With This Ring I Thee Wed


A dear friend sent me this link to a story of a Jewish guy who converted to the Catholic faith. The story of his conversion is moving and real, then the story goes sour as he recounts his disappointing experience of Catholicism on the ground. He comes across New Agey kooks leading RCIA, ignorant Catholics, a priest who is liberal on abortion and likes Clinton, bad music, sloppy liturgy…you know the whole sad tale.

I’m sympathetic, but I’d like to stand this commonplace moan on it’s head. Oh yes, you come into the Catholic Church and the liturgy is dreary, the music lyrics come from greeting cards and the music from the nursery. The preaching is dire, the youth ministry is downright creepy in its attempt to be ‘cool’ and the fellowship is non existent.

Remember two things: first, the disappointing human reality does not obliterate the eternal Truth. When we marry most people have high expectations of living happily ever after. Unfortunately, most marriages are not rosy all day every day. People fight. In laws arrive. Kids disobey and rebel. Siblings hate each other. Tragedy happens. Ignorance and vanity and selfishness intrude. Complacency and taking each other for granted grows like a cancer. Relationships break down. It’s a mess.

It’s also what we call marriage. When it doesn’t go as we planned we don’t bail out of the marriage (at least we shouldn’t) Neither do we dismiss the institution of marriage as ill conceived. We don’t throw marriage out and look for some different arrangement. We don’t suddenly tell young people not to marry. We stick with it. We hang in there for better or for worse. If we are disappointed the best thing we can do is to examine our expectations. Maybe we are disappointed because we were expecting the wrong thing in the first place.

Protestantism has led us to expect the perfect Church as our promiscuous society as led us to expect the perfect mate. Protestantism has led us to shop around, constantly on the prowl, looking for something that doesn’t exist, just as our society tempts us to prowl around looking for the perfect partner.

The second thing, is that we all (if we have a touch of maturity about us) agree that it is actually in the tough times of marriage that we grow most as people, and we grow closer to the other person. It’s a risk, of course, and it doesn’t always happen that way. The tough times can ruin us, and ruin our marriage, but it is in the test that our love is proven or not. It is in the difficulty that we show our mettle. It is in our submision to our disappointing condition that we learn about the mystery of sacrifice, the mystery of humility and the mystery of love. It is in the disappointments that we learn that we are not actually in charge, we can’t always have it our way, and as soon as we learn that we learn that there is more to life and more to love and more to God’s mercy than we every imagined possible–and we really could not have learned these wondrous truths way down deep in our heart unless things had gone wrong.

When you enter the Catholic Church it’s like marriage. It’s for better and for worse, and like your marriage day–you ought to think that you are the lucky one. Not, “Isn’t she lucky to get me, but aren’t I lucky to get her.”

That’s how I felt the night twelve years ago when I was received into the Catholic Church. I felt very lucky indeed that I had been given the grace to take that step.

I still feel that way.

Marriage and the Church. It’s a mystery….but I’m not the first person to compare the two am I?
Where have I heard it before?

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    St. Paul, I suppose.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Who? Oh him… Jewish theologian? First century? :-)

  • Tim

    I find it very inspiring to hear about people who convert to Catholicism. I am one of the lucky ones (cradle Catholic) whose choice was made for them in a sense. I’ll be eternally grateful for that though.PS I believe that you are going to be a guest on the Journey Home this Monday evening. I believe it will be airing at 1am Tues morning in the UK. I’m looking forward to that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    When I explain Jesus & the Church to my 6th graders, I borrow from St Paul & Revelations, and use my love for my wife, how beautiful she is, etc., as a model. I show a picture of us from our wedding, and liken her to the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:2.The kids get it right away.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04053407632823479165 UltraCrepidarian

    As a fellow Convert, I recognize the mature and immature response to Catholicism as you find it in the local parish. I think part of it comes down to this: God brought you (me) home to the Catholic faith not to sit here and have it done right for me, but so you (I) can pitch in and help.You are SO 100% RIGHT ON THE MONEY here. Thanks Father!Warren

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12060001105838967508 CatholicOutsider

    Should Catholic Priests Be Allowed to Marry?Nov. 15, 2006 — Pope Benedict XVI will convene a meeting this week in the Vatican to discuss whether the vows of celibacy and the ban on marriage for priests who want to marry, or have married in the past, should be overturned.In the eyes of current church doctrine, priests who get married are committing an act of heresy.The man at the center of the controversy is Emmanuel Milingo, a flamboyant Zambian exorcist who in 2001 married his wife in the Unification Church at a Mass wedding presided over by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.Flouting the rule of celibacy cost Milingo, an archbishop, whose wife was chosen for him by Moon, his position in the church.Pope Benedict XVI excommunicated Milingo in September, after he ordained four married bishops in Washington.Among them was Peter Brennan, who is part of the organization Married Priests Now.”In December we will be meeting. We’re hoping to attract 1,000 married priests,” Brennan said.A married Italian priest will hold a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square tonight, hoping to influence Pope Benedict, who will hold what amounts to a cabinet-level meeting to reflect on the crisis Thursday.”I think it would be an insult to the priests who have remained faithful to readmit these individuals who have left the priesthood in order to marry,” said Archbishop John Foley, a Vatican spokesman.As foreign as the concept may seem today, the first pope, St. Peter, was married.Catholic priests were allowed to be married until the 12th century.But Pope Benedict, a stalwart conservative, is unlikely to relax a rule that has been in place nearly 1,000 years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04053407632823479165 UltraCrepidarian

    Hey CatholicOutsider, get your own blog. :-) It’s free.Warren

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02261197566240560777 Mark

    Father,I’ll add another though to your Catholic Church marriage comparison…Even when marriage is as close to perfect as newlyweds can imagine, after a time the initial fire fades. always. It is in this time of diminishing returns that we discover how to love, or are we only in it to get what we want? Fr. Later of blessed memory used to say that in his years he had never married a couple who truly loved each other (asides about raging hormones), but at their 50th anniversaries, he saw very many who did.The point I’d make is that in our journey of faith to be united with our God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we may initially be granted much delight, like a newlywed, but before we reach the end, like the newlywed, it will all be taken away. At this point, we, placed in the trying fire, have the choice to love, to give without demanding recompense, or like half of Catholic marriages today, and so many young baptized Catholics, disolve the relationship because we do not get what we think we should get. Prepare the marriage couple to build on rock instead of sand, prepare the convert & confirmand as well; and both, knowing that this is God’s plan, will be better prepared when the storm comes.OH, and CATHOLICOUTSIDER, that would be 2000 years; no priest has ever been allowed to marry. Don’t stay outside, it can get hot out there…


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