This week it has become apparent to me how little marriage means in our secular world. I was talking with a friend who is getting married shortly and I asked her if she was nervous. Her reply, "No… what's to be nervous about? If it doesn't work, I'll just get a divorce." And I guess, in a way, she's right. She's not Catholic, her marriage will be celebrated by a JP and is really just a legal document. And like all other legal documents, if it doesn't work out, she'll just end the contract. Her wedding will be, I'm sure, a beautiful celebration of the love that her and her boyfriend share, but God will not be present in the vows, she will not be given all of the graces that flow through our sacramental marriage and there will be no "what God has joined may no man put asunder" because God is not 'joining' these two – the NZ courts are.
Mulling all this over (and being the reality TV fan that I am) I noticed this attitude again and again over the course of last week. From the man on 'One Born Every Minute' who was preparing to welcome his first baby into the world and at the same time stating, "I'm just not ready for marriage, it's just a piece of paper and we don't need a piece of paper to prove that we love each other" to the women on Real Housewives who have been married numerous times each. There's also a show called Four Weddings. It amused me this week when the first bride said, "My wedding theme is going to be Bollywood", the second told us. "The theme for my big day will be princess glitter and glam" and a third bride enthused over her "Middle Eastern/Morrocon" themed wedding. I thought the theme of a wedding was love??
So, I've come to the conclusion that marriage to me (and hopefully all other Catholics) means something entirely different to the majority of people out there. The masses now believe that marriage is a celebration, a chance to have 'your big day', a legal contract, a big party, a way to stand up and profess your love to one another witnessed by friends and families. To me (and maybe other Catholics?) a wedding is all of that, but also so, so, so much more. Marriage is a sacrament. A visible sign of invisible graces being poured out. It is not only joining man and wife, it is joining the couple to God and asking Him to be present in the marriage. It is not something that can be cancelled, broken or undone.
So, I figure, let the world have their definition of marriage. Marriage, in their terms, means nothing to us in the Catholic Church. It is a legal document, nothing more. And following that train of thought, I'm no longer worried about gay marriage. Let them have their legal contract, their party etc. In the eyes of the Catholic Church that's not marriage anyway, and never will be. Just the same as any other person married outside of the Church.