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Posts tagged ‘marriage’

(I wrote this piece in October of 2005 for the now-defunct Catholic New Times, a newspaper for progressive Catholics.)

I had two recent experiences that bookended my summer and also presented me with a graphic picture of the range of views in today’s Catholic Church.

At the beginning of the summer, I went to Mass in a big beautiful church in another city. I was enthralled by my surroundings but unfortunately, as the Mass progressed, I became grateful for the beauty, grateful for something other than the words of the homily to put my mind to.

The homily was spoken by the deacon and early on he asked us to consider the evil that surrounds all of us, every day. Yes, indeed, I thought – and considered racism, domestic violence, illegal wars, child abuse.

“Birth control,” he intoned solemnly. Oh dear Lord, I thought. He’s opening with birth control. He went from birth control to divorce to abortion to – his real destination – same-sex marriage. He was followed by the priest who asked us to pray that the politicians in Ottawa would not pass the marriage bill.

I dragged myself out of church that day, feeling rotten, and said to my husband, “This is not how a person should feel, leaving the Mass.”

I have never been subjected to this style of preaching. I am fortunate – blessed, even – to be in a parish where the priest is a scholar and historian, who uses his homily to interpret the day’s readings and to give us a greater understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

In our church, we don’t pray for politicians to close their eyes and ears – and their minds. We pray for them to work for peace in the world and to put policies into place that would reduce the gap between rich and poor.

At the end of the summer, I took part in a conference for recipients of the Canada Millennium Scholarship in Ottawa. One of the workshops I attended was called The Catholic Church: A Call for Internal Reform. I couldn’t resist it. It featured Father Raymond Gravel, a parish priest in Joliette, Que. In the program introduction to his workshop, he’s quoted saying, “To truly follow the teachings of the Gospel, the Church must become more open, more welcoming, more tolerant and more revolutionary.”

He is an open and outspoken – and cheerful – priest who preaches the Gospel of love and acceptance and inclusion. He was given the Fight Against Homophobia 2004 Award to highlight his exceptional contribution in the debate about gay marriage when he said that “the Vatican was wrong when it condemns such a marriage.” He has happily and publicly opposed the Church on other controversial subjects such as abortion, the ordination of women and marriage for priests.

He was sent a letter of reprimand by then-Cardinal Ratzinger entreating him to return to the fold and conform to conventional Catholic dogma but he’s still enthusiastically unconventional, by most Catholic standards today.

I listened to Father Gravel in a brightly-lighted room full of young people – all in their late teens and early twenties. They were engaged and listening intently. They had many questions both challenging Father Gravel and seeking further information. Many of them prefaced their questions by saying, “I was raised Catholic but I don’t consider myself Catholic any more.” There was excited chatter in the hallways as the young people left the workshop, still discussing everything they had heard.

The beautiful church where I heard the homily at the beginning of the summer was dim and still and cool – like the old churches in Europe. There were no young people there, no challenging questions, no chatter. There wasn’t much of anything.

When I look back, the symbolism couldn’t be clearer.

bleeding hearts cropped for web

(Today is Valentine’s Day and I have gone to my archives for a look at love and marriage. This column was first published on September 17, 1989. I suspect things have not changed too much.)

I’m interested to see that the Advisory Council on the Status of Women is doing a study in provincial high schools to find out if young women have a realistic view of their futures. In similar studies done elsewhere, the Council has discovered that many young women believe in the mystique of a Prince Charming who will come into their lives.

“But the reality is,” says researcher Jane Wright, “that many women are living in poverty and are single parents.”

A few years ago, I did a series of articles about women in marriages, all of whom had married — or were about to get married — at a young age.

My first question to the engaged girls was always, “What do you expect to get from your marriage?”

Without any exceptions, the answers were individual variations on: “Well, I’d just like us to have a nice life together.”

On further questioning, I discovered that most of the young couples had no sense of shared interests or life goals, and the majority had never discussed the question of having children and how they would fit into the fantasy life that seemed to prevail in youthful girlish minds.

From what I could gather, the “nice life together” that the brides-to-be envisioned included vague romantic ideas of dining by candlelight looking like a picture in a magazine, strolling on Sunday walks through crackling fall leaves, and taking annual vacations aboard the Love Boat, dancing under tropical stars.

There was little knowledge about the part money plays in young married life (or old married life for that matter) and there had been no discussion about finances.

I went back to interview one of the brides a year after her marriage. She hadn’t yet given up but she was disillusioned. The candlelight dinner — if it ever got off the ground — had given way to a quick scoff in front of the television with reruns of Three’s Company. The romantic Sunday strolls were spent at the ballpark where the groom was either playing or practising. The Love Boat had been sunk by a wild trip to Montreal that the groom had taken with his buddies to see the Expos play.

When I interviewed her for the second time, it was mid-winter, she had a new baby, and she was feeling quite optimistic about the future but still fantasizing. She hated the time he spent playing ball and going on ball trips and she had wrung a promise out of him that he’d quit the next season. I felt sorry that she had gone that far and I pointed out that she had known before the marriage that he was a zealous ballplayer.

“Yes, I did,” she said sadly, “but I thought he’d change after we got married. I thought he wouldn’t need baseball any more.”

The marriage did break up — of course — but it wasn’t because of baseball. It was because the young couple had never been realistically prepared for their life together. He went out west and worked in oil and made a lot of money; she remained in her home town with the two children and lived on social assistance.

I also interviewed the prospective grooms, by the way. I found in most cases that they had given little thought, romantic or otherwise, to their impending change in status. The reason is probably as old as the institution of marriage itself: men view marriage as the context in which they will pursue whatever in life interests them, whether it be a career, sports, friends, hobbies or community service.

Too many young women still view marriage as an end in itself.

I keep trying to picture what it would be like if I were the intended recipient of one of those very public — often called “romantic” — proposals of marriage. You know the ones I mean: the “Will You Marry Me, [insert name here]?” that shows up on the jumbotron at a major sports event or pulled along by a small airplane at an airshow or, most recently, on the bow of a P.E.I.-bound ferry.

I can hear myself, upon noticing a sign that says, “Will you marry me, Sharon?”, saying, “Thank God” — as emphatically as I can possibly say it — “Thank God that message isn’t intended for me!”

And then, I turn around and see the proposer, possibly on one knee, and I say . . . nah, forget it. You’re better to say nothing, at that point.

Of course, somehow, if the proposal is directed at me, it has to be turned down. Does that ever happen? We only hear about the ones where the bride-to-be says an ecstatic “yes” and the groom-to-be fishes a ring out of his pocket and they live happily ever after.

Or for all we know, maybe the proposee is just being kind when she accepts the public proposal. Maybe it’s a different story once they’re in private, alone together.

As for me, I’d say, “Not a chance, honey.” It’s my essential crankiness. I’d be glad though that I caught a glimpse of this side of his personality before the wedding and not after.

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