Survival: a victory truly worth celebrating Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Sep. 23, 2010 -- 12:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

Last Friday evening I was privileged to celebrate the Eucharist for the International Retrouvaille gathering here in Madison. It is always an honor to welcome others to our diocese, particularly when the community gathered has an international flavor.

Many of you know that Retrouvaille is an excellent movement in the Catholic Church which calls for husbands and wives whose marriage is, to some degree, in trouble, to the kind of conversion-of-heart that enables them to rediscover the sacramental grace that they receive for the first time on their wedding day and that they are called to renew in the Lord every blessed day. The members of Retrouvaille are very seasoned people as husbands and wives, though not necessarily seasoned in the sense of “older,” and they are very strong in their faith. It is always an energizing experience to be among them.

I spoke to the gathered Retrouvaille couples about two points — I stopped at two. I began by remarking that last Friday was a great day for us in history, because a Jewish Rabbi and an Islamic leader in London both joined with Pope Benedict XVI in acknowledging the absence of God as the most serious pastoral problem in our world, and even more notably, they admitted that the absence of God was largely due from a failure to acknowledge what they called, “a natural order.” That is what we would call the natural moral law.

If one cannot use his or her reason to move from the intelligent design of the world, from meaning in the world, to the source and origin of all creation, then, indeed, the absence of God settles in for a very long season, and that is where we presently find ourselves. The admission by a Jewish leader and an Islamic leader of this problem of the absence of God and its root cause, the discrediting of the natural law, is indeed a triumph for the Truth, which all people are called by reason to embrace.

The ‘absence of God’ problem

This absence-of-God phenomenon has a special relationship to the Retrouvaille Movement, because it has been usually the case for most couples that God has become increasingly absent from their marriage, and the more absent He is, the more downward is the trend of their marriage. They have experienced first-hand that the loss of God as the third partner in their marriage means the loss of hope, because hope is always based on faith in God and, for us Catholic-Christians, faith that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

Participants in Retrouvaille tend today to be very devout Christians because they know that the loss of the sense of God comes from the loss of hope and that the loss of hope comes from the loss of faith. Once one embraces Jesus Christ, one is filled with the hope that keeps him alive in all that is important in his life and, particularly, in his married life. Without God there is no hope and there is no hope because faith is very weak or dim. Members of Retrouvaille know the tragic consequences of the absence of God in their marriage, and it is a short step from there to understanding the tragic consequences of the absence of God in the world — tragic consequences which greet all of us every day when we wake up in the morning.

In light of this reflection, we are always thankful that so many marriages, in fact, have survived. Sometimes survival is taken to mean “mere-survival,” and it doesn’t seem very precious as an achievement. It seems so much less than victory. It is interesting that when the local people in Nazareth wanted to kill Jesus by throwing him off the brow of a high hill, he did not call upon the armies of angels at His disposal to destroy those who, without warrant, were seeking his death. Jesus could have taught anyone who wanted to be his enemy a lesson by calling forth the army of angels to bring about a spectacular victory. Rather, it was enough for Jesus simply to turn around and walk away through their midst. Nothing so spectacular about that — no spectacular appearance of victory — rather, a beautiful, serene survival.

The victory of survival

At different times in married life, survival can indeed amount to a victory, if it is rooted in hope and in faith, as we have discussed. So it is too with priests, who experience many difficulties — survival in their priesthood can constitute a major victory since it keeps them clearly on their trajectory toward Christ the High Priest. When we celebrate together as Retrouvaille, we learn not to see survival as “mere-survival,” we learn not to take survival for granted. Survival is the precious first step in a long road of going forward toward holiness in Christ, whether in the case of a troubled married couple, or in the case of a troubled priest.

Survival, at times, is truly something worth celebrating because of the door it opens in hope and in faith. All of us at the Retrouvaille gathering were blessed with that doorway of survival, which has led to a most fruitful living-out of our vocation. Self-sacrifice has become easier, and even a joy. What a blessed day that the Lord, who is the Spirit, called us together as a community who have shared that beautiful experience and seek to proclaim it to others and to realize it for the sake of others. What beautiful blessings the Lord is giving our Church in so many different areas of our life!

Thank you for reading this. God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!