Getting Married (Again) in Italy

Last night, I met with some honeymooners-friends of mine on a rooftop restaurant in Rome. They are making their way through Italy.

On Thursday, in celebration of twelve DAYS of marriage, I will witness as they renew their vows in St. Peter’s Basilica. I’ve presided at ceremonies to renew wedding promises before, but those were to celebrate wedding anniversaries of ten, 25, and 50 years. I've never done it after only 12 days.

I was impressed with the reason behind Jim and Allisen’s wish. When they exchanged their vows 11 days ago in New York City, they committed, before God and their friends, to love and be faithful to each other forever. On Thursday, they will renew that commitment, but they will do so in another context. At 7:00 a.m., the big basilica will be empty. There will be no family or friends. Allisen won’t be thinking of the Church decorations, the bridesmaids’ dresses, or how to move around with such a cumbersome train (who invented those things?). Jim won’t be worried about the things men worry about on the day of their wedding (usually something about never being a bachelor again).

This new context, for Jim and Allisen, means more than European romance. They intend to link their own commitment to each other with something bigger than themselves — the faith and tradition of Christian culture.

Beneath the main altar of this Basilica lie the remains of Peter, the leader of the twelve apostles. During World War II, while media attention was turned elsewhere, archeologists quietly excavated to see if they could find the remains of this harrowed figure. Not only did they find the original burial “niche” upon which the construction of the basilica was centered, they also found the bones of an elderly man who had died around the age of 80. His remains had been wrapped in a purple and gold sack, symbols of regal honor. Conspicuously missing were the man’s feet bones (tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down and his ankle bones severed to bring him down from the cross).

Over the centuries, three altars have been built directly over this particular burial site. The first was built in the second half of the 2nd century, and the current one was finished in 1594. If you drop a plumb line from the tip of the basilica’s “Dome” (136 meters tall) it will fall precisely over the tomb of Peter. In other words, lots of people thought this guy was special.

That kind of history helps us put our own life and faith into perspective. Marriage won’t always be easy for Jim and Allisen — and they know it — but they think the good times and the bad will make more sense having connected their commitment to the faith of those who have gone before them. I think so too.

Anyone else want to come to Rome?

Or maybe I’ll see some of you in the States next month. I’ll be doing a few speaking engagements in New York, Dallas, and Kentucky.

Now for some e-mails! They are responses to my last few postings. I hope you are able to make sense of them, even though they are not organized by themes. I’m posting more critical e-mails than positive ones because I think they help us see and learn from the other side of the issues.

God bless, Father Jonathan

Hello Father Jonathan,
I always enjoy your columns. It seems, though, that you have gotten away from "doing e-mails." [….] You seem to have made the "big time" and in doing so have "elevated" your thoughts to a higher, more intelligent, more elegant plain. I notice you post very few readers e-mail now. Don't get famous and forget the gazillion of little people who like and need to read your column.-- Sam (Memphis, TN)

RESPONSE: Sam, thanks for keeping me in line! Sometimes I scratch my plans to post e-mails in order to write about a breaking news story. Like you said, maybe this is pretty prideful on my part, thinking what I have to say is so important. I look forward to hearing what others think about the good point you make.

Dear Mr. Morris,
If you can criticize atheist beliefs, as you did at the end of your most recent article, then I have the right as a strict and logical atheist to ridicule religion. I think you ought to wake up and face reality as soon as you can. Then make an effort to come to terms with atheists who are living in the real world, free of delusions, illusions and mistaken religious beliefs.

Why don't you ask your girlfriend to prepare a hot chocolate for you before you go to bed this evening, and if you haven't got a girlfriend then go and get one, as every man needs love, and the love of a woman is more important than religion. Then perhaps you could try to wake up tomorrow morning free of religious fantasies, and throw away those religious fairytales, namely the bible, which is just a story based on hearsay for goodness sake...

Thank you for writing all those brilliant articles for Fox news, you're an extremely clever journalist -one of the most astute I believe, and I'm really looking forward to reading your future articles. —Best wishes always, Marita from London, England

RESPONSE: Marita, I do like hot chocolate, but I don’t have a girlfriend. You’re right though, spirituality and religion don’t take the place of our need for human love. While I assumed I would follow the path of most and find this love in marriage, my life took a different twist when I felt a call to the priesthood. Quite honestly, I’ve found great intimacy in prayer, in my pastoral work, and from friends and family. By the way, I don’t think I was criticizing atheists. I said many scientists today make the very unscientific assumption that evolution proves there is no God. I’m sorry if my tone was harsh. Your last paragraph means a lot to me. Thank you.

Hi Father Jonathan,
I'm so glad I found your blogs again. I am not used to the new foxnews format and didn't see the side scrolling arrows. I just finished reading your piece on your conversation with Trace Gallagher… As a Christian, when I think of what the bible requires of me, then to just leave people alone to their mistaken beliefs seems against the teachings of Jesus to go and "make disciples" and to spread the good news. If I see a man drowning and do not throw him a life line, I deny the very truth I say I believe. If I say it doesn't matter what a man believes as long as he is sincere....I am sincerely wrong. Anyway, I didn't mean to get on a soap box...and I love your blogs. You are a kind and sensitive soul. — God Bless you, Gloria

RESPONSE: Gloria, maybe I wasn’t clear. I wasn't suggesting we remain silent or that we should not share with others our faith. If I believe I can help another person, I have a responsibility to do so. Pressure and violence, of course, are unacceptable methods. Think about how patient and respectful God is with us. Should we act any differently?

Father Jonathan,
I agree with your thoughts on religious diversity. I have thought the same thing for some time, but was without the words to express it…..I am going to add a printed copy of your points to my personal bulletin board at work. Thank you again for your post. If I was at that restaurant, I probably would have listened in also (better yet, joined). — Christine, Lee's Summit, MO

RESPONSE: Christine, you would have been welcome to join the conversation! I wish the people who had been eavesdropping had done the same!

Please stick to theology. You're not a scientist and it shows. Science is about mechanisms, testable mechanisms. Intelligent design, according to Phillip Johnson, is about Christianizing science. That's why it specifically excludes science, and favors the supernatural, as a basis for the development of life on earth.

We don't need lectures from the religiously and scientifically ignorant. Whether Bin Laden, or Father Jonathan. Your theology can not be applied to science. Stick to the pulpit and let those of us who work for a living do science, OK? — Thanks, Bob in Dallas, TX

RESPONSE: Thanks, Bob, for the note. The point I tried to make was that scientists can’t prove God doesn’t exist, and sometimes they pretend that they can. While Darwinism is supposed to be about natural selection, many “Darwinists”, like the ones in the Time article I examined, make conclusions that are far beyond what science can claim. I agree with you, however, that proponents of Intelligent Design Theory often fall into the same trap. Some claim that science can prove the existence of a Divine Being. It doesn’t.

Dear Father Jonathan,
I did enjoy your article. As a scientist, I don't see any problem with God and evolution. Some people just can't accept a Supreme Being, others may be arrogant. Keep up the great work. —Francine C., PhD

RESPONSE: Your message brings to light a key point, Francine. Disagreements about the role and nature of evolution are not all between “scientists” and “believers”. I think science and faith are complementary. The note below is another example of a scientist who thinks like you.

Dear Father Jonathan,
I am a science Grad Student from Germany and love reading your blogs on Fox News. As many times before, you again hit the nail on the head and wrote exactly what had to be said. I very much hope that many people read your blog - not just in the U.S. I hope you can continue the good work you do on FOX and I am looking forward to your next column. — God bless, Christian G.

Father Jonathan,
Why the umbrage? Is it your assumption that periodicals such as these (Time magazine) are taken at face value? If so, perhaps you are not giving enough credit to people. You assume that we are influenced by everything that is in the media without critical thinking. — Peace, Bob

RESPONSE: Bob, I’m glad you take in the news with a critical eye.

Father Jonathan,
[…] To believe in God requires faith as you yourself have said in your blogs many times. To believe in evolution requires scientific proof. The problem you and the church face today is that more people choose to believe in facts rather then fiction and superstition, and that scares people like you because evolution basically puts you out of business and that, Father, is why you and the church are always trying to discredit scientist. — Mary, Agnostic-Darwinian in Bethesda, Maryland

RESPONSE: Mary, I would be happy to get put out of business. The pay stinks! On a serious note, you are right that people of faith have to be careful not to shut down their minds. God (as we would see it) gave us brains for a reason! Thanks for you note.

Dear Father Jonathan,
What a thoughtful, concise piece on the postmodern silliness that seeks to tear apart our understanding of unfolding creation, and tries to replace that natural comprehension with an artificial antagonism between faith and reason. The Angelic Doctor (Thomas Aquinas) is smiling. — Blessings, Richard, Professor of History, Greensboro College

RESPONSE: Richard, keep teaching history! We Americans aren’t so good at it, and it shows in politics, religion, and even in our personal lives.

Dear Father Jonathan,

Maybe God intended randomness; Existence started with a set of circumstances and once the universe started things pretty much happened this way. A pretty good plan, only a few things that I would like to see changed. I don't see how every second of the universe was planned for 14 billion years, or even on the sub- sector of Earth for the last four billion years. — Sincerely, Bob Thomas, of the religion of Bob Thomas,

RESPONSE: Bob, I agree with you that the laws of nature determine many things. God doesn’t have to “remember” to make things always fall toward the earth’s center, for example. And in natural selection, there is an element of scientific randomness. Nevertheless, you beg the question. You say that “existence started with a set of circumstances” Was that random? Now that is the real question. I don't think it was. It just doesn't add up.

Father Jonathan,

[…] That's the definition of hypocrisy. Try writing a column that refrains from comparing your political opponent to Nazis or Islamic Fundamentalists. The oldest rule of the civilized debate in contemporary America is very simple. The first person to compare their opponent to Hitler loses. You lose, Father. — Greg B, Trenton, NJ

RESPONSE: I think you must have been reading someone else’s column, Greg.

Father Jonathan,
My name is Bob Hoeller, I am a Methodist Pastor in Augusta GA. I appreciate your commentary and articles. I had a few ideas about the latest shootings and thought I would share them with you. I understand you get many emails and are probably inundated with comments, but if you have time, and if there is anything of interest in my comments I would love to hear from you... —God bless, Bob

RESPONSE: Thanks, Bob, for the note. Your comments helped me to prepare for another television segment on the topic of the Amish. I did the piece on Sunday with Jamie Colby. I’ll try to post it here on the blog.

Father Jonathan,
I appreciated your recent comments on religious diversity and tolerance. I am a pastor in St. Louis (Presbyterian), and yes Weaver beat Wells last night! I thought i would pass on a short teaching our church has prepared on this subject which is aimed at answering thoughtful questions from believers and non-believers. I'm attaching it and pasting it in.

RESPONSE: It is so refreshing to get notes from other religious leaders. The fact that we can work together is also comforting, I believe, to those who are rightly scandalized by the lack of unity among people of faith.

E-mail Father Jonathan

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