Over at the NCR, Simcha Fisher has posted an article on “telemed” abortions, where abortionists diagnose and advise a woman over long distance so as to prescribe her the abortion pill. Obviously pro-lifers are going to fight abortion in all of its ugly forms, but she shows how this type of abortion is particularly symbolic. She says, “that is what evil does: it makes spaces where there should be no spaces.”
This gets me thinking about marriage, and what makes Christian marriage so special. Our culture says that marriage is two people getting together because of love and a desire for the financial and social benefits of marriage; if their feelings change, divorce is fine.
What the Church says is that marriage is “two flesh become one.” It’s not that they lose their individual souls, but that those souls become stamped and can never be unstamped. An annulment is not “Catholic divorce,” but actually respect for Catholic marriage; it says that “marriage is this, and what these two people were doing wasn’t marriage.” They were never stamped in the first place.
What Catholic marriage does so well is take two people who are naturally pulling their yoke in opposite directions, and says, “tough taters, make it work.” Marriage in this situation doesn’t just sanctify because God pours out his blessings through the sacrament; it sanctifies because two people have to die to themselves by serving the other, over and over. Do this enough, and it becomes easier to work in the same direction, and eventually it becomes pleasurable to lighten the other’s yoke. I’ve noticed that oddly, about twenty minutes after I want to kill Fierce for his latest irritating behavior, I’m working out my anger by doing things that will benefit him. I’m either really holy, or totally insane.
If I want to be sanctified by our daily work, I need to tackle the hard stuff joyfully. Since my strength (and natural inclination) is playing Betty Homemaker, then my task is to do my housework well, but throw my extra energy into the stuff I am naturally avoiding: building my home business, working on my students’ curriculum, or God forbid, praying and studying scripture. Whatever good and noble things in my life I prefer to leave neglected are certainly the ones that can provide me with the most sanctification. Since they’re good, I’m avoiding them is because they challenge the sinful parts of myself with which I’m the most cozy.
I think a real danger, especially for us domestic types, is in spending all of our time doing the stuff that looks just like motherhood and wifedom should, but isn’t at all challenging to us personally. If I find cooking, baking, and candlestick making to be a breeze, and I’m bound to receive accolades from people who admire these things, I need to be careful about a.) all of the other valuable, less-visible stuff I’m neglecting and b.) the opportunity for pride to spoil the value of that domestic service. It’s so easy to make domestic service about nothing more than serving one’s ego, at least in my experience. There’s a big difference between cleaning the bathroom because it’s good for one’s family and keeping it immaculate so that other people know just how perfect I am.
But I think that this is what is more pleasing to God, that I serve my family in the way that is most suitable to my family, not simply in the way that is most appetizing to me. If I do this long enough, I can help close up those spaces that evil and selfishness place in the family. By dying to my own desires, I can keep them from subverting the needs of those in my care, and pass on to my children the gift of a joyful mama. Because of course, there’s doing it with a good heart, and there’s doing it as a martyr.