Shared Vision in Marriage

A Transcript of a Talk Given By

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Lord, you

have been our refuge, age after age. Before the mountains were born, before

the earth or the world came to birth, you were God from all eternity and

forever. Teach us to count how few days we have, and so gain wisdom of

heart, Holy Mother of God. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of

the Holy Spirit.

Our title for these four lectures, I want to explain just very briefly

"Shared Vision in Marriage", and what I want to say is that this applies

also to other communities. It applies to convents, monasteries, dioceses,

parishes, groups of priests, groups of bishops. If we have a gospel

community, it had better have a shared vision as we shall be seeing, and it

is just way beyond any other community. Nobody else ever taught this before

that I know of, but the Lord himself, and therefore we are dealing with

really all states in life, but since most of you here, are married, or have

been, or will be, we are going to stress with examples the marriage


Preliminary Observations.

1. We are all of us hurting in different ways from a number of sources,

reasons, namely, our own mistakes and sins. They always carry a penalty in

them. As Saint Augustine said, he knew from experience, as well as his

brilliant mind, that every sin diminishes a person, and it diminishes a

community too, and it diminishes marriage, a religious life, and parishes.

Okay, we are hurting, all of us, in different ways, of course, from others

in unkindnesses, betrayals, perhaps verbal abuse. Some cases, I hope none

here, physical abuse. We are hurting thirdly from wounds of lasting scars.

We differ in the precise reasons we are hurting, I mean the specifics, but

we are hurting in different ways, and in differing degrees. Some more, some

less, some in this way, some in another. Fourthly, a little remark here,

about our hurtings. We should offer and accept healing compassion from

others, because we all need it, and therefore should give it to others, and

gladly receive it. And the last remark is the most basic of all, the deepest

healing of human wounds is intimacy with the Trinity. We need other helps,

yes, I just said that as a matter of fact with the point before this one,

but the deepest wounding, ah, pardon me, the deepest healing of wounds is

from a intimate, deep, contemplative prayer life. And the deep conversion

that brings it about.

2. Our second preliminary remark is that problems and hurts are not caused

by states in life. Marriage is not a problem. It is husbands and wives who

are the problems. The priesthood and celibacy are not problems. Celibacy is

a great gift. It gets a bum rap from the scandals that are going on, but it

is a most fulfilling life. The problem is people who are living celibate

life and not living it, that is the problem. Same kind of thing in marriage.

Okay. Problems in dioceses are not that the church has problems with its

structure, it’s the people in the structures and the people who are not

going to follow the teachings and the discipline of the church. That is the

problem. Every state of life is of divine origin. It is good, it is

beautiful, and it fulfills people, if the people live the state in life

according to the owner's manual. The owner here is the Lord Himself. Now,

what I am saying doesn't come from my head. It comes from the Lord Himself.

Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 36. As a teenager, I used to hear this

every year, once a year, the liturgy, and I really couldn't connect with it,

and I know now why I couldn't and didn't connect. The Lord says, I quote "A

man's enemies will be those of his own household." And I'd say to myself,

"Where is the enemy in our house?" and I couldn't find an enemy there. We

had our little kiddie squabbles you know "I did the dishes last night" and

yeah, but our parents never argued, never fight, at least I never heard

them argue and fight, so I didn't know where the enemies were. Boy, I know

where they are now. I've learned a few things

3. Now, the third little preliminary remark: Psychology and counseling can

be somewhat helpful. They can do good, on occasion at least, certainly with

people who are deeply wounded psychologically. They need psychiatric help,

but psychology can't solve the deepest problems, the root problems. It can't

get to root causes. What we need is deep conversion and living the Gospel

well. That is the root problem about hurts in human life. No doubt about it.

I had in my hand here a little article from Time Magazine, rather recent,

January 19, 2004, talking about marriage problems and so on, and counseling,

psychologists, and all kinds of theories that they have, what's wrong with

marriages, and all that sort of thing. Very common theme in the press, the

secular press even. And they have all kinds of models of what, how troubled

marriages should be handled and healed and so on. All kinds of theories. Let

me just quote you a little bit from this article.

The therapy model, namely the model of what to do about troubled marriages.

They need therapy. The therapy model is quote "I'll treat you and 'voila'

your marriage will work". Then there is another model, the education model,

its not the therapeutic model. People don't need therapy according to this

model, they need to just be educated. And when they get educated then

they'll have a happy marriage. So, the education model is much more

respectful, it assumes there is nothing wrong with you. You are not sick.

You just need better information and assumes you can apply it to your

situation. See, those are two models. Every system sounds great until you

ask other marriage specialists about it. When experts start comparing claims

and statistics you hear the cacophony of rival used car salesmen. I find

this exciting this year, its really funny in a way. Is it the therapists who

need educating or is it the married folks who need therapy? At a time when

America's married people, and soon to be married, are eager for mediation,

the bickering between the two sides is unhelpful.

There are four main roots: roots of hurts and conflicts, suffering in

various states in life, and human relationships. The four main reasons we

suffer so much in our human relationships, including marriage, including

religious life, including priesthood, including everybody. We are all human

and wounded. Four main roots: the first one is egocentric selfishness in

plain English, and its expressed in many ways, minor and major. For example,

I am quoting concrete illustration here of egocentric selfishness and there

are dozens of examples possible. I am sure that everyone of you could add

your own. For instance "I won't be patient with your ways of doing things,

and your faults, but you must be patient with mine". Expressed in

actions...they don't word it so nicely. You must accommodate my desires and

preferences, but I need not accommodate yours. When we disagree, I need not

be gentle, and amiable, and open minded, but you must be all of these

things. See it is all egocentric. I am this, and this, and this and too bad

about you, you see. You are not that, that, and that. Okay. So that is the

first source of all kinds of woundednesses and states in life.

The second source, a little bit technical, at least many people don't know

about it, some of you do I am sure, maybe many of you. Illuminism.

Illuminism is an age old malady, by which a person is convinced that he, and

that means she too, that he has light and other people don't. There are two

forms of illuminism. There is a natural illuminism by which one person is

just convinced that "I just know better. And the reason I know better than

you is, well, I am I, after all, and you are you". I'll give you an

illustration in just a moment. The second kind of illuminism, is kind of a

pseudo supernatural sort. Name me the person who is convinced that he has

got a special pipeline to the Holy Spirit, and he has divine light and you

don't. Its a real malady. If you hadn't ever met it, you would think I am

exaggerating, making it up, but it is true. There are people who are

convinced that they are listening to the Holy Spirit. And just too bad you

know, the Pope isn't. And the Pope is the one that has got the promise. He

who hears you hears me, and the Bishops with him, you see. And the Lord made

it as clear as day, that their the ones that have the light of the Holy

Spirit, when they teach with full authority, etc., etc., okay? But there are

people convinced there is no doubt that they have light of the Holy Spirit.

“Too bad about you, dear, but you don't.”

Let me give you a fast little story. I was coming back from a trip on the

road. I was taking the metro system in Washington. Got on the train, on the

car. And there were very few in that particular coach, or that subway train,

ah coach. There was a man, and the seats face each other because they go in

both directions, you know, so I was sitting here, and there was another man

faced toward us, and he saw this priest there, so he came over, he had a

little son with him, a little boy eight or nine years old. So he wanted to

talk about religion, so we did, and we had an amiable talk, there is no

nastiness at all, but he said something, and I pointed out that really is

not so, you know, and I gave reasons why it is not so. Didn't have any

affect on him at all. No answer to the reasons I gave at all, but just sure

of it, just like I had said nothing at all. No effect. That looks very much

like illuminism. I have got light, I am sure of it. I don't have to give any

reasons for it, any evidence for it, you're just wrong pal. I know that

sounds is kookie. You see, it is, I call it a malady, its an

illness, but its a reality through the centuries. If you want a long study

of it read Ronald Knotses book "Enthusiasm" six hundred pages about of the

whole history of this illuminism. That's the second source of conflicts in

community, including marriage, including religious life, including parishes.

The third source of conflict hurts, and suffering. The third source is a

lack of perspective, proportion. I may have said to some of you in a homily,

in past years, but let me give you a concrete story to illustrate the lack

of perspective. It’s very hard, especially when one is angry to see big

things as big, and little things as little. It is very hard.

Little story, real life. There is a particular place I go, Metropolitan

area. I've been there over twenty times. A monastery. For about eight or

nine years, one layman would pick me up and bring me to the monastery. And

so, about the eighth or ninth year, he wasn't at the airport, and I found

out later that he was ill. I go to that place two weeks, each time, so I

gave him a call just to check in. We were friends, and to say "Hi" to him,

and how are you doing and all that sort of thing. And his wife answered the

phone. I didn't know her well, just met her once, and she knew I wanted to

talk to him. After just a few words she put the receiver down and went off

to fetch him, and I heard, I think as clearly as you are hearing me now, I

heard clearly a nasty little fight between the two of them. I don't remember

what it was about. I think if it were a big deal I would certainly remember

it. I am quite sure of that. It was some petty little nonsense and it was

mean. It doesn't matter for our purpose who started it and all the rest, but

the one would just say something not simply ‘disagree darling with that’,

but a mean little remark, every back and forth, and I was treated to the

whole thing. And that's the end of the story.

Now, the point of the story is pretty plain. Notice I am not judging their

consciences, I don't know, I am just saying it is very hard to see things in

perspective. The big things is big and the little ones is little, especially

when you’re angry, and even when your not angry its hard, for me. Unless you

’re a saint. The saints do see things, the big ones as big, and the little

ones as little, which is one reason they’re saints. But anyhow, in this

instance, what was big, in that encounter, was that they should love each

other, and be gentle in manner and in speech, and listen to each other.

“Maybe I've got something to learn from her...or him.” That's the big thing.

It’s the second greatest commandment 'that we love one another' but that

apparently wasn't on their radar at all. Now, that's the big thing. What was

little was whatever they disagreed about, that was tiny, and doesn't begin

to compare with the big thing. But they had it jug backwards. I repeat, it

is very hard, unless you are a saint, you don't have to raise your hands on

that, whether you are or not. It's very hard to see things in perspective,

as they really are.

Now the fourth reason for conflicts and hurts in human societies: marriage,

religious life, priesthood, etc., parishes, dioceses, countries, is a lack

of shared vision. And that is our subject. One mind about basic things;

agreement about important things. Two people have a shared vision and that

is when they both see something important. We're not talking about little

petty things. If somebody likes vanilla ice cream more and the other one

likes chocolate, that is not a lack of shared vision.

In important things the gospel requires that we have one mind about them.

And that is our subject. What does that mean? How does it come about? It's

not going to be forced, it can't be forced, and nobody should try to force

it. It can't be done.

And, therefore, with a shared vision, two people or more are in touch with

reality together. Because that's what truth is. Truth is a conformity of

ones mind with reality. And in marriage a couple have a shared vision about

something which they both have. They are both in touch with some important

reality about marriage, and about human life, and about human destiny.

Immensely important! For example, that husband and wife, and this goes for

members of a monastic community, again I am talking about all states of life

really. That they have a common vision in touch together about God, and they

agree that there is nothing that compares with it in importance. Okay? They

agree about the purpose of life. That it is not found in this life. The

purpose is hereafter. We are only pilgrims here for a very short time. They

agree about the nature of marriage, or religious vows. It might surprise you

but there are religious that disagree with one another and with the teaching

church about what the three vows mean, poverty, chastity, and obedience. You

would think we would have one mind about it. We don't. At least a lot of

them don't. So, it means that the members of the community then are out of

the very vows they took, and they are out of touch with each other, about

the very nature of their life. The same with husband and wife, if they don't

agree about marriage and what it is, its privileges, obligations and so on,

they are out of touch with what they are living. How could they have a

successful marriage? They agree about the place of religion and especially

the one religion that the Lord founded. There is only one that He founded,

and they have to agree about that. Have to in the sense that if they want to

be in touch with reality, the basics of reality together, they have to have

a shared vision about it. The raising of children, the first purpose of

marriage. the begetting, and nourishing children, educating them for eternal

life...they need to agree about what real love is. And certainly a Hollywood

vision of love is very different from the real definition of love, vastly

different, not just rather a little bit. You have to have a shared vision

about these things. Now all of that is introductory to our theme. The next

thing I want to say. I'm just gonna kind of wave something at you. I have

in my hand here a sheaf of papers, and they are newspaper clippings and

magazine clippings about the tragic lack of unity in states in life. Most of

the clippings deal with marriage, and I'd love to just give them to all the

conflicts that are in marriage. By the way there are excellent and beautiful

marriages. I happen to have first hand experience with happy marriages in

our family, beginning with Mom and Dad. I know what that is like from

experience (and brothers and sisters, siblings) so I do know there are happy

marriages, and not only in our family, but there are happy marriages

elsewhere. So I am not generalizing and saying that they are all

catastrophic. But I can tell you the press...I got all kinds of

would curl your hair, some of these examples of what goes on pretty

commonly...its not simply the exception, all these little articles I've got.

Eighty percent of all marriages are troubled says the professor. That's just

one of the clippings. Eighty percent of them are troubled. Okay. But to save

time I am not going to share these with you, because we have a lot of other

things we have to get to. But just let’s realize that. If you have been

attentive to the press for the last ten, fifteen or twenty years, you know,

you've read the same kinds of things there are all kinds of examples.

Now, what I want to do next is to take up the question of shared vision, and

the first thing that I want to explain, let's call this little next section

here, Sharpening up the Concepts. We have to know what we are talking about,

when we talk about something that is important. And I want us to get the

concepts right. One of the reasons that people disagree so much is they

don't know what the word means. They know how it is used to some extent in

society, but often they are talking about things that they hardly have a

clue about the thing. That is some people, I'm not saying its all.

Let's talk about shared vision. What does that mean? What does vision mean

in these titles of these lectures? Vision here does not refer to sense

vision, obviously. It refers to intellectual knowing. A being in touch with

reality, so that husband and wife, and this goes again for other states of

life. Husband and wife are in touch with the major realities about their

existence on this earth, God, the church, place of religion, and so on. The

begetting of children, the nourishing of children, of educating them and so

on, they agree about these things, which means they see these realities and

are in touch together.

A shared vision is a seeing reality, seeing truth, because truth is being in

touch with reality as it is. Shared vision means that together they have one

mind. Together they are in touch with the important aspects of human life,

and including their vocation. Notice the important aspects. We don't have to

agree about every little detail. Now, second concept to be discussed a few

moments. There are several levels of shared vision. We are especially

talking, as I have already said, about basics and fundamental principals and

realities about matters of our human situation. That's the most basic level.

I just sketch it.

Now, there is a question, do we have to have a shared vision about things

like finances? Well, it would help a lot in marriage, if they had a shared

vision about the use of money, and Gospel frugality, and a sparing, sharing

lifestyle. That would be wonderful if they have it, and to some extent that

is a basic. How we use material goods. But there is a level of shared vision

that is not necessary, mainly practicalities. If husband and wife disagree

about color schemes for painting the walls of the house, it is not a big

deal, and it should not become a big deal. There is room for compromise. If

somebody likes it done in this way, and the other one likes it done in that

way, it’s not a basic, and you don't have to have a shared vision about that

or when to replace the vacuum cleaner.

Let me just sketch the areas where there must be a shared vision, say in

marriage. The views they have of marriage itself, for instance, the sexual

morality in marriage. They must agree about that, that the children are the

main purpose in marriage. And they must agree about the religious and moral

formation, the spiritual formation of children, (their children especially);

about abortion and contraception; about the indissolubility of marriage;

about honesty toward each other; about forgiveness. We all slip here or

there. Have adverseness or momentary weakness, but forgiveness. And then of

course, if somebody has slipped, they get it corrected and don't do it

again. They have to agree that there is such a thing as forgiveness and they

should agree about amiable discussion and that nagging and quarreling are

out of bounds in this marriage...because they are not Gospel. And so those

are some basics that they have to agree on. And again, I repeat, in

religious life there are these basics, somewhat different, but somewhat the

same too, that have to be agreed upon.

I will make that point again. That nobody is trying to force a shared vision

on anybody. You might say than how do they get it? We are going to get to

that later on, you see, but it is not forced. As the Holy Father put it the

church proposes, she does not impose. We are not terrorists, and we are not

going to persecute people. And so nobody is forcing anything.

Those are a few comments on the levels of shared vision. Now, let me say

next we are sharpening concepts, still...what shared vision is not. First,

it is not a dictatorial imposition from on high. That is not what we are

talking about. Shared vision...nobody is dictating, and nobody is trying to

force a conformity about all kinds of incidentals. The second that it is

not: It’s not a fine rigidity in details of human life. Nobody is saying

when we must have a shared vision. We are not saying we have got to be

detailed about all kinds of little matters of human life.

Thirdly it is not a lock-step conformism. That it sometimes has been

somewhat interpreted that way in religious life in the past. That was a

mistake. And like a lot of mistakes, it triggers an opposite reaction, of no

kind of unity. We tend, we human beings are wounded, and we tend to go to

one extreme or another, so that's why I want to be clear about the concepts.

That is one reason for clarity about concepts what we are not talking about.

Fourthly, it is not an infringement on human freedom, human thought,

creativity. Our best contemporary theologians, Hans Von Baltazar, Henri De

Lubac, and so on, completely faithful to scripture, and the teaching of the

church, and most creative minds. And there is no class between the two. And

the last, what shared vision is not, let me just put a little parenthetical

remark there. Many people, seculars, do admire, and say how wonderful it

would be, if the United States community were of one mind. But nobody

seriously tries to bring it about because it is impossible, merely on the

human level. But you see we are not dealing with the human level merely. We

are dealing with the divine level and with God's grace and we will see how

it comes about...indeed that it happens, when we live the Gospel fully. And

nobody's imposing anything on anybody. Humanly speaking it just can't

happen. Once you look at history it doesn't happen in history, except among

saintly people, very holy people. That's where it happens. The fourth

thing, clarifying concepts here. I want to say a few things about pluralism

and diversity. And that we have to be a little bit academic here because it

would save us a lot of grief if we would get things rightly defined. Now, we

all know what pluralism is in this sort of thing, or we don't, somebody is

saying she doesn't know. Pluralism here means that there are different kinds

of thinking about things. So one group thinks this, and another group thinks

that. Well, look at the Presidential campaign we just finished. That is

pluralism, and its diversity. They were at odds about a lot of things.

Pluralism may mean that husband and wife, may disagree about some things,

you see. As indeed they may, they do, even an ideal marriage. We are very

different people, all of us are. You can have an ideal marriage. They are

different people and have different ideas about things. Now, that's

diversity in the marriage situation. There are two kinds of diversity,

pluralism, and especially about truth. The first kind of diversity we will

call complementary. Complementary diversity means that about some matter

they have different insights into the matter, but the insights don't

contradict one another, they are all true. An example makes it clear. In the

New Testament there are at least four Christologies, which means four kinds

of truths about the Lord. The Incarnation, Jesus, the Incarnation,

redemption and so on. There are four Christologies. Scripture scholars talk

about the synoptic Christologies, Matthew, Mark and Luke Gospels. Then there

is a Christology, the Johninne, the John's Gospel Christology. Then there is

the Pauline Christology, Saint Paul's teaching about the Incarnation, and

then there is a Christology and a priesthood of Christ, especially in

Hebrews, the letter to the Hebrews. So there are four Christologies in the

New Testament but they all beautifully compliment, that is, fill out,

complete one another, and there is no class between them. That is a healthy

diversity, and we should find it in marriage. We should find it in a

monastery, and we do, because every single member of a monastic community is

a different personality, and husbands and wives are different people, even

when they are beautifully living the gospel. That complimentary diversity is

good, necessary. It enriches society and it enriches the marriage, and it

enriches the episcapacy and so on. Its very good.

Now the other kind of diversity! The name we will give it is an accurate

name, contradictory diversity. Now, we get the logic here, the study of

logic, formal logic it is called. A contradiction is the affirming of some

principal 'X is Y'. It’s an affirmation, a proposition we call it, and a

denial of exactly what was affirmed. So if somebody says 'X is Y' that's a

statement. It’s a proposition. If somebody says 'X is not Y', meaning in

the same use of the terms, and the same meaning, somebody denies that, it’s

not true. That's a contradiction. Now logic points out in that diversity one

must be wrong. They can't both be right. Okay? So, if husband and wife have

a contradictory diversity about something, one affirms something and the

other denies exactly what was affirmed in the same sense, in the same

meaning, at the same time, husband or wife is wrong. That goes for two

priests. That goes for everybody. It’s logic. It’s good to realize that. So

that if there is a contradictory diversity in the state in life, in case of

most of you, marriage, husband and wife are not in touch with reality

together. One of them is out of touch. If it is that kind of diversity. It

is bad news. And if the matter is very important, it can be tragic, being

out of touch. Now, this is very important. I remember some, two or three

decades ago, one of the very prominent theologians, a dissenter, wrote an

article, in theological studies, on how great it is that we have diversity

in theology. And the guy, he's got a Ph.D, and he didn't even make this

distinction that I am making now. Yike! How could he be so, so, so...I'll

use a gentle word...unknowing. I have thought of a less gentle word!

To have a contradictory diversity about something important can be tragic.

Let's use an example. Suppose you are going to take a jet. We're near

Detroit so you are going to take a jet from Detroit to London, alright? You

are getting ready for boarding and you are in the boarding area, and the

airline, Northwest, would say "Well ladies and gentlemen, we want to be very

honest with you. We are ready to board this plane for London, this 747 Jet

from Detroit. Um, but there is a disagreement among the cockpit crew, and

the ground crew. The ground crew says that there is not enough fuel in the

tanks of this jet to get to London, but the cockpit crew says there is, but

we have cheery good will and we're going as is. Now, we are ready to board

the plane so rows 75 to 82 will board, and of course, nobody will board the

plane! There is a contradictory diversity between the two crews about

something important. One says "Yes, there is enough fuel left to get to

London", notice the affirmation, proposition. The other one says "No, there

is not enough", about the same thing and the same meaning. One of them is

wrong for sure. That is a contradictory diversity.

Human beings are made for union. We are incomplete, each one of us, by

ourselves. God made us social beings, who radically need to know, love, and

embrace one another, and most of all, know, love, and embrace Supreme

Beloved, who is God. We just don't make it by ourselves alone.


Tape 1 - Side 2

That is why truth is absolutely indispensable. You and I must be in touch

with reality. Otherwise, we become cabbages. And I am not opposed to

cabbage. We need to be in union with other people. Now, its not only bodily

union in marriage, the physical union between husband and wife, yes, but

there is a much more deeper union. So, husband and wife need a deeper union

between themselves: that they be in touch with reality together in all the

ways, the important ways we have mentioned. The physical union is not

enough. Nobody makes it in life on simply bodily matters. No human being

does. And so the more vibrant, and alive, and innerly rich that a person

is, the more that person yearns for a deep union of heart, mind and will. In

marriage included. This is one of the problems, when they are not united in

heart, mind and will. There is a physical relationship, and even that fades

away, and well anyhow you know all that as well as I do. There has to be

the mind and heart union as well. And this goes for people in other states

in life, but I'm not talking to them now. All of us, no matter what our

state of life is, must be in union, first of all, with God Himself: Father,

Son and Holy Spirit. And a deep prayer union, or we don't make it fully at

least, in life. We might survive like prunes survive, but we don't want to

be human prunes. Consequently, we need and in marriage, you need, and in

parishes we need, to be united with others in mind, and heart and will. And

that is very much shared vision we are talking about. Now, this is a natural

breaking point and we will stop here.