Catholics are often asked why we commemorate saints at Mass. Some see it as a distraction from focus on the Lord that risks elevating commemoration to outright worship.
The Mass is the action of Christ Himself. It’s visible in whose “memory” believers gather, but commemoration of the saints can help those who worship tap into past experiences for inspiration today.
The Supreme Court recently discovered a constitutional right that redefines marriage. In 1973 the same judicial body unearthed a constitutional right to terminate pregnancies based on a guarantee of privacy. Yet no privacy exists in disclosing a consumer’s health insurance status. Secular thought is not as consistent as it is promoted.
In the liturgical commemoration of the saints it becomes apparent that those who defend Jesus’ explicit definition of marriage are in no way unique to modern times. Jesus’ cousin, St. John the Baptist, was jailed because he called “unlawful” King Herod’s on-demand divorce so that he could marry his brother’s wife.
In the 9th century, Pope Saint Nicholas the Great stood up to the King of France as he sought to divorce his wife. Even though bribed local bishops granted the king’s request, Pope Saint Nicholas refused. The king marched to Rome and for two days held Nicholas captive in Saint Peter’s Basilica with no food. King Lothair retreated and Pope Saint Nicholas never stopped trying to reconcile the king to his abandoned wife.
In 16th century England, St. John Fisher appeared in court on behalf of Catherine of Aragon while St. Thomas More refused to attend the wedding of her husband, King Henry VIII, to Ann Boleyn. For both saints, the king’s desires meant redefining marriage and excessive deference to secular control.
These annual saintly liturgical commemorations remind us of what they knew then and what some can now already foresee — redefine something slightly and it will devolve into something even proponents of change cannot envision. Society has arrived here in no small part due to the advent of “no-fault” divorce, which developed because of the historic desires of power-hungry secular elites.
It isn’t just “gay marriage” — which is a rather insulting description that reduces the identity of the parties to their preferred form of intimacy — it’s the affirmation that whatever is wanted is deserved in justice. Now proponents of polygamy and polyamory are filing discrimination cases.
Polygamy didn’t create harmony in the ancient world. Polyamory didn’t work too well for Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, or Ishmael of Genesis fame. Marriage of differing types did not help the Roman Empire endure. There is nothing new under the sun.
Today’s “redefiners” risk becoming redefined by future generations who grow to despise present redefinitions the way “redefiners” seem to despise past definitions. As the saints show, it’s possible to support others while opposing what they may want. Indeed, sometimes it’s what’s best for all involved. Thankfully, in the Liturgy, Christ defines and, like the saints, we respond, “speak Lord, for Your servant is listening” and remembering.