Ever notice how when folks are getting married they make it everybody’s business? From announcements to bridal registries to showers to showing off the ring. From guest lists and invitations to bridesmaids to something borrowed — everybody is expected to get in on the act.
Interesting isn’t it how these same people can decide to call it quits and slink off a few years later and get divorced — and then whose business is it?
The problem is that we all buy into it. Even if we try to talk to them about it, we usually feel compelled to begin the conversation by saying, “I know it’s none of my business, but….”
Well, enough of that. Because a divorce is no more private than a wedding and it is time we stopped pretending it is. Every person who was at the wedding has a stake in that marriage. Every person who wasn’t at the wedding has a stake in it too. And it is time we stopped letting people get divorced without calling them to account.
How many marriages might be saved if friends rallied around and said in no uncertain terms that they expected more from the people they watched exchange vows? If they came forward with resources and begged for reconsideration? If they made it clear that they flat out thought divorcing was wrong?
We have become so complacent with serial “monogamy” that people expect us to shrug and accept their lame excuses for destroying lives and endangering souls, fraying the fabric of society and creating multi-generational waves of discord and distrust that ripple through decades.
Here’s why their divorce is your business.
The children of our generation’s divorces enter the pool of possible mates for our children. Damaged and hurt by their parents’ lack of commitment, they bring the baggage of brittle emotions and insecurity with them into their marriages. They make what is already a struggle — the nurturing of healthy marriages in the next generation — even harder.
The effect upon children creates a strain upon every resource in our communities. Juvenile delinquency increases. Teachers face ever-mounting discipline problems at school. The ranks of those in need of government assistance and private charity continue to swell. No family comes through divorce and ends up with the financial resources they would have had staying intact, and the effect is particularly bad on the mother and children. Every year the magic of compound interest works in reverse: Combined resources that the married couple could have set aside for retirement or the kids’ education are diminished; less of a return is earned, and the future financial security of everyone is threatened.
Among Christians in general and Catholics in particular, divorce is just one more scandal that makes a mockery of what we say we believe. If the power of the Holy Spirit, Whose indwelling we claim to have, is not great enough to enable us to live with one another under the same roof, what good are all our “peace on earth” slogans?
Let’s start responding to this scourge of divorce by practicing — and counseling others to practice — the spiritual works of mercy. The spiritual works of mercy are just as much a part of our faith as the corporal works of mercy, and we are under the same moral obligation to perform them when we observe someone in need of them.
Those who are ignorant of the temporal and spiritual damage divorce causes need to be instructed. Those who are doubtful about their ability to heal a damaged marriage need counsel. It might help them to know that many couples who were on the brink of divorce, but who try again, later report happy marriages. They may need direction to resources or something as practical as a baby-sitter while they go talk to someone. Those who are pursuing a sinful course of action — especially those who are using Caesar’s unjust laws to rid themselves of a mate who does not want a divorce — should be admonished.
Putting your arm around a shoulder and saying, “I know you are going through a tough time. Let me know if I can help” is not admonishing. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:13-16). Don’t be afraid to assemble a team to intervene if necessary. Peer pressure does make a difference. Catholic mates should be reminded that charity begins at home and that to bear wrongs patiently and forgive offenses willingly is not an optional requirement of our faith.
Yes, to comfort the afflicted is also a spiritual work of mercy. But if we perform some of these others and do so prayerfully and courageously, we might have fewer people afflicted by divorce to comfort.
One friend, who wrote to me about her own attitude toward weddings, had this to say, “I don’t even attend a wedding unless the person is someone I know very well, someone whose marriage I think I will be able to uphold should trouble strike. I don’t treat them as social extravaganzas…but as sacred covenants that I’m witnessing, and as a witness I have an obligation to uphold. For me, witnessing a wedding is akin to becoming a godparent: an obligation to continue ‘witnessing to’ the marriage — encouraging, supporting, helping out practically, etc. — is what I expect of myself.”
Imagine what a difference we could make if we all took weddings this seriously and made it our business to make our position known to those around us.