Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Wendel Berry on Marriage

I've excerpted this passage from the Winter 2007 issue of Communio, that I'm just now getting to. The article is a reproduction of a lecture given by Anne Husted Burleigh on Wendel Berry's worldview, particularly as it relates to marriage's role in society. The language is abstract, so you have to use your own experiences to "fill in the blanks," so to speak. Enjoy!

The beauty of marriage is that by way of its fidelity and incarnation it moves people away from the egotism of abstraction and allows them to meet the world in all its concrete goodness. Married people dare not dally in abstractions and individualistic dreams about freedom from responsibility. The very nature of their life requires giving and sacrifice. It requires that they take and make their place, that they tend it and send down roots in the place of their giving. Rootlessnesss and family life do not mix; but permanence, place, and family life do. Marriage does not unfold in thin air; rather it requires the protection of a particular incarnated place in which to thrive.
The concrete, particular, enfleshed, daily reality of marriage and family life, embedded in love and work and sacrifice and lived out in a particular place, reveals what the Incarnation of God's Word - that is, God himself enfleshed and dwelling among us as a man - means to the world. It means that the created world is suffused with God's imprint. The invisible is present in the visible. The work of God's hand, the things of the earth, are valuable and indeed sacred. The material world is good. It is blessed, a theme that Berry repeats over and over. A man, a woman, a child, soil, grass, books, barns, fields are good. Things - concrete, touchable, knowable, mysterious things - are good, and they are a gift. They are given to us to love, to care for, to reverence. Even though we may make a mess of things, we do not destroy the goodness that pervades the things of this world. In one of his poems Berry writes,

There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

It strikes me that Berry's thoughts on marriage, as Burleigh summarizes them, only really apply to a marriage open to life. Those married couples who, together, are only intent on pursuing self-actualization have yet to escape the trap of self. Abstractions can leave us trapped in the self because, as ideas in the mind, they are nearly infinitely manipulable. We can play all kinds of games with them to get what we want, or get out of what we don't like. It's harder to do that with the concrete reality of a crying six month old boy who's got poopy diapers in the middle of the night.

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