Wednesday, September 23, 2015

16 Marriages That Made History (Scepter Publishers)

The World Meeting of Families is currently underway and Pope Francis is officially in the United States. It is an exciting time in the Northeast, and a part of me is a bit envious of those taking part in the meeting and the festivities. But if you are like me and cannot be there, you can offer up your prayers for a fruitful meeting and papal visit. In addition to praying for the Pope and those involved with the World Meeting of Families as well as the upcoming Synod, we can also take some time out of our day to read and educate ourselves. There are many books out there that talk on both the meeting and the synod, but there are few out there that just talk about marriage in general and the beauty of it. One such book that does is entitled 16 Marriages That Made History.

16 Marriages That Made History begins with the briefest of prologues explaining how marriage when faithfully honored is beneficial to both spouses. The author, Gerard Castillo, then adds "An awareness of a constant history of marriages that are united, faithful, and happy in the midst of great difficulties is a valuable reference for the present-day debate over the institution of marriage." We then are presented with the sixteen marriages that date from 40 A.D. to 1960. They are arranged by order of marriage, except that Chapters Three and Four seem out of order chronologically, which is merely a niggle. Some of the couples in this book include Aquila and Priscilla; G.K. Chesterton and Frances Blogg; and J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Bratt. Each chapter provides both biographical information and details on their married life. There is also a theme related to married life in each chapter. For example. the theme for the Chestertons was two people succeeding as living as one despite being very different from one another.

Reading about all these marriages was equal parts fascinating and fruitful, but the one I enjoyed reading about most was Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra Fedoronova. There are very few real examples of love at first sight, but Castillo does an exquisite job explaining their love story. Nicholas knew he was going to marry his wife when they first met, and he had to wait ten long years before he finally could. This is different from most fairy tales of true love, because their version of love at first sight usually has a quick resolution. Despite these ten long years of difficulty, pressure to choose different spouses for political convenience, and questions of which religion they would practice (Anglicanism or Orthodoxy), they eventually were wed. Despite the tragic ending they suffered, this couple showed us how to approach a potential marriage partner and how to persevere in love, despite great hardship. They did not go into marriage speedily and blindly, but they took their time. They got to know each other thoroughly and that helped their marriage to be so stable and full of love. There weren't secrets or unexpected surprises, but two souls knew each other and belonged together.

One of the best things about this book is that the sixteen marriages weren't limited to Catholic marriages. This gives the book universal appeal for all Christian denominations. What I didn't like about this book was that there were two marriages in the 1st Century A.D. and then a huge jump to the 13th Century. Surely, there were history-making marriages in the 1100+ years in between. We are living in dark times right now with countries all around the world providing a new human definition of marriage. (Sorry, but God and the Church's view of marriage will never change.) If you are looking for an inspiring book that gives concrete examples of authentic marriage, then this is the book for you. I just wish it had been longer, because when it ended, I found myself wishing for more of these stories.

This book was provided to me for free by Scepter Publishers in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!