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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Sanctity of Marriage

Marriage has been coming up a lot in my life lately. At work and at my own parish (as both are Catholic prishes!), it's about the Cana dinner. Seriously, I wish I could get married just to GO to some of these! They make me feel very left out as a single.

Because, on one hand, I feel very lonely, a lot, as a single woman. Most of my friends and acquaintances are married, and I'm happy for them. But I can't really share in their lives. I'm always the one on the outside looking in. And I'm always on the cusp of something...eternal singlehood, futured married life, religious life. It's a neverending question. I'm in earthly limbo, forever the girl in the chapel with Jesus worrying about many things while outside, in the main sanctuary, people are constantly getting married and having parties. I'm always missing out.

For awhile, I considered religious life, and I'm not ready to close the door on that...there's more to be done. But more and more, I don't think it's the life God has chosen for me, although it's a life for me to support. And I can't see myself as an eternal single; it just isn't right, somehow. Although there's no one on the horizon, marriage seems the way to go.

In the last few days, marriage has been coming up in different ways in my life. First it was in the very witness of the holy married people I know, the example of their lives and dedication to God, in the parents and in the children. Secondly, it has been in the gift of life itself...children are beautiful! Twice in the last couple days, people have told me I'd make a good wife.

Yesterday, in talking to a fellow chaperone about ski racing, he told me about their son's recent race. His wife will never attend another; she complained that throughout the race, he was just on the very edge of control, and she was terrified the entire time. She doesn't want him to race. On the other hand, Dad (who was relating the story) had a differing opinion, "Right on, son! YEAH! That's my BOY!"

I laughed and commented, "She sounds like a real Mom!"

He agreed. I thought for a moment, wondering about my own attitudes. My impression of a mother is someone who does not want their kids to do something they (the mother) perceives as dangerous. A mother is a "mother hen" type of person; protective, almost or actually to a fault.

So I concluded that I wouldn't be a good mother. And I said so to my companion on the lift. "I'd be a terrible mother. If it was my child's ski race and I saw that edge of control, I'd be rooting all the way. YEAH! GET 'IM! WOO-HOO! YEAH!" ESPECIALLY if it was daughter.

I'd be a horrible Mom...rooting my child on in a dangerous sport. Make no mistake...skiing is a dangerous sport. But there's nothing like it in the world.

My ski partner, speaking from his experience as a Dad, disagreed with me; he said that what's important in motherhood is supporting one's children. Guiding, yes. In legitimate things, support what they want, not pushing what they don't. There's a balance. And he said it's completely proper for a mother to encourage her children in the most dangerous of sports, especially when the mother loves the sport as well.

He's right, of course. But a part of me thinks such is a betrayal, wanting my children to do dangerous things, no matter how much enjoyment that same thing has brought me. Watching my own child on the edge of control on a downhill course...and yet, I can't get past the pride I feel even as I CONSIDER the possibility of my own progeny in the gates!

What does this have to do with holiness? Acting according to God's will, accepting the trust God has for the children conceived in the marriage, allowing those children to act out of free will...and upon the same genes that allowed the parents to dream big dreams, too. Allowing oneself to be guided by God's inherent designs, prayerfully and with purpose...that's holiness in marriage. Giving up one's own will, and accepting what seems contrary...that is holiness in marriage.

I'm amazed by parents.

Just today, I had to help out at a workshop at the church, and my job was actually to do the cooking for the soup and sandwich lunch. That was fine, it went well. The custodian came in every so often for different things, helped out, made sure I could get into what I needed to access. And of course, we all invited him to partake in the food as we had excess.

He was happy to comply, and both he and a man coming in to set up for tomorrow's pro-life breakfast commented that they wish their wives would cook just for them. (I'm seeing a pattern here.)

Both were married men, retired, and dedicating their time to holy causes, and both obviously loved their wives. But both commented about cooking. There is definitely something about going through the stomach to reach the heart of a man!

And let me tell you...their good-natured compliments just based on how the soup smelled made me want to ladle soup into their bowls!

As I was cleaning up, washing the pans, ladles and trays, the custodian came in again, commenting that the cook was also washing dishes! He told me, "You'll make a great wife for some lucky man!"

His words just happened to echo the words of the man setting up for the pro-life breakfast.

I just laughed, waving him off as I continued to scrub the chili residue off of the big soup pot. A few years ago, I would have been insulted at the comment of perceived male oppression. Today, I took it as a compliment, wondering if it was true. Would I make a good wife? Would my work be for my husband, for my family, or would I stay wrapped up in myself as I do as a single? Because compliments in marriage don't last, and working together doesn't always happen.

I love the idea of being a good wife. I love the idea of having a good husband. I love the image of the Holy Family, and want to be part of it. I love doing things for others...when I had a boyfriend, I loved cooking for him. I would go out of my way to make him comfortable in certain regards, and thought it was FUN!

There is just something about offering oneself on behalf of others that is perfectly beautiful, and perfectly proper to the feminine state in life. Being "domesticated" is not a dirty word!

My biggest fear is that marriage will get between me and my relationship with God. I have read Slawomir Biela's book, "God Alone Suffices", found it a great read, and it made me realize the pitfalls of marriage and the heights of single life. God is present everywhere. As a single woman, all I have is God; if I get married, there will be another person to divide my affections. Then what? How to maintain holiness in the face of manliness and family?

So it is that I see a conflict between living the married life well and maintaining a deep prayer life with God. Ironic Catholic details that very problem, and in a way maybe you haven't seen expressed. It's a post well worth reading. I, for one, amd happy for the education.


Hidden One said...

This post is missing something at the moment, and I think it might be text.

Adoro te Devote said...

LOL! You're a smart alek! That one posted before it was supposed to and it's now finished. Care to comment on the invisible text which has been made visible?


I HATE when that "tab" key lands on the wrong button and posts invisible words!

Melody said...

You're right. Maintaining the balance between prayer life and married life is hard. Been trying to do it for 35 years. But I think whatever your state in life; maintaining that equilibrium between holiness, and doing what you need to do, is hard. Marriage just presents a different set of challenges. My mother-in-law has a saying, that some people "are so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good." And I think it is possible to become so focused on our inner spirituality that we forget about the needs of others. Marriage does have a way of getting you out of your "zone". (Not that people in jobs like yours get a chance to forget about the needs of others!)
Thanks for the link, the post by Ironic Catholic was a excellent one.

Melody said...

It is odd, but looking back, I can see that some times of spiritual growth were also times when I was not able to focus specifically on spirituality; when I just had to make my day my prayer.
As to whether mothers should be more protective or encouraging, there are as many mothering styles as there are mothers. I try to encourage my son the writer and my other son the artist. But I don't know what I would have done if they were into "X-treme sports". Though I have no idea where they would have gotten the genes for that!

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Woops! My husband does most of the cooking! i think he still loves me! lol

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I struggle with the same thoughts and feeling you expressed here. However, I think you answered your own question when you said you are the one in the Chapel with Jesus. That's right.

If He intends marriage to happen, it will.

Seriously, you would make a good wife but only if you are willing to grill for your hubby year 'round. Really, there is no compromise on that issue. Ask any married person, they will tell you!

Adoro te Devote said...

Cathy ~ Yeah, I answered the question, but not really. That's an entirely different post that I'm not going to write! :-)

And grilling all year round is something I'm TOTALLY willing to do. MMMM....winter steak....

Sarah said...

Adoro, you will do just fine. Motherhood, and wifehood too, is about prayer, first and foremost. What's right, what's wrong, what's good, what's bad...these are things that really don't matter in the scheme of things. What matters is keeping your gaze heavenward and letting God do the driving.

And you never know the when...

A friend of mine is also single and sometimes I think she feels as you do - left out, not sure what to do with herself. She's my oldest daughter's godmother, and I long for the days when we were at each other's doorsteps, always in each other's hair. Somehow, our lives have taken us apart - I got married, she didn't - and though we live only 20 miles away or so, life seems to keep getting in the way.

Don't know why I shared that. Well. Anyway.

I think you WILL make a great wife, and you can be a "mother" now - we are all, as women, called to spiritual motherhood. And I would have to say you do a fair amount of that with your writing on this blog! :)

Hugs and kisses to you from our not-as-cold-as-you corner of the world...

Bill said...

awesome blog, I had been looking on Google for articles about the sanctity of marriage, and I liked your candor in describing your thoughts on the subject