Rowing to Paradise

My Chief South-Western Ontario Correspondent has got married again, after forty years. The children were in attendance, I gather, and the Church entirely onside, for you see, he made his commitment to the same woman. I recommend these churchings, these “renewal ceremonies,” to those whose first, “starter” marriage was performed in Las Vegas, or in front of some tedious provincial bureaucrat. They are like the conditional baptisms that become necessary these days. For it is not only a re-affirmation of now-distant vows, but a noble effort to sabotage any future request for an annulment.

One might even say they restore an aristocratic tradition, for in Europe over the centuries the high-born would (and could afford to) get married twice: first in a modest civil ceremony for the paperwork, then more extravagantly (both materially and spiritually) in the Cathedral, once that is filed away. Our contemporary ecclesiastical authorities tell you to get a civil divorce first, before applying for an annulment. This is the same idea, except, morally and spiritually upside down.

I realize that not all marriages work out. Hooo, do I realize. I favour allowing some separations, though regret that no one seems to seek ecclesiastical permission for them. This is not an Age of Faith, unless we count faith in technological progress, which, by comparison to Christian beliefs, is so recklessly naïve. The idea of seeking permission from anyone for anything is largely in abeyance. It does not surprise me that, for instance, as annulments are now available with almost the ease of transit tokens, the number who seek them is falling. Why bother? The consequences of riding the trolley without a ticket would be more grave; so that fare you pay.

We have odd ideas about which way is up, and for a legalistic culture, strange notions about the Law of Contract.

My S-WOC preceded his wife into the Church, by decades. It is an impressive story, but not my business to tell. He was first lured, as so many of my convert and revert friends, by reading the works of such as Messrs Lewis, Chesterton, Tolkien, Muggeridge. Oddly, Muggs was the only one of those I’d read, before I converted, and him not for religious edification. So how did I wind up in this place?

On the intellectual side, I think it began wrestling with Aristotle’s Organon: with the possibility that the world might make sense. Aristotle delivered me into the hands of his commentator, Thomas Aquinas. I have a gift for finding the hard way home. Eventually I learnt the correct question to ask, of Jesus Christ — “Are you there?” — to which in due course He replied, Yes.

But as He may lie in ambush down every path, I think, all roads lead to Rome.

Our current pope reminds me that among the Holy Fathers I most admired were Borgias and Medicis. (And among my biggest crushes, that on Lucrezia Borgia, the daughter of a pope — a girl with even more style than Ivanka Trump.) Even in those days before conversion, I gathered that the popes’ job was to backstop on doctrine and liturgy; but if they could add by glorious patronage to the inventory of Western Art, the more power to their respective right arms.

My views have developed over the years, mostly by expansion. I continue to think we can survive bad popes, and that there might even be some value in them, obscure to us because we cannot see things whole. But setting that observation aside, it is of the greatest possible importance to us — in the care and feeding of our immortal souls — that we continue in the practice of the liturgy and doctrine, upholding not only the law, but the spirit of the Law, regardless of personal convenience.

And marriage, we can know, is sacrosanct. This does not mean it is always convenient. It could not mean anything like that. It means: hold the oar, keep rowing.