On August 29, Catholics recalled the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, who was beheaded after being imprisoned by Herod Antipas. John had boldly reprehended Herod for an adulterous relationship.
There is an undercurrent of voices standing up for marriage, especially in light of Pope Benedict’s comments about the Sunday Gospel on August 28.
Sunday’s Gospel recounted Jesus’ rebuking Peter for wanting Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem if it meant death. Pope Benedict XVI says, “A Christian follows the Lord when he accepts lovingly his own cross, which in the world’s eyes seems a defeat and a ‘loss of life’, knowing that he is not carrying it alone but with Jesus, sharing his same journey of self-giving.”
On August 25, LifeSite News emphasized how people in the younger generation have an intense desire for self-sacrificial, unconditional, lifelong married love. Their story featured a video produced by the Emerging Leaders program, showing testimonials from people who know, “society has lost something in that they are not committed to lifelong married love.” Interviewees said, “It is good to serve someone else. Lifelong commitment has an impact on everyone.”
Emerging Leaders is a project of the Ruth Institute and its goal is to empower young adults and college students to create a positive social and intellectual climate for marriage.
About St. John the Baptist, St. Bede the venerable wrote, “Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men. He was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.”
Bai Macfarlane, founder of Mary’s Advocates, has networked with people who she says strive to endure “marital agonies for the sake of truth.” Mary’s Advocates supports those who remain faithful to marriage after their spouses have abandoned marriage, according to Macfarlane.
Macfarlane says, “Marriage is not about self. It is about the other and it is about ones children and society at large. Sometimes marriage can even be analogous to an imprisonment, and from the world’s perspective it appears as a defeat and a ‘loss of life.’ But for those who have confidence in our valid marriage, there is no reason to lose hope; reconciliation is always a possibility. And while our spouses choose to renege on the marital life, we suffer. But if we suffer for Christ’s sake, He can use our suffering for the sake of the Church (Col. 1:24).”
David Borer, from Iowa, is faithful to his wife after she abandoned their marriage and divorced him. He had no power to stop the civil divorce, and he now is defending his marriage in the Catholic Church tribunal system. Under the canon law of the Catholic Church, David’s wife must ask the Catholic tribunal system to decree that she and he never had a valid marriage and therefore permit an annulment of the marriage.
David sees parallels between his current state in life and imprisonment. He says “people in prison lose the companionship of their friends and family and in divorce I’ve lost the companionship of my spouse and my children. I’ve been stripped of many of my freedoms. I can’t see my children everyday; I can’t assure their authentic Catholic education; I can’t stop the scandal my wife is causing our children; I don’t have financial freedom because I’m forced to pay child support on top of maintaining our marital home where our children spend half their time.”
When asked what motivates him, David says, “I’m doing this because I want to go to heaven and I want my wife and children to go to heaven. If I were to quit and go find a new ‘girlfriend,’ I fear my children would conclude that Catholicism and Catholic teaching on marriage is pointless and meaningless.”