We’re not the only ones who fret about intermarriage

An old friend, who has since gone to glory, used to encourage her children to date only Catholics. When you only date Catholics, you won’t fall in love with a non-Catholic and marry him/her, she reasoned. She and her husband, who totally agreed, also sent their children to Catholic schools K-university to tilt the odds even more favorably to Catholic nuptials. They succeeded in two out of three.

Her view seems a bit old-school these days, but she probably was on to something. Her daughter who married a non-Catholic had three children, all raised Catholic. Her granddaughter followed in her mother’s footsteps and married a non-Catholic. The husband was an evangelical, and, to keep the peace, both became mainline Protestants. I’m sure my old friend rolled over in her grave when that happened.

Mixed marriages — Catholic and non-Catholic — have been happening ever since the Great Schism and certainly since the Reformation. We’ve been fretting about it for centuries. One of the safeguards to keep mayhem at bay was to get the mixed-marriage couple to promise to raise the children Catholic, but that didn’t always work. Today there are so many mixed marriages, that no one knows exactly how many there truly are.

By the way, I am not in any way opposed to mixed marriages. My brothers and I are products of one, and one brother followed in our parents’ footsteps. Twice.

Catholics aren’t the only ones who worry about this. This year, mixed marriages was a big topic in Jewish circles. Though there are different issues in marriages between Jews and non-Jews from Catholic and non-Catholics, many of the issues are the same: religious practice in the household, raising of children, loss of culture and many others. Many rabbis simply won’t perform mixed weddings.

I don’t know of any Catholic priests or deacons who won’t preside at mixed weddings, but I don’t know of any who don’t get the engaged mixed couple to take a hard look at the issues before they take the walk to the altar.

Edgar M. Bronfman, president of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation and a former president of the World Jewish Congress, has written a thoughtful piece in The Jewish Daily’s Forward about mixed marriages. He makes the point that Jews’ strategy should be less about prohibiting mixed marriages and more about making Judaism relevant to young people.

Not bad advice for Catholics either.

What are your thoughts on mixed marriages today?

Now playing on a computer near you …

Check this out: Staffers at  The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese, star in a YouTube video — a production with some Hollywood flair promoting their new blogs, which are daily updates from the newsroom.

About the blogs, the paper says: “Your news, your generation, your church right now.” Subject matter ranges from a look behind the headlines, by Christopher Gunty, associate publisher/editor, to a young slant on the archdiocese by reporter Matt Palmer, to a look at faith and life by reporter George Matysek — with more blogs by more staffers to come.

Bows and arrows and cell phones

Editor’s Note: Paul Jeffrey, a CNS stringer, traveled to  Southern Sudan in November to report on and photograph preparations  for the January referendum on independence. He filed this blog on the intersection of modern technology and traditional communication.

YAMBIO, Southern Sudan — Although the Arrow Boys self-defense militias in Sudanese villages along the border with Congo use rather primitive technology in fighting off attacks from the Lord’s Resistance Army, they take full advantage of electronic technology in passing on information. Cell phones allow the Arrow Boys to keep in touch with neighboring villages so that the movement of LRA soldiers can be closely followed.

In researching the story I wrote for CNS about the local response to LRA terrorism, I interviewed Comboni Sister Giovanna Calabria, a feisty woman in Nzara, about 20 miles from Yambio. She told me about the importance of cellular technology in meeting the threat.

“I never again will say the cell phone is useless,” she said. “People are calling all the time to share information or find out what’s happening. We’ll call the (Ugandan troops stationed nearby) and ask them what they know. People will call us with reports from the villages nearby, or to warn us to stay inside tonight. This network of cooperation has protected many of us.”

A few days after I was in Nzara, I heard a rumor of a new LRA attack. I called Sister Giovanna from Juba, and she verified the information. When I asked her for more details, she told me to call her back in 10 minutes. I did so, and she then put on the phone a leader of the local Arrow Boys who gave me a full accounting of the Nov. 19 attack on Basokanbi, some 10 miles away. A unit of the LRA had attacked, burned some houses, stolen voter registration materials and kidnapped eight children, one of whom (an 8-year-old girl) escaped a short time later. The LRA squad was chased by both the Arrow Boys and some members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, but they got away with their captives.

In Riimenze, where I went on patrol with a group of Arrow Boys  to photograph them in the jungle, there is no cell phone coverage. So they use drums. They beat out the different rhythms they would use to pass different messages about the LRA. It’s a skill they’ve honed over the years in frequent tiffs with a nomadic tribe that passes through yearly with its cattle.

Sister Giovanna admitted mobile phone technology has its limits. “I pray every night that the Lord will take (LRA leader) Joseph Kony,” she said. “But apparently God doesn’t get a signal.”

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