TOOLS FOR MARRIAGE Father James Chelich 1990 The Word of God… “Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.” 1 Corinthians 13 This is perhaps the most frequently chosen passage of Scripture at weddings. Rightfully so. It expresses a beautiful sentiment. But there is a way of employing this passage so as to open it up to its deeper meaning and the profound invitation contained within it. Read the passage aloud but every time you come across the word “love”, replace it with your name. Both of you do it — first one, then the other — using your own name in place of the word, “love”: “N_____ is patient; N_____ is kind. N_____ is not jealous, N_____ does not put on airs, N_____ is not snobbish. N_____ is never rude, N_____ is not self- seeking, N_____ is not prone to anger; neither does N_____ brood over injuries. N_____ does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to N_____’s forbearance, to N_____’s trust, N_____’s hope, N_____’s power to endure.” Now if you have done this little exercise at all carefully and thoughtfully, you may find yourself feeling a little embarrassed. Your name doesn’t seem to fit comfortably, does it? Take note but don’t fret, none of our names do. We all fall short of what is wanting in love. We all fall very short of what is needed in a marriage. The outlook for the future of your relationship and marriage would be pretty dismal if we left the passage at this point. But we won’t. I want you to read the passage once more, but this time replace the word “love’ with the name “Jesus”: “Jesus is patient; Jesus is kind. Jesus is not jealous, Jesus does not put on airs, Jesus is not snobbish. Jesus is never rude, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not prone to anger; neither does Jesus brood over injuries. Jesus does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to Jesus’ forbearance, to Jesus’ trust, Jesus’s hope, Jesus’s power to endure.” I hope you will agree that his name fits well. I also hope you see my point. Without this kind of love your relationship and your marriage will never endure. At best it has a 50/50 chance of survival. Neither you nor your intended spouse possess the kind of love needed in the measure required. Be humble enough to admit it. Jesus, however, does. If your relationship and your marriage are to have a future, Jesus must be brought into your relationship in a living, personal way. He must become a full partner in everything your marriage is about. …and a Couple of Crosses I give you these two little crosses to use on a day I pray never comes. But the day may come when you find yourselves driven or drifting apart. You will be able to feel the distancing taking place inside you and between you. Perhaps it will be some little thing said or done. Perhaps it will be something unsaid or neglected. Perhaps it will be a major offense that takes place; or perhaps it will just be a lot of little things that have piled up on top of each other. Whatever it might be, should you find yourself at the point where either of you feel the distancing or experinece injury, go immediately and find your cross. Place it on your spouse’s pillow. Now, if you should come home one evening and go into the bedroom and see this little cross on your pillow, take pause. You may well want to be angry with your spouse for putting it there. But it is not your spouse’s image on this cross. It is the image of the crucified and now living Jesus — the living Jesus to whom you are vowed accountable in love and in marriage. It is Jesus who is summoning you. Take the cross from your pillow and place it in your pocket until bed time. Then sit with your spouse by your side on the edge of your bed and be silent a moment. Let the one who placed the cross on the pillow be the first to speak — but not to the other. Speak to Jesus. Speak aloud so that the other can hear, but address Jesus. Speak to him as if he were actually present. He is! Tell Jesus what you are feeling. Tell Jesus what has happened or what you perceive happening between you and your spouse. Don’t worry about the right words, just make sure you are talking to Jesus when you say them. If you do this, I guarantee that Jesus will give you the right words to express your feelings clearly — without rancor, without wounding or angering the one sitting next to you. When you have finished, be still. Now let the one who found the cross speak. But, again, not to your spouse. Speak aloud and directly to Jesus. Tell Jesus what you are feeling about what you just heard your spouse telling him. Then tell Jesus the full content of what is in your own heart. If you do this, I guarantee that Jesus will give you words that will faithfully express the burden of your heart — words that will not further wound or distance you from your spouse. When you have finished, pause. Now turn to each other and begin to talk with each other. Be mindful that Jesus is still present. It is Jesus who will give you ears to hear each other, eyes to see each other in a new light and a heart to perceive what has led you away from one another and the way back to each other. If you do all this, I guarantee that you will go to bed that night more in love with one another than ever before. Jesus gives you a Choice not a Chance As I showed you above, you can read the Word of God sentimentally or your can read it in such a way as to allow it to penetrate you to the very core, to bring you face to face with the truth, to invite you to accept Jesus himself as a living partner and source of the love needed for the future of your marriage. I hope I have also shown you that your marriage need not be a 50/50, “maybe it will work and maybe it won’t”, stab in the dark. Your relationship need not fall victim to the moods of the human heart, the wounding circumstances of life or the human inadequacies that we all carry. Jesus is more than ready and more than willing to be a very real and effective partner in your marriage. But you have to decide. You can’t have it both ways. Jesus as a sentiment can offer your marriage nothing substantial. Jesus as a living partner can make all the difference in the world. “A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become as one.” Genesis 2:24 “Thus they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore let no one seperate what God has joined.” Matthew 19:6
Fr. James Chelich
The origin of your existence and mine is love. Hard though it may be to say it, it may or may not have involved your parent’s love – either for you or for each other. No, the origin of your existence and mine lies, before and above all else, in Another Love. The book of Genesis tells us that God fashioned all created things. Saint John, however, reminds us of exactly Who God is:
Beloved…love is of God… We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him… We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:7,16,19
Love fashioned all things! Not any kind of love, not any definition of love, but the “One Love” (see Philippians 2:1-2) – the “One Love” that is God. God took delight in each thing He made. The Bible says He, the Love that created them, pronounced each of them “good.” In this we see how God is drawn to embrace in love the goodness and beauty of His creation. It was at this point in the beginning of all things that God conceived of creating an extraordinary way in which and through which He could embrace in love the goodness of the universe He fashioned. We are this “extraordinary way!” God created us:
‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.’ God created man in His image, in the divine image
He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27
From this we learn we are conceived by the “One Love” that is God. We are made in the “image” of this “One Love.” We are given a physical form and existence in which to grow “after” (into) the “likeness” of this “One Love” that is our origin. We were made by Love for love. From the first moment of our existence this is our purpose. It is through us, with us and in us that the “One Love” desires to touch and embrace the elements of His creation, and so bring them to hope, healing, and the fullness of their potential. In this amazing perspective provided by our Catholic Faith, we recognize the dignity and beauty of the life of a Single Man or Woman in the world.
When the seed of your human father joined the egg within the womb of your human mother, and the embryo of your human existence formed and began to multiply; at that very moment, in His divine hands, the “One Love” that is God pronounced your soul into existence:
“You are in My Image –
the image of the One Love that fashioned all things.
Now grow into my Likeness
That as your grow I might love through you,
with you and in you
all those things I have fashioned you
to touch and embrace in this world.
Through you, with you and in you
I shall embrace and love them to a healing
and to the full potential of their life.”
God now joined your soul to your emerging physical form. And so your human life bagan, its meaning and purpose rooted in love. With the creation of each soul, God creates humanity anew!
The significance of this is enormous: God is capable of being God in you as He is capable of being God in no other human being. God can touch, and handle and love the world through you as He is capable of touching, handling and loving the world through no other human being and in no other way. God has fashioned your very being that He might embrace a part of His creation through you. This is the infinite value and unique dignity of your existence, as it is of the existence of every human being. Here lies the root of the passionate devotion the Catholic Faith has for every human life conceived, and the profound respect with which Catholic Faith holds the journey of every human soul.
One and the same question lies at the heart of each person’s existence.
It is a key to the meaning of his or her life:
“For what was I fashioned by Love
that Love might touch and embrace it
through me, with me and in me?”
Among these “things” can be: spouse, children, uncovering the potential in the person, discovering tje potential in some element of creation, informing minds, forming character, the healing of persons, the healing of the planet, the reconciliation of people, the coming together of people in industry and commerce for the betterment of all, the relief of the impoverished, the shelter of the destitute, the guidance of the disoriented, the defense of the innocent. Gregor Mendel found his answer in his laboratory where he discovered the secrets of genetics. Mother Teresa found her answer on the streets of Calcutta. A nurse might find hers in an intensive care unit. A man visiting his elderly parents in a nursing home might find it in them and a gowing circle of others he encounters there.
What does this mean for the single man or woman in the world? Love is your origin and Love surrounds every moment of your existence. When you come to this realization you find yourself a woman or a man. You are then ready to give yourself to the world and to others, because you now know you have something to give. And when you give it, you become a complete man or woman.
Often you hear the world around you telling you that to find love, you have to find the right “someone.” The truth is that it is futile to search for the “right someone” hoping to find love. Love is already yours! If you don’t see that it is, you will find it no where else. The single life will always be seen as diminished as long as it is defined in opposition to marriage. You will experience your single life as a marginalized existence as long as you define it in terms of marriage. The life of a single man or woman in the world is defined by the call to love – to love that which you have come to know you were created by God to love. The single life gains its full and unique character in your sacrifice of self in giving that love. The truth the contemporary world is reluctant to accept is that men and women can and do remain single precisely in order to love – in a total gift of self – that which God has given them to love.
Finding the Answer to the Meaning of Your Existence
You were placed in this world not to find love, but to give love – to express the One Love that is your origin. There is some part of this created world and its life that the One Love had in mind when he created you. He uniquely fashioned you to be an instrument of hope, healing and fulfillment of its life. It is supremely important to discover what it is that God has uniquely fashioned you to love. But how?
Today, people make a great deal of discovering their talents. I would tell you that it is not just about what talents you have or don’t have. Alone, your talents cannot help you see what in this world you were fashioned by the One Love to love. I would counsel you first to listen within and search for what the One Love has placed there. Discovering your talents shows you what you can do naturally. To love someone or something will require that you stretch yourself well beyond what comes naturally. When you discover that which you were made to love, it will press you to acquire skills of language, learning, craft and art that do not come easily to you, and qualities of soul that might not be naturally yours – such as patience, humility, fortitude, courage, and sacrifice of self.
A society obsessed with sex baits you with an enticingly appealing answer. It tells you that you need sex to love and be loved. You don’t need sex to be loved. If you believe you do, you won’t find the love you need in sex. And you don’t need sex to love. Only living in marriage needs sex in order to love – to love in a way that opens the path by which souls fashioned by the One Love may pass into physical existence and begin their journey.
The truth is that the only solid foundation for marriage is to successfully find your vocation as a single man or woman. A successfully single woman or man doesn’t join herself to a spouse in marriage in order to find someone to love or someone to love her. A successfully single woman or man joins herself to a spouse because she has found someone who can see what she is called to love and who wishes to partner her in loving it – and foremost to be seen and cherished in each other’s call to love are the children the One Love might ask them to bear into this world. Likewise, the only solid foundation for parenthood is to successfully find your vocation as a single man or woman. Such parents don’t love their children “as their own”. They love their children “as belonging to the One Love,” and as souls seeking in this world that which they have been formed by the One Love to touch and embrace. Such parents gift their children with a profound sense of the wonder and awe of their existence.
What a single man or woman in the world does need from others is warmth of relationship and the companionship of friends that value in him, above all other things, his call to love that part of the world for which the “One Love” has fashioned him. Such friends and companions support and encourage you to love successfully and fully what the One Love has called you to love.
As friends, family and community, we need to encourage those living the single life to persist in loving that which is theirs to love, to console them when they fail or grow weak, and to offer them our joy shared in celebration when they succeed. We also need to invite them to join us in forming a shared perspective of the world in which our loves must labor, and in wondering with awe at all that the One Love has pronounced “good” in the world around us – to see together the world in true perspective, to search together for the good in all things.
How the Single Life Becomes a Christian Vocation
Everything above sets out how Catholic Faith sees the dignity of the life of a single man or woman in the world. But this does not yet make it a Christian Vocation. A Christian Vocation consists of three things.
The first, is the realization that the world, and human life in the world, is fallen from grace. It is mortally wounded and, as a result, it mortally wounds the souls that pass through it. The “good” that God pronounced in each element of the world is, in some measure, in bondage and cannot reach the full potential of its existence or its life. God seeks to touch it and love it to healing and wholeness. Put simply, the world and human life need saving. This realization must then be followed by a conviction: “I believe my life has something vital to do with God wanting to touch a part of this world and love it to healing and wholeness.” When a man or woman comes to this conviction the foundation of his or her Christian Vocation is established.
The second, is to receive “good news” that salvation is available – in Jesus, our Lord! Jesus says:
Come, follow me! Matthew 9:9
This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life. John 7:40
This is the work of God: have faith in the One whom God sent.
The vocation of a single man or woman in the world is to carry in his or her heart a passion to bring salvation in Christ to all in this world that the One Love has formed him to love. This means living personally the truth Jesus teaches, introducing others to it, assisting them in understanding it, supporting them in living it, celebrating with them the freedom it brings to them. This also means calling on Jesus’ name and asking the assistance of his saving power in all he does, teaching others that this saving and transforming power is available to them, coaching them in how to draw upon it, and celebrating with them the way this power unfolds the good in their lives to the fullest potential. To believe in Jesus and to respond to his summons is the birth of Christian Vocation.
Finally, what makes a single life in the world a Christian Vocation is the kind of love we love. Saint John says:
Beloved…love is of God…
Love, then consists of this: not that we have loved God,
But that He has loved us and sent His son as an offering for us…
1 John 4:7,10
What is the “love” that is “of God?” It is the love that sacrifices itself to heal and bring forth the good in another to its full potential. Jesus says:
The Son of Man has come not to be served but to serve – to give his life in ransom for the many. Mark 10:45
He who seeks only himself brings himself to ruin, whereas he who brings himself to naught for me discovers who he is.
The vocation to the single life in the world reaches maturity when it says in all its strivings:
(I) have come to know and believe in the love God has for (me)…
(I), for (my) part love, because He first loved (me). 1 John 4:16,19
Some Practical Considerations For the Community of Faith
I would suggest that some practical changes are in order in a faith community that wishes to value and support the vocation of single men and women in the world.
First, the members of the community that are married or consecrated to the religious life need to stop defining the existence of single men and women in terms of marriage. Society-at-large does this all the time and we in the community of faith all too easily fall into the same pattern. When meeting someone for the first time, one of the first questions we usually ask is: “Are you married?” And when the say, “No,” we rarely look really happy about it. When telling someone about a single person we just met, the first thing we often mention is that they are not married – either to invite the person with whom we are speaking to feel sorry for the person we are talking about, or to tell them that the person we are talking about might be “available.” One way or another, marriage ends up defining almost everything! The first ten questions you ask a person you are meeting for the first time should be about their interests and what they are called to care about in this world. Start defining people in terms of their call to love and to be a vessel of God’s love to the world.
Second, if you are a single woman or man, stop letting your existence be defined in terms of marriage. Get confident – and articulate – about what you are called to care about in this world and about your joy in being an instrument of God’s mercy in its regard. If you are not confident about the love that defines your existence, others won’t be either. Then they will have little choice but to rummage about looking for something about you for which they can by sympathetic – like not being married. Their sympathy you don’t need, their respect you do.
Third, stop inviting single people over to your house at Christmas because you feel sorry they are alone. Start inviting single people over to your house for dinner because you admire their vocation to embrace that part of the world God has given them to care for. Be proud to have them in your home and at your table. Want your children to know them and be inspired by them – to discover in themselves what God has given them to live in this world.
Fourth, teach yourself to notice and praise self-sacrificial love that extends itself for the healing of the world – where ever and in whomever you find it. Draw your children’s attention to it. Start believing that men and women can and do choose to remain single in order to pursue a vocation to love, in a total gift of self, that which God has given them to love.
Fifth, stop thinking of single people only on Friday and Saturday nights when you need a baby sitter. It is not bad that single men and women might support your vocation to marriage and family in this way, but make sure it goes the other way around. Put yourself out there for them by finding a baby sitter in order to join them in their labors of love, and when moments arrive to be with them in celebration of what God is doing through their lives.
I want to close with the words of Jesus:
All this I tell you that my joy may be yours, And your joy may be complete. John 15:11
There is an abundance of joy and true personal fulfillment to be found in a single life. I join Jesus in praying that it may be yours.
Father Jim Chelich
Parenting does not consist of having a baby and then telling your child what to do for the next eighteen years. Parenting requires something more. Parenting means being willing to do yourself what you ask your children to do. If you ask them to listen when they are spoken to, then you must be willing to listen to others when they speak to you. If you your children not to cross the street with our looking both ways and holding hands, then you must to be willing not to undertake anything important without looking carefully and then reaching out to others to get help before you do it. If you ask them to take responsibility for that they say and do, then you must to be willing to take responsibility for the effect of your words and actions have on others. If you ask your children to learn, then you have to be willing to learn. If you ask them to change and grow, then you have to be willing to change and grow. Children are not objects for parental direction, they are catalysts for parental growth.
Three Secrets to Good Parenting
There are three secrets to being a great parent (or for that matter a great anything good).
First, you have to want to. This is not the same things as “wishing to” or “hoping that you will be.” You have to be humble enough to say—and mean: “I will do whatever I have to and whatever it takes to be a good mom or a good dad!” If you are not willing to say this and mean it with passion, its is not going to happen.
Second, you must have enough humility and raw courage to admit that you cannot do it by yourself, that you need help and be willing to ask for help. Jesus is where you do and who you ask first. Not just when you feel overwhelmed or even once a week, but every day and every time you are about to say something or do something that affects your children in any significant way. Stop for a moment and consciously bring to mind that Jesus is present with you. Then explicitly pray: “Jesus I need you. I need your eyes and your ears, and your wisdom. Let’s do this together.” It doesn’t matter if what you are about to do is read your child a story or talk to them about the trouble they are in. If you don’t see the help of Jesus when you read your children a story, you won’t do it when you try to connect with them when they are in trouble.
Jesus lives for you as a Savior. As a parent this means that he is at you side in every moment. But he can and will be of no saving help to you unless you stop yourself from moving ahead alone, turn to him and ask for his help. “Ask,” he says, “and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and the door will be open to you.”
Connecting your Family to the Big Family
The third secret to being a great parent is to regularly connect your family to that bigger family we all belong to: the family of humanity. You are the parent. This means that you have to rouse the troops (the kids): teach them to notice the needs of others; help them to come up with a plan to reach out to those they notice; lead them in an outreach. It might be just going down the block to shovel the snow off the porch walk of an elderly neighbor.
Doing things regularly for the needy members of the bigger family we all belong to is essential for a happy and content family. IF you don’t, you will notice that everyone in your household is constantly arguing with each other, picking at each others’ faults, discontent with the things they have, complaining about the things they don’t have, and never seem to find any peace with who they are, contentment with where they are or satisfaction with what they have. IF you regularly lead your family in getting “out of themselves” and reaching out to the needs of others, you will find your hearts growing warm and that you like more about each other than you dislike. You will celebrate with what you have rather than complain about what your don’t have, and discover a sense of purpose in your home and serenity in your heart. Families that don’t regularly connect themselves to the big family of humanity usually fold in on themselves and collapse.