Just Too Cool… and too sweet

A reader alerted me to something at the blog Atlas Obscura.

Despite the religious divide of the lives and cemeteries, the gravestones of Colonel J.C.P.H. of Aeffderson and noblewoman J.W.C. Van Gorkum clasp hands across the divide.
In the 19th century, the Dutch lived with Pillarisation, a policy which seperated public establishments by religious and political affiliations. Yet Colonel Aeffderson was a Protestant, and Van Gorkum was a Catholic, were married for 40 years, a union that likely caused some scandal in the 19th century Netherlands.
The Protestant husband died first, and then Van Gorkum. They wanted to be buried alongside each other, but the policies of Pillarisation made that impossible. Instead two stone hands were added to the back of their gravestones, clasping across the wall that separates them.

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27 Responses to Just Too Cool… and too sweet

  1. Bea says:

    What a beautiful gesture “across the great divide”

  2. Fr Jackson says:

    Baltimore Catechism #3 – Lesson 22 on the sixth commandment of the Church (question 300): “The Church forbids Catholics to marry non-Catholics because mixed marriages often bring about family discord, loss of Faith on the part of the Catholic, and neglect of the religious training of the children.”

  3. StJude says:

    Awww.. that is really sweet

  4. acardnal says:

    Ecumenism.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    If it weren’t for a Protestant-Catholic marriage, one that lasted till death parted my folks 54 years later, I wouldn’t be here. I’m just saying.

  6. mamajen says:

    My husband was Anglican when I married him. He is now a (very good) Catholic, and we have two boys who are being raised Catholic. God works in mysterious ways.

    Those gravestones are a beautiful, if sad, gesture. Very cool indeed.

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I lived in a town where the Lutheran and Catholic cemetaries were side by side (no wall)… the tombs down the middle were all mixed marriages, buried side by side with each spouse on the appropriate side of the line.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    “For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband.” (1 Cor. 7:14) And yeah, mixed marriages were always possible with your bishop’s permission, even back in Baltimore Catechism days.

  9. My parents were *almost* a mixed marriage (Methodist dad), but, he saw the light while on maneuvers in the Navy during the Korean War before they got married…and took lessons from the priest on board…and converted…surprising my mom, who was touched by the gesture…and 58 years later…still attend Mass together every Sunday…

  10. Geoffrey says:

    There is no 6th precept (commandment) of the Church in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. nn. 2041-2043).

  11. acardnal says:

    Geoffrey, you are correct and I noted that previously on this blog site under a different post. At one time, however, the Church did have six Precepts and for some reason unknown to me, the new CCC eliminated it. Some scholars indicate that there are even seven Precepts.
    The Baltimore Catechism indicated six Precepts: http://www.baltimore-catechism.com/lesson35.htm

  12. NBW says:

    It’s very beautiful. Love conquers all.

  13. Athelstan says:

    Baltimore Catechism #3 – Lesson 22 on the sixth commandment of the Church (question 300): “The Church forbids Catholics to marry non-Catholics because mixed marriages often bring about family discord, loss of Faith on the part of the Catholic, and neglect of the religious training of the children.”

    Speaking from personal experience, I have to say that I’ve been forced to come to the conclusion that there is an awful lot of wisdom in the Baltimore Catechism (and the Church’s older teachings it reflects on this subject).

    Obviously, counter examples can be found, such as that of Dr. Peters’ family (or our romantic Dutch couple). I can’t speak to that; such cases clearly exist.

    But I do think that where such marriages work, it’s mostly when one or both spouses are simply not very “intentional” about their faith. That tends to eliminate the major family life conflicts you would otherwise expect (where to worship, how to raise the children, whether to *have* children, etc.). Very few couples posses the kind of interpersonal skills and temperament to overcome such conflicts where both parties are deeply invested in their beliefs. The reality is that there are now lots and lots of Catholics married to non-Catholics, perhaps even happily; but in most cases, one or both are not very actively religious, or are effectively indifferentist about it, which to my mind amounts to the same thing.

    If you are a serious, intentional Catholic, you are best advised to try very hard to marry another such Catholic. Otherwise, be prepared to have some long discussions before you are married about what each of you believe, and how you’re prepared to overcome those differences.

  14. mburduck says:

    A truly moving–and somewhat sad–photograph. All thanks to the “reformation”?

    Mike

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Athelstan — Wrong. My mother is very Catholic, and my father is very United Methodist. He’s also very married, so he comes to Mass as well as going to his own church.

    Yes, there’s a lot of potential for heartbreak in mixed marriages. But it’s not inevitable. Pain is inevitable; but every human relationship includes plenty of that. Please don’t wish away my existence, too.

  16. Phil_NL says:

    I might have a look next time I’m near Roermond, thanks for this interesting tidbit from my own country, father.

    As for the wider context, ‘pillarisation’ is a literal, though still akward-sounding, translation of ‘verzuiling’. In effect, it amounted more to segregation; catholics and protestants kept very much apart from the mid-to-late nineteenth century (when formal repression of Catholicism ended) till the 1960s. Depending on local conditions, there may have been socialists thrown in the mix too, or multiple protestant varieties. It meant not only separate churches/meetinghalls, but also separate social institutions, such as schools, trade unions, political parties, all kind of voluntary associations and often even hospitals. Social interaction with the other ‘pillar’ could, if one desired, be kept to an absolute minimum.
    There was no legal framework to enforce this (only some measures to support all segregated institutions, regardless of denomination), but the social code was sometimes very strong. In fact, only in recent years the strong anti-Catholic streak of some protestants started to evaporate. Roermond lies in majority-Catholic country though; I wonder if the local protestant community was big enough to truely isolate itself, but it seems indeed highly likely that the marriage caused scandal, and the burial arrangements probably too!

    And a final remark towards Athelstan: you work on the assumption that both parties in a mixed marriage are heavily invested in their repsective faiths, or at least quite solid in it. I realise the US is much more religious than Europe and therefore an exception within the West, but I daresay that (elsewhere) the vast majority of mixed marriages nowadays are with a Catholic and a ‘lapsed whatever’ who simply doesn’t want to bother about faith at all. That doesn’t require so much in terms of interpersonal skills, but a whole lot more in terms of perseverance.

  17. A very sweet picture indeed.
    I firmly believe that there is wisdom in the Church’s 6th precept of Catholics marrying their own, although successful mixed marriages do happen [with a bishop's dispensation]. Look where mixed marriages have led society today.

    Unfortunately there are a lotta bad Catholics out there and choices can be terribly limited – finding a spouse in these modern circumstances is really tough. For mixed marriages too, one of the worst cornerstones is the common misconception that “I’ll change my spouse after we are married”. We have all heard this advice! He/she will learn to be tidy, will learn patience, will want kids, will learn to love to go to Church, etc etc. LOL.

    My own observation and experience has led me to believe that marriages that succeed in religious fervor are those couples who were serious about whatever beliefs they had before the marriage. A fervent Baptist/passionate atheist can become a better Catholic than a tepid indifferent poorly catechized cradle Catholic. Those who love God and seek the Truth, who really want to know the best way, who read, those who recognize that Truth exists outside of their own desires and experiences, who learn with sincerity and humility, those who knock, to them it will be opened.

  18. This picture reminds me of a very interesting comment in the Melkite Liturgy sermon yesterday: “Til Death do Us Part” is a modern post-reformation idea, the marriage bond is eternal.
    [Keep in mind that the Byzantines were not affected by the Reformation like the Western Church.]

    Thought-provoking, yes? We know marriage doesn’t exist in heaven because there is no longer the need for procreation [since the true objective of marriage is always children] but maybe the effects of the Sacrament and the virtuous practice of real charity for the spouse are eternal.

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  21. AvantiBev says:

    I can still remember the 5th grade religion class in which the nun informed me that my recently deceased German Lutheran grandfather would not be united with my Irish Catholic maternal grandma when she died as he was Protestant ! Do you know how horrifying that is for a 10 year old sensitive kid who loved her grandparents and spent much time with them to hear? Since I had some other Protestants in my family, uncles and aunts by marriage whom I loved dearly, I began questioning what kind of “god” this was that we Catholics were worshipping.

    Thank God for my Mom’s wisdom. She told me to respect the Sisters of (No)Mercy [my description not hers] and their authority but that God had the final authority over the Gates of Heaven and He alone knew what a good grandpa, daddy and husband Grandpa Henry had been during Grandma and Grandpa’s 62 year marriage. She suggested Sister should look to her own soul and not try to second guess God’s love for a man she’d never met. Since my mom was the Sisters’ de facto chauffeur for many of their after school and weekend events, I am sure knowing my Mom that the Mother Superior heard of it as a captive audience while my Mom barreled down the Dan Ryan Expressway. :-)

    When I am working in my garden both Grandpa Henry and Grandpa Sam are with me. God gave Grandpa Henry the grace of dying while tending his vegetable garden at almost 90 years of age. THAT’S THE GOD I WORSHIP.

  22. Athelstan says:

    Suburbanbanshee,

    Athelstan — Wrong. My mother is very Catholic, and my father is very United Methodist. He’s also very married, so he comes to Mass as well as going to his own church.

    Please note that I said that “very few couples posses the kind of interpersonal skills and temperament to overcome such conflicts” as you will find in mixed marriages. Obviously, exceptions exist. It seems that your parents are such exceptions. For most mixed marriages I know of, they work because one or both spouses aren’t really invested in their faith. For the record: my mother is Catholic and my father was raised Methodist as well – I’m not trying to wish anyone’s existence away. I might not exist myself!

    It does raise nettlesome questions that must be sorted out. How will the children be brought up? If the answer is anything less than “Catholic,” full stop, I’d say that is a problem. But it’s a problem that exists in mixed marriages, and has to be resolved when children enter the picture, if not well before.

  23. Athelstan says:

    Hello Phil,

    I realise the US is much more religious than Europe and therefore an exception within the West, but I daresay that (elsewhere) the vast majority of mixed marriages nowadays are with a Catholic and a ‘lapsed whatever’ who simply doesn’t want to bother about faith at all. That doesn’t require so much in terms of interpersonal skills, but a whole lot more in terms of perseverance.

    Yes, I do write from an American perspective. But I think what you say about Europe underlines my contention: These marriages work because, it seems, one spouse (the Catholic) really cares about this stuff, and the other (the ‘lapsed whatever’) really does not. As a result, there’s no scrum, because the lapsed spouse will likely give way on these questions of where to worship, how to raise the children, etc.. The conflict arises when spouses have differing beliefs on an important decision, and one will have to give way to resolve it.

    But I think you are also right that even in such situations, there is a challenge – a different challenge – for the Catholic, and it one of perseverance. Without a spouse to be a spiritual support and partner, it can be more difficult to maintain the faith.

    Life leads us down all sorts of unexpected pathways, and love doesn’t always know sectarian boundaries. None of my observations are meant to offend anyone. It’s just based on what I have seen in my own family, and in plenty of others. It is something that young Catholics need to think about before they get married or even date. Life may trip them up anyway; but the issues remain.

  24. Fr Jackson says:

    It’s been bothering me a little bit to see comments in this thread that suggest that unless two specific people had met “I wouldn’t be here” or “you are wishing my existence away…” I’m wondering if there is not an error in philosophy behind such affirmations. The identity of a human person comes from being an individual instance of intellectual nature. For St Thomas, the identity of an intellectual nature does not come from genetics: the matter provided by the parents in procreation is a pre-disposition to the infusion of the individual intellectual soul by the Creator. Matter for St Thomas serves to differentiate, yes, but to establish the “I” of a human person, no. To be sure, the genetic pre-disposition plays strongly into the development of that individual intellect, determining character and temperament. Being raised by a particular set of parents also contributes strongly to that development. But the point here is that neither of those things essentially determines identity of the human person – so there’s a possible materialistic error in saying they do. There’s a second possible error is trying to second-guess Providence hypothetically in saying that He would not have created a specific instance of intellectual nature unless two people had met: He may very well have created that same person but in circumstances that would have given him/her a different genetic makeup and upbringing.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    [Note: this is my thinking through the points that Fr. Jackson raised. I, freely, admit that I might be in error or may have misunderstood him. I am neither philosopher nor theologian, merely chicken. Such heavy philosophical commentary is in conflict with the lightness of the post, so feel free to skip]

    “But the point here is that neither of those things essentially determines identity of the human person – so there’s a possible materialistic error in saying they do… There’s a second possible error is trying to second-guess Providence hypothetically in saying that He would not have created a specific instance of intellectual nature unless two people had met: He may very well have created that same person but in circumstances that would have given him/her a different genetic makeup and upbringing.”

    Souls are unrepeatable, meaning that they are individual and specific. They are only created once. If a soul is created, it is counterfactual arguing to say that God could have created the same soul in a different physical person. In fact, he could not because he did not (although God has contingent knowledge of the other possibilities). Once a could becomes a did, the ontology becomes fixed for that soul. If God creates a specific instantiation of a human being, then he also creates a specific, non-repeatable, instantiation of that soul. While humans do not contribute, material, to the creation of a soul, the soul cannot be created without the co-existing material form (there are no human souls without bodies, in the ideal). As such, a particular soul is united to a particular body in a deliberate act of God. In that sense, it does, indeed, take a particular two people to give rise to a particular instantiation of a particular soul.

    Souls do not pre-exist, waiting for any possible body to be put into. That is a heresy rejected by the Second Council of Constantinople when it rejected some of the teachings of Origen.

    “If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.

    II.

    If anyone shall say that the creation (??? ?????????) of all reasonable things includes only intelligences (????) without bodies and altogether immaterial, having neither number nor name, so that there is unity between them all by identity of substance, force and energy, and by their union with and knowledge of God the Word; but that no longer desiring the sight of God, they gave themselves over to worse things, each one following his own inclinations, and that they have taken bodies more or less subtile, and have received names, for among the heavenly Powers there is a difference of names as there is also a difference of bodies; and thence some became and are called Cherubims, others Seraphims, and Principalities, and Powers, and Dominations, and Thrones, and Angels, and as many other heavenly orders as there may be: let him be anathema.”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.ix.html

    The Chicken

  26. Fr Jackson says:

    Hi Chicken ;) That all looks good to me, except the mention of “material form” – my understanding is that this term cannot apply to human substances.

  27. Scarltherr says:

    I think it is lovely, holding hands throughout eternity. Nothing about this makes me sad. It makes me want to hug my husband.