IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
by Larry Peterson
Way way back in ancient times, like around 1950, about 22% of American adults were single. Since the population ‘way back then’ was about 152.3 million that would mean that about 33.5 million Americans were unattached. In 2013 the population was almost double, coming in at about 316 million people. Single adults tipped the scales at 50.2%. That translates into the fact that more than HALF the population of the United States is now single. The actual number of the percentage of 50.2% would be 158,632,000. That is actually more than the entire United States population of 1950. SINGLES have taken over. Whatever have we wrought?
What we have wrought, or rather allowed, is a secular induced ambivalence about marriage. It seems that since marriage translates to “responsibility” and many of the young people of today have been induced into a state of “Meism”, the old cliche, “looking out for Number One” is the dominant standard. In addition, it seems that our society has encouraged an extended period of adolescence where young adults often stay with mommy and daddy even as they begin to journey into middle age.
Heck, even the government calls people up to 26 years old, “children”. This way they justify their being carried on their parents’ health insurance plan. What’s a young person supposed to think.
Of course we also live in a world of “practicalism”. People are more practical today than back in my day. In the “old days” most folks were “impractical”. They dated first, then got engaged, and then, about a year later, got married and a new family was born. Then they moved into the apartment they had rented and it WAS their first home. Then along came little “Jack” or “Jill”. I confess, having been married in 1967, I was among the vast majority of impractical young people.
Things have changed a bit since the early to mid seventies. In the world of “practicalism” marriage is often looked at the same way one might look at a new Toyota or a Ford. The couple want to “test drive” it first. Meists see many positives to this type of non-commitment: a) you can have separate bank accounts; b) you can have your own health insurance and not have to pay for anyone else’s; c) if you do not like sleeping together you can go sleep somewhere else with NO strings attached; and finally, d) if you do not like the “model” you are trying you can simply walk away and look for another model. There might be some yelling and screaming but, hey, such a DEAL!
Fear not, the Meistic and Practical world of secularism has some detractors. Listen to Pope Francis in his homily given right before he presided over the marriages of 20 couples in Rome. The Pope said, “The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together.”
The Holy Father continued , “Marriage is about a man and a woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become even more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more of a man. Here we see the reciprocity of differences.”
I love how the Pope used the phrase, “reciprocity of differences”. This simply points out that men and women do compliment each other. I would venture that up until the late 1960s, marriage was the state of life that most human beings chose to enter. Marriage is actually instinctive. It has always (for the most part) been under the umbrella of marriage that the human race was preserved. The husband and wife formed the family nucleus and they brought forth children and raised them and nurtured them and educated them. Most of these children followed their parents and did the same.
The Holy Father said (in the same homily when talking about the family), “It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in the family as demonstrated through the mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, and the sharing of joys and difficulties.”
“Families are the FIRST place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.”
The central theme of the Holy Father’s homily, was “Marriage is a symbol of life…the Sacrament of love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.”
Pope Francis is quite wise. He also said, “There is a cure which God offers to spouses who “have become impatient on the way, and who succumb to the dangerous temptations of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, and abandonment. To them God the Father gives His Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them. If they entrust themselves to Him, He will bring them healing by the merciful love that pours from the Cross, with the strength of His grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.”
He said to the couples and these are words all married couples should embrace, “This is the task you share. ‘I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman.’; ‘I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man.”
Pope Francis has given all people (not just Catholics) a profound and poignant message about the call to the married state. He recognizes that it is a hard road because two individuals, a man and a woman, are joining together as one. There are differences between them. But marriage is the ultimate commitment to giving of oneself to another. A marriage united in the sacramental life of the church has been built on a foundation of solid bedrock. Its chance to withstand the decades long onslaught from the world around it has been fortified and shielded in the best way possible. It has embraced the Cross. Somehow, someway the Church must bring folks back to that reality. Pope Francis has set the table for this to begin. He has done the responsible thing.