination to the priesthood a man is changed ontologically; his very being, his humanity is changed. I’ll accept that. I’ll probably start a philosophical/theological argument here when I say I wonder if something along the same line doesn’t happen to both a man and a woman who “pledge their troth” in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. The two shall become one! The words are the title of this little exercise; stolen directly from the Bible.
That’s exactly it! We, Mariellen and I, are one flesh, before God for whom we are no longer two but one and, we have become one person also before the law and civil authority. So should we be, because we, and all married men and women, are the wellspring of life, culture and civilization, the promise and guarantee of a future, and, through the family, the first and firmest link in society; any society no matter where and no matter when. We are that society’s basic building block, the beginning of everything human, the foundation of everything human, the “home” of humanity, its self understanding, its promise of a future and its first and firmest link and with the past.
Undo marriage, fail to affirm its unity of persons into one new person, and you unravel human kind, human culture, human life begun as two-become-one by the very God who created us; who said: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper.” There’s a note to this verse in the Catholic Bible: [2:18] Helper suited to him: lit., “a helper in accord with him.” “Helper” need not imply subordination, for God is called a helper (Dt 33:7; Ps 46:2). The language suggests a profound affinity between the man and the woman and a relationship that is supportive and nurturing.
What happens to one of us happens to both of us through this oneness of being-in-marriage. And what one of us does, we both do. And what is done for, with or to one of us is done to us both. Not only to us, the man and the woman, but to everyone. We are no longer two, but one, flesh and feeling and life and love.
I’d like to recommend to your attention an article which first appeared about a year ago in the journal First Things. It is well worth reading, studying, learning from, because marriage is under attack these days, weakened, treated poorly, debased and derided. If it is done away with, as many wish it to be with all their plans for “expanding” it in every direction, and marriage, real marriage, neglected and cast aside, we will have cast aside our humanity, I think, and become beasts.
The most casual glance toward, the briefest look at, the slightest taste of what passes for culture, what composes society, what orders our behavior, what guides us in law, what have become our standards and “approved” behaviors among men and women, children and families today, what we choose to be entertained by, to “tolerate” in our homes and elsewhere, should show the intelligent observer how well on our way to that state we are.