When the ‘I do’s’ get stormy

Picking the most beautiful parish, hiring the most talented musicians, the freshest flowers, bridesmaid dresses that reflect the color of the season, and of course the most important part…planning the party afterward. The food, the open bar, the band and dancing. Now that’s what going to a wedding is all about. After all, back in Jesus’s time in Jerusalem, the wedding feast would last seven days.

When we attend someone’s wedding, we are there to witness their sacrament; to be a part of this glorious lifelong celebration of marriage—YES—the joining of one man to one woman as a reflection of Christ the bridegroom and his love for his bride the Church. Our witness at the wedding says to the couple that when difficulty comes, we will be your support. When bad times shadow your marriage, we promise to encourage you. When things turn for the worse, we will be there to build you up and not tear your union down or apart. When one of the spouses gets sick, we commit to help carry the heavy load.

When couples struggle, and storms come, we should offer inspiration and not stay quiet. If there is talk of divorce, we should not choose sides, but pray deeply for them and offer words of healing.

Couples will come to us at Marriage Missionaries and say they are miserable. Little by little, they have reached the conclusion that they and their children would be better off if they just divorced and moved on. The hurt caused by the constant lying, arguing and disagreements on numerous issues shattered trust. Their communications are shredded, their finances are in shambles due to years of lies, and intimacy no longer exists.

Consider a married couple in crisis and how you might react in the circumstances below.

Ready to call a lawyer, the wife mentions to a good friend her feelings of hopelessness. Her friend listens with empathy and compassionately suggests that she seek counsel from their parish priest.

In the meantime, the husband tells his “best man” why he is ready to leave. This lifelong friend meets regularly with his struggling buddy to listen and help defuse the destruction of their marriage.

The wife’s father, who years before walked his daughter down the aisle, makes a phone call to his son-in-law to say, “We know that you guys are hurting. We are praying for you both.”

Struggling married couples must take courageous steps to seek guidance during troubled times. They need encouragement and the Godly support of the local Catholic community, friends and family members to seek Christ-centered help. May St. John Paul II’s anthem ring in our hearts to “Be Not Afraid” to offer support to family members and friends whose marriages need a boost. Say to them, “Did you know there is a better way?” Jesus was there to calm the storm. May we be an instrument that helps bring peace and helps marriages weather the storms joyfully.

A Prayer for Married Couples

St. John Paul II, through Jesus Christ, pray for all married couples; pray that all of us may call on Jesus Christ and invite him into the center of our marriages. Give us the words to speak to couples who find themselves amidst a storm.

 

Matt and Mindy Dalton can be reached at matt@marriagemissionaries.org, 303-578-8287 or at www.marriagemissionaries.org.

COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.