Till Death Do Us Part



One thing I hate about leftists is that they are quite expert at changing the meaning of words and phrases to suit their political goals.  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, at Midwest Conservative Journal gives us a prime example of this  and also provides us a stirring tribute by a son to his father:

Susan Russell on Robbie’s split:

[Our marriages] are equally blessed and equally challenging. They are equally full of joy and equally full of disappointment. We equally love and cherish each other and we equally hurt and misunderstand each other. And, when a marriage fails, we are equally sad, scared and heartbroken. Just as the values that make up a marriage transcend the gender of the couple in the marriage, so do the challenges. And because all of our marriages are — for better or for worse — equal, they deserve equal protection under the law.

Do go on.

What I believe is that the vow “until death do us part” is absolutely binding on absolutely every marriage. And what I know is that sometimes the death that ends a marriage isn’t the death of one of the partners but the death of the marriage itself. And when that happens, the faithful thing — the honest thing, the healthy thing — is to grieve the death of the marriage. And then, from a Christian perspective, to trust the Easter promise that love is stronger than death — even the death of a marriage.

“The death of the marriage.”  The.  Death.  Of.  The.  Marriage.  Seriously, Susie?!!  Do you REALLY want to play that card?  Because if you do, you’ve just granted “spiritual” permission for every single bimbo in the entire world to sleep around on her husband and every single a-hole in the entire world to sleep around on his wife.

Good Lord.  So all that incessant Episcopalian yammering about blessing “life-long, committed relationships” actually was complete crap?

[Robbie’s divorce] teaches us that even good people of deep faith with the best intentions can fail at making the marriage they hoped would be forever last forever. It teaches us that telling the truth about our lives and our challenges is not only healthy for us but can be in inspiration for others. And, most of all, it teaches us, in Gene Robinson’s own words: “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”

Particularly when they can just declare the marriage “dead” and move on.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Episcopalians have retired the rationalization trophy.  Nobody else was ever in the ballgame.

Are you all interested in a little Johnson family history?  While doing genealogical research into my father’s side of the family, I sent to Ness County, Kansas for a copy of the marriage record of my paternal grandparents and discovered something that nobody in the family previously knew.

Let’s just say that the time between when my grandparents got married and when my father’s older brother was born was a good deal less than nine months.  Dad thought it had to have been a mistake but my aunt heard stories of Kansas girls who suddenly ran off to Kansas City because of wink, wink.

If anybody out in Ness City, Kansas knew, they didn’t say anything because my dad told me once that when he was a kid, his family used to go out there all the time and he actually seemed to have an affection for the place, insisting that we go out there on the car trip he and I took a year or so before his final illness.

And I was delighted to go.

Anyway, my grandparents married in 1917 and they made a life together in Kansas City.  Grandma had two other children, my dad and my uncle.  But my grandfather abruptly ended the marriage in 1957.

By dropping dead from an aortic aneurysm at the barber shop one day.

Then there was my old man.  I think I’ve mentioned here before that he and I didn’t get along all that well when I was a kid.  He was ex-military, I was a sensitive kid and he didn’t always much patience with kids who didn’t pick things up right away.

When I was a little kid, Pop had this tendency to snap at me whenever I tried to make what I thought was a contribution to the conversation (I’m pushing 60 and the words, “Don’t get smart!!” hurt as much now as they did then).  While it didn’t happen much, he wasn’t above humiliating me in front of the entire family if he was angry enough.

But do you want to know the really funny part?

My admiration for my father grows with each passing year.

The guy grew up during the Depression.  His folks didn’t make a lot of money so that meant that college was out.  He joined the Army Air Corps, flew the China-Burma-India Theater, came home, decided that he couldn’t stand the idea of living in Kansas City, went west and settled in Billings, Montana where he met my mom.

And thereby hangs another tale.

I don’t know if any of you have gone through it but when one of your parents dies, you sometimes find out things they never told you.  When my dad died in 2001, my siblings discovered that the time between my folks’ wedding and the birth of my brother was also a good deal less than nine months.

So was my folks’ marriage kind of, well, …forced?  Maybe.  But it happened.  Then my sister was born.  Then I was born which meant that my dad really needed to make more money which meant that he had to leave Montana, a place he and Mom loved, and return to Missouri, a place he basically detested.

But he made the move, getting a government job here while staying in the Reserves (Pop retired a 20-year man).  The money he invested back then is basically what I’m going to be living on for the rest of whatever life God grants me.

He came down with colitis in the early 60′s, which cost him a fair chunk of his large intestine and forced him to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.  And he occasionally had to watch his youngest son silently communicate unspoken hatred of him.

Then there was his first bypass operation.  Then there was learning that my mom had Alzheimer’s.  Then there was he and I driving her over to the nursing home one morning to put his wife and my mother in there. 

Then there was he and I visiting her every single day.  Then there was the day my sister brought her first-born child over one evening and Mom, who, if she had been right, would have been ecstatically over the moon, didn’t react at all.

Then there was her dying and her memorial service which my dad, who never went to church at all toward the end of his life, made sure to attend.  My dad took my mom from the beginning to the end.

THAT is what true marriage means, Susie Russ.

Go here to read the comments.  As I was reading this I recalled the tenderness with which my tough father tended my mother 30 years ago as she died of breast cancer.  Death parted them, but it did not part their love, that being beyond the power of the Grim Reaper, and that is the astonishing endurance of a happy marriage.


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  1. True true true.
    As my brother often says when we are all sitting around the table pontificating after dinner: “I want to say this about that.”
    When Jesus makes a statement about no marriage in heaven he talks about us living there like the angels. Angels don”t procreate. Jesus indicates the importance of the possibility of procreation in marriage.

  2. My wife left me for a family friend 5 years ago, a sociopath who was looking for revenge after his on wife had left him for a physician.

    My wife knows that I still love her and that I still want her back, and that makes her furious. I do still love her, and I made a firm resolution to get through this horribly painful time, without becoming hateful, and without turning to the comfort of a new relationship with another woman. My wife has been horribly hateful toward me now for almost 6 years. I have learned the hard way, that there is probably no pain greater than that of being hated by the one you love with all your heart more than any other in the world. The one possible exception would be the pain of knowing that she is telling all 8 of our children what a horrible man I am, in order to justify herself and her actions in their eyes. she has also stops them from going to church, calling all Churchgoers, “hypocrites.”

    A few weeks ago, after having then more or less at peace with the situation for 5 years, I was undergoing a strong temptation to begin a relationship with another woman. I was feeling tempted to think that it was okay, and that I should go ahead and finish the divorce that we had put on hold 4 years ago, in order that my wife could still use my health insurance to pay for her medications for the chronic leukemia with what she has been diagnosed. I also began to think that surely God would understand, and that the church would grant me an annulment, so that I could pursue a new relationship.

    Well, I was lying in my bed praying about it, one night, God spoke to me. He said, “Whom would you rather be with?” I began to weep, because I immediately knew that the answer was with my wife. I also immediately knew that God had known all along. I don’t know what God’s reasons are for allowing the suffering that my children and I are in enduring, but I have learned to embrace his will and to trust Him, for that is where my happiness lies. I do believe that he will use my suffering to help heal other marriages, as He has confirmed this with me. In a very mysterious way, I feel a powerful joy at the thought of being my wife’s husband, even after all we have been through.
    we are married until death, precisely because that is what our vows said. Now, after all this, those vows give me tremendous peace and joy. Praise be to God!

  3. Robert J. Butler.

    Thank you.
    Your trust in the Lord isn’t new. You have been trusting Him most of your life is my guess. I am moved by your humility and faith.
    You dear soul are a disciple and close friend of Jesus.
    God bless you.
    In Him we find our Peace.

  4. According to St Augustine, “Let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the unbreakable bond [sacrametum]… Let these nuptial blessings be praised in marriage by him who wishes to extol the nuptial institution” (De nupt. et conc. I, c. 17, n. 19 (PL 44, 424-425).)
    Likewise, he says, “”This is the goodness of marriage, from which it takes its glory: offspring, chaste fidelity, unbreakable bond [sacramentum]” (De pecc. orig., c. 37, n. 42 (PL 44, 406).

    Speaking of the marriage of our first parents, he says, “The sacramentum means that the marriage is not severed nor the spouse abandoned.” (De Genesi ad litteram, ix, 7, 12)

    I translate “sacramentum” as “unbreakable bond,” because St Augustine is discussing the origins of marriage, rather than the Christian dispensation and he is obviously using the word in its ordinary Latin sense. Now, the commonest meaning of “sacramentum” is the military oath, the Roman soldier’s pledge of obedience to his general and fidelity to his comrades. The Romans could conceive of no more sacred and binding obligation.

  5. “One thing I hate about leftists is that they are quite expert at changing the meaning of words and phrases to suit their political goals.”

    They are quite expert at it because our side lets them do it with impunity. So, of course they are going to do it.

  6. Examples Greg of how our side “lets them get away with it”, considering they largely control academia, entertainment and news. Those are powerful megaphones that we do not control. That is the “secret” of their success. Repeat a phrase endlessly, or give an old phrase a new twist, and most people will pick it up eventually, and that is what the left is very good at indeed since they control the output of most of the chattering classes.

  7. This is the sort of thing that happens when a culture adopts utilitarianism. Anything becomes permissible as long as you make reference to pleasure. Marriage is a good. Good is based on pleasure. If one is no longer pleased it’s no longer good. If it’s no longer good, it’s no longer a marriage, no matter what the outward appearance. Because pleasure is internal, what it looks like from the outside no longer matters.

  8. Well, let’s see, the left redefines being pro-abortion with the misnomer pro-choice and they have had our side calling them that for over forty years. That’s one big one.
    Then, when the Obama administration comes out with the HHS mandate, one of the conservatives leading lights (in the view of many, not me, I’ve never trusted him) Marco Rubio comes out touting with some kind of religious liberty protection act. In addition to the fact that it had no chance to survive Harry Reid’s senate and getting Obama’s signature, it was unwittingly saying the First Amendment doesn’t mean what it says
    Those are two examples and there are others. As far as the left control the entertainment and media, what efforts have conservatives made to buy out these entities. And conservatives have far more influence in these entities than we realize with the advent of talk radio. You also have conservatives in Hollywood coming out as such in ways you didn’t see years ago. But our side still hasn’t made a real effort to take back control of the terms of the debate. We can’t stop them from using these misnomers to describe themselves, but we can stop ourselves from using them to describe them. An uphill battle to be sure, but a necessary one.

  9. “Well, let’s see, the left redefines being pro-abortion with the misnomer pro-choice and they have had our side calling them that for over forty years. That’s one big one.”

    Most pro-lifers I read refer to pro-aborts as pro-abortion or pro-abortion rights.

    “Marco Rubio comes out touting with some kind of religious liberty protection act.”

    Which almost assuredly will pass in some form if the Republicans gain control of Congress this fall, and it will be amusing to see Obama veto it. Legislation in this area can have a very broad impact, as demonstrated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, on what the Federal government can and can’t do.

    “As far as the left control the entertainment and media, what efforts have conservatives made to buy out these entities.”

    I don’t see how conservatives can buy out enough of any of these entities to make a difference. Better to start new ones like Fox in news, Franciscan University in Steubenville, and in entertainment support projects like the proposed Gosnell film.

    The left gained a key victory in taking control of academia, and changing that is going to be difficult, although their victory may come with a short future shelf life as I suspect the years of the traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities, at least as they are presently configured are numbered, because of cost and poor quality if for no better reasons.

    I agree with your underlying premise that conservatives should never allow liberals to state the terms of the debate and that when conservatives do allow this disaster beckons.

  10. “I agree with your underlying premise that conservatives should never allow liberals to state the terms of the debate and that when conservatives do allow this disaster beckons.”
    By calling leftists liberals, you have just fallen into the trap of what I am talking about. These people who are taking away liberty wholesale. There’s nothing “liberal” about that. Don’t feel too bad, even Rush Limbaugh, the most influential conservative since Reagan, constantly falls into that trap. In fact, the only radio personality that I know of who never calls leftist liberals is Dennis Prager. He always calls leftism leftism. I’ve never heard him call it liberalism or call leftists liberals.

    Yeah, Obama would veto any religious liberty legislation that hits his desk. He could very easily spin it into coded racism or some other bullshit. As far as the 1993 act goes, that hasn’t stopped Obama from imposing the HHS Mandate. Now, it looks like the Supreme Court will strike it down, but that’s not even a sure thing. But the underlying effect of these things unwittingly saying the First Amendment doesn’t mean what it says is still the most effectual.

  11. “Most pro-lifers I read refer to pro-aborts as pro-abortion or pro-abortion rights.”

    Often times, you will see prominent orthodox Catholic publications saying things like “You can’t be Catholic and pro-choice.” I see that turn of phrase a lot more than I see the opposite.

  12. “By calling leftists liberals, you have just fallen into the trap of what I am talking about.”

    I don’t think so. “Liberal” has become such a dirty word that most on the left call themselves progressives. Most people have no idea of the 19th century use of the term (under that usage I would be a liberal) and associate it with the left.

    “But the underlying effect of these things unwittingly saying the First Amendment doesn’t mean what it says is still the most effectual.”

    I can see your point but I don’t agree with it. Congress cannot restrict a liberty guaranteed under the Constitution but it can expand that liberty which in effect is what the 1993 act did. Considering that most liberal Supreme Court Justices treat the Constitution like Play-Doh it is helpful to also have a federal act on point.

  13. May 13th is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and also the day a three judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments in a case challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Prayers are needed to preserve the ban!

  14. Why has liberalism become a dirty word? I would say stop calling them liberals and just call them leftists. If the Supreme Court treats the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, like “play-doh” then what’s to stop them from striking down lesser laws under that very rubric. Something they do regularly.

  15. I am blessed to have folks who have been married for 47 years and much of what I know about sticking to it and finding joy, over and over, I learned from them. The best example of marriage that I’ve personally experienced was from my father’s friend, Ray Rose.

    As a child, his marriage to Edith was a mystery. She was home for a few weeks, laughing and happy, then sullen and short, then gone for months. The cycle repeated itself year after year.

    When Edith Rose died, I was around 14. Driving to the funeral, my folks told me that Mrs. Rose suffered from bouts of depression and violence and was repeatedly hospitalized. When she was in the hospital, Mr. Rose visited her every day and, when she was stable enough to be out he took her home.

    I said that I understood but I didn’t “get” it until I married. Only then did I come to grasp, at a surface level to be sure, the devotion Ray Rose showed and the burden he shouldered.

    I talked to my Papa about it a few years ago and he told me that Ray hadn’t had a vacation, not a single day, in nearly fifty years. He was an insurance adjuster and visited his wife between calla, passing up promotions so that he wouldn’t have to move her.

    She hd only been healthy for a couple of years but, after losing a baby late in a pregnancy, had gone in for her first hospital stay. They never had children. And, yet, he was there for her, truly “in sickness and in health” until she died. He only lived a few years after that.

    Papa told me that, anytime he and my mother were fighting or unhappy, he would look up the hill at the Rose house to see if the lights were on and it would bring things back into perspective.

  16. “then what’s to stop them from striking down lesser laws under that very rubric.”

    It is harder for a Court to strike down a Federal statute with specific language than it is for them to “interpret” the usually broad language of the Constitution. Plus, Congress is in charge of making statutes so they can always pass a new statute meeting the deficiency pointed out in the court decision striking down the old statute. That happens all the time. When it comes to the Constitution, absent a constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court is the final word. When it comes to Federal statutes they usually are not, especially in regard to a statute that expands a liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.

  17. Doc Butler and Karl,
    Typed you on to my permanent prayer list. I Cor. 13:7… ” Love….. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
    You guys are whole burnt offerings for the souls of these women if you offer it up with perseverance in Christ in the Mass for them. You have become Christ to and for them in that respect…the perfect spouse.
    ” He who loses his life for my sake, will save it.”. But….hope in their repentance….” hopes all things”.

  18. I will be attending our son’s wedding at the Cathedral in Raleigh at the end of the month. I still have no news regarding round two of our annulment case, which I had hoped would put an end to the “unsettled” issue for both of us. I presume she will be in attendance with her long time civil spouse. It will be a very emotional time for me. My youngest daughter and I are planning(we have yet to practice together as she lives near Raleigh) to sing an acapella version of the Everly Brothers’, Let It Be Me, for the newlyweds at the reception. I have asked my daughter to be my “rock”. I do not know how I will be able to hold it together singing such a beautiful love song in the presence of my wife…..

    I sure could use the prayers.

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