November 1, 2015

Of LOVE, Salt and Lessons Learned

If there is one lesson to be learned from this unnecessary, unwanted and imprudent travesty known as divorce, it is that one's notion of "love" becomes truly defined - and refined. Like many boomers before me, I matured through the "me" generation of the 60's (Make Love, Not War) and the "Love Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry" generation of the 70's. The 80's moved away from the previous decades hedonistic lifestyle and into the Reagan Era, but saw the advent of AIDS, and Wall Street greed as well. But, whatever else the 80's gave us was overshadowed by the lust - financial and/or sexual - that proved fatal for so many (1). Excepting, that is, for a rather insignificant event in the eyes of the world, but a very significant one for me: my marriage in October of 1988 to a pretty, dark-haired brunette. My love had been freely given and had been freely accepted. Life was grand, exciting and incredible as we shared our deep love of the Traditional Catholic Faith and of each other and embarked upon our journey into the world of wedded bliss (and numerous children!).

Fast forward 22 years to the day (and approximately 4 hours later) where I sat with my attorney in court and listened while a judge gaveled our marriage - and our love - into the void. "Til death we do part" became "til one or the other grows tired of trying". "For better or for worse" became " For I can do better and I can't do any worse". I left the courtroom with "CONSUMMATUM EST" playing on repeat in my mind the rest of the day. What had happened to our love? Or rather, what had happened to LOVE

All (most?) of us certainly want and need to "feel" loved, as it is one of the most basic and fundamental needs that we human's crave. Most believe that feeling loved and cared for is the single most important aspect of marriage (2) - the "happiness" factor I've called it. And if that particular salt shall "...lose its savour..." (for one spouse anyway) "...It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men" (3) via No Fault Divorce - and a judge. This is what, for all practical purposes, happens when two spouses fail each other: the "salt" of one or both lost its savor and the marriage has fallen into a bland and tasteless meal. Many do not even try to renew the marriage "salt" via the Sacramental Graces that comes with their vow.  Of course, they have but to ask (and this, oftentimes repeatedly) of its Giver, but instead they opt for the new, the easy and the improved salt promised by those who: 1) preach of the feelings of self-fulfillment, 2) of the necessity for personal happiness in marriage and 3) of the saliva-inducing Pavlov effect from a possible Fast Track annulment. All this in order to produce the man-made salt that promises a happy marital life, yet, which has no concern for the family-killing pollution that is the necessary by-product that comes from its manufacturing. It seems the greed and lust of the 70's and 80's have finally found a permanent home in the 21st century. I almost fell for it all, too. Fortunately and whatever the impetus, I believe the Graces of the Sacrament finally kicked in and prevented my slide into the "happy-and-moving-on" divorcee mode. 

So..what have I learned of LOVE in the past 5 plus years? Certainly, I've learned of Christ's LOVE from the Cross, and how to imitate Him by faithfully carrying my marital crosses. I've learned of Agape LOVE, or the non-reciprocal LOVE that is needed in some marriages and what Bishop Sheen called "love[ing]...the one who is apparently not lovable" (4). I've learned of the LOVE that is, as Maria Pia Campanella wrote, "...merciful and thus, already, has forgiven even before the other has repented" (5).  I've learned that no legal paper can remove that LOVE, once it has been accepted. We all have to live with its legal consequences, but we do not have to be a "dead spouse". We are, as Maria Pia wrote: "...wounded spouses, suffering but alive, because our Sacrament is alive"

On the inside cover of the (excellent) book When Marriage Becomes Worse: What To Do, the authors explain their frontispiece picture of oak leaves caught in a freezing fog that, but for the fog, would have fallen to the ground. Instead, they were "embroidered [in] a sparkling outline around each leaf ". I mention this only because it sets the stage for what they write in conclusion. And also what we all need to remember about marriage, especially those in the midst of troubled ones:

"Only God can adorn naturally and make more beautiful than when they first budded out, the dying leaves of a scrub oak. He can do the same in your marriage. When others tell you that your marriage is dead, turn to Our Lord and those who represent him to give back what only appears to be shriveled and lifeless.There is no such thing as a dead marriage in the Sacramental world of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church when both spouses still live." (6)

Honor your vows. Honor your spouse. Honor your Lord Jesus Christ. It is what you said you would do. 

H/T: The Catholic Gentleman and this article for the inspiration for this post

Source links, as noted above:

(1) US History: Life In the 80's

(2) Psychology Today: The Need To Love

(3) Douay-Rheims Bible + Challoner Notes - Online Edition

(4) Three To Get Married, Chapter 19

(5) The Gift of Self, A Spiritual Companion for Separated and Divorced Faithful to the Sacrament of Marriage, pge. 72

(6) When Marriage Becomes Worse: What To Do

Copyright 2014 David Heath - All Rights Reserved