1324 GA Highway 49 South | Americus Georgia 31719

(229) 924-0391  |  info@koinoniafarm.org


Siroki-Brijeg is a small village nestled in the Balkan mountains in the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I recently came across a story about the village that caught my eye. It has a divorce rate of 0%. The population is small — around 30,000 — but McDonough, Georgia, with a similar population, has a divorce rate of 11.65%. Americus, where Koinonia is located, has a population about half the size of Siroki-Brijeg. Americus’ divorce rate is 12.72%. The percentage of marriages in the United States that will end in divorce is almost 50%.

As a spiritual director, I have witnessed the suffering caused by divorce. Whether married, single, divorced, or widowed, though, souls are grappling with isolation. The relentless pursuit of individualism and the glorification of independence have left little space for the other, even for the transcendent. We have lost our ability to invite others in. Loneliness has become an epidemic. The poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island…” Chronic independence has created a multitude of islands, and we are adrift. What connects us?

Siroki-Brijeg has a tradition that holds a profound spiritual depth. At weddings there, as the bride and groom approach the altar, the priest greets them with these words: “You have found your cross. And it is a cross to be loved, to be carried, a cross not to be thrown away but cherished.” The couple is then given The Marriage Crucifix, symbolizing that Christ is the center of their marriage. The groom holds the crucifix in his right hand, and the bride rests her hand on it. They show symbolically that the crucifix is the fulcrum of their marriage. They are uniting themselves on the cross, reciting their vows over the image of Love Himself. Before they kiss each other, they kiss the crucifix, declaring in their actions the source of their love.

No longer one. Not just two. More even than three because the people of that culture work to support marriages. In their own marriages, they exemplify the importance of loving sacrifice.

Thomas Aquinas said, “love is willing the good of the other for the sake of the other.” Self-care is important, but have we taken it so far that we are unable to will the good of the other for the sake of the other? Have we come to believe that any sacrifice is too much sacrifice? That doing good is only transactional. “I’ve done this good for you. Now, what good are you going to do for me.”

Let’s step off our islands into the same boat. Let’s rebuild our connections. Our tradition is not The Marriage Crucifix, but what is? What can connect us? Can old traditions be resurrected, or can we find new, meaningful ones and move forward together?

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