Not long ago historians spoke of “the retreat from marriage” to describe the increase in divorce, the rise in the average age of first marriage, and the growing number of people who live alone. That phrase, “retreat from marriage,” is no longer sufficient. Ours is the age of “the war against marriage.”
The Supreme Court, with enthusiastic approval from the White House, has declared the metaphysically impossible the new law of the land. The once fervent people of Ireland have done the same. The positive portrayal of disorder is a staple of prime time. Even the College of Cardinals seems divided on central questions concerning the sanctity of marriage.
This war against marriage is a cultural war, to be sure, but its origins are in the supernatural. St. Paul is clear: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph. 6:12). I have been telling the staff at Catholic Answers that “spiritual combat” is a better expression than “culture war” to describe our work.
Marriage is at the very center of human experience. The state cannot exist without it. Indeed, marriage preexists the state. “[M]ore holy than the gods of the city,” writes G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man, “[are] the gods of the hearth.” Even pagan Rome understood the necessity of marriage; to our shame, we, who have had the benefit of Revelation and have seen marriage elevated to a sacrament, have turned our backs on a truth that the ancient pagans knew.
And yet, if Catholics would only commit to living fully the sacrament of marriage, the cultural ills that so infect our society would fade in two generations. What is more, mankind would again be in harmony with the divine plan to populate the kingdom of heaven.
It is to this end that Thursday Catholic Answers opens its third annual national conference, “Restoring Marriage Today.” From then until Saturday, we will listen to a stellar lineup of Catholic thinkers consider marriage from myriad perspectives, all with the goal of deepening participants’ understanding and appreciation of this inestimable sacrament. If you will be there with us, I know you not only benefit from the talks and the formal question-and-answer session but from the wisdom and conviviality of the halls and the tables of repast.
Could your commitment to marriage be stronger? This year my wife, Jackie, and I will celebrate 25 years, but I know mine could be. Could your understanding of marriage be deeper? I know mine could. Marriage is an unfathomable mystery of graces; it is the path to sanctity for the vast majority of Christians. Could your ability to defend marriage to the confused and the hostile be better? Again, I know mine could.
Our conference will look at marriage from all three of these perspectives. Our aim is to help attendees to understand marriage, live marriage, and defend marriage. I know they will leave fortified and inspired to transform our culture in Christ through the restoration of this magnificent, beautiful, and necessary institution.
If you will not be there, I ask for your prayers for the success of “Restoring Marriage Today.” Certainly the good, fruitful marriages of all Christians will be in our hearts and prayers particularly this weekend. And if you are curious, for more details visit www.catholicanswersconference.com.