DEAR MISS MANNERS: My younger brother (45 years old) is getting married for the third time. After his first divorce was final, he married a woman he had known for less than three months.
His second divorce was final two weeks ago, and he will soon marry another woman who he has known for less than four months. He has three teenage sons -- shared custody with their Mom (the first wife). No children from marriage No. 2, and the newest woman has children in their 20s.
He and newest woman want a big wedding, and I am refusing to attend, as I believe the sanctity of marriage is a joke as far as my brother is concerned. I am also appalled at the role model he is setting for his three sons. History has proven he is more interested in "the thrill of the kill" than being a husband. My mother is insisting that my husband and I go, just to keep peace in the family. I think that attending would be a sign that I agree with this "holy" matrimonial union. Is it rude of me not to go or am I being judgmental?
GENTLE READER: Could you manage to be judgmental without being rude?
That is to say, you are certainly free to judge this marriage to be doomed, as long as you are not rude enough to go public with this thought. You are free to talk it over within the family, as you have already done, but boycotting the wedding is a conspicuous insult. If you do not attend, Miss Manners hopes you will leave town so that your absence seems unavoidable.
And you should know that attending a wedding is not an endorsement of the union. If the guest list were a referendum on the future success -- or holiness -- of the marriage, weddings would be lonely events.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been a lector at my parish for about 20 years and am frequently complimented on the job that I do. However, I have long been at a loss as to how to respond.
On the one hand, I do work hard in advance to prepare the texts I am asked to read before the assembly (and I also teach literature, so I have a particular appreciation for the written word). On the other, I do truly believe that it is also a combination of my love for the texts and God's grace that help me to proclaim effectively and let God's light shine through when I read.
A simple "thank you" to the person complimenting me has never seemed enough. I would like to acknowledge that it's not all "me" at work here without making it sound like I am somehow special or singled out with a particular gift. Might you be able to help me articulate my thanks more effectively?
GENTLE READER: You are on dangerous ground here, as Miss Manners trusts that you realize. However well meant, attempts to share credit with God, such as one sometimes hears from victorious athletes, often come out sounding like bragging of being especially anointed.
That simple "thank you" would be enough, but you can add, "The text is so inspiring, don't you think?" This suggests that you were inspired, while acknowledging modestly that anyone would be.