Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Parable of The Sower, Miracle of Feeding 5000
Volume 7 No. 427 July 28, 2017

IV. General Weekly Features

Family Special: Entering Marriage with Eyes Wide Open

by Dr. Edward Peters

If I heard it once as a tribunal judge, I heard it a thousand times in marriage nullity cases: “How could I have been so blind?” All right, maybe a thousand times is an exaggeration, but I’m sure I (and other tribunal judges) heard it plenty of times, this heart-breaking question, not rhetorical, but real, usually posed by what canon law used to call “the innocent spouse” in an annulment case, but what might today be more accurately called the shell-shocked survivor of a destructive attempt at marriage. It’s the question that one spouse needs, in many annulment cases, painfully to ask himself (or herself) after three years, eight years, or a dozen in a marriage finally wrecked by alcoholism or drug abuse, chronic infidelities, physical violence, the squandering of finances, or often enough, a combination of these factors: How could he (or she) have been so blind?

Without wanting to give the impression that the dismal factors just outlined always lead to a declaration of nullity (because they don’t), and without minimizing the fact that in most divorces and eventual annulments both parties had a role to play in the failure or nullity of the marriage (because they do), there are a considerable number of wrecked marriages wherein the signs of these grave disorders were present prior to and at the time of the wedding, but were missed or grossly minimized by the spouse who, some years later was left asking: “How could I have been so blind?”

I think there is a good answer to this question, but to appreciate it requires one to step back from the immediacy of the crisis in marriage today, and look at problem from a wider perspective. Two points need to be borne in mind.

First, it helps to recall the image of the Church as our holy Mother, one whose love for us knows no bounds. Any mother worthy of the name wants her children to avoid harm and live happy lives. Thus, a caring mother gives direction and advice, she guides her children’s feet onto the good path, and warns them against the bad. But for the most part, a mother tends to spare her children the gory details of why bad things are bad, and even details as to just how bad they really are, lest her children be unnecessarily frightened, scandalized, or drawn by a prurient interest toward such behavior. I think there is some of this maternal attitude at work in the Church’s warnings against, say, drug and alcohol abuse. The teaching that such things are wrong is clearly given. At times, additional elaboration on the dangers of such activities are given, but like a good mother, the Church does not usually present the depth of the depravity that chemical addiction entails.

To be sure, the Church is, as Pope Paul VI put it, “an expert in humanity,” and no human secrets, however horrid, are hidden from her and her ministers who need to know. Moreover, as Christ said in the parable about the rich man who begged to have a message sent from hell to his wayward brothers lest they fall into the Pit as did he, the Church can rightly say to those who suggest that she show more graphically the degree of suffering involved in some marriage-destroying activities, “The law and the prophets should be enough for us, and even if someone were to rise from the dead to tell, some people would still not believe.” For all that, though, there are people preparing for marriage who view the Church’s admonitions against some types of behavior in themselves or their future spouses as mere formalism, rules imposed without any real connection to reality.

The second problem is similar to the first, and it usually is found, albeit ironically, among young people blessed to have been raised in more or less stable families. I speak of a certain naiveté.

When children are raised in homes where dad goes to work day in and day out, where mom sees to the basic needs of her children, where meals are predictable, holidays celebrated normally, issues frankly discussed, good times enjoyed with friends and bad times embraced prayerfully as the will of God, they tend to think that most everybody does these things too. What they, as children, cannot see is the myriad ways in which solid parental love, living faith, freedom from chemical and emotional manipulation, and the leavening strength of domestic stability prevents untold numbers of problems from ever arising in the first place, and enables the family to address, usually successfully, those problems that inevitably must visit, even if barely, every home. In other words, they simply cannot imagine (and God be praised that they need not!) how bad things could really get under other circumstances than the ones they are used to.

But, marriage to an active, abusive alcoholic teaches brutal lessons. Marriage to the victim of unresolved, long-term sexual or emotional abuse teaches brutal lessons. Marriage to a sexual or financial profligate teaches brutal lessons. Is there a way, though, to learn from those lessons, short of entering such a marriage? There is, I think, but it requires two acts on the part of one considering marriage.

Two key points:

First, one needs humility. One has to be willing to admit that are some things about people in this world that one just doesn’t know. No one wants to be considered naïve (though exactly why one doesn’t, I’m not sure), but after a decade in annulment work, I can tell young people, it’s better to admit some possible naiveté now than to enter a minefield marriage and have your cluelessness proven to all the world. Instead of being embarrassed by your naiveté, thank God for it. Thank God that you don’t know how bad this condition or that vice can be, in the same way that many people can thank God that they don’t know what deep hunger means, or how homelessness feels, or what victimization by crime is like.

Second, one needs trust. One has to be willing to take the Church at its word that certain things are destructive of happiness before marriage and after. One has to trust concerned parents, siblings, pastors, or friends when they express reservations or opposition to plans to marry so-and-so. Don’t assume that such reservations or opposition are based on dislike of your choice for marriage (even if such dislike is present). Rather, consider the possibility that the stance is based on love and concern for you.

One final but very important point to consider. While many, many people suffer from things that can directly and severely impact their own ability to marry and their potential spouses’ chances at happiness in marriage, few of them labor under such circumstances that cannot, with patience, prayer, and counseling, eventually be overcome or repaired. In other words, one’s frank recognition that, at present such-and-such a marriage is ill-advised, does not necessarily mean that the wedding can never take place. What it more likely means is that if the wedding takes place now, without the benefit of counseling or, if needed, personal reform, it will likely entail much unnecessary suffering for both parties and eventually children, and is even more likely finally to fail than are, sadly, most marriages today. I would hold that there is no such thing as a bad reason to call off a wedding. Surely we can suggest that there is no such thing as bad reason to put one off. A few months (such a short time!) may be all it takes to address effectively a situation that might otherwise result in a lifetime of unhappiness.

Sometimes, when a party in an annulment case asks: “How could I have been so blind?”, the plain truth is that the person had deliberately blinded himself or herself to the pre-wedding warning signs of impending disaster. But in many cases, no self-deception was at work. The person instead simply did not understand, and not understanding, too hastily shrugged off, the warning signs that the Church, parents, families or friends said, or perhaps hinted, were there. But marriage, more than any other decision the great majority of adult Catholics will make in life, is simply too important to enter with anything less than eyes wide open.

About The Author:

Dr. Peters served for many years as a Defender of the Bond and later as Matrimonial judge in various diocesan tribunals. He presently is professor canon law and liturgy for the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Family Special: Domestic Violence Warning Signs

by Linda O'Dochartaigh

How to Spot a Victim of Domestic Violence
Health-Care Pro Discusses the Many Warning Signs

In the United States, women are assaulted or beaten once every nine seconds; worldwide, one in three women have been battered, raped or otherwise abused in her lifetime, according to women's advocacy organizations.

"That means most of us - while grocery shopping, at work or at home - come across several women a day who have either been abused, or are currently enduring abuse," says Linda O'Dochartaigh, a health professional and author of Peregrine ( "It's a terrible fact of life for too many women, but if there is something we can do about it and we care about fellow human beings, then we must try."

There are several abuse resources available to women who are being abused, or friends of women who need advice, including:

•, National Domestic Violence Hotline, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 1-800-799-SAFE (7223)

•, provides unbiased, advertising-free mental health information to give people the self-help options to help people understand, prevent, and resolve life's challenges

•, allows women to search for an offender in custody by name or identification number, then register to be alerted if the offender is released, transferred, or escapes

•, 1-888-7HELPLINE, offers crisis intervention and support services for victims of intimate partner violence and their families

Perhaps the best thing friends and family can do for a woman enduring domestic abuse is to be there for her - not only as a sympathetic ear, but also as a source of common sense that encourages her to take protective measures, O'Dochartaigh says. Before that, however, loved ones need to recognize that help is needed.

O'Dochartaigh reviews some of the warning signs:

• Clothing:

Take notice of a change in clothing style or unusual fashion choices that would allow marks or bruises to be easily hidden. For instance, someone who wears long sleeves even in the dog days of summer may be trying to hide signs of abuse.

• Constant phone calls:

Many abusers are very controlling and suspicious, so they will call their victims multiple times each day to "check in." This is a subtle way of manipulating their victims, to make them fearful of uttering a stray word that might alert someone that something is wrong. Many abusers are also jealous, and suspect their partner is cheating on them, and the constant calls are a way of making sure they aren't with anyone they aren't supposed to be around.

• Unaccountable injuries:

Sometimes, obvious injuries such as arm bruises or black eyes are a way to show outward domination over the victim. Other times, abusers harm areas of the body that won't be seen by family, friends and coworkers.

• Frequent absences:

Often missing work or school and other last-minute plan changes may be a woman hiding abuse, especially if she is otherwise reliable.

• Excessive guilt & culpability:

Taking the blame for things that go wrong, even though she was clearly not the person responsible - or she is overly-emotional for her involvement - is a red flag.

• Fear of conflict:

Being brow-beaten or physically beaten takes a heavy psychological toll, and anxiety bleeds into other relationships.

• Chronic uncertainty:

Abusers often dominate every phase of a victim's life, including what she thinks she likes, so making basic decisions can prove challenging.

About Linda O'Dochartaigh

Linda O'Dochartaigh has worked in health care is an advocate for victims of child abuse and domestic violence. She wants survivors to know that an enriched, stable and happy life is available to them. ...

Extending Grace With Unconditional Love

by Chris and Michelle Groff

Rom. 8:1-2: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (NIV).

What incredible words! Although we may understand them on an intellectual level, it can still be hard for us to accept God's grace. Often, we try to be "good enough" because we can't seem to separate our value from our performance.

To appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross, we have to be honest about the depth of our sin. This is painful - but once we have truly experienced the extent of God's grace, we can extend it to our children in a life-changing way. Knowing we are all sinners in need of grace, we can allow them to experience the consequences of their choices without condemning who they are as people.

Follow God's example of grace by offering unconditional love for the sinner while delivering consequences for the sin.

Source: Parenting by Design

3 Jesus-Proven Approaches to Staying with God

by Kelly Balarie

How can you stay in the presence of God with the presence of a hundred and one things working against you?

Often, the world comes in like a wrecking ball of faith, knocking down the tall temples of love established in the morning. It knocks down our reliance on Christ, our submission to his will and our connection to his Word, if we are not careful.

Our "He is for me," turns into "I better figure this out."
Our "Thy will be done," ends up as "My will is getting done."
Our "I trust you," turns into "Where did he go?"

The presence of God - is often exchanged for the presence of our anxieties.

Then, we feel alone - lost in the woods, without a helper, without a guide, without a hope and full of aggravation at how we allowed ourselves to get so deeply misguided by all that surrounds us.

Shame pushes us away from the One who casts no shame.

Yet, God never intended for us to live our lives like yo-yos of faithfulness - up one moment in the heights of his love and down the next in the depths of despair.

Distraction hits and our will loses traction with God.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. Jo. 15:4

What are we to do, when "prone to wander" kicks in?

We copy the only One who was entirely real, reliant and receptive in relationship with his father - Jesus.

The One, who faced the anguish of the world,
yet was not swayed by the earths' chatter.

The One who, despite the outcries to "crucify Him,"
knew who to cry out to.

The One who could see the looming pain,
but kept his eyes only on the end goal - eternity.

The One who dwelled not on our offenses,
but his power to save our fair-weather hearts.

Despite everything that promised to break his back, he ministered to us, the sinners, the weak, the broken, the distracted, the annoyed, the betrayers.

3 Ways to Stay with God, as Jesus teaches:

1. Let your will be his will.

(Jesus said), "Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book."
Hebrews 10:7

When we know that all is for him, through him and by him, for his glory, forever and always, until eternity arrives (Ro. 11:36), our heart learns to live at rest. The inner-knitting of our faith rests in the idea that God is sovereign, he has a plan, his will is best, his leading is unparalleled and his protection is perfect.

2. Come out of hiding.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
Luke 22:45

When we come out of hiding, we start abiding. Jesus didn't run from his desire to escape his turmoil. He brought this hope to God. He didn't say, "this is not a Godly feeling or Godly request" and decide to brush it under the carpet, instead he was open, transparent and willing to receive the will of God.

God's power is perfected in our weakness, it is ordained through our reliance on him and it uncovered through a humble heart.

He hears our lowly calls for help.

3. Remember, remember - and then remember again.

"This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
Luke 22:19

Jesus' near final words instruct our heart to remember. Not to remember once, but to remember over and over again. Dwelling on God’s faithfulness resets our internal dialogues to the truth and the power of what has been done for us.

BONUS: Pray.

You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God…You don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. Ps. 119:1-8

We are not soaked by life's downpours, but covered by the protection of God's great love as we go with him.

God is calling us to hold hands with him as we skip down straight roads of life towards his great purposes.

Source: Purposeful Faith blog,


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