Holy Week and protecting true marriage Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
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,

As we make our way through Holy Week to Easter, one of the most remarkable things we encounter is a startling oxymoron, a seeming contradiction, in terms of Jesus’ death on the Cross as ugly and tortuous, and yet beautiful.

It’s one of the most tremendous mysteries of our faith — horrible ugliness and tortuousness, behind which is concealed the most beautiful Truth in all of human history.

Holy Week itself maintains the juxtaposition of these two realities. Our liturgies for Holy Week open with beauty on Palm Sunday, with the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem

As Jesus made His way into the city, people were unleashing their unspeakable joy that their Messianic hopes would be fulfilled in Him. Jesus entered Jerusalem as the Messiah for whom the Jewish people longed — indeed, that was what their whole faith was about — and so their joy was unbridled as they waved their palms and their olive branches, and cried out “Hosanna!” That kind of beauty is the kind of beauty that we should experience at every single Mass that we attend. And it is beauty.

Now, some of the same people who were hailing Jesus as the Messiah on Sunday, just five days later shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!” And we hear, in the beautiful Passion of St. Luke, how horrible and tortuous and ugly the crucifixion of Jesus was. Indeed, it is an image of the lowest and ugliest moment of human history, as we crucified the most innocent among us.

But that crucifixion itself, with all of its ugliness as an instrument of torture, turns beautiful when we hear, at the end of the Passion reading, “this day you will be with me in Paradise,” as Jesus explains, in a gesture, why the torture and ugliness of the Cross is beautiful for the eyes of faith.

Seeing beauty in the crucifixion

The tortuousness and ugliness of the Cross is beautiful for the eyes of faith, because from there flows forth mercy, and mercy is beautiful — perhaps the most beautiful truth about our salvation. But, it does take the trained eye of faith to look behind the veil of ugliness and torture, the veil that had to be torn in two, so that the beauty of mercy and the glory of mercy could reveal themselves to us.

This is why, at this most important time of the year, beauty is so important in the life of each and every Christian. It takes a trained eye of faith to look behind the veil of the Cross and see the beauty and the glory of God revealed.

And that’s what we do at every liturgy, but especially at the Easter Vigil, with beautiful music, with beautiful symbols, with beautiful vestments, with bells and incense. Those are all signs of the glory and the beauty of the Cross, which, by the trained eye of faith, gives way to the mysterious encounter of the full glory of God, in His merciful gift at the Mass.

Amidst our faithful consideration of the beauty of mercy and the ugliness of the cross — our eyes are fixed on these sacred mysteries — at the same time, our country’s eyes are turned toward the Supreme Court of the United States who will have considered “same-sex marriage,” during Holy Week.

Marriage is a ‘school of mercy’

God, in His eternal plan, gave us a “school of mercy,” a “school of beauty,” to train the eye of faith of the very young. That school of mercy and of beauty is the family — one husband, one wife, one lifetime, with openness to children.

By way of the sacrificial and full gift of one man and one woman, expressed by the outpouring of their very lives in the co-creation with God of their children, and their promise to remain faithful one-to-another until death, father and mother create (with God) a school of sacrificial love, which is mercy for us. Children have a right to a mom and a dad (and to learn even as their first words, “mom” and “dad”).

The ideas, even the very words of “mother” and “father,” are foundational to the understanding for children of the whole rest of life. It is how the Creator created humanity to continue and to grow, and it is a “school,” that God has blessed by making His home within it, and raising it even to the level of Sacrament — a sign of His presence.

Children have a right to mother and father

Little children have a right to mother and father, granted by the very law of nature. Why are their rights so easily disregarded in the name of other “rights” which couldn’t really be rights at all? Why are the rights of children to be born in accordance with God’s will (or even born at all) completely trampled upon, in the name of “rights” of other individuals to do as they feel?

It was a great joy to me (and there have been many great joys to me about the Papacy of Pope Francis, whom I often slip and call “Saint Francis,” already) to hear him repeat, almost word-for-word, the core of the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, that we live in a “dictatorship of relativism” and that the only way out of the oppressive rule of this dictatorship is for all people of good will to look upon and to accept the truth about the nature of the human person — the natural law.

With the magisterium of Pope Benedict, we have very clear and strong continuity in the magisterium of Pope Francis. And thank God that Pope Francis can be very, very much relied upon to defend the sacredness of marriage and its true definition.

So, if we care that the message of the Cross and the Resurrection gets through, namely the message of mercy, then how hard must we fight to defend the school of mercy, the authentic and true family. Without that school of mercy, countries and cultures will become even more merciless than they already are.

Current opinion polls

Pollsters are saying that an outstanding majority of young people favor “same-sex marriage,” or as they say, “marriage equality.” Redefining marriage does not mean marriage equality. Marriage — which must involve one man, one woman, one lifetime, with openness to children — is understood equally to allow any man the right to marry a woman and any woman to marry a man, if they choose.

Redefining marriage is quite different from “marriage equality”; it means redefining marriage, something which we do not have the right to redefine. And so the word game keeps getting played, and we keep losing.

I find it hard to believe that an overwhelming majority favor same-sex marriage, as my experience does not lead me to believe that is true. Still, there’s no question that many, many young people, including many Catholics, do support this redefinition.

Protecting true and authentic marriage

And so, this week as we celebrate mercy in all of its moments and in all of its dimensions, day-by-day, let us pray hard that our county and our culture will move away from the present direction and into the project of protecting true and authentic marriage, given by God, and modeled by the Holy Family, as the school of authentic mercy, so that the message of the mercy of God — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, becomes much more strongly present in the world.

The vindication of God’s mercy and mercy’s irresistible power are won by the horror of the Cross, revealing beauty itself, the beauty of the Resurrection, which is the work of none other than the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thank you for reading this. Every blessing of hope and joy to you and yours at Easter. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! Alleluia!