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Taking a bullet in marriage

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Universally, each would take a bullet to shield his bride to be. "Well, then," he would continue, "there are smaller practical and reasonable things you can do for your beloved."

Kevin and Marilyn

Earlier this summer, we went to Mass in a neighboring state, a very Catholic one at that. The priest preached on faith and reason and its application to engaged couples. He reminded us that faith and its partner, intellect, are not foreign to divine revelation. Remember the old adage: "Reason reports like a camera. Faith takes a stand like an army."

Faith is not "a Sunday thing." Rather it informs and reforms our daily lives. Together, faith and reason, are prerequisites for receiving authentic understanding to approach the threshold of mystery. Love, sex, family and life are the theater of faith. However, drama and passion should not overshadow our use of reason -- before and after marriage.

The priest, then, gave practical advice to couples to incorporate reason into their marriage decision. He told us that when he asks the prospective bridegroom if he would take a bullet for his fiancee, they always strongly say "Yes." Universally, each would take a bullet to shield his bride to be. "Well, then," he would continue, "there are smaller practical and reasonable things you can do for your beloved."

First: Remain chaste until the marriage bed. If you are cohabitating, live apart and chastely until the sacrament of marriage.

Second: When married, clean up after yourself. That can include such mundane things as putting dirty clothes in the hamper and carrying it to the laundry room. It means being clean in the bathroom. That includes projects involving tools ... hammer and toothbrushes being put back in their original locations. Coffee cups and dishes with toast crumbs should find their way to the sink or dishwasher. Trash should be carried out without requests. Regularly offer to help change the bedding. Shave!

Then there is the issue of democratically sharing the TV remote. While Father focused on males and man-cave matters, of course, women have similar obligations with their hair care products and toiletries. Well, you get the idea.

Third: Beyond the noble case of taking the metal bullet for one another, there are the positive things that can be done. For instance, pray together every day. More than simply the rote prayer before meals, a little private prayer together or saying the rosary seals the deal. Work at being a team, sharing ideas and tastes in entertainment and people. Don't go off in private and isolating directions. These are reasonable ways for couples to practice in their efforts to merge their lives together.

But back to the "chastity sacrifice," a sacrifice not all couples are willing to make. A recent Crisis magazine writer lamented on the practices of modern couples and the dilemmas they cause. The author, Anne Maloney, was shocked when a college age boy and girl who were visiting her brother were given separate rooms but ended up sharing a room. Having lunch with her brother, the host of the couple, he told her the story and then giggled enjoying the duplicity. She was more shocked at her brother, confirmed as a "good Sunday Catholic," finding this humorous. Further, her husband heard his niece, a 20-something announced she was buying a house with her boyfriend. They were both from supposedly "good Catholic families."

Ms. Maloney went on to reflect on what she learned at Catholic school. She learned that Jesus is my most undemanding friend and the lyrics to "Both Sides Now," "Joy Is Like the Rain," and "Kumbaya." These were not terribly Catholic teachings, but then there was the lost opportunity for catechesis and learning the Church's well-reasoned positions on marriage and human sexuality. As she suggests that we have patted ourselves on the back far too often for being enlightened Catholics. We are told American Catholics are the most educated Catholics in history. That, she concludes, is nonsense.

Have Catholics surrendered our views on marriage and human sexuality to Hollywood and the if-it-feels-good-do-it psychologists? Pope Benedict XVI devoted much of his papacy to trying to restore the interdependence of faith and reason. For instance, in his Nov. 21, 2012 Wednesday Catechesis, he wrote that prior to the modern era, the world was understood and, so too, our role in it. Our human reasoning was and is in keeping with reasoning already present in the universe. The things of creation that are ruled by eternal law were viewed as participating in God's reason. The natural law explains the end purpose of all things.

The pope went on: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth -- in a word, to know Himself -- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."

The best defense against the bullets aimed at current marriages is the protection provided by a revival of our faith and reason tradition. As Benedict said, "The love of God makes us see, opens our eyes...to the narrow views of individualism and subjectivism that confuse conscience."

- Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, Mass.

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