In this week’s blog, Fr Paddy reflects on married life and the wider reality of relationships which exist outside of the marriage bond.wedding_rings_BN

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared on 7th October 2009

This week I have the privilege of celebrating the 65th wedding anniversary Mass, for John and Peig Monagahan, Pairc Mhuire, Bagenalstown. This is a wonderful blessing to have shared such a rich and blessed experience of life together. 65 yrs of the ups and downs, joys and sorrows that is the pathway of every married life. This is also a proud and important moment in the life of all the Monaghan family who are mindful of their parents’ long life and many sacrifices they have made to provide generously for the needs of all their family.

The traditional family has changed dramatically in our culture in recent times. Many in our own families and communities live with the reality of marital breakdown. Many family members perhaps have and continue to live with the scars and bruises that are often felt as a consequence to the end of once a loving relationship.

Many people, who live with the reality of marital breakdown, perhaps feel alienated and isolated from our faith communities; when new relationships are discovered and second unions take place. It is certainly no longer true to define an Irish family exclusively in the context of a marriage union. Many of you in the past may well remember clergy, who expounded a strange, to say the least, attitude to sexuality. Often many ordained ministers preached a narrow and unforgiving approach which constrained normal relationships between men and women. The anger and rage which characterises many peoples reaction to Church statements to sexuality comes directly from this most shameful period.

Christian teaching on marriage maintains that marriage between a man and woman is the ideal scenario in which heterosexual couples have the possibility of love and procreation. It is a fundamental tenet of Catholic teaching that everything we do has to have an end or a purpose. In sexual activity the purpose is the love of the partner and the procreation of children. If one of these aspects or ingredients is missing then the act falls short. However we live in a secular State, the Church no longer can instruct, thank God, the State how to order its affairs.

Old adages accompanied with a militant certitude associated with our Catholic tradition, I believe, are no longer applicable to the reality of life and human relationships. One of the fundamental tasks for all Church leadership must be to include and engage with ordinary people, even in the grey and complex reality that is the heart of all human relationship.

While the vision of the Gospel must be our guide, so too must the vulnerability of the many wounded and fragile wounds that are so present in the context of a broken relationship. Surely a God who calls us into life and relationship meets us where we find ourselves to be. I ask the question, when many clergy are willing to bless cattle an indeed inanimate objects perhaps in the true Spirit of compassion and Christian love; we must also be more considerate to the many human relationships that co-exist in all our communities.