Marriage reality in the rearview mirror

Cocooned within themselves, people begin to think that reality is simply an extension of themselves and, as such, can be changed at will on their “own terms.”

(Image: Omar Lopez/

At a recent wedding, I was struck by the power of words as the vows were exchanged. When the young couple spoke the words pledging fidelity to each other till death do them part, everything changed. We all sensed it: the two became one – forever. Wedding words are a participation in the divine because they are sacramental. (It’s no accident that Christ’s very first miracle was at a wedding feast at Cana, where He transformed water into wine.)

Shortly thereafter, during the wedding Mass, the priest spoke the words of consecration, and everything changed again. Bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

It’s amazing how God lets mere mortals participate in the eternal Logos. It is through Logos that all things come to be, it is in Logos that they are sustained, and it is by Logos that they are saved. By an extraordinary privilege, God gives human beings the power to speak sacred words by which reality can be changed and, in a way, reconstituted so as to more closely conform to the divine Will.

The Holy Spirit is the spiritual incarnation of the love between the Father and the Son, which is so powerful as to be another person entirely. Marriage distantly mirrors this when a child issues from it. The child is the physical incarnation of the love between the husband and the wife. Children instinctively know this. When they were very young, my children thought that if my wife and I took off our wedding rings, they would disappear. We never told them this. On their very own, they sensed that their very being would be jeopardized by the absence of love between their parents.

More typical of our day is the absence of the Word altogether, with the consequent corruption of words, and the wholesale loss of reality. How far our culture has retreated from reality and the goodness of marriage was illustrated, almost happenstance, by two unrelated articles in The Wall Street Journal, one on September 7, titled “More College-Educated Women Are Having Babies Outside Marriage”, and the other on September 10, titled “Men’s Fertility Fears Spawn a Mini Industry”. Both neglect nuptials.

In the first article, a woman said, “When I realized I was attracting the wrong men, and I really just wanted a child, I said, ‘why not separate the two things?’” It is easy to separate what has never been joined together. The story reports that “she is grateful that she became a mother on her own terms. ‘I felt like I had the freedom to have my son,’ she said.” But what about her son’s freedom to have a father?

Via artificial insemination, this unfortunate woman missed participating in trinitarian life through the physical incarnation of a child from the sacramental love between a husband and a wife. The self-giving present in matrimonial love was not present because of the absence of the other person to whom to give oneself. The third leg of the stool, so to speak, was missing – on purpose. Marriage is the participation in something higher than oneself. Artificial insemination is not. One cannot marry a sperm bank. This woman got a sales contract rather than a covenant. Artificial insemination is an act of absence – the deliberate exclusion of the father – a willfully broken trinity. Instead of the physical incarnation of spousal love, conception becomes an act of solipsism.

It is not simply an absence of the marital bond, as if the father had died before the baby is born; it is a denial of the bond in the first place. It is a refusal of fatherhood – a deliberate exclusion of it. This will be felt keenly by the child, who will have a lifetime of wondering where his or her father is and why he hasn’t been there. Some young adults have gained access to sperm bank records and tracked their fathers down to ask them: “Where were you?” “Why didn’t you want me?” In other words, having a child on “her terms” meant ignoring the terms of the child, who will want its father.

The second article reports that, when a 35-year-old man discovered, after a series of tests, that he had “the testosterone levels of an 80-year-old man,” his girlfriend went into a panic. What’s a guy to do? Apparently, the answer wasn’t marriage, but onanism. Instead of proposing to his girlfriend, he deposited sperm samples for banking at five different frozen storage companies. (Did his fertility fears extend to power outages, the equivalent of low electrical testosterone?) Now 39, the still-young man tells the Journal that he believes his generation could live to be 110 or 120 years old, which he says “fundamentally changes how you think about the arc of your life,” and when to have children. That almost sounds biblical. Does he know that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born? And that was before cryogenics! Instead of relying on Providence, he states that “this is like my insurance policy” – something State Farm never offered me during my many years of patronage.

By the way, one of these trailblazing companies is called Legacy, which “now offers at-home sperm sample collection kits.” I know that masturbation has many synonyms, most of them slang, but “legacy” is a new one to me and must’ve been concocted by a particularly gifted satirist. I think ambitious sales reps from Legacy will soon be at the public schools that already teach student’s many sexual techniques that would make Suetonius blush, to show them the benefits of the collection kits. Why waste all that hard work, when they can freeze it?

In case you think Legacy is a service only for men, the woke may rest assured that it is available to transgenders who haven’t transitioned too far along their arc of life. In a note of alarm, one such told the Journal, “My fertility is going down as we speak because I started transitioning, which was an emotional and physical priority for me.” Well, of course, the answer was to get that deposit down before the feminizing hormones chemically castrated him. I’m sorry; I meant castrated “them,” because that’s the person’s preferred pronoun. When a single individual insists on being addressed by the plural pronoun “they,” one might be tempted to ask “them” if their name is Legion – which might be a nifty name for a new company if it weren’t already taken by the oldest one (Mark 5:9). In any case, frozen semen seems a pathetic but fitting epitaph for the sexual revolution.

Cocooned within themselves, people begin to think that reality is simply an extension of themselves and, as such, can be changed at will on their “own terms.” However, using things outside of the purposes for which they are made despoils them. Everything has a purpose. A thing’s purpose lets us know what it’s for. Our corrupt culture is a denial of this reality. Thus, the misuse and abuse of things, persons, and selves. If you remove something from the natural order in which it finds fulfillment, it becomes self-destructive and self-alienating. That is why so many transgender people mutilate their bodies and why suicide rates among them spike.

The substitute immortality of spermal cryogenics is the modern Hades – against which there does exist an insurance policy. It is called grace, available gratis at your local church. Logos abides there and offers true immortality in the cauldron of Trinitarian love to those who will accept the invitation into his Sacred Heart. It does, however, have to be on his terms.

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