Tag Archives: marriage rite

Marriage Killers: The Pitter Patter of Little Annoyances

I performed a marriage ceremony yesterday for a wonderful couple out on the beach near “First Landing” memorial and historic Cape Henry lighthouse on Fort Story, or what is now part of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.  It was a wonderful time despite having my pristine bald head sunburned and looking like a tomato by the end of the ceremony and pictures. I should have worn my Giants cap up to the beginning of the actual ceremony or slapped on some sunscreen before I went out but no I couldn’t do any such thing.  But anyway I digress.

In my years as a Priest and a Chaplain in both the Army and the Navy I have done a lot of pre-marriage, marriage and post marriage counseling.  In that time I have come to realize that of the 50% or so of marriages that end up in divorce that most are not due to the “big things” like adultery or abuse. Instead it is the pitter patter of little annoyances and an inability to communicate or be emotionally intimate with one another that are the leading causes of why so many marriages fail.  Now admittedly in the context of things the “big things” like adultery and abuse are nearly impossible for a marriage to recover from because they are betrayals of trust and safety with the people that we have chosen to be vulnerable with and commit ourselves to, hopefully for life.

Now I really don’t think that most people enter into marriage be it a religious or civil marriage go into it with the expectation or hope that it will fail.  Instead I am want to believe that the vast majority of people that enter into marriage want it to work but really have no clue of what they are getting into.  The marriage rite in the Book of Common Prayer is quite rightly marriage is “not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately…” in other words with due prudence, preparation and discernment.

One thing that I always tell the young male sailors and Marines that I have counseled when they are hot to trot and madly in lust is to remind them of the seal on the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The flag shows a woman, “Virtus” or Virtue dressed as an Amazon standing over a man with her foot on him and a spear thrust down beside him.  I tell them that it is symbolic of the divorce laws here in the Old Dominion.  But anyway I digress.

Virginia Divorce Laws as portrayed of the State Flag

The big things are most difficult to survive in the short term; however it is the constant beating of the little things, those annoyances that married couples experience from each other that kill marriages just as dead as the big things even though it usually takes longer for this to happen.  A friend of my mother’s dropped her divorce papers on her unwitting and clueless husband on their 50th wedding anniversary which I must confess earns her a high score for both technical merit and artistic achievement.  Of course most people don’t wait that long to do this and the papers are filled with stories about couples that file for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences.”  What are these differences?  Well I’m glad that you asked that question but if you are married or were married I am surprised that you have to ask. It is the little things, annoying habits, nervous ticks, crumbs left on the counter, underwear draped on the banister, clothing strewn around the house, spending habits on hobbies deemed unnecessary by one spouse or another, personality differences maybe one is an introvert and one an extrovert or similarities that are so close that one or the other realize that what they find annoying in their spouse is just like what they do leading to a rather unique form of self loathing.   Likewise there are the spouse’s friends and friendships that date back well before the couple met that one or the other spouse finds bothersome or feels threatened by and then there of course are the things that couples don’t communicate about, the things that are allowed to build up until they explode like a volcano or even a massive pimple.  For some reason and I don’t know why it seems that a nearly universal occurrence in marriage is that couples cannot communicate their needs and desires and are woefully unable to bear any criticism from their spouse.  For some reason, I don’t know maybe fear of rejection by their spouse if they own up to their needs or put voice to their criticism will instead let things build up until the discontent reaches such a level that it can no longer be held in and they erupt.  Of course the damage done by the eruption of pure and unabated negative energy the explosion causes such damage that it is about as repairable as the battle cruiser HMS Hood or perhaps the battleship USS Arizona.   The only difference is that the damaged and explosive build up takes a lot more time in these types of situations.

You see since the Abbess of the Abbey Normal and I have been married for almost 27 years we now understand this.  Not that is it always fun as certainly the two of us have done enough annoying things to each other over the course of the years to throw each other under the bus on innumerable occasions and sometimes our love has been tested but somehow we choose to remain committed to one another sometimes in spite of our better sensibilities.  However we do love each other and somehow in spite of the many often idiot things that I have done to include my sometimes brazen insensitivity we stay together.  It is like the Bible says; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.  I think that the endurance thing doesn’t get enough play but still as for the Abbess anyone who can endure me for almost 27 years has a lot to brag about as I am not always the most sensitive person in the world, after all I am a Meyers-Briggs INTJ which basically means that my baseline is pretty much on the anti-social side of life. I guess that love does endure all things.  Our marriage is one where love somehow finds a way to triumph especially in spite of me. As I said to the Abbess once when watching an early episode of the TV show House …”House is like me without Jesus” and she said “Honey, House is you with Jesus.”

So the sometimes good and sometimes not so good padre is for couples that might be looking for love in all the wrong places and looking for love in too many faces to take some time before they tie the know and as the Book of Common Prayer Marriage Rite says to not to enter it marriage is not to be enter into it unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and even might a say deliberately with all due discernment, preparation, counsel and even dare I say….say it say it, okay I must I must with trepidation fear and trembling and not give way to a surge of testosterone or hormones.  After all, this isn’t a movie it is real life and the failure to take simple stuff like this into account will certainly make things a lot more complicated and possibly painful later on and by the way for my more spiritual or religious readers, just because you guys think that the lust that you have for each other is God’s will because it makes you feel good, you can take those feelings and your checkbook to the divorce attorney who will certainly try his best to make all the bad feelings go away as fast as your bank account will let him.


Padre Steve+

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Kira Gets Married, the June Swoon and the Rise and Fall of Stars

kira 1Kira Arriving escorted by her Proud Dad Tony

After having to deal with what has seemed like and unending series a series of memorial services, funerals and family medical crisis’ I finally something to celebrate.  Judy and I are going to the wedding of Kira.  Kira goes to the same church as Judy whose mother sings in the same choir.  Kira is a choir child and occasionally will sing with them. We first met Kira when she had just graduated from high school.  Even then she was a joy.  She was and is one of the sweetest girls we have ever known.  Of course Judy knew Kira and her family at church.  I was on the road frequently and only occasionally attended the church.  I got to know her better over at Gordon Biersch where she worked when Judy and I first started going there.  The first time I actually met her Judy told me “THIS IS KIRA AND YOU WILL OVERTIP HER.”  I did so but never regetted it, Kira always earned it.  If things were not too busy and even if they were busy Kira would pull up a chair by us and just talk.  Sometimes it was life, sometimes church, school or relationships but the conversation between us and Kira was something that we looked forward to every time we went to Biersch.  Now we know all of the bartenders and quite a few of the servers at the restaurant, and we love them all and we pretty much overtip them as well.  Kira however was something special.  As she completes college I know that she will do great things.   Her soon to be husband is a lucky man and is advised to take good care of Kira.

Kira is also a beautiful girl.  She comes from Irish and Italian stock, but you would think that she came direct from directly from Erin.  Her personal and physical beauty must have attracted guys like flies.  She seems to have stepped out of an Andrew Greely Bishop Blackie mystery as the sweet and beautiful heroine who helps Blackie solve the mystery.   If we had a daughter, we would want her to be Kira.

Kira will be married in the yard of her parent’s home.  Her and our Priest, Fr Jim will perform the ceremony.   The location is because some people attending are decidedly anti-Catholic and will not enter a Catholic church.  This means of course that I will be in my clericals tonight and maybe even wear a big pectoral cross or crucifix.  I seldom wear these even though my church says priests should wear silver pectoral crosses.  I personally find them a bit pretentious, but in this case to help draw fire from Fr Jim and make the anti-Catholics uncomfortable I will wear this and ingratiate myself to them.  Now, this will be a sacrifice for me as it will be hot and humid tonight.  Today happens to be the hottest day that we have had this year the temperature will be in the mid to high 90s with a heat index of over 100 degrees.  I will likely be sweating like a Boiler Technician on a World War Two cruiser in the South Pacific, probably off of Guadalcanal.  I hate humidity.  However tonight the cause is worthy of suffering for Jesus and I’m sure that the Deity Herself will approve.  When Judy and I were married we had temps in the high 90s but we were married in California with NO HUMIDITY thank you God.  There is the possibility that we could get storms so I am praying hard that at least for the duration of the ceremony that the heavens do not open as this is an open ceremony.  Now I do this kind of thing a lot with the Tides with varying degrees of success.  I do pray that the Deity Herself will smile upon Kira’s wedding.

kira 2Kira and Nate

A practical implication for Kira and her very soon to be husband is that the Roman Catholic Church will not recognize tonight’s ceremony because it is not being done in a church building.  The Commonwealth of Virginia will recognize this, but the church will not.  So tomorrow they will have the rite done in the small chapel in the church proper.  It is kind of a two step way of doing this and thankfully for the bride she has a wonderful priest who will work with her.  The inside the building requirement is because of an understanding that since marriage is a Sacrament of the Church that the wedding is to be performed in a religious setting among the faithful.  Complicating the situation was that Kira’s family’s home is in the boundary of another far more conservative parish that would have had to okay it, no chance of that. I do understand this requiement under Canon Law and try to follow it myself though I am not Roman; however as a Navy Chaplain sometimes I make exception to this.  However I also have theological questions about the necessity of getting married in the church building.  If the church is present where the Bishop is and by extension where the Priest is; and the Sacrament is performed in accordance with the Marriage Rite and proper intent of it being a Sacrament  conducted by a validly ordained Priest, how can it not be valid?  It seems to me that the same Holy Trinity which sanctifies the Rite conducted by the Priest is capable of doing this outside as well as inside of the church building.  I’m sure that the early Catholic Church could not do this, neither the Celtic Catholic missionaries who converted much of Western Europe.  They simply did not have the facilities.  Likewise, the underground churches in China or Islamic nations. The Bishop or Priest was present with the faithful and that ensured the validity of the sacraments, not the location.  I’m sure to get a barrage of theological criticism from the Ultra Montanes Canon Law Nazis but what do I care?

kira 3Presentation of the Newly Married Couple

A SHAMELESSS PLUG AND FREE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE ABBY NORMAL ABBESS: Judy contributed her part for the wedding doing a beautiful Celtic design for the bulletin covers.  I saw her working on these and the detail that she puts into her work and the beauty of the finished product is simply amazing.  If you need digital artwork done for almost anything, or for that matter religious statues restored or custom clergy vestments she is incredible. Some of my posts about our Wiener Dogs display her work.  These are drawings and not photos if you have any questions.  Contact her through the like to the Abby Normal Abbess on the blog role link on right column of this page.

Speaking of the Norfolk Tides, they are emulating the old San Francisco Giants and are experiencing a “June Swoon.”  This has not been a good month for the home team.  The Orioles gutted our fearsome batting order bringing Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Oscar Salazar to the big team where they are all doing well.  Our hitting has died, thankfully the pitching staff is still holding together.  Even more importantly our closest competitor the Durham Bulls are doing even worse this month and we remain a game up in the International League South.  I must redouble my prayers for the team and perhaps ask Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfeld if I can bless the bats.  After all it was Yogi Berra who once said: “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”  Since Master Yogi has made this pronouncement I am sure that something has happened to the bats and that an exorcism might be due.

Finally some stars are rising and falling this week in the Navy.  First the rising star:  Captain Frank Morneau, my first Commodore at EOD Group Two was selected for the rank of Rear Admiral Lower Half.  This is the same rank as a Army, Marine Corps or Air Force Brigadier General.  There are not many EOD Officers who have risen to this rank.  Captain Morneau is the second.  He was great to work for and is a dynamic and energetic officer.  I remember him most as being a baseball fan, actually a Yankees fan that carried a game used bat to staff meetings.  Since I only carry a baseball in my digital camouflage uniform and get some looks as I toss up and down as I walk our corridors I can imagine the looks that Rear Admiral Select Morneau will get at the Pentagon or Congressional hearings on EOD issues.

The falling star is Rear Admiral Alan Blues Baker, the Deputy Navy Chief of Chaplains and Chaplain of the Marine Corps.  Admiral Baker is a graduate of the Naval Academy and former Surface Warfare Officer.  He was investigated by the Navy Inspector General (why we don’t have an Inspector Admiral I will never know) for an allegation of retribution and violation of the Military Whistle Blower Protection Act in regard to the FY 2008 Chaplain Captain selection board.  I do not know Admiral Baker but as a career officer and chaplain in both the Army and Navy see his forced retirement and failure to become our Chief of Chaplains as yet another stain on our Corps.  I wish this had never happened and will keep him and his family in my prayers even as I pray for the future leadership of the Chaplain Corps.  Admiral Bob Burt who was scheduled to retire will remain in office for another year and Rear-Admiral Select Mark Tidd will assume the office as the Deputy and Chaplain of the Marine Corps as scheduled.

This issue grieves me.  I remember when my Brigade Executive Officer and later acting commander Colonel Jim Wigger tell me that the Chaplain Corps in the Army was far more political and had no Ruths, being so ruthless in comparison with the Army Medical Department.  The Army Medical Department was a pretty ruthless organization, so when Colonel Wigger told me that I was somewhat skeptical.  He told me that I was jumping from the “frying pan into the fire” and he was right.  The thing about chaplains regardless of denominational affiliation, theological background or rank is that we are expected to be above the board and exemplify integrity.  If we even give the impression that we are somehow unethical or lacking in integrity then what we say means nothing because people will either not believe us or discount what we say.  It creates a problem for those who are doing good things because some people will lump us all in with the wrong doer. When a chaplain falls it can create a crisis of faith in the community. It is the same as when a civilian minister falls from grace.  The Catholic pedophile priests, pastors of Evangelical Mega-Churches or large ministries who are accused of financial or sexual misconduct created the same problem for civilian ministers as well as military chaplains.  Admiral Baker’s fall comes on the heels of a young Chaplain named Dillman who was convicted of a number of sexual assault and improper conduct charges a couple of weeks ago.  This young man once named as a Military Chaplain Association of America  “Chaplain of the Year is going to Leavenworth for 10 years.  A couple of years ago we had a priest who was convicted of a number of sexual assault charges by having sex with other men and not telling them that he was HIV positive.  This chaplain was a “poster boy” for the Chaplain Corps and the Roman Catholic Church Military Archdiocese.  Another Chaplain named Klingenschmitt was convicted of disobeying lawful orders after having engaged in a prolonged period of protest against the Navy.  Klingenschmitt, who I have written about on this website before made an absolute ass out of himself by protesting the Navy in front of the White House, making spurious allegations against multiple commanding officers and lying through his teeth about “not being allowed to pray in Jesus Name.”  When I was at Camp LeJeune I had to relieve two Chaplains who were kicked out of the Navy for sexual misconduct, one Protestant and one Catholic.  When I was at Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division I was given charge over several chaplains who had not acquitted themselves well in order to try to help them become successful.   I also saw Army Chaplains conduct themselves in less than exemplary fashion.

Of course chaplains and ministers are human and we all are flawed, as the Apostle Paul wrote “All have fouled up and fallen short of the Glory of God.”  This being said chaplains and ministers while being human and free to make mistakes need to be sure that those mistakes are not those which compromise our integrity.  When I was a young Army Chaplain we were told that SAM, Sex, Alcohol and Money were the three biggest issues that put chaplains out of the service in jail.   Let’s add retribution to that list.  It is a sad day for the Chaplain Corps.  Please pray for us as individuals as well as a Corps as we walk through this valley and keep Admiral Baker in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The wedding went off well, the promise of the Deity Herself to hold back the rain materizlized as she had promised.  Howver it was hot and humid and though I look good in them was regretting wearing my clericals.  The June Swoon con tinues for the Tides and the Bulls but the Gwinnett Braves are sneaking up and are within two games of the Tides and one of the Bulls.  We have been getting some runs but need to have things come together and fast.  Harbor Park is withing my resposne time to the medical center so if there is nothing critical going on tomorrow afternoon I will head over and watch the game.  So for selfish reason if nothing else I pray for the good health of all tomorrow.

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