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Strengthening marriage


The following editorial from the May 26, 1999, issue of the Prairie Messenger, titled Strengthening marriage, was written by Andrew Britz, OSB, and is featured in Chapter 8 The Ethic of Life in his book Truth To Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk. The Vatican synod on the family had some bishops noting the fact that they “don’t know much about sex” (see related article). Rev. Thomas Rosica quoted an unnamed bishop who spoke of the sacramental nature of both the eucharist and marriage, something Britz wrote about frequently over his years as editor of the Prairie Messenger.

Civilization is as healthy as its families. When the family as the primary social unit loses its moorings, the whole of human life is endangered.

Human values, even the central value of life itself, is handed on in a family setting. It is here that mysteriously most of us find the strength, the courage to ultimately believe enough in ourselves to find meaning in our very existence.

This cannot be taught; it can only be experienced — experienced in the unconditional love given by parents. And, ideally, parents find the grace to image — albeit imperfectly — the unconditional love of the God revealed in Jesus Christ in their own experience of marital love, in the marriage bed and in their daily sharing in the myriad of little activities known as family life.

Pope John Paul II loves to see the Christian home as a domestic church. As we become in the eucharist the one Body of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit, so in marriage the two become one flesh, one sacrament of Christ’s presence. In the sacrament of marriage a home is formed, filled with the Holy Spirit, creating a new space in which children know not the power of sin as the world’s strongest force, but rather come to trust in the victory of Jesus, the victory of love.

And, in the celebration of that victory, the children gradually experience the victory of their own personhood, as it emerges as their own supreme good, as the best gift which the God of all power and majesty could with wisdom divine create for them.

Much of this comes to fruition around the kitchen table where families so often gather to eat, to play and to pray — and, at times, to fight and to cry, since these too are part and parcel of becoming an independent person.

Saying this in theological terms, the banquet table of the kingdom in heaven, the liturgical table in our churches and the secular table in our homes take on one and the same meaning.

Only with such an identification can the Christian find the wherewithal to lead the world in a celebration of its secularity, of its core meaning. Catholics speak of the family as the primary social unit of civilization by calling it a sacrament, the mystery of the very presence of Jesus Christ with all pathos and splendour that was his death and resurrection.

Not without reason do the Easter Vigil readings always begin with the story of creation, with the proclamation of the absolute goodness God has planted in everything created.

We are not prone to find in the eucharist the key to understanding and appreciating sexuality in the Christian home — and this appreciation should form the basis for our evaluation of the world.

No one will deny that human sexuality has often been misused. Pornography, for generation after generation, has been big business. But it doesn’t take a church to tell people this is wrong. It does, however, take a church community to insist on human sexuality’s unbelievable greatness and true glory.

For the church to have a credible voice in this critical dimension of human existence, it must move beyond a listing of sins. Once the church spontaneously views the marriage bed and its eucharistic expression as parallel sacramental expressions of the kingdom, no one will be tempted to question that it has something vital to say about life in this world.