CANA IS FOREVER
COUNSELS FOR BEFORE AND AFTER MARRIAGE
Charles Hugo Doyle
Nihil Obstat: JOHN M. A. FEARNS, S.T.D.
Imprimatur: +FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN
Archbishop of New York
January 5, 1949
Copyright 1949 by The Nugent Press, Tarrytown, N. Y.
Printed in the United States of America
IN MEMORY OF MY FATHER, MOTHER, AND BROTHER
1. Marriage Is a Career
2. This Thing Called Love
3. Remote Preparation for Marriage
4. Proximate Preparation for Marriage
5. Mixed Marriages Are Dangerous
6. The Great Sacrament
7. The Period of Adjustment
8. Basic Requisites for Marital Happiness
9. The Great Sin in Marriage
10. Marriage Wreckers
11. The Important Role of Parents
12. Cana Is Forever
At that time . . . There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the
mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his
disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of
Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her:
Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come.
His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do
ye. Now, there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to
the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three
measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water.
And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw
out now and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they
carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made
wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had
drawn the water, the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and
saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when
men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept
the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in
Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples
believed in him.
(St. John 2:1-11)
". . . and Jesus also was invited" (to the marriage).
IF YOU ARE contemplating matrimony as a career and you honestly
want your marriage to be an unqualified success, your task may be
far greater than you realize.
Today, in this country, one out of every three marriages ends in
divorce or separation. So oft repeated is this in the press that it
now produces little more than the raising of eyebrows. What really
would prove startling would be an accurate survey of the felicitous
state of the other two-thirds who maintain common domicile alone
through force of public opinion, circumstances or, as they say, "for
the sake of the children." I would venture a guess that at least one
half of the two-thirds who do remain together experience
unhappiness in all its various shades from the powder gray of
discontent to the deep black of desperation. The tragic failure of
so many others only proves that many pitfalls await you in
Taking unto oneself a partner, for better, for worse, for richer, for
poorer, in sickness and in health until death, is serious business. A
happy and successful marriage is one of life's greatest blessings.
On the other hand, an unhappy marriage is one of the cruelest
afflictions that can befall anyone. Who fails at marriage fails at
The pages that follow have been written with the hope that they
will assist those contemplating marriage to choose wisely and well.
They are written, too, for those who have quaffed deeply of the
heady wine of wedlock and found it sometimes very sweet and
sometimes very bitter, and also for those whose complete
disillusionment has made them so cynical that they pronounce the
word "marriage" with all the fervid sadness and loathing with
which Job must have said "boils."
If you are standing only on the shores of the sea of matrimony, or
if you have already set sail and find yourself tossed about on the
topmost waves, this book is for you. Read it carefully, follow its
counsels, and you too may be spared the folly of so many others:
that of dropping broken pitchers into empty wells and growing old
in drawing nothing up.
Since marriage is such a hazardous venture it would appear
reasonable that God should provide men and women with certain
guiding principles to insure its success. That is why, in my mind,
Cana of Galilee assumes such tremendous importance. It is a
spiritual Baedeker for matrimonial careerists.
Nothing that God ever does is the result of mere chance.
Everything is divinely planned to the minutest detail. Christ's
presence, therefore, at the marriage in Cana was not accidental but
pre-ordained from all eternity. Indeed, the evangelical prophet
Isaias foretold centuries beforehand that the light of the Messias
would first shine in Galilee. And shine it did, in the miracle of the
changing of water into wine, and again in the miraculous curing of
the sick child.
That Cana was chosen for two great miracles, the first in tribute to
conjugal love, the second in tribute to paternal love, removes all
doubt as to its being anything but a place of God's special
predilection and providence. The events that took place there
followed such a pre-eminent pattern that they ought not to be
considered as favoring individuals but rather as extending to the
instruction and ennoblement of all mankind, especially to those
embracing the marital state.
There is deep significance in the fact that the Son of God chose a
banquet table as a backdrop for the event that marked the
beginning of His public ministry and again another banquet table
to preface its ending. As an invited guest at the marriage feast in
Cana, Christ changed water, universal symbol of sorrow and tears,
into wine, symbol of joy and love. As host at the Last Supper, the
same Christ changed wine into love's overflow, His own most
precious Blood. When William Makepeace Thackeray remarked that
meals with friends were "the greatest vehicles of benevolence," he
provided a more than adequate explanation for Christ's presence
in Cana in Galilee and again in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.
Certainly, it was no mere coincidence that He who came to redeem
a world plunged into degradation by the reckless action of the first
man and his wife should perform His first miracle as the Messias
for another man and his wife. It would appear that Our Lord, by
gracing with His presence the marriage in Cana, and making of it
the occasion for working such a striking miracle, wished to
demonstrate to all men that the ultimate success of the work of
redemption of mankind would rest with the family unit as such.
Terse as Saint John's accounts are of the events at Cana, they
nevertheless would provide adequate material for numerous
volumes of essays and many years of meditation. Regarding the
first miracle, there is the question of why Our Lord chose Cana at
all, a village of fewer than six hundred souls, when He might have
chosen the crowded city of Jerusalem, or even the palatial summer
home of the rich Simon, the Pharisee, at Magdala. There is the
matter of the amount of water made wine--more than eighty
gallons--or the fact that the miracle was done through the
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary simply because she
remarked to her Son, "They have no wine." Again, there is the point
that the names of the bride and bridegroom are not recorded, as if
God covered this couple with anonymity to impersonalize the
Likewise, the second miracle is equally rich in exegetical material.
There's the question of who the royal official was, whose son was
mortally ill; the nature of the illness; whether it was the little son
who had asked his father to seek out the Divine Physician, or
whether the father had sought Christ without the child's
knowledge. These and a thousand other questions would provide
interesting material for many a book. There is even a font of
hidden meaning in the word "Cana" itself, as well as in its
providential geographical position, to say nothing of the deep
significance of the rich ceremonials of that day, especially those
surrounding the ancient Jewish marriage ceremony.
Out of the wealth of essay topics provided by these and other
incidents relative to Cana of Galilee, I have chosen to write the
present volume around certain points in the scriptural accounts
that in one way or another indicate guidance toward success and
happiness in marriage. For instance, the lamentable and alarming
numbers of marriage failures today may be traced to the fact that
too many who enter this sacred relationship fail either to invite
Christ to their marriage or, having done so, fail to follow in
married life the counsel our Blessed Lady gave to the waiters at
Cana: "Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye." Again, the failure of
the wine would indicate inadequate preparation, and the failure of
many modern marriages may be traced to the same cause. If there
is one career that demands prayerful consideration and careful
preparation it is marriage. Circuit Judge L. D. Miller of
Chattanooga, Tennessee, who has handled over twenty-five
thousand marriage failures in his long career, unreservedly asserts
that over forty per cent of those marital tragedies resulted from
hasty marriages of the physically and mentally immature. Cana's
lessons thoroughly applied will help you to avoid such pitfalls.
Indeed, narrow is the gate to marital bliss and few who enter
therein; but with a consciousness of its hazards and a
determination to avoid them, by the grace of God, you can make a
grand success of your marriage. At least, that is the prayer of the
Chapter One: MARRIAGE IS A CAREER
There is something formally prohibitive about a sign on a door
reading "No Admittance Except on Business," and it usually gets
results. There would be fewer disappointing marriages if none
entered the sacred relationship but those bent on serious business.
Believe me, marriage is serious business. It is no lark, no adventure
in the vacuous emotion of youth; it is a decision that will affect for
life, and perhaps for eternity, not only oneself but one's partner
and any children God may send.
Marriage is a career, one so vital and so splendid that it ranks next
to the priesthood and religious life in the trinity of top-flight
careers in the world. All other careers are incidental to them. The
fact that marriage was the first career ever to be embraced by man
is most significant. And our common Father, Adam, when his pure
gaze fell upon the first incarnation of unalloyed womanhood, Eve,
proclaimed the inviolable law that was to bind all his descendants
until the end of time: "Wherefore a man shall leave father and
mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one
flesh." (Gen. 2:24.)
The etymological meaning of the word "career" is interesting. It
comes from the Latin word carrus--"wagon"--and means literally
something that carries one along a road. In this sense, marriage is
truly a career--one instituted by God Himself to carry a man and
his wife and their children along life's highway to heaven.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "career": "As a course of
professional life or employment which affords opportunity for
progress or advancement in the world." According to this
definition marriage certainly qualifies as a career. History bears
this out. There was hardly ever a great deed done by man that did
not somewhere bear the fingerprint, no matter how faint, of a fond
mother or a loving wife. How often have we not heard successful
men humbly proclaim that the Herculean feats they have
accomplished they owe to a devoted, saintly wife.
Indeed, not only is marriage a career that affords opportunity for
spiritual and temporal progress and advancement in this life, but it
reaches far into the next. "Marriage," said Taylor, "is the mother of
the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities and churches,
and heaven itself. The state of marriage fills up the number of the
elect and hath in it the labor of love and the delicacies of
friendship, the blessing of society and the union of hands and
hearts. It is indeed the very nursery of heaven."
The nature of man's career in marriage consists primarily in a
permanent union for the procreation and education of children,
the provision of a home, support of his wife and his offspring,
constant vigilant care for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his
household. The nature of a woman's career in marriage consists in
the bearing and education of children, insoluble union, home-
making and housekeeping. These are not matters of choice but of
A married man may give proof of power to rule an empire, master
abstruse sciences, write immortal tomes--yet if he fulfills not the
primary ends of the marriage career he is a failure.
A married woman may win by her particular capabilities and
capacities the plaudits of the world for her contribution to medical
and scientific research, or for works of art that grace the greatest
museums and art galleries in the world; yet if she fulfills not the
primary ends of her marriage career she is indeed a failure. Her
first duty is to be a wife and mother and homemaker.
Failure to realize that marriage is a career is one of the tragedies
of our day and the chief cause of the countless broken homes.
People readily accept law, teaching, medicine, nursing, singing
and advertising as careers, but neglect to include matrimony
among the top-flight careers. Important as all careers may appear
to be, only two were elevated to the dignity of sacraments--the
priesthood and marriage. That consideration above all else should
merit for the matrimonial state special veneration.
No one would deny that for Gainsborough painting was a career,
after feasting one's eyes on his famous Blue Boy. But what
comparison is there between the colored oils skillfully blended on
canvas by the hand of the artist and a tiny, lovely infant born to an
adoring mother and father whose union had been sanctified in
marriage? If painting the picture of a child is a career, dare we
deny that parenthood is a career?
What artist could reproduce the faint azure blue of a baby's eyes
or gather rays of pale dawn and distill therefrom the delicate pink
that graces a baby's dimpled cheek? Who but God, in using human
agencies, could put such innocence and trust into a baby's smile
or bless such frail little hands with enough terrible strength to
help weld two hearts into one until death do them part?
No one would think of denying that teaching is a high career, but,
by far and large, the first and most important school is the home,
and the most influential teachers, all mothers and fathers.
Nursing is a career, but a mother's untaught hands can often heal
and nurse with such latent skill that they can coax a waning life
back to strength when it has slipped beyond the reach of a
registered nurse and even the physician.
If entertaining an audience from the stage, screen, or over the
radio is a career, creating joy and happiness in a home is also a
Diplomacy is a career, but where is diplomacy so necessary and so
frequently required as in marriage? Indeed, the keeping of a
husband or a wife for life demands more consummate diplomacy
than that ever exercised by Richelieu and Churchill together. The
author of the "Lady of the Lake," Sir Walter Scott, sums up for
husbands the most contradictory and salient characteristics of all
wives in a single verse thus:
"Oh woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou."
Some careerists are successful though they may only practice the
virtues requisite to their own particular vocations. Thus, it is quite
possible for a doctor to be successful in medicine or surgery
without having to practice the subtle arts of the diplomat. When a
traffic officer stops your car and roars at you that highly original
greeting, "Pull over, Buddy. Where's de fire?", it is evident that his
career as such does not require the sympathy and gentleness of
Marriage as a career differs from all others inasmuch as it
demands for its success a great combination of many virtues and
qualities peculiar to many particular careers. Marriage demands
the patience of the teacher, the training of the psychologist, the
diplomacy of the statesman, the justice of a Supreme Court judge,
the sense of humor of a good comedian, the self-sacrifice of a
good doctor, "the-customer-is-always-right" attitude of the
successful department store salesman, the mercy of the confessor,
and so on, ad infinitum.
Having once established the fact that marriage is a topflight
career, it naturally follows that the same rules govern its success
as govern those of other careers. Every successful career demands
adequate preparation, intelligent earnestness, persistent industry,
and the will-to-win, but marriage demands all these, plus the
anointed strength of love.
If every couple would but bring to marriage one half the
consuming zeal for success that Thomas A. Edison brought to his
scientific career, how different many of them would be!
As a youth, Edison spent long dreary hours practicing on the tiny
telegrapher's key, learning the code and manner of sending and
receiving messages. There was a four-day walk from Port Huron to
Boston in search of work. There was the penniless arrival in New
York and a chance job repairing a telegraphic communication
system in a stock exchange on Wall Street that led to financial
betterment, but it was dogged determination to succeed that made
him so outstanding as a scientist.
Take, for instance, Edison's work on the carbon filament. In
October, 1879, he determined to make his experiment work if it
was the last thing he ever did. So convinced was he that the carbon
filament was utilizable that he refused to leave his laboratory until
he completed his work. On the second night he said to his
associate, Charles Batchelor, "We will make a lamp before we sleep
or die in the attempt," and make it he did, though it took four
sleepless days and nights before the now famous Edison
incandescent light was invented and the whole lighting system
revolutionized in the world.
Edison's career was successful solely because he brought to it a
determination to succeed no matter what the cost. Success in any
field rarely comes without great sacrifices. One has only to read
about the life of Madame Curie and her devoted husband and
follow the discovery of radium to evaluate the cost of success in a
Madame Curie's sufferings as she worked in the smoke-filled shed,
cold in the winter and stifling hot in the summer, defy description.
The work of days became months and years, and failure dogged
her every minute of the time, but Marie Curie, with terrible
patience, continued to treat kilogram by kilogram the tons of
pitchblende residue. Poverty hampered her in the acquisition of
adequate equipment. The obstacles seemed insurmountable in the
forty-five months of experimentation, but in the end the Curie
work produced radium.
Who could look at the great Marie Curie as she lay on her
deathbed, after thirty-five years' work with radium, and see her
tired, burned, scarred hands without realizing the awful cost of
success in a career?
Success in marriage depends upon acceptance of the fact that it is
a career and upon the readiness and willingness to bring to it all
the determination possible to overcome every difficulty and
obstacle on the road to success. If a marriage breaks up, it is not
because a man or woman must accept defeat but because the
defeat is willed.
A kite cannot be made to fly unless it goes against the wind and
has a weight to keep it from overturning. No marriage will succeed
unless there is readiness to face and overcome difficulties and a
willingness to accept the responsibilities of a parent, for
parenthood is the weight that keeps most marriages from
When Divine Love Incarnate came to Cana of Galilee to sanctify
forever pure conjugal love, He came to that marriage fresh from
His terrible bout with Satan.
Since the first man and his wife had succumbed to temptation in
the Garden of Eden, it was divinely planned that Christ, the New
Adam, should permit the same tempter to attack Him and be
ignominiously defeated and thus set a pattern for all to follow in
the resistance of temptation. His sacred presence at the wedding
was ever to be an earnest of the help and special graces He would
grant those called to the marriage career who would likewise resist
the onslaughts of Satan. Yea, more, Our Lord would elevate
matrimony to the dignity of a Sacrament and make of it a veritable
channel of special graces.
It is worthy of note, however, that while en route to Cana, the
Master called His first five apostles, one of them being Nathanael
(St. Bartholomew), a native of Cana of Galilee. The timing of
Nathanael's call to the apostolate was, doubtless, to indicate the
primacy of dignity and honor of the priesthood and religious life
over marriage, and that, in that very order, they would form a
trinity of top-flight careers.
It was only after choosing a nucleus for His priesthood that Christ
went down to the marriage at Cana of Galilee.
Chapter Two: THIS THING CALLED LOVE
Lord Bacon, one of the great English philosophers and essayists,
tells us: "He was reputed one of the wise men that made answer to
the question--when a man should fall in love and marry--'a young
man not yet, and an older man not at all.'"
I, for one, cannot dismiss the feeling that the formulator of that
answer was either once in love and was jilted, or he was married
and his wife beat him. Love is the wine of existence and marriage
is an honorable estate, or, should I say, for some it is an
imperative one, and go along with Saint Paul, who fiercely puts it:
"For it is better to marry than to be burnt."? (I Cor. 7:9.)
In the second chapter of the Book of Genesis we are told that when
the world was in its freshness of new beauty and Adam was master
of it all, God saw the need of making a companion for him. One
thing was lacking: "for Adam there was not found a helper like
himself" and "it was not good for man to be alone"; and so God
made Eve. Strange as it may seem, falling in love means searching
and finding in another, the partner who will make it easier for you
to fulfill your destiny and realize God's plan for yourself. At least,
that is one conception of love.
A clear-cut definition of love is not as easy to find as one might
imagine. Few encyclopedias even carry the word. They devote
pages to economics, art, and music, but ignore love. The writers of
books on marriage either avoid giving a definition of it or frankly
admit that it is indefinable. Cole Porter went so far as to set the
question "What Is This Thing Called Love?" to music, yet he gave
no satisfying answer. The inimitable George Bernard Shaw when
invited to contribute to a book on marriage replied: "No man dare
write the truth about marriage while his wife lives." Perhaps that
answer may supply a key to the problem of why so few have dared
to define love. There may be as much "dare not" as "cannot"
involved in this complex matter.
The gifted St. Thomas Aquinas had no inhibitions on the subject
and boldly declared that "to love a person is to wish him well." And
Webster, as we shall see a few pages hence, goes along with the
Angelic Doctor on that definition.
Sir Walter Scott says:
True love's the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven.
It is not fantasy's hot fire
Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly;
It liveth not in fierce desire--
With dead desire, it doth not die.
It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie
Which heart to heart and mind to mind
In body and in soul can find.
To Scott, then, love is a composite thing which, laying hold upon
one's nature, binds it with another in secret sympathy. Like grace,
the effects of love are easier to treat than its nature.
Love, like death, is the universal leveler of mankind. It is nature's
motive and reward. "We are all born of love," said Disraeli, "and it
is the principle of existence and its only end."
It is only natural that since love was to be the mainspring of man's
existence it would be the very thing Satan would endeavor to
counterfeit. Thus true love, like every genuine thing of value, has
numerous imitations. The cruel task for many is to sift the wheat
from the chaff, to distinguish the true from the false, the precious
metal from the slag. There is but one thing against which genuine
love is helpless and that is time. Love is like wine in that age
improves the good and sours the bad.
If we are to accept modern songs, novels, the radio, and movies as
our criteria, we shall believe that love comes at first sight and with
such a crushing force that one is powerless to resist. Such,
however, is not the case. If love were always to strike like
lightning, then no one would be safe. Your mother might be
smitten by the paper boy and your father by John's Other Wife.
Momentary attraction must not be confused with love, for love
Love at first is fancy, then there follows admiration, joined with
respect and devotion. In this melange of emotions there occurs,
sometimes, violent agitation, but more often there is a gentle
simmering, a confused but agreeable mingling, until gradually all
becomes transfused into a vital feeling called love. "The
introduction to this felicity," says Emerson, "is a private and tender
relation of one to one, which is the enchantment of human life;
which, like a certain divine rage and enthusiasm, seizes a man at
one period and works a revolution in his mind and body; unites
him to his race, pledges him to the domestic and civic relations,
carries him with new sympathy into nature, enhances the power of
his senses, opens the imagination, adds to his character heroic and
sacred attributes, establishes marriage and gives permanence to
Since so much depends on love for abiding happiness in marriage,
it stands to reason that a comprehensive understanding of what
real love is takes on paramount importance. There is nothing so
misunderstood and no word so abused as the word '"love." Little
boys and girls "love" candy; women "love" mink coats; trees in
every village and in every lane have "love" carved in their bark,
and fences on every back street proclaim that A.B. "loves" C.D.,
while recapped Romeos whisper it gently and its magic is
supposed to make liberties righteous. Ignorance of the
development of love, as well as the multitudinous forms love
takes, makes for the misunderstanding of it. A great many people
imagine that all children are born with an innate love for their
parents and their immediate family; that, later, puppy love
develops; and finally that they will quite naturally go through the
process of dating, courting, and then marry. Would that it were
quite so simple!
Under the most favorable conditions everyone's love life develops
through five stages. The first stage comes in infancy when, as Dr.
Vladimir G. Eliasberg, a psychology professor at Rutgers
University, says, we begin by being narcissistic--that is, lovers of
ourselves. Next comes our love for our Parents--then a love for our
playmates--then a crush on a companion of the same sex (for
example, a girl's crush on her teacher)--finally, as teen-agers, we
show the usual interest in the opposite sex, with thoughts of
finding a life mate and marriage.
During any one or all of these stages, external forces may hinder
or help the growth of love. Let us examine some of these
hindrances or helps in detail. For instance, in the first stage of
narcissism, a child in the normal home learns to depend upon its
parents and finds it easy to transfer some of its love from itself to
its parents. In those homes, on the other hand, where the child is
definitely not wanted and lacks love, that child is a cheated
individual and because he is not loved he refuses to love in return.
In order to acquire a fine personality, a child must feel himself a
worthy and wanted member of the family. A child needs to feel
secure. Without security he is cheated, and a cheated child is a
future delinquent. Parents who really love one another and who are
considerate of one another and avoid harshness naturally provide
the best background for the child's security. The shrewish,
nagging, domineering mother will stunt the growth of a child's life.
The proud, arrogant, sawdust-Caesar-like father, who rules his
home with dictatorial edicts, will set a pattern for his child's later
love life. Knowingly or unknowingly, we become like those with
whom we live and associate.
Another extremely important matter in the growing love life of a
child is the proper attitude toward sex. The vast majority of
children will grow up, choose a mate, and find in marriage the
fulfillment of a real vocation. How successful this venture will be
will depend upon a sensible sex education in the home. Growing
up in a home where there are condemnation and embarrassed
looks when the child asks the normal questions about sex and
questions concerning life's beginnings, as if it were something
terribly unclean and sinful, tends to make of it a personality
problem. Curiosity is merely whetted by such mid-Victorian
attitudes and the child will seek information elsewhere. Parents
actually warp a child's sex life by their attitude of evasion or
embarrassment when sex is mentioned. It suffices to say here that
the best Catholic authorities assert that parents should avoid the
extremes of prudishness on one hand and vulgarity of detail on
the other. Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical letter "On Christian
Education of Youth," pointed out the duty of parents to instruct
their sons and daughters in sex matters when they are requested to
do so by their offspring.
Sex questions should then be answered directly and reverently.
The way in which parents handle this problem may affect their
children and their children's children for generations.
Still another way the love life of a child or teen-ager may be
permanently affected is that by which a selfish mother or father
resents sharing the child's affection with friends and playmates. A
mother who emotionally ties a child to her apron strings does that
individual a great injury. Obstacles placed in the way of a child's
development in normal friendships can later turn out to be a real
booby trap. Parents should endeavor to develop in their children,
from early years, a wide range of friendships with other children
of both sexes. The mother who boasts that she is her "son's best
girl" and who is eternally berating all girls as flirts, and who, to her
daughter, pictures all men as "wolves," does her offspring a
disservice. The teen-ager's normal adjustment may be impaired or
irreparably damaged by such conduct.
Let us now consider some of the different manifestations of love.
There is, as we all know, such a thing as a deep love of country;
there is the love in friendship such as that which existed between
Jonathan and David and between Our Lord and Saint John; there is
filial love such as exists between a child and its parents; there is
romantic love such as exists between two lovers; and nuptial love--
that which exists between a man and his wife.
Common sense tells us that in each of the above cited examples,
the love is different. For instance, the simpler love in friendship is
more or less restricted in external expression, for while there is
genuine esteem and deep regard, we do not kiss or fondle all our
friends. Again, the love that exists between members of the family,
while much more demonstrative, has definite natural limits. A
mother will have as deep and abiding a love for her child as she
has for her husband, but the difference lies in the fact that her
love for her husband is flavored by sexual attraction. The romantic
lovers will love their parents, brothers, and sisters, but the love
between themselves is the sexually flavored variety. And sexual
attraction is a normal, natural, healthy desire, created by God
Himself, without which few men and women would desire to marry
and have children. Frankly, without sex attraction the human race
would soon die out.
A deep understanding of the different kinds of love will keep
parents from making the mistake of resenting the romantic love of
sons and daughters. The new love will not extinguish filial love, it
will strengthen it.
Romantic love is such a subtle thing that human intelligence must
be assisted by divine grace to be able to discern the true from the
false. Few realize that true love is, as defined by Webster, "a desire
for and earnest effort to promote the welfare of another," and not
simply another name for external manifestations of affection and
sex satisfaction. Nuptial love that is built on passion alone is
doomed to failure. Almost all passions are temporary by nature.
We know from experience that the passion of anger, for instance,
is rarely able to be sustained at a high pitch. Once we "get even"
with our enemy, the force of the rage is spent. The same is true of
love as a passion, for from this point of view the chief pleasure is
in anticipation and once its object is attained it may wane and
even pall. Marriage must be built on a much firmer basis.
A happy marriage depends on one's early education in what real
love is and what it is not, and what its end and object are. A happy
marriage depends too on one's capacity during courtship to
discern true love from mere infatuation. Love whets the appetite;
infatuation leaves hunger still.
"Love hath its seat
In reason and is judicious,"
says Milton, while infatuation directs action without reason and
precludes judgment. Love is a learned quality; infatuation is a play
of humor in the blood. Infatuation can even be a one-sided affair,
but not so, love, for as the Italian proverb says, "To love and not be
loved is time lost." One strives in vain to light a cigarette from a
A doctor of medicine, a close friend of mine, and I were discussing
a young man, a problem child, in whose case we had both become
concerned. I ventured to suggest that what really ailed the boy was
that "he had a touch of love." "You ought to know better than that,"
said the doctor. "Love is like diabetes. There is no such thing as a
touch of it. You have it or you don't have it."
Granted that one knows when he or she is in love, is there no
infallible way of telling the genuine from the unreasonable
facsimile? I'm afraid not, but I hasten to say that you can be
morally certain your love is true and genuine if you find
gentleness, beauty, refinement, generosity and intelligence and a
reciprocal love made up of all these qualities and one that
outdistances your love, day by day, month by month. What? No
sex? Yes, indeed, but when two persons are really in love and that
love is genuine, the sex feelings are so controlled that, without
realizing it, they find great pleasure merely in being in one
Newell W. Edson of the American Social Hygiene Association, in a
pamphlet entitled "Love in the Making," has listed the following
signs as indicative of true love:
1. A genuine interest in the other person and all that he or she says
2. A community of tastes, ideals, and standards with no serious
3. A greater happiness in being with this one person than with any
4. A real unhappiness when the other person is absent.
5. A great feeling of comradeship.
6. A willingness to give and take.
7. A disposition to give fair consideration to the other party's
8. A pride in the other person when comparisons are made.
9. A wealth of things to say and do together.
Mr. Edson neglected to mention something that I consider a most
indicative sign of love, and that is a willingness to sacrifice
oneself for another--to sacrifice something prized by the giver.
Sacrifice stimulates love while expressing it. It was Antoine de
Saint-Exupery, I think, who said: "The mother gives nourishment
from her own body for her child. By her giving she creates her
love. To create love we must begin by sacrifice. Afterwards it is
love that makes the sacrifices. But it is we who must take the first
Emerson sums up the whole problem in his own inimitable way as
follows: "All that is in the world, which is or ought to be known, is
cunningly wrought into the texture of man and woman:
The person love does to us fit
Like Manna, has the taste of all in it."
Upon parents, teachers, and clergy alike falls the grave obligation
of forewarning and forearming teen-age youths against the folly of
permitting themselves to "go steady" during high-school years.
Youth must be taught the dangers of this procedure well in
advance of its actuality, for once the love-bug gets them they
become blind to reason and deaf to admonition. Teen-agers must
be shown that the wisdom of nature must be respected and that
ventures into love demand maturity--physical, intellectual, and
emotional maturity. The bird does not leave the nest until its
wings are grown strong enough to carry it. The chrysalis does not
tear open until there are wings to take the tiny insect aloft. Teen-
agers likewise ought to wait until they are of proper age before
going steady or being allowed to do so.
My experience with adolescents has been that under ordinary
circumstances, they react favorably to logic. For instance, few
teen-agers would let themselves fall in love during their high-
school years if they knew that more than sixty-nine per cent of
those who were madly in love during that period of their lives did
not marry the object of this youthful affection at or after the age
of twenty-one. This proves simply that a person at twenty-one has
a different sense of values than at, say, sixteen or seventeen.
No youth would fail to condemn the folly of a sixteen-year-old lad
who had set his heart on a red convertible coupe and had gone so
far as to have a car salesman give him several road
demonstrations, but who at the same time had no money to buy a
car, no money for its upkeep, no place to keep a car, and, lastly,
couldn't drive a car. Now, applying the same reasoning to steady-
company-keeping by minors, it is easy to point out the utter folly
of permitting themselves to fall in love until they are old enough
to distinguish real love from mere infatuation; until they are
mature enough to assume the complex and responsible duty of
parenthood; and until they have the income sufficient to establish
and maintain a home. Teenagers should ponder the wisdom of the
words of Owen Felltham, who warns that "love is never lasting
which flames before it burns."
A person may not vote until his twenty-first birthday has been
reached. Now, this legislation was enacted simply because the
politicians felt that anyone younger lacked mature judgment.
Anyone who is too immature to vote is too immature to choose a
life partner. There are physical reasons also involved in such a
decision. The Germans, according to Julius Caesar, ruled that the
act of reproduction in marriage was not permitted to anyone under
twenty-one without incurring infamy: and to this he attributed the
great strength and fine stature of that simple people.
But is it possible to keep from falling in love? It is, if kissing and
petting are not indulged in, no endearing terms expressed through
little intimacies, no gifts exchanged, and no confession of love
made. It's just as simple as all that. Ovid, a writer in ancient times,
said "Love gives place to business. Attend to business and you will
It is a wise thing to have a few, good, well-founded principles to
guide you when about to choose a mate. One of those principles
should be that beauty of face and figure will not be the sole
motivating factor in your choice. Remember that "you can never
tell the depth of the well by the length of the handle on the pump."
A ready smile, a bright mind, a pleasing personality, a courteous
manner are all more important than a pretty face. All the flaunted
beauty of certain screen actresses and actors has not served so
well in keeping them happily married.
To those who are intellectually, physically, vocationally, and
emotionally mature enough to fall in love, we say emphatically
that enduring love is ever built on virtue which cannot be seen in
the other person at once. Long acquaintanceship--one to five
years--has better prospects than "love at first sight." Above all, we
remind them that many more qualities than the severely practical
go into the composition of married life and home building.
Abstract traits are beautiful and indispensable, but:
Will the love that you are rich in
Build a fire in the kitchen
Or the little god of Love turn the spit, spit, spit?
Flour is the chief and most quantitative ingredient in a good cake,
but flour alone won't make a cake. You also need baking powder,
salt, sugar, shortening, eggs and milk, a lot of sifting and mixing, a
smooth batter, and just the right amount of heat. Love is the chief
ingredient requisite for a happy marriage but not the only one. A
good many other things go into the making of a happy marriage,
especially in these modern times with changing attitudes.
Speaking of recipes, here is an old grandmother's recipe that has a
lot of wisdom in it:
"When once you have made your selection, let it remain forever
settled and give your entire thoughts to preparation for domestic
use. Some wives keep their husbands in pickle, others in hot water.
Even poor varieties may be made sweet, tender and good by
garnishing with patience, well sweetened with smiles and flavored
with kisses. Wrap in a mantle of charity, keep warm with a steady
fire of domestic devotion. Serve often with peaches and cream.
When thus prepared, husbands will keep for years."
But getting back to our main topic--love--most readers will agree
wholeheartedly with what we have stated thus far. There will be
perfect agreement with the tenet that a person ought to know what
real love is and be so well grounded in the knowledge that the true
can be easily detected from the false. Sound advice, all this is, for
those who have not yet entered holy wedlock, but what about those
already married who find the fires of love reduced to but
smoldering embers, if not, as some protest, gone out completely?
To such persons we say that were it not within the power of man to
"will to love," there would be no solution to such a problem and
most marriages would rarely remain happy for more than a few
years at best. That it is not impossible to foster love for one's
husband or wife is being proven daily by thousands of thoughtful
men and women who, while disillusioned as to the fitness of their
match, nevertheless have forced themselves to look for the good
and noble in each other, with the amazing result that a new
understanding and respect has grown up between them.
No matter who it is, there is some loveliness in everyone that lurks
undiscovered, and patient, kindly exploration will render it easily
discernible and upon this a new comradeship can be born and
fostered. Always remember that the great bridge that now spans
Niagara Falls first began with the spreading from side to side of a
tiny wire. The wire was used to haul across a rope and at the end of
the rope was a heavy cable, and so on until a bridge was begun
that today supports the traffic of trains, cars, and honeymooners.
The point is that someone had to will that a bridge be built across
Niagara Falls and from that will flowed the determination that
provided the means for overcoming what appeared at first to be
insurmountable obstacles. The same holds true in marriage, and
while one or both parties may not experience all the rapturous
moments of happiness that they might have had had they chosen
their life partner more wisely, consider that few marriages are a
tale of uninterrupted bliss.
That everyone has within him the power "to will to love" is proved
by the fact that in certain countries, in the past, there was no free
choices of mates, and yet such a deep sense of the duty of loving
was taught in the home--and not only a great and high sense of
duty but the grandeur of loving--that the husband and wife usually
managed to make a good job of mutually respecting one another.
So successful was this sort of thing that some wag--Lyttleton or
Shaftesbury, I think--said: "Marriages would be happier if they
were all arranged by the Lord Chancellor."
The person who says, "I do not love my wife or my husband any
more," acknowledges simply that "the will to love" is absent. Such
a person lacks good sportsmanship too, for a good sport will take
pride in succeeding in every adventure, and marriage is one of
life's chief adventures. Morton puts it this way: "In love, as in
religion, faith worketh miracles."
Whatever you do, give love time. "Love," says Blucher, "is the river
of life in this world. Think not that ye know it who stand at the
little tinkling rill, the first small fountain. Not until you have gone
through the rocky gorges and not lost the stream; not until you
have gone through the meadow and the stream has widened and
deepened until fleets could ride on its bosom; not until beyond the
meadow you have come to the unfathomable ocean, and poured
your treasures into its depths--not until then can you know what
And the measure of love? Mrs. Browning gave the world a
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use,
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith;
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
There is every reason to believe that all the ancient Jewish
customs were observed at the marriage in Cana. If that be true, Our
Blessed Lord and His Virgin Mother witnessed a most significant
reminder of the fragility of love. According to custom, from time
to time during Jewish wedding feasts, someone would put
somewhat of a check on the joyous festivities by shattering the
wine glasses of the happy pair. The idea was to remind the bride
and the groom that all felicity is subject to instability, and that
love, like a glass once dashed to the ground, could be shattered
into a thousand pieces--and were repair possible, the cracks would
In this, as in so many other ways, the lessons of Cana are
tremendous and Cana Is Forever.
1. Sonnets from the Portuguese.
2. "Fortuna vitrea est, tum quum splendet frangitur"--Publius
Syrus--see Berachot F. 31. 1. "The Christ--The Son of God," by the
Abbe Constant Fouard (I, p. 193).
Chapter Three: REMOTE PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE
I read somewhere about an old prospector who discovered a gold
mine which he later sold for more than ten million dollars. The
story related how the miner came to a certain spot and threw down
his pick, remarking: "Where my pick falls, I'll dig for gold." What
the story did not make clear was that it took him forty years to
find the right spot to throw the pick.
Success that results from mere chance is extremely rare and this is
doubly true in the matter of matrimony. There are those who, when
they see a happily wedded couple whose marriage has made them
eloquent in love, believe it to be solely the result of a lucky
meeting, a decent courtship, and an adequate period of
engagement. Believe me, these are but a few of the many
ingredients that go into the making for happiness and success in
marriage. But marriage is not nearly as much of a gamble as some
would have you believe. It does not belong in the lottery class. It is
definitely an open-and-shut proposition. How marriage turns out is
the exact working out of cause and effect. What you bring to
marriage and what your mate brings to marriage will determine its
success or failure. Therein lies the importance of remote
It is sheer folly to attempt to build a massive superstructure on a
weak foundation. That was dramatically proved when the Saint
Francis Dam in Southern California collapsed a few years ago and
the waters it was built to hold back rushed down the valley,
causing terrific loss of life and property. Here was a case of faulty
foundation construction. When a marriage collapses, the blame
most frequently may be traced to a faulty foundation--a faulty
remote or long distance preparation.
Being the right kind of person is as important as finding the right
person to marry. But being the right kind of person depends not
only upon what you have made of yourself or upon whether the
influence exerted by other persons and circumstances has been
good or bad but also upon that with which you began life. When
Victor Hugo said, "To reform a man, you must begin with his
grandmother," he enunciated a principle that opens up fields for
speculation. Naturally, whatever is said here concerning heredity,
environment, social and moral development, applies equally to the
one you have already wed or whom you will eventually marry.
Consideration of these matters when judging yourself or another
may clear up some of life's complexities.
Your life began with a single cell. That cell divided in two, the two
cells divided and became four, the four cells divided and became
eight, the eight became sixteen until as a single individual you
represent a total of some thirty thousand million or more cells.
The single cell in the fertilized ovum or egg from which you
started increased in weight more than seven million times in nine
More marvelous still is the fact that the single original cell from
which you began--a cell no bigger than the head of a pin --
contained forty-eight chromosomes each with its genes derived
partly from your mother and partly from your father--passed on to
them through the generations--and determining your features,
traits, and even the color of your eyes. With all this in mind, one is
confronted with the intricate and staggering force of heredity.
Out of the dim past every child brings a two-fold deposit: an
ancestral and a racial inheritance. Scientists claim that the
ancestral inheritance is determined by the individual maternal and
paternal cells which unite to form one from which the new life
begins. Mendel explained in his theory of heredity that "the
offspring is not intermediate in type between its parents but the
type of one or the other parent is predominant." It is the idea of
continuity, the steady flow from the past into the future, that
every married person or anyone contemplating marriage must
strive to understand, if he or she is to grasp the significance of the
vastness of the problem of differentiation between one man and
another and one woman and another and cooperate with it
Heritable traits are admitted in animals. A brood mare which has
developed a mean streak or trickiness will be promptly removed
from the breeding stables by a wise horseman because he knows
that such traits will show up in the colts. In human beings
heritable traits are frequently totally discounted. Most authorities
agree that a normal healthy baby inherits nothing but (1) a fear of
noise and a fear of falling, (2) a capacity to learn, (3) physical
characteristics, and (4) a certain glandular mechanism, and they
drop the matter right there.
Too few of the authorities, I fear, grasp the far-reaching effects
that good or bad glandular mechanisms play in determining what
sort of a person we are or become or their effect on our relations
with others with whom we live. An over-active thyroid gland in a
pregnant mother may be transmitted to her child, and such a
transmission will certainly produce nervousness and irritability.
Who can determine the extent of the effect that such nervousness
and irritableness will have upon that mother-child relationship and
upon other relationships?
What has been said of the thyroid gland might be said of the other
glands. Preponderance of activity or underactivity of even one
gland will upset the balance of the whole system. All of us have
seen side-show freaks. They became bearded ladies, giants,
dwarfs, or fat monstrosities because of defective glands, glands
that were in many cases transmitted to them from their parents.
There is nearly perfect agreement among geneticists that, (1) close
relatives should not marry since such individuals draw their genes
from the same common ancestral sources and there is grave risk
that defective genes may simply be duplicated and (2) that
persons not related but whose family records show similar defects
ought not consider marriage together, since they would bring to
their union the same trends toward hereditary evils. How well your
ancestors and mine observed those principles has determined
what sort of persons we are today.
Not many people stop to realize the profound influence of
ancestry on their present status. The person who has such soft
bones as to be crippled or partially incapacitated, the young man
or woman whose whole life has been influenced and inhibited due
to unsightly, decaying teeth, most likely can trace these defects to
a physically incapable or downright careless mother who paid no
attention to her diet during pregnancy, and so her blood was non-
productive of the calcium and silicon necessary for good bone and
dental structure. The fault might not even be the mother's, but the
grandmother's. The ultimate effect of these bad teeth might be to
alter one's whole personality, close certain professions to that
person, and generally affect his relations with others. Indeed,
heredity plays a most important part in one's life. Remember this
when you come to choose a mate. The prudent choice should be
made in the light of your own heritable physical make-up and that
of your mate.
Present-day authorities on genetics have the annoying habit of
blandly and unequivocally stating with all the finality imaginable
that every baby starts at zero and comes into the world with no
heritable traits. They claim that environment alone is to blame for
what a child turns out to be. Then they qualify this statement. For
instance, they hold that a child is born into this world with a
hereditary fear of noise and a fear of falling. If two traits are
hereditary, why not twenty-two?
Amram Scheinfeld, in his famous book, "You and Heredity," goes
to any lengths to disprove hereditary influences, but yet he admits
that excessive smoking, drinking, or drug addiction may reach the
unborn baby through the mother and cause harmful and even
disastrous effects. Heavy drinking, he claims, can cause
malformation; excessive use of quinine can cause deafness in the
baby; while addiction to morphine or opium to a point where the
mother's tissues are saturated with such drugs, may cause the
baby to come into the world as a drug addict. More amazing still is
this statement by Scheinfeld--the ardent anti-hereditarian: "From
the very first instant--we might say even before conception--both
heredity and environment are at work."
Much has yet to be explained by the scientists before we have a
complete picture of the matter of physical heritable traits. Can it
be that our physical side is so plastic that an unborn baby can be
affected by what enters its mother's mind through her senses? We
have all heard of disfiguring blemishes and birthmarks that were
said to have resulted to the unborn baby by its mother having seen
a frightening object. Medical authorities today reject this as utterly
However, before dismissing such things as physical
impossibilities, it would be well to read the thirtieth chapter of
Genesis, beginning at the thirty-second verse. The story found
therein tells how Jacob, after making an agreement with Laban to
accept "all the sheep of divers colours and speckled: and all that is
brown and spotted, and of divers colours, as well among the sheep,
as among the goats, shall be my wages," proceeded to increase the
number of spotted and speckled animals by this most ingenious
"And Jacob took green rods of poplar and of almond, and of plane
trees, and pilled them in part: so when the bark was taken off, in
the parts that were pilled, there appeared whiteness: but the parts
that were whole remained green. And by this means the colour was
divers. And he put them in the troughs, where the water was
poured out: that when the flocks should come to drink, they might
have the rods before their eves, and in the sight of them might
"And it came to pass . . . the sheep beheld the rods and brought
forth spotted, and divers colours, and speckled." The same process
worked for the goats too, and the Sacred Writer adds that "the man
was enriched exceedingly."
Unanswerable as the problem is of whether or not what enters a
mother's mind through her senses can affect an unborn child and
alter its physical development, a greater problem is presented if
we ask whether or not the very thoughts and desires of parents can
affect the unborn. Yet Dr. H. S. Pomeroy makes this curious
observation: "For twenty years I have made a study of first-born
children, and I am satisfied that it is one of the laws of heredity
that they should resemble the father. The reason for this appears
to be that in a happy marriage the husband is, during the first
year, an object of peculiar interest and admiration to the wife: she
thinks of him rather than herself and her child is patterned after
the model she has before her. The second child, under favorable
circumstances, usually resembles the mother, for the reason that,
having already one child like the father, both parents unite in the
desire that the second child be like the mother. When the first
child resembles the mother markedly, it is occasionally difficult to
account for it, but usually it will be found that the wife is innately
selfish, intraverted, or was led to think of herself rather than her
Dr. Pomeroy, by the way, goes all out for the passing on of
hereditary traits from parents to child. "It is," he writes, "an
established fact that the children of drunken parents will furnish a
much greater percentage of inebriates than will the children of
temperate ones. It is known that 'love children' are particularly
difficult to bring up in paths of virtue."
The above has not been included in this essay to supply you with a
ready answer to someone's dubious query of "How do you get that
way?", but simply to point up the fact that although one is not
born with a ready-made personality, many potentialities of one's
character and personality may possibly have been established
before birth. You were born with a certain kind of body--thin or fat,
strong or weak, active or sluggish, insensitive or responsive, and
those things affected your output of energy, push, indefatigability,
and these formed the physical foundation to your personality. The
kind of body you have today is in no small way the result of good
or bad heredity. Sallust once remarked that "the glory of ancestors
sheds a light around posterity: it allows neither their good nor bad
qualities to remain in obscurity."
Be all this as it may, both those who differ on the question of more
or less potent transmission of heritable traits from one's ancestors
and those who contend that the human individual starts only with
the union of sperm and ovum, all agree that every newborn babe is
a potential saint or sinner, a scoundrel or an ornament to society, a
joy or a heartache to its parents. What the newborn babe will
eventually become depends in a great part upon certain external
forces or factors and upon its own internal mechanisms, plus the
grace of God and the individual's cooperation with it.
The growth of the human child is divided into three main periods:
infancy, childhood, and adolescence. From birth to the end of the
first nine months represents early infancy; and from nine months
to two years later infancy. From two years to six years we have
early childhood, while from six to thirteen, later childhood. From
about thirteen years to sixteen is termed early adolescence, and
from sixteen years to maturity is called later adolescence. From
the day an infant is born it requires parents to love, nourish, and
teach it, and good religious and social environment to give it a
chance, for human behavior is made and not born. Human beings
are unbelievably complex things, constantly played upon by
So much stress is laid on personality today that one is said to
succeed with it and to be a failure without it. Certainly, no one is
born with a definite personality. In fact, you had so little
individual personality at your birth that had you been accidentally
mixed up with other newly born infants neither your own father
nor mother could have pointed you out. Today your mother or
father could pick you out of ten millions of people. What makes
you you? Evelyn Duvall and Reuben Hill wrap the answer up very
neatly in the following quote: "What makes you you depends upon
years of responding to life's situations. Your personality is made
up of many things: the kind of body you started with, the type of
home you were born into, the sort of people you had to associate
with, the way you have been brought up and the things you have
learned and, most important of all, how you felt and acted about
them. Your personality is the sum total of the characteristic ways
of feeling, responding, and behaving, which determine your place
Let us examine some of the above-mentioned influences in detail.
The kind of body with which you started. Having already gone into
this matter, it suffices here to say that your personality was
affected by circumstances that even preceded your birth. The very
way in which you were attached to the womb of your mother had
something to do with your development. T. Wingate Todd asserts
that "many low-grade mentalities are not instances of hereditary
feeble-mindedness but examples of defect in brain development
induced by mal-nurture during pre-natal and post-natal life. The
quality and quantity of food, the balanced or unbalanced diet of
the mother, partial starvation or overfeeding; in short, whether
your life was one of comfort, of luxury or hardship, made for gross
differentiation in your personality and profoundly influenced it.
The type of home into which you were born. Your body was your
primary environment. Your home was your secondary
environment, and it influenced your present personality in no
small way. If you were born to a family which dwelt in the country
you absorbed different ideas about life than you would have, had
you been born to city folk. Having been born and brought up in a
squalid tenement section of a large city would have differentiated
your social influence from a person who was born to a
multimillionaire's residence on Park Avenue. In a word, you share
the status of your family's standing in your neighborhood and
your community. Where you actually dwell is more significant
than perhaps you think. Would you be surprised if I were to tell
you that sixty-three per cent of people marry someone who lives
within eight blocks of where they live? Thus, such a trifling thing
as where you dwell will have its influence upon whom you marry,
and where you live once you are married will have its influence
upon your children. It seems that there is something to what
Alexander Smith once said: "Trifles make up the happiness or
misery of mortal life."
How your parents acted toward each other and toward you has had
a great influence upon your personality development. If your
parents made a success of their marriage, the chances are good for
your making a success of yours.
The basis for your marriage has been laid in your own home and
the example you there absorbed will be the basis of your own
happiness in that career. It is not pure accident that for
generations, in certain families, there have been no divorces or
unhappy marriages. The influence of family background,
traditions, and ideals is powerful. According to leading
sociologists, psychologists, clergymen, and others best fitted to
know, it has been pointed out that there is a close relationship
between childhood impressions of family life and the achievement
of married happiness as an adult. The happier the recollections of
the parents' marriage, the better the chances of happiness in the
child's subsequent wedlock.
In a revealing article by Barbara Benson in the February, 1947,
issue of "The Ladies' Home Journal," entitled "Would You Marry
Your Husband Again?", a new nationwide survey shows that from
persons whose marriage turned out better than they expected,
fifty-seven per cent say their parents' marriages were very happy,
too. In contrast, among the people whose marriage has been a
disappointment, only one in three (thirty-six per cent) recalls his
parents' marriage as a happy one. Note the evidence of the power
of example! This indicates, too, that care should be taken to avoid
marrying a person whose parents failed in marriage. The cards are
stacked against you!
Such a trifling thing as the memory of a mother, on the one hand,
loving her home and enjoying her role as housekeeper, or the
memory of a mother, on the other hand, who constantly protested
and groaned about the slavery of housekeeping, may spell the
difference between your liking or despising housekeeping and be
the cause of your present urge to be a career woman.
Your personality has been affected for good or for evil by the
differences in familial relationships. Psychologists now all agree
that the feeling of being wanted, being loved, and having a place
in your own world constituted a fundamental need in your life
even from infancy. Perhaps I can best explain this with an
example. Some years ago a father and mother came to me
regarding what they termed their problem boy, Dore, an eighteen-
year-old son, who had become defiant, sulky, uncompanionable.
The boy had no interest in sports and just wanted to be left alone.
As the parents told their story, the reason for their son's strange
behavior became evident. When their son was born they wanted a
girl, and they could not conceal their disappointment. From the
very beginning they began to treat him as if he were a girl. They
chose a name as nearly feminine as possible. The gentlest
companions were picked for him and rough games were roundly
Naturally, at eighteen, Dore did not fit into sports, and in an
endeavor to give himself something in the way of toughness, he
developed the habit of vile language and of drinking. The defiance
of parental direction and authority was a natural result of this
attempt to gain an appearance of manhood.
Dore's parents were taken aback when I pointed out that they and
they alone were responsible for what they termed their "problem
child." He was simply an example of what happens when the
feeling of not being wanted is present in a child's mind and heart.
The way you have been brought up. Every child is a very complex
human being. Hence the problems of development are by no
means simple. Every infant born into the world is a bundle of
potentialities, and how the various potentialities will develop
depends to a large extent upon environmental factors--in the
child's case these are largely the personalities with whom he
comes in contact. "During infancy," says Mary E. Spencer, Ph.D.,
"and the pre-school years, the patterns of development are well
outlined. The foundation of what the child will become has already
been laid. This ground structure may evidence careful planning
and well-defined outlines. Or it may have been built hit or miss,
with supports too weak to carry a superstructure of any lasting
value. Or the masonry may be very shoddy, giving evidences of
poor workmanship, as we review the foundation work on which the
later personality and character building are to rest." This line of
reasoning seems to be borne out by the following story.
Some time ago a New York Sunday paper ran a full-page story
concerning a sensitive plant which would respond to the most
delicate outside movement. The article was strikingly entitled
"Even a Good Holler Scares These Sensitive Plants." The author
pointed out that the rumble of a passing automobile or a gust of
wind or the heat from a match would cause the small light blue
flower to collapse. Luther Burbank was cognizant of this, too. He
claimed that all plants were sensitive and would become
unconscious in the presence of ether. He would never hire a man
who used alcohol or who smoked because plants were affected by
the odor of both alcohol and tobacco.
Never did the great horticulturist discuss the delicate nature of
plants without asserting that while they responded to the most
delicate outside influences, a child was infinitely more sensitive.
"A child," Burbank would say, "is as sensitive to outside influences
and forces as a seismograph is sensitive to an earthquake which is
ten thousand miles away."
Some authorities maintain that a tiny infant is influenced by angry
and bitter talk indulged in by its parents in its presence. A baby in
its mother's arms is said to acquire a lasting fear of lightning,
simply by feeling the trembling of the mother as she clasps the
little one to her breast. Baseless fears resulting from feelings of
suffocation, or pains and clutching sensations suffered in adult
life, have been traced back to times in early childhood when the
senseless punishment of being locked in a closet was administered
by an irate parent. Do you understand now what I mean when I say
that external forces contrive to make each of us what we are?
Those good or bad forces will make us good or bad risks in
marriage years hence.
The delaying of the development of self-reliance likewise can be
destructive of essential character formation. While it is true that
the human child has the longest term of infancy of any living
creature, nevertheless it must gradually be taught to acquire
independence if it is to develop normally. Much damage is done to
the child in its early formative years by the faith parents have in
their protective powers over their offspring and the tendency from
force of habit to think of them as much more immature than they
are. This robs the child of the opportunity to take care of itself and
of the enjoyment of assuming responsibilities.
Catherine Cox Miles, Yale psychologist, states: "There is nothing
more important we can do for children than give them all the
responsibility their shoulders can bear. As a result, in manhood
and womanhood, whether they are building a building, running a
farm or business, becoming president of a club, leading a
community drive, editing a magazine, inventing an engine, writing
a book, or managing their marriage, home, and children, they will
be able to handle the responsibilities of these jobs from the sheer
momentum of habit."
The things you learned, how you felt about them and reacted to
them. Educational experiences are among the strongest
environmental influences affecting one's life. What you are or will
be depends in no small way on how you were trained and what you
were taught. Samuel Johnson once wrote: "Every man is a worse
man in proportion as he is unfit for the married state," and no
person is fit to marry who lacks a good sound intellectual, social,
moral, and religious training.
Pope Pius XI, in his famous Encyclical letter, "On Christian
Marriage," stresses the importance of a long-range moral
preparation for matrimony in the following words:
"For it cannot be denied that the basis of a happy wedlock, and the
ruin of an unhappy one, is prepared and set in the souls of boys
and girls during the period of childhood and adolescence. There is
danger that those who before marriage sought in all things what is
theirs, will be in the married state what they were before, that they
will reap what they have sown; indeed, within the homes there will
be sadness, lamentation, mutual contempt, strifes, estrangements,
weariness of common life, and worst of all, such parties will find
themselves left alone with their own unconquered passions."
From the Pontiff's words it is obvious that one who has acquired
and practiced the Seven Great Virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity,
Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice, and the Ten Little
Natural Moral Virtues of Tact, Order, Courtesy, Punctuality,
Sincerity, Unbiased Judgment, the Good Use of Time,
Cheerfulness, Loyalty, and Caution in Speech, will certainly make a
success of the matrimonial career. On the other hand, what
marriage could be happy where one or both of the mates bring to
their union souls steeped in habits resulting from frequent
commissions of the Seven Deadly or Capital Sins--namely, Pride,
Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth? The scale of
marital happiness tips toward that in which one's soul inclines.
Need we stress the well-known fact that a person will be after
marriage what he was before it? For instance, a young man who
was inordinately proud as a child and teen-ager will most certainly
be an arrogant and domineering husband, for pride is not founded
on the sense of happiness but on the sense of power. "Unwarranted
pride," as Johnson puts it, "is seldom delicate. It will please itself
with very mean advantages." What is true of sinful pride is true of
all the other Capital Sins. What chance for happiness has a girl who
marries a drunkard or one whose temper is uncontrollable? Pope
Pius XI, as noted before, warns against marrying one whose
weakness is lust, for he said: "There is danger that those who
before marriage indulged their impure desires, will be in marriage
what they were before and they will reap what they have sown . . .
worst of all such parties will find themselves left alone with their
own unconquered passions."
A survey made several years ago of the real causes of
unhappiness, separations, and civil divorces is most revealing. I
say real causes, because in most cases the excuses given in the
courts are not the real causes at all but the required legal grounds
for civil suits. Here follows the list of the true causes of
unhappiness or failure in marriage:
On the part of the wife:
Accepting attention of other men or outright infidelity
Resentment of father's discipline of children
Too much time spent with mother
Accepting advice of neighbors
Nagging or disparaging the husband
Indifference to the husband
Not being tactful or feminine
On the part of the husband:
Interference in household management
Lack of consideration
Lack of love-making and kindness
Living with relations
Vulgarity or slovenly habits
It would be interesting and worth while to write in alongside each
of these items the deadly sins that caused it or the different
virtues it violates. For instance, laziness is the result of the sin of
sloth; and drunkenness the sin of gluttony and the lack of the
virtue of temperance. Such an exercise will make the poet's lines
We make the world we live in: and we weave
About us webs of good or ill, which leave
Their impress on our souls.
Strength or weakness of will, its training or the lack of it, may spell
the difference between being a good marriage risk or a bad one.
Pope Pius XI, in his great Encyclical letter "On Education," wisely
"The inclinations of the will, if they are bad, must be repressed
from childhood, but such as are good must be fostered, and the
mind, particularly of children, should be imbued with doctrines
which begin with God, while the heart should be strengthened with
the aids of Divine grace, in the absence of which none can curb
their evil desires, nor can their discipline and formation be
brought to complete perfection by the Church, which Christ has so
provided with heavenly doctrines and Divine Sacraments, as to
make her an effectual teacher of men."
There is no gainsaying the fact that there is a vast difference
between what you could have learned and what you did learn, and
a vast difference between how you were trained and how you could
have been trained--between what you are today and what you
could or can be. While it is true that you are the product of your
environment, nevertheless if your parents were remiss, you don't
have to remain a sensitive, anti-social, immoral, frightened,
irreligious, or nervous person. As the Chinese say, "You can't stop
the birds from flying overhead but you can prevent them from
building their nests in your hair." You can force yourself to
change. You can learn new things and form new and better habits.
There is no limit to what determination, love, and the grace of God
The kind of marriage you make depends on the kind of person you
are and the kind of person your mate is. The success or failure of
your marriage will depend in a large measure on what each one of
you brings to that union. What each of you brings to marriage
likewise depends on the kind of remote preparation each has made
for wedlock. Regarding this foundation,
"Build it well, whate'er you do;
Build it straight and strong and true;
Build it clean and high and broad;
Build it for the eye of God."
When Our Lord went to Cana for the marriage feast, it is assumed
that He arrived in time for the great procession which formed such
a colorful and important part of the ceremony. According to
custom, the marriage procession always began late on Tuesday
night and was made up of a troop of singers, their voices mingling
with the notes of the flute and the clash of tambourines, with, last
of all, the bridegroom, gloriously clad, his forehead wreathed with
a golden turban entwined with myrtle and roses. About him
marched his ten friends called "sons of the groom," holding palm
branches in their hands while the kinsmen acting as his escort
bore lighted torches. Arriving at the home of the bride, the
bridegroom and his companions entered within and, taking her by
the hand, escorted her to the threshold, there to receive the tablet
of stone on which was inscribed the dowry. This done, the whole
party left for the home of the bridegroom.
At Cana, as in every ancient Jewish marriage, the receiving of the
tablets of stone on which were inscribed the dowry formed an
important part of the wedding. The dowry still forms an important
part of every wedding--for Cana is forever. Today both the bride
and groom bring a dowry to their marriage--a dowry made up of
two individual personalities, each with its own particular history
and background. Each dowry is made up of the sum total of good
or bad environmental influences, good or bad habits, good or bad
ideals, good or bad fundamental moral principles, good or bad
religious background, or, in a word, the good or bad remote
preparation for marriage.
By trifles in our common ways,
Our characters are slowly piled,
We lose not all our yesterdays;
The man has something of the child.
Part of the past to all the present cleaves,
As the rose-odors linger in the fading leaves.
In ceaseless toil, from year to year,
Working with loath or willing hands,
Stone upon stone we shape, we rear,
Till the completed fabric stands,
And when the hush hath all labor stilled,
The searching fire will try what we have striven to build....
1. Philadelphia, Pa.: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1939.
2. "The Ethics of Marriage," p. 114. New York: Funk and Wagnalls
3. "When You Marry," Evelyn Millis Duvall and Reuben Hill, p. 4.
New York: Association Press, 1945.
4. "Growth and Development," T. Wingate Todd. Cleveland: Brush
Foundation Publications, 1930.
5. "More Stories in Sermons," William L. Stidger, p. 101. New York:
Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1944.
6. "The Building of Character," J. R. Miller, D.D. New York: Thomas
Y. Crowell Co., 1894.
Chapter Four: PROXIMATE PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE
"Choose your horse from a hundred, your friend from a thousand,
and your wife from ten thousand." That is an Arabian proverb, and
it is startling in its blunt annunciation of a patent truth. The
choice of a life partner in marriage is a great and grave
responsibility. It obligates one to love and serve another, to rear
children and govern them, and, at the same time, to serve God with
one's whole heart and soul and mind--works any one of which
alone requires great faith and perseverance, and which, taken
together, cannot be accomplished without special aid from
To choose a life mate for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in
sickness and in health until his or her death, is obviously a task
that requires sane and sage judgment. So much depends on the
right choice that a prayerful proximate preparation is imperative.
Upon the choice of a husband or a wife depends happiness or
bitter regrets during this life and even heaven or hell in the next.
Important as the remote preparation for marriage is, the proximate
preparation is vastly more important, since it must serve as a
novitiate for wedded life. Speaking of novitiate, I am reminded of
the words of St. Francis de Sales, who said: "Marriage is an order
where the profession is made before the novitiate," and then he
adds this startling observation: "But if there was a year of trial or
testing as is required before the profession of vows in
monasteries, few would be professed."
St. Francis de Sales' observation has been borne out by a recent
nation-wide survey made by a great American woman's magazine.
The interviewers talked to a cross section of the country's married
adults and found out that one married person in five doubted he or
she chose the right partner and stated they would choose
differently if given a second chance.
The importance of making a correct choice is stressed in Holy
Scripture. Here are but a few salient quotations:
"Happy is the husband of a good wife, for the number of his years
"A virtuous woman rejoices her husband; and he shall fulfill the
years of his life in peace."
"It will be more agreeable to abide with a lion and a dragon than to
dwell with a wicked woman."
"As the climbing of a sandy way is to the feet of the aged, so is a
wife full of tongue to a quiet man."
"Roofs dropping through on a cold day, and a contentious woman,
Few readers will have experienced the calamity of having a roof
fall in on them on a cold day, but I feel that the married reader of
this page who steals a look across the room at the face of a
belligerent wife, or at a sullen, gloomy husband whose face
constantly bears the grieved look of an untipped waiter, will
readily understand what the Holy Ghost had in mind.
Broken hearts and homes would be the rare exception if more
serious thought was given to this matter of preparedness for
wedlock. An adequate proximate preparation for marriage
(1) A healthy moral and social teen-age development
(2) Physical, intellectual, emotional, and vocational maturity
(3) Prudence in choosing a potential mate
(4) Persevering prayer for guidance
(5) Parental counsel
(6) Consultation with your pastor or confessor
(7) A proper period of engagement
Some may wonder at the inclusion of teen-age development
problems in a chapter dealing with proximate preparation for
marriage, and the point is well taken until one considers that it is
during the teen-age that many friendships are formed from which
love and marriage later result. Again, since many of the virtues
and vices acquired in the teen-age period find their way into
marriage as good or evil habits, it can be readily seen that the
teen-age can truly be said to be a part of the proximate preparation
for marriage and the venture may succeed or fail according to
what is blended in the joint alchemy of "keeping company."
A healthy moral and social teen-age development
Morality may be defined as "human conduct in so far as it is freely
subordinated to the ideal of what is right and fitting," and the
Church has always maintained that morality and religion are
essentially connected. She contends that without religion the
observance of the moral law is impossible. For this reason Holy
Mother Church states that certain conditions are required for the
growth and development of morality in the individual and the
community, namely: (1) a right education of the young, (2) a
healthy public opinion, and (3) sound legislation. Since we are
primarily concerned here with right education of the young as it
concerns morality, let us endeavor to find out what constitutes a
solid basis for such an education.
According to the mind of Holy Mother Church, right education of
the young includes the early training in the home as well as the
subsequent years of school and college life. The family is the true
school of morality and its good or bad effects will remain with one
during the whole of life. It is in the home that we learn obedience,
truthfulness, purity, and self-restraint and the other primary
virtues. The Church also maintains that the best scholastic
education is the one that is given in a moral and religious
atmosphere. Morality and religion go hand in hand. Mark Hopkins
once remarked that "Everywhere the tendency has been to separate
religion from morality, to set them in opposition even. But religion
without morality is a superstition and a curse; and anything like
adequate and complete morality without religion is impossible.
The only salvation for man is in the union of the two as
Christianity unites them." Father Joseph Roux, in Meditations of a
Parish Priest, remarks that "morality is the fruit of religion: to
desire morality without religion is to desire an orange without an
orange tree." To the above we simply add the warning that morality
will be terribly difficult for the person who does not pray.
Two persons who want to find success and happiness in the
marriage career must bring to their marriage a healthy moral
development founded on the teachings of the one true religion. G.
A. Coe, writing in "Education in Religion and Morality," states that
"the capacity for love between persons of the opposite sex, the
beginning of which is the central fact of adolescent psychology, is
usually treated as a matter of indifference to religion or else as a
positive hindrance to spiritual development. Yet the worst evils
are always perversions of the best goods. The higher sentiments
that cluster about the relation of the sexes are, in their normal
development, precisely the ones that constitute a spiritual as
distinguished from an unspiritual life. The great unselfishness
that knows no life except through losing its life is not an
experience of childhood; it awaits adolescence, and it is an
upshoot of our capacity for devoted love to a person of the
opposite sex. So, also, it is love that refines away the grossness of
our nature. It spreads through the life of lovers and is
communicated to the whole of society."
From this quotation the reader may grasp something of the
importance of what we have listed as a prime requisite for a
healthy moral development--namely, the good moral education in
the home or a good Catholic education in the school. Religion as a
basis for morality is essential for good living. It was Jung, the
psychiatrist, who said: "Among all my patients, there has not been
one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a
religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them
fell ill because he had lost that which the living religion of every
age has given to its followers, and none of them has been really
healed who did not regain his religious outlook."
All we have stated so far may be resolved into the following
Love, honor, obey and respect your parents.
Attend Catholic schools.
Learn your religion.
Frequent the sacraments.
Avoid the company of those without faith or those who
criticize or scoff at religion. Base your morality on the teachings of
Before quitting this topic of morality, I feel I should say a few
words on good manners, for good manners are nothing less than
little morals. If not virtues themselves, they are shadows of
virtues. Burke once said that "Manners are of more importance
than laws. According to this quality, they aid morals, they supply
laws, or they totally destroy them."
But what are good manners? One aspect is the art of putting others
at their ease. The person who makes the fewest persons
uncomfortable is the best-mannered. It is worthy of note that ill
manners spring from vanity, ill-nature, want of sympathy, and
want of common sense. Avoid the pitfall of being unmannerly
yourself and above all avoid the company of a person who is ill-
Manners are not idle, but the fruit
noble nature and of loyal mind.
I once read that "he is an ill-mannered man who is always loud in
the praise of himself or his family; who, boasting of his rank, of
his business, of his achievements in his calling, looks down upon
lower orders of people; who cannot refrain from having his joke at
the expense of another's character; who tries always to say the
smart and cutting thing." That is not a bad observation and might
be used as a yardstick to measure your own manners or the
manners of others. Take care, however, not to confuse etiquette
with good manners. The former is quite arbitrary, varies in
different ages and places and, very often, is absurd; whereas good
manners, founded as they are on common sense, are universally
So much for morals (and manners). Let us turn our attention to the
problem of social development. In this matter we shall confine our
remarks to those things that promote a normal development of
human love and to whatever prevents or degrades it.
We have already noted that every child passes through five
definite stages on its way from the narcissistic tendency of self-
worship to a covert interest in persons of the opposite sex.
Psychiatrists term the last stage heterosexuality, which, along with
gradual liberation from parental domination and preparation for a
life career, make up the triune tasks of adolescence.
Heterosexuality is usually completed when the child reaches the
age of fourteen or fifteen but there is no hard and fast rule
concerning the exact age. With some it may come earlier and with
others later. The important thing is that when the adolescent first
feels the desire to seek the company of persons of the opposite
sex, he must be aided by parental help and sympathy. Any parent
who throws an iron curtain around a son or daughter in a
shortsighted, selfish attempt to protect him, rather than to educate
him for living, does more harm than good. Remember, the little
boy of five who ran to his mother for protection from a belligerent
female of four will suffer if the same sort of protection is forced
upon him at sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen. His Catholic
education, his frequentation of the Sacraments, his moral
development should help him to stand on his own feet during his
social development. This does not mean that youths should be
turned loose with no supervision and no notice taken of the
company they keep or the hours they come in at night. Far from it.
It means simply that new and more advanced methods of
achieving protection must be used in place of those employed
when the child was of preschool or grammar-school age.
The moral development must be continued by all means with
renewed zest during adolescence, for this is the very time in the
youth's life when he or she is given to brooding Over religious
misgivings. Such doubts and difficulties must be met with deep
sympathy, patience, and frankness. The penny catechism method
of question and answer must give way to meaningful concepts of
sound moral and dogmatic essentials. Generalized religious
teachings will be adequate for children up to teen-age, but from
then on a specialized instruction is required if the adolescent is
going to carry into adult life a knowledge of what is right and what
is wrong and the development of the desire and determination to
When adolescents begin high school it is time for them to know all
the pitfalls and dangers of this period of life and the inadvisability
of allowing their affections to be settled upon any one particular
person. Should particular friendships develop at this time an
interesting and distracting program of activities ought to be
engaged in to divert attention, such as basketball games, tennis,
handball, excursions, picnics, fishing, hunting, or photography.
The last two years in high school are particularly dangerous years.
These might be termed the puppy-love years. Undue anxiety and
opposition during this period then may do more harm than good. It
is much more sensible to endeavor to launch the teen-age boy or
girl into proper social contacts with those of the opposite sex.
The symptoms of the development of the romantic urge are
usually quite obvious. When a boy starts to wash up to his wrists
and down to his collar line, shines his shoes, and starts polishing
down his hair with machine oil, it's happening. When a teen-age
girl raids mother's lipstick and cold creams, stands staring into a
looking-glass, finds the furniture old-fashioned and father more
so, the battle is on.
Fortunate were you beyond estimation if Providence gave you
understanding and intelligent parents--parents who were wise
enough to help in your social development rather than hinder it.
Had your parents "kidded" about your first dates, two unhealthy
conditions might have resulted: their attitude might have made
you crawl back into a shell or made you defiant and rebellious.
Equally great damage could have been done you had your parents
been, on the other hand, too anxious to force your social
Katherine W. Taylor notes the following factors as interfering with
one's achievement of good social development: "Homes lacking in
affection, homes deviating too widely in cultural levels, failure on
the part of girls to be modishly attractive, and on the part of boys
to grow rapidly enough for successful participation in sports." It
is noteworthy that favorable social adjustment follows a more or
less set pattern. Generally, one starts out with a "yen" to belong to
a club, gang, or group, and then, gradually, a close and intimate
association with one person is substituted. As the capacity for love
develops and matures, the desire for single dating appears and the
desire to "go steady" with a very special friend develops. These
first attachments are usually not very permanent, but they play an
important part in one's development.
Modern adolescents need not take too seriously the charge that
they are a lost generation. The oldsters of every age have thought
their youths were the worst ever. A cuneiform fragment found in
the ruins of Babylon bears this ever ancient, ever new comment:
"Alas! Alas! times are not what they used to be."
A certain lady writing in 1817 about the youths of her day said:
"Nothing like the young people of today has ever been seen. They
make one's hair stand on end. They have neither manners nor
Today, we hear tirades about the apparent insanity of our bobby-
soxers and their overwrought hero worship. But every age has had
a swoon-gang! Franz Liszt, the piano virtuoso, was the Frank
Sinatra, the Van Johnson of his day. Women and girls went to his
concerts equipped with knives and scissors so that they could rush
onto the stage and snip off a lock of his hair. Even the water in
which he washed his hands was bottled and sold to admirers. His
cigar butts were worn as prized lockets.
"Humanity," says Donn Piatt, "is about the same the world over--the
same in every age; and while the earth has its uniformity, with
slight differences in mountain and plain, so its products are very
Accepting the fact that our age presents new problems to youth,
granting that our generation has more than its share of problem
children and even bad boys and girls, this much must be stated
clearly and definitely-that the adolescents who go wrong are
usually the ones who are seeking the love they have been denied
at home or are those who have not been conditioned for right
Here are some timely and important directives to teen-agers. Every
youth should have a rigid code of rules if he or she would blossom
into a mature person capable of selective choice of a life mate.
Girls should not cheapen themselves by engaging in a
conversation with a boy who is so uncouth as to think a two-toned
whistle or a "Hiya, babe!" constitutes an introduction. The boy who
stands by the school fence ogling girls as they pass is not worth
Don't accept a lift in a car from a stranger, no matter how movie-
actor-like he looks. Be constant in this. Say "no" and mean it. Girls
who can be picked up by strangers are usually "just pick-ups" and
will be treated as such.
Don't "hang around" the usual city or small town haunts. When you
go out, have some definite place to go. Don't dress as if you did it
just to attract attention. Too much make-up, too daring clothes, no
place to go and nothing to do but stand or sit around somebody's
"sugar-bowl" or hot dog stand, will mark you as a "fast, stupid
Girls should avoid the companionship of boys who tell smutty
stories or who blaspheme. A person who does not respect your
company will not respect your moral principles. A girl I knew was
with a group when a smutty story was started. "If you'll excuse me,
I'll go home," she said. "I would step around a puddle so as not to
get my feet dirty, and I like to take the same care of my mind." I
was impressed no end.
Beware of the boy or girl who must have a drink to achieve the
mood. The sought-after teen-ager is the one who dares to be
different, and it is during your first dates that you must keep your
wits about you and look forward to the time when you will have to
make a final decision about a mate. Courage and a plain coke will
do more to make you sought after than all the giggle water in the
world. The girl who needs a highball to bring her out of her shell is
a poor bet for an interesting companionship. Remember always:
The teenager who drinks is a boy or girl who lacks the courage to be
different. Write that in your diary and make it a guiding principle
throughout your whole life.
Teen-agers, as we said before, ought to exert every effort to keep
from falling in love with anyone. Wait until you are twenty-one for
that. You will have a whole new set of guiding principles at that
age. Buzz around and meet new friends--be ladylike or be a
gentleman, as the case may be, and enjoy youth as God intended it
to be enjoyed. How true is the saying: "Youth is such a wonderful
thing it is a shame to waste it on youth." Don't waste yours!
Above all, be careful of the amorous companion. Teen-age kissing,
petting, necking or love-making is dangerous and should be a
warning signal to give such a companion the brush-off. Such
things show definitely that the instigator of amorous
demonstrations is emotionally immature and that he or she is
selfish and weak-willed. The teen-age "necker" is well on the way to
becoming a Kinsey Report statistic. Love knocks less often at a
door that is wide open.
One of the most rational and striking articles I ever read on petting
appeared in the December, 1947, issue of "Your Life," entitled
"Public Petting Wastes Romance," and written by Miriam Allen De
Ford. After denouncing the prevalent habit of public petting in
parks, cars, and theaters, the author states that "such intimate
contacts in public often inflame passions which demand quick
satisfaction in private. Secondly, they stir up sleeping dogs of
desire in the onlooker. And thirdly, it is always open season on a
girl who thinks so little of appearances and reputation as to be
guilty of flaunting her love life so openly."
Moreover, since so many young people have no home where they
can do their courting, it often leads to serious frustration and
nervous tension, which is the stuff of which neuroses are made.
Miss De Ford then referred to the great physical dangers that result
from any sort of amorous kissing on the part of teen-agers (and
unmarried adults). Speaking of the great epidemic of "unsolved
murders in which women and girls--by no means always women of
bad repute--have been found horribly beaten and mutilated, the
girl who permits and participates in 'necking' anywhere and
everywhere, without regard to self-control or the standards of
civilized society, and then suddenly attempts to draw the line and
dam off the forces she has aroused, may find herself in terrible
"One of the worst aspects of this practice," concludes Miss De
Ford, "is the effect it has on the very young, both by precocious
stimulation, and by spreading the belief that it is necessary for
them to allow it in order to be 'popular.' When mere children
become convinced that companionship with children of the
opposite sex implies promiscuous endearments, they are lighting a
fire in which they will be burnt out long before their real season of
love-making has arrived." The moral side of this question will be
treated later in this chapter.
Let us now turn our attention to the important consideration of the
four maturities demanded of those who would begin serious
company-keeping with a view to subsequent marriage--namely,
physical maturity, intellectual maturity, emotional maturity, and
When we speak of physical maturity in relation to marriage, we
speak of the obvious. Exhaustive comment on this topic is
definitely unnecessary. All know that the period in life at which a
person of either sex becomes functionally capable of germination
is called puberty. It is equally common knowledge that
pubescence usually is achieved in girls at twelve and in boys
around fourteen and that whenever it does arrive, the sensory
stimuli scream for attention. What not a few individuals fail to
realize is that how these stimuli are met and held in check will
play an important part in future behavior.
Many a romance has been doomed to failure from its inception by
a suitor who failed to make the will rule the physical. The swelling
river, so long as it is made to flow in its appointed channel within
its own banks, can have its rushing waters harnessed so as to be a
source of benefit and power to mankind. When the river overflows
its banks and floods the surrounding land, it can bring death in its
wake. So, too, with the physical stimuli of man. Harnessed, they
can be real sources of power, but let run rampant they can cause
sorrow and regret, and can destroy reputations and souls.
Remember that while puberty is usually reached at between twelve
and fourteen, the development is not completed until one is
twenty-one. It is a progressive affair and takes time. Above all,
nature must not be tampered with. Bad habits acquired in junior or
senior high school years may carry over into marriage and may
even rob marriage of the complete physical satisfaction the
innocent mate has a right to expect.
Nature punishes always, and pardons never, when her laws are
violated or disregarded. Dr. James Foster Scott, writing on the
subject of the solitary vice, says that "it produces its own train of
personal neuroses, diseases and degenerations, injuring the soul,
the character, perverting the instincts, ruining the nervous system
and by striking at the very foundations from whence love comes, it
unfits the victim for the high functions of marriage. It is a 'furious
task-master,' universally berated, and its perpetrator is universally
Modern psychiatrists believe that the solitary vice is an expression
of a fixation on self and thus is a narcissus complex. Self-abuse,
when it becomes a deep-rooted habit, may render one incapable of
heterosexual love and thus must be regarded as pathological.
Before quitting this topic of physical maturity it might not be
amiss to point out that good health in both partners ought to be an
important concern. Persons suffering from active tuberculosis,
chronic and serious heart conditions, brain and nervous ailments
as well as kidney disorders and diabetes, ought to seek the advice
of their doctor before attempting marriage.
Above all, these matters ought to be talked over by the interested
principals. It would be criminal for a person afflicted with a
communicable sex disease to marry because of the serious
injustice to the other party. A confessor would be obliged to refuse
absolution to a penitent determined to contract a marriage under
such circumstances. A cure, if possible, must be effected before
the marriage, or the disease must be made known to the other
party. However, if one must choose between a leper with high
moral principles and deep faith, and a shop-worn Miss America, or
a muscle-bound Adonis without faith or morals, I'd say, take the
Intellectual development must also be attained along with the
physical development as a required condition for a good
proximate preparation for marriage. The eminent scholar and
author, the Reverend Edward Leen, defines education--that is,
Christian education--as "that culture of the mind, the will and the
emotions, which, whilst adapting a man for the exercise of a
particular calling, disposes him to achieve an excellent personal
and social life within the framework of that calling." In other
words, he defines the object of education as nothing else than
human happiness. Van Dyke expresses nearly the same idea in his
definition of education, for he says: "Education is to create men
who can see clearly, image vividly, think steadily, and will
nobly." God help the young man or woman who thinks of
marriage without being able to see clearly, image vividly, think
steadily, and will nobly!
"The human soul," says Ruskin, "in youth, is not a machine of
which you can polish the cogs with any kelp or brickdust near at
hand. The whole period of youth is one essentially of formation,
edification, instruction; intaking of stores, establishment in vital
habits, hopes and faiths. There is not an hour of it but is trembling
His Holiness Pope Pius XI, in his great Encyclical letter "Divine
Illius," writes these important words: "When literary, social and
domestic education do not go hand in hand, man is unhappy and
The foregoing quotations will but strengthen the claim we make
for the importance of intellectual development and maturity as a
basis for a happy marriage. "The discipline by which it is gained,
and the tastes which it forms," says Newman, "have a natural
tendency to refine the mind and to give it an indisposition, nay
more than this, a disgust and abhorrence, towards excesses and
enormities of evil, which are often or ordinarily reached at length
by those who are not careful from the first to set themselves
against what is vicious and criminal. It generates within the mind a
fastidiousness, analogous to delicacy, generally lively enough to
create a loathing of certain offences or a detestation and scorn of
them as ungentlemanlike, to which ruder natures are tempted or
even betrayed." It is noteworthy that Cardinal Newman was
speaking of Catholic educational development, for always
remember that Basil and Julian were fellow students at the Schools
of Athens; one became the Saint and Doctor of the Church, the
other her scorning and relentless foe.
The better the intellectual development, the better chance there is
for happiness in marriage. The more Catholic is that intellectual
development the more hope there is for holiness and happiness in
marriage. Remember this when you come to make the choice of a
Let us consider another and a most important requisite for
happiness in marriage: emotional maturity. Emotion has the same
physical basis as a mental reaction but the primary end of emotion
is to move. For instance, a person who is hungry will be moved to
steal something to eat; a person who is afraid will be moved to
shout his lungs out or run like a rabbit. The examples of emotional
stimuli I have mentioned list but two of the four primary emotions,
namely hunger and fear, while the other two are rage and pain. All
other emotions are offshoots of these four; e.g., anxiety, worry,
sorrow, admiration, scorn, revenge, shame, envy, reproach, and a
multitude of others. Without emotions you would be a moron; with
an overdose of emotion you are a social misfit, an abnormal
member of society.
Control of emotions, mastery of emotions, is a very important part
of the training for living. Without control emotions can, if allowed
to run rampant, bring on a neurosis, ulcers of the stomach, or can
even lead to a prison cell. Anger, for instance, can move one man
to use harsh words, another man to strike his wife, and yet another
man to kill. Which of these three would you say had the most
control and which man most lacked control? Nothing is more
destructive of marital bliss than is emotional immaturity, and
oddly enough, a person may be perfectly developed physically and
intellectually and yet be emotionally immature. For instance, the
adolescent or grown man who pouts for long periods over real or
imaginary wrongs, who flies into towering rages, hollers and
curses; or the young teen-age girl or young woman who goes into
fits of anger and screams, slams doors, stamps her feet, dashes to
her room and throws herself face down on the bed to pour out her
tears, are people who are emotionally immature.
Here is a list of other things that indicate emotional immaturity.
(1) Gloominess over little failures
(2) Pessimism over slight difficulties
(3) Complete panic when frightened or in an emergency
(4) Throwing or breaking things when angry or crossed
(5) Tears when thwarted, disappointed or upset
(6) Selfishness, aggressiveness, rebelliousness, stubbornness
(7) Needless and prolonged worry over trifles
(8) Morbid fears, strong hates, and unreasonable prejudices.
But how, you ask, may one acquire emotional control? To this I
(1) Know yourself as you really are.
(2) Be individual. Try to pick your own hats and clothes.
(3) Fight your own battles.
(4) Don't seek sympathy from others.
(5) Don't feel sorry for yourself.
(6) Never be indecisive.
(7) Avoid too much sentimentality over persons or causes.
(8) Resist parental over-possessiveness.
(9) Check first signs of jealousy.
(10) Resist feeling of depression. Laugh at yourself.
(11) Train your emotions as you would your will.
(12) Learn to check your tongue when you are angry.
If this looks like a superhuman task it is not so difficult if you
keep in mind that control of emotions does not mean suppression.
Control of emotions means direction into channels that are
founded on reality and bring material and spiritual satisfactions to
you. Victory over self is achieved with great effort! It may spell the
difference between happiness and unhappiness here and
Anyone who plans marriage ought to make certain that he or she is
emotionally mature and that the mate is also grown up
emotionally, for without this maturity such a marriage is certain to
be unhappy if not doomed to failure.
There is one more maturity that is equally important and should
be well founded before any thought of marriage enters one's head,
and that is vocational maturity. By vocational maturity is meant
simply the know-how and acquisition of a trade, position, or
profession that will permit the future husband to support a family
and the acquisition of vocational knowledge that will permit a
young woman to manage a home and wisely govern her children.
No wise young man will consider marriage until he has spent at
least two years working at his chosen trade, profession, or
position. Wisdom also demands that savings of from $1200
upward ought to have been laid away against the wedding day, as
well as a permanent assured monthly salary income. It is an
accepted rule that the first week's pay ought to be large enough to
pay the rent for the month. No fear is so haunting, so destructive,
as that which results from economic insecurity. Love and an empty
stomach are poor companions. Too, any young woman who
considers marriage, yet possesses no skill in homemaking,
cooking, and housekeeping, is one who is asking for trouble.
Prudence in choosing a potential mate
Now we come to the very important consideration of when and how
to choose a mate, what to look for in a mate, and how not to spoil
your chances of marriage.
All authorities on the subject agree that the best age for a man to
marry is between twenty-two and twenty-nine and for a woman
between twenty-one and twenty-eight. Allowing oneself a year at
the most for courtship and engagement, a girl ought not to
consider seriously any one individual before she is twenty, and no
man ought to consider making a final choice of a life companion
until he is at least twenty-one.
And how is a choice to be made? Believe me, there is a lot more
skill than chance to picking the right person in marriage. It would
appear prudent to write down a list of the qualities that you insist
your one and only should have and then keep your eyes and your
heart open. Here are a few suggestions for that list:
Good sense of humor
Consideration for others
Good family background
When making your list, be sure you determine whether you have
these required qualities yourself--if not, set out to acquire the ones
you lack. The time of proximate preparation should be spent not
only in the eradication of evil habits but also in the acquisition of
the virtues needed for happiness in marriage.
If diligent search has led you to believe that there is no one in
your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances with the
minimum of the ideals you have set for your future wife or
husband, you should circulate. Join a club in a neighboring parish,
attend church socials, political organizations, and sports groups,
or mixed bowling leagues. Hold out, though, for a formal
introduction and don't accept the two-toned whistle or the moron's
mating call of "Hi, Toots!" as any substitute.
A "knock-down" to someone who appears to have most of the
qualities you have set for a suitable "steady" is but the beginning.
An introduction alone is useless without the follow-through. Here
is where tact and common sense plus warmth of character come
into play. Girls who want to know a man better will ask him where
he lives and what he does, thus affording him a chance to talk
about himself--the male failing. It places the girl at the receiving
end of the conversation, makes her a good listener. If he stalls,
start him on the weather, sports, his home, brothers and sisters.
Get around to speaking about church, and let him know right from
the start that you are a Catholic.
If things progress according to plan, invent a little house party
during the following week. Tell him you were planning to have a
few friends in and ask him if he would join them. In the case of a
young man making a play for a nice young lady he has just met, he
might suggest a movie with a couple of friends or a dance.
Here are a few important "don'ts" for first dates:
Don't try to be the life of the party.
Don't forget to introduce the new dates to your parents.
Don't talk too much--be a good listener.
Don't forget to serve a nice lunch prepared by your own hands.
Don't neglect to learn to dance well. Your date has a right to expect
Don't "neck or pet." This shows lack of control and selfishness.
Don't park. Keep out of dark streets and country lanes and don't
allow yourself to be led into temptation. Any time you can't answer
"yes" to the question: "Would Christ or His Blessed Mother stay in
this room or car?" it's time to move.
Don't be openly affectionate in public.
Don't write gushing, sloppy letters.
Don't waste your time on a person who is:
jealous: (Holy Scripture says: "A jealous man or woman is
the grief and mourning of the heart.")
lacking in consideration.
Remember marriage is not a reform school! A young woman must
make a careful study of the person she intends to marry. It is
important that she look for signs of selfishness, such as the
honking of a car horn to summon her from the house. She must
beware of the sulky young man, the fellow who boasts of his
female conquests, the one who grabs the best chair in the house to
rest his love-torn frame in, and the fellow who always wants things
his way--all of these denote selfishness.
A young man ought to study the way in which his girl friend gets
along with her parents and the others of her household. Beware of
the street angel and house devil. Is she cheerful? Has she good
judgment? Is she economical? Can she cook? Is she possessive?
Hearken to the words of Holy Scripture: "A virtuous woman
rejoices her husband, and he shall fulfill the years of his life in
Someone has said that personality is like an iceberg--two-thirds of
it is hidden. Now this is not quite true. If you are observant you
can determine quite definitely the hidden characteristics of others
by noting their common traits. For instance, a person who bites his
fingernails is usually an introvert and is self-centered. The chain
smoker is usually a deeply nervous person. The cigar-chewer is an
aggressive person. The person who spends long periods gazing
into the mirror is usually affected with infantilism. And the bushes
are full of border-line screw-balls. Albert Deutsch asserts that
there are 450,000 New Yorkers alone who need psychiatric
treatment. By their fruits you should know them.
Here are a few characters you ought to give a wide berth: They are
The hard-boiled variety. These are invariably insensitive, heartless,
ruthless, and cruel.
The grouchy variety. These growl at everything and everybody.
The suspicious variety. These think everyone is against them. They
feel people talk about them.
The moody variety. One day on top of the world--the next down in
the depths. These pout for days.
The neurotic variety. These frequently display hysteria. They
complain of physical ailments on little or no medical basis. They
love to talk about their ills.
The perverse personalities. These are always getting into trouble--at
home, in the office, the plant, or in school.
Girls should beware of the following types of suitors:
Men ought to avoid the following types of girls:
In choosing a mate for marriage remember that the happiest
unions are those wherein both parties are socially and
intellectually equal; both have the same high ideals; both are in
good physical health; both are of the same faith; both have the
approval of their parents; and both have a good attitude toward
Here is an example of how tragic the absence of even one of these
essentials for marriage can be.
A year or so ago I was fishing from a dock at a nearby yacht club
when an elderly gentleman joined me. As we fished, a boat headed
in for the dock and my companion said: "Father, there's a queer
duck. He was once married to a school teacher, although he
himself had only a grammar school education. The marriage ended
in divorce because he could not stand his wife eternally correcting
his English. That woman in the boat is his second wife. She is
Spanish and can hardly speak English at all."
That conversation supplied concrete proof of the fact that social
and intellectual inequality can wreck marriage.
The Holy Ghost very wisely warns that there are three things that
disturb the earth: (1) a slave when he reigneth; (2) a fool when he
is filled with meat, and (3) an odious woman when she is married.
Persevering prayer for guidance
So important is the matter of the choice of a mate that prayer for
guidance and enlightenment is most essential. An old Russian
proverb runs like this:
Before embarking on a journey, pray once;
Before leaving for war, pray twice;
Before you marry, pray three times.
And His Holiness Pope Pius XI, in his Encyclical letter "On
Marriage," warns suitors in these words:
"To the proximate preparation of a good married life belongs very
specially the care in choosing a partner; on that depends a great
deal whether the forthcoming marriage will be happy or not, since
one may be to the other either a great help in leading a Christian
life, or on the other hand, a great danger and hindrance. And, so
that they will not deplore for the rest of their lives the sorrows
arising from an indiscreet marriage, those about to enter into
wedlock should carefully deliberate in choosing the person with
whom henceforward they must live continually. They should in so
deliberating keep before their minds the thought first of God and
of the true religion of Christ, then of themselves, of their partner,
of the children to come, as also of home and civil society, for
which wedlock is as a fountain head. Let them diligently pray for
Divine help, so that they will make their choice in accordance with
Christian prudence, not indeed led by the blind and unchecked
impulse of lust, nor by any desire of riches or other base influence,
but by a true and noble love and by a sincere affection towards the
future partner; and then let them strive in their married life toward
those ends for which this state was constituted by God."
Before thinking of engagement, be sure to consult your parents
regarding your choice. Here, again, the wisdom of Pope Pius XI is
evidenced in his words addressed to young men and women as
"Let them not fail to ask the prudent advice of their parents with
regard to the partner and let them regard this advice in no light
manner, in order that by their mature knowledge and experience of
human affairs they may guard against a baneful mistake, and on
the threshold of matrimony may receive more abundantly the
Divine blessing, the Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy
mother," which is the first Commandment with a promise, "that it
may be well with thee and thou mayest be long-lived upon the
I can't imagine a worse insult to one's parents than to become
engaged, much less married, without consulting them. It is
something that will bother conscience as long as one lives. I can
vividly recall a middle-aged man who called at the rectory one day.
When I came into the office I noticed he was weeping, and he told
me that the reason for his tears was simply that he had heard that
day his daughter had been married a month earlier. He was hurt
and crushed. Like every father, he had planned for the pleasure of
seeing his daughter married to a worthwhile man. However, she
had seen fit to mistrust him. "But, Father," he said, "why I weep
today is that I did the same thing to my parents. I married without
telling my parents and when I did break the news to Mother, she
just looked at me--dry-eyed and calm--and said, 'Just wait, Son.
Your turn will come too.' And it did!"
Consultation with your pastor or confessor
Not only should your parents be consulted, but also your pastor or
confessor. Many a broken home or heart or both might have been
avoided if the spiritual father had been asked as to the wisdom of
the choice of mate in life and the choice of the life partner. And
don't wait until you go in to have the banns announced. Call on the
pastor or confessor before you become engaged.
When all these suggestions have been wisely followed and the
choice has been made only after prayerful consideration and wise
counsel, the parties become what is known as "engaged."
A proper period of engagement
What do we understand by engagement? An engagement is simply
a mutual promise to marry. Its purpose is to permit the parties to
get to know one another better and to test the depth and the
sincerity of the mutual affection and love. As regards the length of
the engagement, from six months to a year is reasonable and
The period of engagement is in no way to be considered a license
for dangerous and/or impure love-making. Bear this in mind:
(1) All actions performed for the purpose of promoting or
stimulating venereal pleasure are mortal sins.
(2) All directly venereal actions are mortal sins.
(3) All actions involving the proximate danger of performing
directly venereal actions or of consenting to venereal pleasure are
(4) Indirectly venereal actions performed without a relatively
sufficient reason are venial sins.
Now, regarding kissing and embracing the general rule is as
follows: If they are indulged in from impure motives or if
immodest intimacy is involved or if there is proximate danger of
something seriously sinful happening, such kissing is mortally
The Reverend Gerald Kelly, S.J., in his fine pamphlet entitled
"Modern Youth and Chastity," which should be required reading for
all young men and women, says: "It is clear that two people eligible
for marriage and genuinely in love do not sin by manifesting their
love in a modest and moderate fashion, with a reasonable
assurance of controlling themselves should passion be
unintentionally aroused. Again, the kiss or embrace which is
according to a recognized convention of good people is not sinful.
Generally speaking, such things do not abuse passion, or if they
do, it is slight and easily controlled."
During the period of engagement do not make the mistake of
building your love on lust. Lust and love are two different things
Sex indulgence before marriage, in place of giving pleasure, can be
most bitter and disillusioning. I remember reading once of a little
boy who while visiting his grandmother in the country noticed
some buds on a rose bush. He kept pestering his grandmother to
let him open one of the buds to see the rose. In spite of the
injunction of the wise grandmother that the roses must bloom in
their own natural way, the boy still insisted on opening a bud.
Finally, when the permission was granted, the lad tore open the
little hard green bud and was disappointed in seeing nothing but a
The same thing holds true of those who attempt sexual pleasures
before marriage. They will find them bitter and disturbing Prof. C.
E. Groves, a leading sociologist writing on the subject, says:
"In addition to the part this experience of petting plays in bringing
greater maturity to heterosexual urges, there are also two
contrasting results connected with it that need to be separated and
understood. One is the fact that courtship to a considerable degree
acts as a sublimation of physical sex desire. The biological hunger
is transferred into complex expression that is essentially mental
and social and were this not true the idealization of courtship
would be negligible and human maturity would continue close to
the pairing of animals.
"Were this all that analysis reveals, the problem would indeed be
simple, but it is certain also that expression of sex attraction in
courtship acts upon the organism in exactly opposite ways. It is
truly a stimulating as well as a sublimating experience. Whatever
may be the reaction of the imagination, there is a basic body
structure organized to respond to sex stimulation in whatever form
it appears. And this body mechanism, once it is aroused, has no
concern with inhibitions or sublimating experiences but is set to
proceed directly to a purely physical release of nervous energy.
"Experience with this problem has led to the recognition of certain
hazards that the intelligent person will recognize. One is the
danger of precocious commitment. Under stimulation, intimacy
may go so far as to make it seem to one or both individuals that
marriage is an obligation, even though as a result of this
recognition there may be loss of the desire to marry--obligation is
always a dangerous doorway to matrimony, and anything that
makes it liable is detrimental to the social purpose of courtship.
"The second consequence of courtship intimacy may be a fixation
of sex hunger upon the line of what is known as its secondary
expression. In cases, not a few, as the specialist knows, individuals
who seemed highly sexed in courtship have lost, because of their
habit of secondary sex expression, their normal biological hunger
and on this forced to find in marriage an anticlimax.
"It is also found in some instances that by allowing sex intimacy to
go to great lengths, the value the woman had for the man, or that
the man had for the woman, and which had previously prophesied
marriage, is lost and the association is aborted by having become
so largely physical in character."
It would appear from Holy Scripture that one is rewarded for a
virtuous life by the choice of a virtuous mate. In the Book of
Ecclesiasticus we read: "A good wife is a good portion, which shall
be given in portion of them that fear the Lord." Endeavor then
during your time of courtship and engagement to shun evil and
avoid senseless temptations so that you might merit a worthy
mate. Prayer will help in that choice too, for "unless the Lord build
the house, they labour in vain that build it." (Psalms 126:1.)
For those who, after reading through this entire chapter, find
themselves confused and amazed by the seemingly infinite
number of requisite virtues and characteristics demanded of those
who seek union of mind and heart in wedlock, there is some small
consolation in the knowledge that it takes the exports of thirty-six
different countries to supply the ingredients of a single lowly hot
dog. Should we be surprised then that many different virtues and
characteristics are required in marriage to assure its happy
When every other requisite is met as suggested in this chapter, be
sure that the love is genuine. Here is how the Reverend J. J.
O'Connor, S.J., says you can be sure that it is true love and not a
"Happiness and joy in each other's company, an anxiety for self-
development to be more worthy of the partner, a consciousness of
an intellectual, moral and emotional advancement as a result of
being together, a longing for each other when separated, a
toleration of each other's foibles, and a willingness to make
concessions--if these are the experiences had by a courting couple,
then they can be fairly certain that between them true love exists."
There is an old Tuscan proverb that says: "In buying horses and in
taking a wife shut your eyes tight and commend yourself to God." I
think you will fare much better if, while commending yourself to
God, you keep both eyes wide open!
Let us return to Cana of Galilee for a consideration of a most
meaningful Old Testament custom observed in every Jewish
wedding, which doubtless must have formed a part of the wedding
feast at Cana.
In those ancient days every bride went to her nuptials wearing on
her head a crown of myrtle, an evergreen shrub especially
prized for its fragrant leaves. Likewise, every bridegroom wore a
crown of myrtle, to which were added red roses.
From time immemorial myrtle has been considered as sacred to
Venus, the legendary goddess of love, while red roses have
everywhere symbolized love. The old song runs:
"My love is like the red, red rose."
The wearing of the myrtle and rose crowns by the bride and
bridegroom is strikingly significant. The lesson is obvious. The
placing of the symbol of love on the head was done to point out
that the mind, the intelligence, must play the dominant role in any
choice of a life partner. In other words, the importance of sound
judgment in all matters of love.
In this, as in so many other ways, the lessons of Cana are thought-
provoking. And it might not be amiss to observe that a crown has
only to slip down a little to become a noose!
1. Speech in Boston, Mass., April 9, 1871.
2. P. 221. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1914.
3. "Modern Man in Search of His Soul," C. G. Jung, p. 264. New York:
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1933.
4. "Do Adolescents Need Parents?" Katherine W. Taylor. New York:
D. Appleton-Century Co., 1937
5. "Literary Digest," November 23, 1929, p. 24.
6. "The Journal of Social Hygiene," April, 1927, p. 227.
7. Published monthly, 227 East 44th St., New York, N.Y.
8. "What Is Education?" Rev. Edward Leen, p. 1. New York: Sheed &
9. "The Pivotal Problems of Education," W. P. Cunningham, p. 18.
New York: The Macmillan Co., 1940.
10. The Queen's Work, 3742 West Pine Blvd., St. Louis 8, Mo.
11. Marriage, E. R. Groves, pp. 113-115. New York: Henry Holt and
12. Ketoubot II:.
Chapter Five: MIXED MARRIAGES ARE DANGEROUS
Worshippers at the shrine of Bacchus may differ as to the potency
and merits of various spirituous beverages, but they are
unanimous in denouncing the folly of mixing drinks. Such
universal accord is due in no small measure to the inevitable pink
elephants, splitting headaches, and the-morning-after dejection.
Strangely, the untold numbers of broken hearts and homes
resulting from mixing religions in marriage have failed to produce
similar unanimity concerning its injudiciousness.
In spite of the frequent warnings of the Church against mixed
marriages, they continue to take place, and while some turn out
well, the vast majority are doomed to failure. Never, in my twenty
years experience in the ministry, have I interviewed young people
of different religious beliefs who wanted to marry, without hearing
the old refrain: "But Father, our case is different. We have reached
a complete understanding about religion. We have decided never
to permit religion to interfere with our lives." And my answer is
always the same. "Whether you like it or not, religion will interfere
with your life It is too important, much too important, to be
relegated to the background of life." The proof that difference of
religion in marriage does interfere is demonstrated by the fact that
it is one of the great causes of separations and divorce today.
The Reverend Robert Good, a Presbyterian minister, addressing a
church group in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, said recently that "mixed
marriage ought to be avoided at all cost because of the high rate of
their failures. Only six per cent of the marriages in which the
husband and wife were of the same faith ended in failures as
compared with fifteen per cent in the case of mixed marriages."
Brother Gerald J. Schnepp, S.M., M.A., in his survey made in 1942
for his dissertation entitled "Leakage From a Catholic Parish,"
asserted that in "sixty-two per cent of the marriages leading to
separation, one party was Catholic and the other not." In other
words, the percentage was high because of the mixed marriage
Dr. Clifford R. Adams, director of the Marriage Counseling Service
of Pennsylvania State College School of Education, and author of
the recent book, "How to Pick a Mate," stated in an article
appearing in the September, 1946, issue of "The Woman's Home
Companion" that "Three out of four girls seriously date, at some
time, a man of different religion. To a girl in love the matter of
religious difference is apt to seem inconsequential. After all, the
man she marries will be a freethinking adult. To such girls I point
out the jarring fact that my records show that seventy per cent of
such marriages now end in divorce or separation." Now, Dr. Adams
should know what he is talking about, since he counsels some four
thousand persons a year. Perhaps, after considering well this high
percentage of failures in mixed marriages, the Church's warnings
may not seem too exaggerated.
To those who think this problem is solved when they plan to enter
matrimony with a person without any religious convictions or
beliefs at all, I say that they worsen the condition and merit to be
nicknamed after a nationally known decaffeinized coffee, whose
advertisements claim "it has no active ingredient in the bean." "A
man without some sort of religion," says Marvel, "is at best a poor
reprobate, the football of destiny, with no tie linking him to
infinity and the wondrous eternity that is begun with him; but a
woman without religion is even worse--a flame without heat, a
rainbow without color, a flower without perfume."
This much is certain, the single state in life is a thousand times
more preferable, in nearly every case, to a mixed marriage. Even in
the Old Testament mixed marriages were definitely forbidden. The
Jews were not permitted to contract marriage with the Canaanites
nor indeed with the Samaritans, who, while practicing heathen
ceremonies, kept the law of God and had the books of Moses. God's
abhorrence of mixtures is evidenced by His command in the
ancient law: "Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed;
neither shall a garment mingled with linen and woolen come upon
The Church warns her children today against mixed marriages for
the same reason that a loving mother might warn her child against
undertaking a journey she knows will expose her offspring to great
peril. Lowell once said: "One thorn of experience is worth a whole
wilderness of warning," and it has been the sad experience of the
Church during her two thousand years that mixed marriages are
dangerous both to the faith of the principals and even more so to
their innocent children. Let us consider these two angles
That mixed marriages are fraught with danger to the salvation of
those who contract them can be amply proved. For instance, the
wise and enlightened King Solomon took to himself heathen wives
in his old age, and they prevailed over him so far that, from a
worshipper of the true God, he himself became an idolater and
allowed temples of the false gods to be erected in his kingdom.
Solomon's folly has been perpetuated down through the centuries
by untold thousands who, like him, lost their faith because they
failed to marry their own. Take, for instance, the apostasies listed
in the official German civil census for the year 1929. This
document shows that 40,000 souls were lost to the Church in
Germany in one year through mixed marriages, while the number
of converts was only 8,762.
Claire Boothe Luce, in her inspiring apologia entitled "The 'Real'
Reason," which appeared in the February, 1947, issue of "McCall's
Magazine," very frankly states that her mother was born a Catholic
but fell away from the Church when she married a non-Catholic.
That this very thing has happened to so many others who marry a
person of a different faith is easily understood. Human nature
being what it is, it is prone to take the line of least resistance. The
mixed marriage that is entered into with the best of intentions may
result in the loss of faith for the Catholic party in later years. It
happens this way. In nearly every mixed marriage the Catholic
party honestly believes and hopes that some day, somehow, his or
her mate will enter the Church. The danger lies in the fact that the
Catholic may suddenly come to the realization that all the good
example, tolerance, and patience displayed through many years
have in no way brought the other party nearer the faith and thus
they grow weary of hoping and praying and gradually lose faith. It
is not so difficult to give up doing or believing something that
upsets someone we love very dearly. Herein lies the secret of the
ultimate loss of faith! Joubert puts it this way: "Religion is fire
which example keeps alive, and which goes out if not
In the rare instances where in a mixed marriage the Catholic party
does not actually suffer loss of faith there is definitely violence
done to the essential and complete unity demanded in all
marriages. His Holiness Pope Pius XI, of happy memory, pointed
this out very clearly in his famous Encyclical "Casti Connubii." The
Pontiff stated: "If the Church occasionally on account of
circumstances does not refuse to grant a dispensation from her
strict laws provided the Divine Law remains intact, and the
dangers already mentioned are provided against by suitable
safeguards it is unlikely that the Catholic party will not suffer
some detriment from such a marriage." It was in this same letter
that His Holiness listed the two well-known evil effects of mixed
marriages--"deplorable deflections from religion" and "religious
That mixed marriage is an obstacle to complete harmony is readily
understandable. People of different religious beliefs have different
philosophies and in marriage these differences take on new
importance. When the first glow of the honeymoon is over, a
couple with different religious backgrounds may become
impatient and even intolerant. Complete unity of mind and heart,
complete happiness in such a marriage, is threatened when two
persons of different faiths find themselves obliged to ignore the
most discussed topic in the world, and by that, I mean religion.
The very thing parties to a mixed marriage wish to ignore, will
come into prominence every Sunday of their lives. The Catholic
will walk to Mass alone and the non-Catholic will sit alone in his
seat in some Protestant church. Both will hear doctrines
diametrically opposed to their life partner's faith. The Catholic
may hear in a sermon that the Mass is the continuation of the
Sacrifice of Calvary, while the non-Catholic may hear the Mass
denounced as idolatrous, sacerdotal trickery; in one edifice the
Holy Father may be denounced as a humbug and in the other, at
that very moment, the little woman may be contributing a dollar
from her husband's last pay check toward a Peter's Pence
collection. Fundamental differences in religious beliefs invariably
form a gulf between two married persons. Such differences are
more insurmountable than differences of education, race, culture,
or economic standing. Love could be said to be an outgrowth of
our recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves, and where
the resemblance is only faint, the love will be faint. The more
things two married people have in common, the greater are their
chances of happiness in marriage and the fewer adjustments will
Another important thing that must be considered in a mixed
marriage is that such a union offers the Catholic party the
minimum of matrimonial security. In the case of a serious
misunderstanding the non-Catholic may feel free to walk out and
obtain a divorce and marry again; whereas the Catholic is bound
not to take a second partner as long as the former lives. On the
other hand, two practical Catholics, while not exempt from the
possibility of grave misunderstandings, will usually avoid the
extremes that lead to difficult reconciliations because they know
they must reconcile, since divorce for them is out of the question.
Dangerous as mixed marriages are to the faith of the Catholic
parties involved, the dangers to the faith of the children are even
greater. Here are a few statistics from the Holy Name Journal that
may amaze you.
(A) In families where both parents are Catholics only eight out of
every hundred will forsake the practice of religion in later life.
(B) In families where both the parents are of the same Protestant
denomination some thirty-two out of every hundred will be lost to
the practice of that religion.
(C) In families where one parent is Catholic and the other a non-
Catholic sixty-six out of every hundred will forsake the practice of
religion later in life.
Some years ago Rev. M. V. Kelly, C.S.B., made a survey of the
leakage in the membership of a Catholic city parish of seventeen
hundred souls. He limited himself to the special study of one
hundred twenty-one cases in which the whole family was lost to
the Church. Here are his findings:
1. There is not one case out of the one hundred twenty-one in
which both parents were brought up Catholics. Six were cases in
which one of the parties had become a Catholic on the occasion of
marriage and the remaining one hundred fifteen were cases of
2. The falling off can be explained in six cases by the death of the
Catholic parent and in eight cases by a divorce or permanent
3. There remain today, therefore, one hundred six clear cases of a
Catholic father or mother who had contracted a mixed marriage
and who is allowing his or her children to grow up outside the
4. In these one hundred six cases the Catholic party is almost
entirely to blame; instances of any determined or effective
resistance on the part of a non-Catholic husband or wife are almost
Such tremendous leakage from the faith through mixed marriages
is easily understandable when one considers the whole problem in
the light of cold judgment. For instance, how can a non-Catholic
mother, even though she signed the pre-nuptial promises in the
best of faith, very convincingly teach her children doctrines they
must study in the catechism when deep in her own heart she
believes them to be false, if not downright evil? Or take the case of
a Catholic mother who rises early on a Sunday and starts out for
Mass with her children on a cold winter's morning. In between the
biting blasts of wind one of the children is certain to ask, "Why
doesn't Daddy come to Mass, too?"
"Your father is not a Catholic," the mother must say, "and his
religion does not demand that he attend Church under pain of sin."
Right there and then a division is created between the father and
the rest of the family--a division which ought not to be there. Too,
human nature being what it is, it is quite possible that a less
exacting religion might seem more appealing in view of the biting
It is possible, too, that the faith of the little ones might even suffer
damage by a thoughtless remark of a non-Catholic parent. I recall
once hearing of a little lad who asked his father to go with him to
the Catholic Church for the closing exercises of the Forty Hours.
"You go, son," said the father. "I can't stand all that ritualistic
stuff." So saying, he finished putting on his long tails and white
tie, and packed a sword, apron, fancy cuffs, embroidered collar,
scarf and a white-plumed Lord Nelson hat. "I'll be home late," the
father said; "there is an initiation at the lodge tonight, and I'm on
the ritual team."
The father's scorn of religious rites was bad, but his logic was
Another great disadvantage for children born of mixed marriages
is that they rarely receive a Catholic education. The public schools
today have hundreds of thousands of Catholic children on their
registers who are there because a Catholic mother or father has
compromised on the matter of their Catholic education, and such
compromise leads to subsequent loss of faith by the offspring.
If the Church never warned against mixed marriages, good logic
would dictate their avoidance. Marriage is based on perfect
sympathy and understanding. It is a career-partnership, and the
fundamental requisite for any successful partnership is common
interest. A wise lawyer who wished to take a partner into his firm
would naturally choose another lawyer and not an electrician.
Then apply that same logic to matrimonial partnerships. A woman
who has made a career of painting would not let herself fall in love
with a man who despised art and artists; then why should she fall
in love with a man who, if he does not despise religion outright, at
least is cold and indifferent toward it? No other partnership would
succeed under like conditions. That is just common sense, and
when common sense and love work together, you can expect a
A Catholic who begins serious company-keeping with a non-
Catholic and does not at the outset discuss the problem of
religious difference as it affects them acts unfairly and selfishly.
Many a non-Catholic falls in love and becomes engaged before the
Catholic party dares mention the sweeping promises regarding the
Catholic upbringing and education of all children of either sex
born to them in marriage.
Long before the matter of the engagement is contemplated,
religious differences should be discussed as well as the problem
of birth control and Catholic school education of the children.
Above all, the non-Catholic should be acquainted with the fact that
certain promises regarding the Catholic education of the children
must be signed and, if possible, a visit should be paid to the
rectory and permission asked to have the non-Catholic person read
over the promises. Did you ever see those promises yourself? Here
they are in their usual form:
MIXED MARRIAGE (Mixta Religio Vel Disparitas Cultus)
Rev. dear Sir: 19
(Maiden Name of Mother)
A Catholic of this parish wishing to marry
(Maiden Name of Mother)
A non-Catholic baptized in sect.
(If non-Catholic, a Hebrew, please so indicate)
humbly petitions the Archbishop of , as delegate
of the Holy See, to grant a dispensation from the impediment
THE REASONS ARE (give sufficient canonical reasons in proper
form; cf. approved authors):
The necessary promises in writing are attached hereto; there
appears to be no unusual danger of perversion and there is present
MORAL CERTAINTY THAT THE PROMISES AS MADE WILL BE
FORM OF PROMISES FOR NON-CATHOLIC
I, the undersigned non-Catholic, desiring to contract marriage with
the Catholic party named in this application before a Catholic
priest, duly authorized by a special dispensation from the
Archbishop (or Bishop) hereby promise in the presence of the
(1) That all children of either sex born of this marriage shall be
baptized and educated in the Catholic religion.
(2) That I will neither hinder nor obstruct in any manner
whatsoever the Catholic party in the exercise of the Catholic
(3) That in the solemnization of my marriage there shall be only
the Catholic ceremony.
(Signature of non-Catholic)
FORM OF PROMISES FOR CATHOLIC
I, the undersigned Catholic party, hereby promise in the presence
of the undersigned witnesses:
(1) That all children of either sex born of this marriage shall be
baptized and educated in the Catholic religion.
(2) That in the solemnization of my marriage there shall be only
the Catholic ceremony.
(Signature of Catholic)
We, the undersigned, hereby declare that we witnessed the
signatures of the above mentioned contracting parties in their
presence and in the presence of each other, on this day of the
month of 19 .
(Signature of priest)
(Signature of witness)
Many a mixed marriage could be avoided if only the Catholic party
had sufficient strength of character to insist that marriage is out
of the question if the other person cannot conscientiously accept
Catholic doctrines. Many fine, worthy Catholics today owe their
submission to the Church, after God's grace, to the presence of
that condition. Sad to say, there are many who are not willing to
accept the alternative of abandoning the prospect of a marriage
which seems in every other way most desirable. They have all
sorts of excuses ready to offer for their indifference or fear, and
usually they are cloaked under such statements as: "I would not
have him enter the Church just for my sake," or again: "I knew
others who became Catholics just to marry someone, and they
gave it up soon afterward."
It might be well to remark here that no one is admitted to the
Church unless a priest has first given the person adequate
instruction and passed upon the candidate's disposition and
assumed responsibility for the serious step to be taken.
It has been the experience of most priests that where the Catholic
party is prayerful, firm, and patient, he or she will inevitably be
rewarded with the conversion of the non-Catholic before marriage.
Too, it has been the sad experience of priests that where such
converts later lose the faith, the blame must be laid directly to the
bad example of the Catholic mate.
When Our Lord changed the water into wine at the marriage feast
in Cana, the change was complete and total. There was not just
part water and part wine, but the contents of the whole six
waterpots were miraculously changed into superb wine. Let there
be no mixture of religions in marriage. Good common sense
demands that you marry your own, and if there must be any
converting done, by all means get it done long before the
marriage. And don't be too anxious about the possibility of losing
your beloved because you are holding out against a mixed
marriage, for Thomas Carew naively suggests:
Then fly betimes, for only they
Conquer Love, that run away.
Remember it's better to say "no" now to a mixed marriage than be
tempted to say "Reno" later!
1. The Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. LXXXIII, No. 2.
Chapter Six: THE GREAT SACRAMENT
William Shakespeare, in "As You Like It," put these words into the
mouth of Jacques:
"And will you, being a man of good breeding, be married under a
bush, like a beggar? Get you to a church and have a good priest
that can tell you what marriage is. This fellow will but join you
together as they join wainscot; and then one of you will prove a
shrunk panel, and like green timber, warp, warp."
The fact that Shakespeare, writing in the year 1598, should
demand the services of a priest and advise a definite, sacred
surrounding for marriage, might indicate to some a certain
antiquity and venerability for the matrimonial ritual. The truth is
that the origin of the sacredness surrounding marriage goes back
to the Garden of Eden and our First Parents.
The very first marriage on this earth was a wondrous affair. It was
glorious in its simplicity. God created man separately and He
created woman separately; then He joined the two in a sacred
union. Here are the exact words of Holy Scripture: "And God
created man to His own image; to the image of God He created
him. Male and female He created them. And God blessed them
saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth...." (Gen. 1:27, 28.)
The mingling of the two elements of human nature engendered in
Adam and Eve an unsurpassed unity of conjugal life--a unity so
pronounced that Adam exclaimed the principle which was to be
the guiding rule for all his descendants: "Wherefore a man shall
leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they
shall be two in one flesh." (Gen. 2:24.)
There is no question about the divine origin of marriage. The
words of Scripture just quoted bear this out. That it was a special
union and contract that merited a special blessing is equally
patent from the words of the sacred and inspired writer: "And God
blessed them saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth...."
(Gen. 1:28.) And the immediate descendants of Adam and Eve and
those who came after them down through the dim vista of the
years recognized in marriage a definite sacredness and
recognized, too, the need for the special blessing of God upon it.
For instance, it was perfectly natural for the young Tobias before
his marriage to pray to God and say in that prayer: "Lord God of
our fathers, Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth: and
gavest him Eve for a helper...." then, turning to his beloved Sara,
say: "Sara, arise, and let us pray to God today, and tomorrow, and
the next day: . . . For we are the children of saints: and we must not
be joined together like heathens that know not God." (Tob. 8:4, 5,
7, 8.) So sacred did God want man to consider marriage that He
imposed two special commandments--two out of ten--to preserve it
from profanation. The two prohibitions were: "Thou shalt not
commit adultery." "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house:
neither shalt thou desire his wife...." (Exod. 20:14,17.)
Thus, from the beginning of the world, marriage has been
considered by God as a very special and sacred contract in which
two people promise to be faithful to each other, to help each other,
and never to forsake each other. In this, marriage differs from all
other human contracts. Any other contract may be set aside by
mutual agreement, but not so marriage. While it is a private affair--
private to the extent that the choice is free--once the marriage
vows are made, the fate of all mankind is connected with that
marriage and it becomes a public affair, and no one has the right
to dissolve it. Indeed, marriage is more than a contract. It is the
mystical union of two bodies and souls. To hold less than this is to
refuse to identify ourselves with the divine plan of God, and we
reduce ourselves to the sad plight of our First Parents.
The first love this world ever knew between a man and a woman
went wrong because Adam and Eve betrayed their God. They had
been asked simply to accept the Creator as the master of their
hearts and souls and actions. Freely, however, our First Parents
rejected God as their ruler and in that rejection lay disaster. That
first mortal sin lost for them supernatural life and the consequent
loss of the friendship of God. Severed from God by their sin, Adam
and Eve found that their human nature became dominant. They
who had been made by and for God were conscious of their
orphanhood and awful isolation. They had cut themselves adrift in
a storm-tossed and cursed sea. Never must our First Parents have
so realized the awful cost of their lack of unity with God as when
their son Cain murdered his brother Abel and displayed the depths
to which impaired nature could descend.
It took four thousand years of waiting, of prayer and penance, to
make ready for the coming of Christ who, out of boundless love for
fallen humanity, offered to come down on this earth and take a
human nature and re-establish contact with the Creator.
F. J. Sheed very beautifully puts it this way:
"At last God did for man what man could not do for himself . . . but
consider what man by his own act had become, and it will be small
wonder if the new road lacks some of the simplicity of the old. The
first road had been planned for man as he came all perfect from
the hand of God; the second had to be planned for man as he was,
with the wounds and stains that were upon him after countless
ages of bearing the assaults of the world, the temptations of the
devil, the warfare within himself. For the first road God had made
man; for the building of the second road God became man."
It is worthy of profound contemplation that the first recorded act
of the public life of the Son of God made man was to assist at and
bless the nuptials of a man and his wife at Cana in Galilee. He it
was who raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament and His
divinely instituted Church has never ceased through the ages to
promulgate and protect marriage as such.
The triune God is made up of the Three Divine Persons--the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In marriage--the holy union of
husband and wife--God is ever a third partner, and the union of all
three is for the sole purposes of the Creator. The union of man and
woman in Christian marriage is effected through the priestly
power of Christ Himself. It is a union effected by God and for God.
When a man or a woman, or both, deny God's plan in their union,
the result is disaster. The incomparable Father Isidore O'Brien,
O.F.M., puts it this way:
"Man was created with no contradictions in his soul or body. But
certain evil influences did exist outside him and these he admitted
into his soul by a single deliberate act, and since that day they
have remained within him. When man let these negative agencies
(sin) into his soul, they at once weakened his positive powers and
struck an alliance with his nature which is called a propensity to
Our Saviour, conscious of man's misfortune and altered state when
He came to save man from his sins, and realizing that man would
need special help to succeed in the marriage career, raised
matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament--that is, He made it an
official channel by which baptized members are united to His
mystical Body or, in other words, He made it a means of grace. It
should be carefully noted that while the marriage of two
unbaptized persons is certainly not a sacrament, and while it is
more probable that the marriage of a baptized person to an
unbaptized person is not a sacrament either, such marriages are,
nevertheless, important, serious things besides being valid
Now since the sacramental character of marriage is ofttimes
denied today, it might be well to have a ready answer for those
who raise such an objection. Only recently I heard a nationally
famous radio broadcaster say that marriage did not become a
sacrament until the middle of the fourteenth century. I took him to
task and pointed out that the prime requisite for a sacrament is
that it has been instituted by Christ. The other two requisites are
that it is an outward sign and that it gives grace. I hastened to
inform him of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (5:32), in which he
wrote these words when comparing marital love with the love of
Christ for His Church: "This is a great Sacrament [or mystery]: but I
speak in Christ and in the Church." In case he might think that I
was attempting to use this text to prove immediately the fact that
matrimony, for a Christian, is a sacrament, I hastened to quote the
following from THE SACRAMENTS, by Rev. Isidore O'Brien, O.F.M.:
"As explained, the Greek word mysterion, "mystery" (which St. Paul
employs here) was often used for "sacrament." In this text Catholic
theologians so understand it. The King James Version of the Bible
translates it "mystery." But this literal translation does not exclude
the Catholic significance of "sacrament." The civil contract, is not
a "great mystery"; it is not mysterious, in the sense of being
transcendentally sublime, unless it is a Sacrament. St. Paul
describes matrimony as the symbol, the sign of Christ's union with
the Church: and not, let us note, in the sense of a certain loose
resemblance. It is a sign of that union because of the spiritual love
by which Christ loves and rules the Church and by which the
Church cleaves to Christ as a wife to her husband. Christ's union
with the Church sanctifies the Church. The sacramental union of
marriage sanctifies husband and wife in the holy state of
We have, therefore, in the marriage contract between Christians, as
described by St. Paul, the three essentials of a Sacrament: an
external sign, internal grace, and institution by Jesus Christ.
It is worthy of note that the Council of Trent derived its main
argument for the sacramentality of marriage, from the teachings of
the Fathers and the early councils, and from the universal practice
and belief of the Church. Let us here examine a few excerpts from
the works of the early Fathers.
St. Ignatius, writing in the second century, said: "But it is fitting for
those who marry--both with the men and the women--to
accomplish their union with the consent of the bishop that their
marriage may be according to God and not according to lust."
Tertullian, in the same century, wrote: "How can we find words to
describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church joins
together and the oblation confirms (the Mass) and the blessing
seals, the angels report and the Father ratifies."
And should you need to prove that the Church has always been the
careful guardian of marriage and that marriage before a priest is in
no way a modern invention, read these words of Timotheus of
Alexandria, successor to the See of St. Athanasius, written in the
third century A.D. "If any one call in a cleric, to unite in marriage
but he shall hear that the marriage is unlawful . . . ought the cleric
to accede or to make the oblation? Answer--Say to him, if the cleric
hear that the marriage is unlawful, the cleric ought not to become
a partaker of another's sins."
Again, this matter is well summed up in the following ancient
Anglo-Saxon ordinance: "At the Nuptials there shall be a Mass-
priest by law who shall with God's blessing bind their union to all
When in the sixteenth century the professors of Tubingen
University sought to win the Greek Church to the creed of the
reformers, the Greek Patriarch Jeremias indignantly scouted their
suggestion that his Church could ever be won to their doctrine of
only two sacraments. Testifying to the unvarying belief of the
Oriental Church in the seven sacraments, including matrimony, he
terminated their overtures with a scornful refusal. Thus eloquently
do the voices of Christian tradition testify to the sacramental
character of matrimony equal to the other six sacraments.
Marriage, too, was instituted by Christ.
Speaking of the so-called Reformation, it might be only justice to
say that if there is little or no respect today for marriage either as
a binding contract or a sacrament, the blame can be laid to the
reformers themselves. Most non-Catholics are shocked to read that
Calvin taught that "there is nothing more sacred about marriage
than there is about agriculture, architecture, shoemaking or hair-
cutting." Luther was just as vigorous in condemning the
sacramental character of marriage, saying that "claims of
sacredness for marriage are a mere jest." In Luther's words lies
the secret of marriage failures today--men and women continue to
make a joke of it.
Be this as it may, the task of present-day Christians is to follow the
laws of God and of His Church and safeguard themselves against
the pagan onslaughts of the modern world. Christian lovers might
well repeat often the poetic prayer of Thomas Moore:
O guard our affection, nor e'er let it feel
The blight that this world o'er the warmest will steal.
While the faith of all round us is fading or past,
Let ours, ever green, keep its bloom to the last.
Pope Pius XI, in his famous Encyclical letter "Casti Connubii,"
already referred to, expresses the benefits of the sacrament of
matrimony in the following terms:
(1) Husband and wife possess a positive guarantee of the
endurance of the marriage bond.
(2) They are provided with a strong bulwark of chastity against the
incitements to infidelity, should they arise.
(3) They are freed from anxiety lest in advanced years the partner
(4) The human dignity of man and woman is maintained.
(5) Mutual aid is assured.
(6) It perfects natural love, confirms the indissoluble union and
sanctifies both man and wife.
(7) Christian marriage opens a treasure of sacramental grace from
which is drawn the supernatural power of fulfilling the rights and
duties of married life faith fully, holily, perseveringly till death.
(8) In addition to sanctifying grace, the sacrament bestows
particular gifts, dispositions, seeds of grace, by which the natural
powers are elevated and perfected.
(9) It assists the parties in understanding and knowing intimately,
in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully
putting into practice those things which appertain to the married
state, its aims and duties.
Little wonder then that Dr. Paul Popenoe, director general of the
American Institute of Family Relations, and author of "Marriage,
Before and After," could say: "Those who consider marriage a
sacrament are naturally more disposed to turn it into success than
are those who look on it as merely a ninety-day option." Remember
that, before you choose a mate who does not or will not hold that
marriage is a sacrament.
The marriage of baptized persons is ruled not only by the divine
law of God but by the Canon Law of the Church, and this without
prejudice to the power of the civil authority over the merely civil
effects. To the Church alone belongs the right to safeguard the
sacraments and therefore the marriage of the baptized, since the
contract of marriage is a sacrament. Since there is no distinction,
it is not possible that the State should regulate marriage as a
contract, and the Church should be allowed to regulate it as a
sacrament. The power of the Church is legislative, judicial, and
coercive. Legislative, inasmuch as it can lay down laws for valid
and lawful marriages; judicial, since it can decide marriage cases;
and coercive, because it can threaten and punish those guilty of
dereliction of marital duties.
Having established the sacramental character of marriage and the
Church's exclusive and independent authority over Christian
marriage in respect to validity and lawfulness, let us get down to
the practical application. Those who plan to marry should follow
the Shakespearean advice and get you to a Church and have a good
priest who can tell you what marriage
It is strongly advised that those who plan to marry ought to
approach the girl's pastor a good month or more in advance of the
date set for the wedding. In case of mixed marriages, the Catholic's
pastor is the one to be consulted. It is important, and it will save
time, if on that initial visit you bring certain essential documents.
Catholics planning marriage should surrender to the priest on their
(1) A recent copy of your baptismal certificate
(2) Your First Communion certificate
(3) Your Confirmation certificate
(4) And in the case of a man a Letter of Freedom from his own
pastor, stating that to the best of his knowledge he is free to
In the case of a non-Catholic who plans a mixed marriage a
baptismal certificate should be brought along as well as a letter
from some well-known person, stating his belief as to the freedom
to marry of the subject.
In any case, and especially where a mixed marriage is planned, we
cannot overstress the importance of calling on the girl's pastor one
month or more in advance of the date chosen for the marriage,
since some dioceses demand that the non-Catholic take six
instructions before the wedding.
Unless a special dispensation from publication of banns is
requested and obtained in writing from the Bishop, three Sundays
or two Sundays and an intervening Holy Day must be allowed for
the publication of the names of the two Catholic parties at the
principal masses in the parish church of both persons concerned.
In the matter of mixed marriages the banns are not announced, but
instead, the regular application for a dispensation for such a
marriage must be made in writing to the Bishop. Attached to this
application must be the signed promises already spoken of on
page 84 (see Form of Promises). Let us look at the matter of
impediments and dispensations--a dispensation meaning a
relaxation of law in a particular case.
Ever conscious of her obligation to safeguard the great sacrament
of marriage, the Church places certain restrictions around the
sacred contract and enacts laws concerning it. Pope Leo XIII made
this quite clear in his Encyclical letter "Arcanum," when he said:
"Therefore when Christ bestowed marriage to the care of the
Church, He entrusted and recommended the whole discipline of
marriage to her. Concerning the sacrament, the Church alone can
and should determine and prescribe."
The Church teaches that there are certain conditions which
because of their nature make it impossible for persons to contract
a marriage. Such conditions are called invalidating impediments.
There are also conditions which make it unlawful to contract a
marriage, but which do not actually prevent a real marriage from
taking place. These are called forbidding impediments. Some
invalidating impediments are clear from the Natural and Divine
Law. Some are specified by the Church, which has been given
authority over society by Christ. These latter are called
impediments of Ecclesiastical Law.
The chief impediments which invalidate marriage are the
Blood relationship in the direct line, i.e., father and daughter,
grandfather and granddaughter, etc.
Blood relationship in the collateral line, i.e., brothers and sisters,
first and second cousins.
Spiritual relationship, such as sponsors at baptism and the person
Affinity, i.e., relationship arising out of marriage. One cannot
marry the blood relation of his partner in marriage except beyond
the second degree.
Solemn vows taken in Sacred and Religious Orders.
Disparity of religion, i.e., marriage of a baptized Catholic with a
Crime, i.e., adultery with the promise of marriage.
Violence or compulsion by grave fear amounting to violence.
Error regarding a person's identity or error substantially equal to
Impotency, i.e., incapacity to have marriage relations. This must
be perpetual and antecede the marriage.
The following are forbidding impediments:
Simple vows of chastity.
Marriage with baptized non-Catholics.
By the same power which the Church has over society in virtue of
which she can place an impediment to marriage, she can also
dispense from these impediments which she has established in
particular cases. Thus the Church may dispense and permit the
marriage of a baptized person with one not baptized, or without
the publication of banns. But as regards impediments contained in
the Natural Law or the Commandments of God, the Church has no
power of dispensation. The Church cannot dispense a person who
is already married from the obligations of his or her marriage and
The parties themselves, their parents, relatives, or friends are
bound to make known to the priest the existence of any of the
In the case of a mixed marriage it is important for the nonCatholic
party to state whether or not he or she has ever been baptized and
if not, to freely admit it. If the non-Catholic has been baptized, the
priest will apply for a dispensation for "mixed religion"; and in the
case of non-baptism, he will apply for a dispensation covering
"disparity of cult."
It may occur to some that the Church acts very arbitrarily in the
matter of declaring the attempted marriage of a Catholic to a non-
Catholic before a justice of the peace or a minister as invalid,
while holding that the marriage of two non-Catholics under the
same conditions is valid and binding. While comparisons are said
to be odious, they do at times clarify an issue. With this in mind,
let us compare the stand of the Church regarding the marriages
mentioned and the arbitrary actions of important educational
institutions regarding the recognition and refusal to recognize
degrees of other institutions. Doubtless you have noticed from
time to time advertisements in the national magazines inviting
students to take correspondence courses leading to A.B., A.M., or
B.Sc. degrees? True, if you take the course and pass the
examinations, the said university or school will award a very
formidable-looking diploma, but you will find that universities like
Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Fordham, and Georgetown will refuse to
recognize such a degree. No one denies the universities this right.
Then why deny the Church similar authority in the case of
marriages which do not conform to her regulations? She really acts
so in the case of mixed marriages because, as the Father of the
Third Council of Baltimore declared: "The Church . . . has always
been against marriages of Catholics and non-Catholics both on
account of the disgrace to the divine communion and on account
of the most grave danger of perversion of the Catholic party and of
the evil institutions for raising the children."
Isn't it rather strange that people who agree wholeheartedly with
the United States Government's strict control of the atom bomb,
and the formation of a special commission to safeguard its
development, should resent a similar control by the Church over
marriage and the fact that Christ should appoint His Church to
safeguard its sanctity? Right reason dictates that anything that
could wreak such havoc on mankind as an ill-used atom bomb
should be controlled. In the same way, unless marriage as a
contract and as a sacrament is protected and reverenced, mankind
could wreck human society. Even the pagan Cicero taught this, for
he said in "De Officiis": "The first bond of society is marriage, the
next, our children; then the whole family and all things in
Until and unless the Church, through her pastors, is certain that
there is no danger of perversion to the Catholic party or the
children will she grant a dispensation for a mixed marriage. The
usual form of the application is such as that found on page 83,
with the promises signed in the presence of the priest and one
witness by both the Catholic and the non-Catholic party.
After the marriage license has been secured from the proper civil
authorities and turned over to the priest who is to perform the
ceremony, the future bride and groom must answer under oath in
the presence of a priest the following or a similar questionnaire:
THE BRIDE (or Bridegroom)
(The parties must be interrogated separately. The priest will
propose the questions and write the answers.)
The prospective bride (bridegroom) is to be reminded of the
sacred character and binding force of an oath and then asked to
take the following oath: "I solemnly swear to tell the whole truth
and nothing but the truth in answer to all the questions that shall
be proposed to me, so help me God."
What is your full name?
When and where were you born?
What is your address?
How long have you lived at that address?
Have you lived in any other parish for six months or more since
you were twelve years old and, if so, in what parishes, and for how
long a time in each one?
What is your father's name?
What is your mother's name?
What is your religion?
If non-Catholic, indicate particular sect.
Have you proof of baptism? When? Where?
Have you proof of baptism?
(a) Check whether proof was obtained by certificate------, or by
(b) If not baptized, check whether person is a Jew------, or a
Catholics are to be asked:
Did you receive First Communion?
When and where?
Did you receive Confirmation?
When and where?
When and where did you receive religious instruction?
Arrange for instructions before marriage if necessary. Remind
person to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion before
Have you ever been married before?
1. To whom? When?
Priest, Minister or Civil Magistrate?
2. To whom? When?
Priest, Minister or Civil Magistrate?
Proof of death of former spouse or of nullity of former marriage
must be obtained. Check whether or not there is present the
impediment of crime.
Are you related to your intended husband by blood?
If a relationship exists, please indicate the precise degree by use
of the genealogical tree at bottom of page.
Are you aware of any physical defect that will prevent you from
fulfilling the marital duties of a wife?
Have you ever been treated by a neurologist or psychiatrist or
suffered any mental disturbance?
If so, how often? When?
Are you marrying freely, i.e., free from compulsion or pressure
exerted by any person or circumstance?
Is your intended husband marrying freely?
Investigate and check if any of the following impediments are
(a) Vow in Religion
(b) Spiritual relationship
(c) Legal relationship
(d) Public propriety.
Explain the nature and essential obligations of Christian marriage
and then ask:
(a) Do you intend to enter a permanent marriage, i.e., a marriage
that cannot be dissolved by divorce or any other way except by
(b) Do you intend to be faithful to your husband (wife) always?
(c) Do you understand the object of marriage to be the begetting of
children, God willing?
(d) Does your intended husband (wife) accept and propose to
fulfill these obligations?
(e) Do you know that the use of methods or means to frustrate the
purpose of marital relations is sinful?
(f) Have you or your prospective husband (wife) the intention of
denying to the other the right to true marital relations and the
natural consequences thereof?
(g) Have you or your prospective husband (wife) made any
conditions or reservations concerning marriage or marital
Did you ever make a private or public vow?
What was the precise nature of the vow?
Are you a member of any condemned or atheistic society?
If either party has not yet completed his twenty-first year ask: Do
your parents consent to your marriage (if not, consult canon
When do you intend to be married?
Are the witnesses to the marriage to be Catholics?
Have you fulfilled the license and other civil requirements?
Do you now swear to the truth of the above answers?
Signature of Bride (Bridegroom)
Signature of Priest
The priest will record the following:
1. Date and place of marriage
2. Dispensations granted
3. Delegation asked for or given
4. Permission asked for or given
5. Date of notice sent to parishes of baptism
Note the question regarding the witnesses. The Church law is that
both witnesses to the marriage of two Catholics or the witnesses to
a mixed marriage must be Catholics. (Catholics may not be
"attendants" at a non-Catholic wedding without the consent of the
Bishop of the diocese.)
Let us now turn our attention to the matter of time, place, and
types of ceremonies. A marriage may take place at any time of the
year but the different enactments of the civil law should be
observed in this matter. Marriage at a Nuptial Mass, with the
accompanying blessing, is forbidden by the Church from the first
Sunday of Advent to Christmas inclusive and from Ash Wednesday
to Easter Sunday inclusive, unless special permission is granted.
Regarding the place of marriage, if the bride is Catholic the
marriage is celebrated in her parish church; and if it is a mixed
marriage, the ceremony usually takes place in the parish rectory of
the baptized non-Catholic bride. It sometimes happens that very
unreasonable requests are made for the performance of marriages
in hotels, country clubs, private homes and scenic gardens. In the
name of all that is holy and good, don't ask for special
concessions. It usually happens that those who want such special
permissions are the ones least worthy of special favors.
As to the type of ceremony, let it be said that it is hard to imagine
two Catholics who would consider any other ceremony than that
which takes place at a Nuptial Mass, since it is only during a
Nuptial Mass that the important Nuptial Blessing is given. Hearken
to the words of the Fathers in the Third Plenary Council of
Baltimore: "Frequently and with grave words, pastors of souls are
to inculcate that pious and laudable rite of the Church by which
the faithful contract marriage not at night but at the time of Mass
with the blessing of the Nuptials. By which they profess tacitly their
Catholic faith and show before all, how highly and splendidly as is
becoming, they consider the dignity and sanctity of matrimony.
And this is not only worthy of praise but seems necessary to us in
these times, when the enemies of religion leave nothing
unattempted, in order to strip matrimony of all sanctity, of every
species of sacrament, if this were possible, and have it considered
as a mere civil contract."
Catholics who withstand all types of urging in the matter of a
Nuptial Mass for their wedding would be the first to raise a fuss if
they were not allowed to have a funeral mass for a loved one. The
Mass at a wedding is as important as a Mass at a funeral.
I know of no priest who does not become a little sick at heart when
a Catholic bride-to-be says, "Oh, yes, Father, we want the organ and
a singer at our wedding, and flowers on the altar and all that but--
not the Mass"! Not the Mass? Why, the mind of the Church is that
marriage ought to be performed before the sacrifice and at the
very altar of the Lord where it is sealed by the merging of the
common sacrifice of each to the other in the universal sacrifice of
Christ through participation of the husband and wife in both the
sacrifice-oblation and the sacrifice-banquet.
The whole Nuptial Mass, the prayers, the instructions are themed
around unity in God. "May the God of Israel make you one," are the
first words spoken in the Introit and the prayers ask God's blessing
in a most special way.
Apart from the proper parts of the Mass text, the priest prays twice
for the newly married couple, each time intensifying the ordinary
progress of the liturgical action of the sacrifice. After the Pater
Noster the priest turns to face the newlyweds and recites the long
prayer that follows. Read it slowly. It is beautiful.
"O God, who by Thy might has out of nothing made all things, who,
in the beginning, didst create the world, and having made man, to
Thy image, didst give him woman to be his constant helpmate,
fashioning her body from his very flesh and thereby teaching us
that it is never lawful to put asunder what it has pleased Thee to
make of one substance; O God, who hast consecrated wedlock by a
surpassing mystery, since in holy matrimony is shown forth the
Sacrament of Christ and His Church; O God, who dost join woman
to man, that theirs may be the blessing given by Thee in the
beginning, and which was the only one not taken away as part of
the punishment inflicted for the sin of our first parents, the only
one left untouched by Thy wrath at the time of the flood; look
down in mercy on this Thy handmaid, who is about to enter upon
her wedded life, and who seeks to be strengthened by Thy
"May the yoke she has to bear be one of love and peace; faithful
and chaste, may she marry in Christ; may her whole life be
modeled on that of the holy women; may she be pleasing to her
husband as was Rachel, may she be wise as was Rebecca; may she
be long-lived and true as was Sara; may he who is the author of all
evil have no part in her actions; all the days of her life, may she be
true to the troth she has plighted, faithful in obedience, innocent
and pure, strengthened against weakness by wholesome discipline;
may she be respected for her seriousness, venerated for her
modesty, schooled in Divine wisdom, rich in children, worthy of
all praise and above reproach, and in the end may she enter in a
blessed rest and have a place in heaven. And may she and her
husband see their children's children to the third and fourth
generation, and come to the good old age to which they look
Finally, just before the blessing of the Mass the priest again turns,
takes up the last notes of the preceding occasion and recites the
concluding prayer of the Church's rite in behalf of the happiness
of the couple:
"May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob be
with you, and may he fulfill unto you His blessing; that you may
see your children's children unto the third and fourth generation;
thereafter enjoy forever eternal life, with the help of Jesus Christ
our Lord, who with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, liveth and
reigneth, God through all eternity. Amen."
How, I ask you, can Cana be better re-enacted than for your
marriage to take place at Mass, so close to the Master that He can
hear your heartbeat? How better to commence life together than by
receiving Holy Communion side by side, so that the first nuptial
kiss will have in it, too, the heavenly taste of Jesus. No kiss will
ever be so sweet!
Have you ever thought how weak and trivial are the reasons given
for not having a Nuptial Mass? For instance, I've heard brides-to-be
say: "Oh, Father, I could never stand through a Mass!" Lady, you
don't stand through a Nuptial Mass--you sit, and kneel. It has been
my experience that the frail damsel who is jet-propelled up the
aisle and down again at an afternoon wedding--too weak and
nervous to sit and kneel through a thirty-five-minute Nuptial Mass-
-usually can find sufficient reserve strength to go to a public hall
or hotel and stand in a reception line for two hours or more. No, it
adds up simply to lack of faith. Remember, you cannot receive the
Nuptial Blessing outside of Mass and but once in your lifetime.
Don't pass it up. You will regret it later on, for no Catholic
celebrates his marriage in full conformity with the desires and
spirit of the Church without the Nuptial Mass. Those who will not
have the Mass cannot have the special blessing except by
The ideal way to prepare for a worthy reception of the sacrament
of matrimony is for both parties to make a week-end retreat, or at
the very least make a general confession before marrying.
Just a word about the modern scourge of picture-taking at church
weddings. I know of nothing so distracting, nothing that can so
detract from the solemn dignity of a Catholic marriage as a
shutter-happy photographer dashing hither and yon from
sanctuary to belfry, in pursuit of an "unusual" candid shot, while
setting off eerie pyrotechnics at the most sacred parts of the Mass
and, at the same time, shedding used flash bulbs from reredos to
narthex with all the reckless abandon of a startled porcupine
shedding quills. If you are going to insist on pictures, first
ascertain whether or not it is permissible and in accordance with
local parochial custom. If permission is granted, brief your
photographer to stay out of the sanctuary and away from the front
of the church. "Back and center" might be a safe slogan!
As regards the social side of the wedding, don't make a vulgar
display of your nuptials a la Hollywood. Money wasted on a
monster reception may later be regretted. Lend even to the social
side of the wedding an air of dignity and reserve. As a point of
information, it is quite proper to invite the celebrant of your
nuptials to the wedding breakfast, and if he is free to accept, a
place at the right hand of the bride should be reserved for him. He
will say the grace before and the thanksgiving after the breakfast.
And if in the rush and fuss prior to the wedding you may be irked
by the several essential requisites demanded by the Church and
her apparent opposition to the modern element of speed,
remember the advertisement prevalent in national magazines that
says: "Some things just can't be hurried!" The Church feels that
way about marriages. On the other hand, be grateful that the
Church takes such care of this great sacrament. Christ raised
marriage to the dignity of a sacrament and the Church maintains
Shakespeare may have been more right than he realized when he
advised the church wedding mentioned earlier. There is more than
a passing relationship between the kind of marriage ceremony one
chooses and its ultimate results. Judge Sabath, who has for twenty
years headed the divorce branch of Cook County, during which
time he has heard more than one hundred thousand divorce cases,
states that it is his experience that "the more impressive the
wedding ceremony--one conducted in a church in a dignified and
sincere manner, with both families present, the fewer chances there
will be of that marriage breaking up." What could be more
impressive than a marriage at a Nuptial Mass?
Too few of the faithful realize the abiding character of the
sacrament of matrimony. The sacrament is not left behind when
the bride and groom leave the altar. It is not just a sacrament that
two lovers administer to each other but a very particular kind of
sacrament. Like the Holy Eucharist, it is an abiding sacrament. In
fact, St. Robert Bellarmine compares marriage to the Eucharist.
St. Robert wrote: "The sacrament of matrimony is a sacrament like
unto the Eucharist, which, not only while it is being conferred, but
as long as it remains, is a sacrament. For as long as the husband
and his wife shall live, so long is their life together a sacrament of
Christ and of the Church."
Little wonder then that the Church looks upon a violation of
marriage and the marriage bond with horror, because such a
violation is the desecration of a sacrament of God.
Always remember that not only is sanctifying grace increased by
the sacrament of matrimony but both parties receive another most
special grace: They become entitled to God's help in all trials and
difficulties that affect them in this holy state and all the special
helps necessary to make of their marriage a real and permanent
success. In every trial, in every misunderstanding, in every great
or small problem, a simple heartfelt prayer such as "Dear Lord,
help us in our need, help us now," will bring swift and powerful
Reverend Edmund D. Bedard in a recent radio talk on the
sacrament of marriage, said:
"This is the union of husband and wife. The little tasks of every
day, the words they speak to one another, the joys they share and
the sorrows they endure, the strength they give and the strength
they borrow, their hours and days and years together, shine with
the brilliance of a sacrament, and are colored with its glory. And
the house that shelters them and their family, whether it be a
mansion or a cottage, a tenement or a Quonset hut, is like the
tabernacle on the altar that protects the Body of the Lord!"
As at the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee--and Cana is Forever--be
sure Christ is invited first and made the honored guest. No
marriage has a better chance of retaining its flavor and of
withstanding the wear and tear of prosaic wedded life than one
begun at a Nuptial Mass. The words of Tertullian, written in the
second century, bear repetition: "How can we find words to
describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church joins
together; and the oblation (Mass) confirms; and the blessing seals;
the angels report and the Father ratifies."
1. "A Map of Life," F. J. Sheed. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1937.
2. "Greater Love," "The Anthonian," 1938, V. I, 12 (No. 1).
3. When subsequent to the marriage the infidel is baptized, or both
of the unbaptized receive baptism, then and there the sacrament
of marriage is wrought.
4. Ad Polycarp No. 5.
5. L. 11. Ad Uxor. No. 9, P. 171
6. Galland T. VII Resp. Canon. pp. 348-349.
7. Liebermann--Gisetze der Angell-Sachsen 1.422.
8. Institutions--IV, IX, 34.
9. De Captivitate Babylonica--by Luther.
10. Woywod, I, p. 682.
11. "De Controveriis de Matrimonii sacramento," lib. I. Cap. 6.
Chapter Seven: THE PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT
It is related that King Louis XIV of France, shortly after his
ascension to the throne, stood at an open window in his palace and
silently admired the simple beauty of the Church of Saint Denis,
standing some distance away. A servant ventured to remark that
all the king's ancestors lay buried there and that doubtless it
would also be His Majesty's last resting place. The very next day
the king ordered another palace built so that the Church of Saint
Denis would be hidden from his view.
Many newlyweds behave like King Louis XIV. They build dream
castles designed to hide life's cold realities. They readily accept as
a fact the existence of trials and difficulties in the lives of other
married couples but refuse to acknowledge them as possible in
their own particular union. Even in the best of matches the first
year is one fraught with dangers and has been called "the period of
disillusionment," which I prefer to term "the period of adjustment."
It would be well for all newlyweds to prepare themselves for a
certain letdown after the dizzy heights of the honeymoon. A sweet
grape and a bitter nut look the same in the moonlight. Only in
tasting or in the cold light of day is the difference perceived.
There is no gainsaying the fact that it is a shock for every new
husband to discover that a great deal of his wife's beauty comes
out of bottles and jars. Who could adequately measure the depth
of the disillusionment of the young bride who beholds for the first
time her Romeo with a three-day beard and hears him go into a
tantrum when in the dark he walks into three pairs of wet nylons
hanging from the bathroom light cord. Such situations point up
what Lowell said in "My Study Windows": "It is in untried
emergencies that the native mettle of man is tested."
Marital adjustment, though but one process, is usually and wisely
subdivided into two periods: that which immediately follows the
marriage, coyly termed the honeymoon; and the other, beginning
on the way home from the honeymoon and enduring until death.
The purpose of the honeymoon is to provide the couple with the
chance to start making new and more intimate adjustments
between each other before they are required to adjust to their
relatives and friends. This is a most important period and should
for no reason or circumstance be omitted. In a great many cases of
marital rupture it has been found that there had been no
It is advised that the duration of the honeymoon should run from a
week to a month and should be enjoyed away from the prying eyes
of relatives and friends. The real value of the honeymoon lies in
the opportunity it affords the newlyweds to meet the first
experiences in conjugal love and also the opportunity to get over
the self-consciousness which comes with their new role of "Mr. and
Mrs." The honeymoon provides, too, that necessary and wondrous
chance to practice generosity, patience, mutual forbearance and,
above all, tact. Should the ultimate in sexual enjoyment be
restricted, due to nervousness, fatigue, or excitement, it is well to
remember that this, like love, grows with the years and is a matter
of learning. A grand rule to follow on the honeymoon is for the
couple to be good pals rather than to try to be dramatic.
The second period of marital adjustment begins, as we have
already stated, on the way home from the honeymoon and endures
till death. It is the tougher because it is the longer.
Newlyweds start their honeymoon in a burst of excitement and
enthusiasm, surrounded by well-wishing relatives and friends,
fiendishly hurling rice and confetti. All the world loves lovers, and
so the bride and groom are treated with privileged respect and
veneration at the secret, quiet haven of retreat (the Mount Royal or
Waldorf-Astoria). However, all too soon the honeymoon is over,
and they find themselves on the way home. But now they are just
another married couple. No friends bother to meet them at the
station, so they have to hail a taxi to convey them to their abode. If
they, disregarding the advice of authorities and ignoring the
statistical proof of fatality, move in with their in-laws, it is quite
possible that the mother-in-law who looked so perfectly ravishing
in ice-blue satin at the wedding may be in the midst of the weekly
wash and garbed to suit the occasion. Or suppose the returning
honeymooners have been fortunate enough to have secured an
apartment or home of their own, it is none the less very
disillusioning to the bride that while she is being carried across
the threshold it dawns on her that her husband does stutter and all
the time she had thought it was emotion.
The pay-off comes, however, when hubby, after nonchalantly
appropriating the twin bed nearest the window for himself, hears
his beloved say that she can never sleep in a room with the
window open--"Sinus, you know...." Brother, the period of
adjustment has arrived!
Every newly married couple ought to be disillusioned to the extent
that they must expect occasional disagreements. Perfect and
perpetual harmony in marriage is so rare as to be termed unique. A
little serious reflection ought to be sufficient to convince any
mature man or woman, any two normal individuals of this. Since
each person is a distinct being with particular and personal
patterns of feeling, behavior, and thought, of background, desires,
motives, and impulses--some or all of which are alien or
incomprehensible to the other--the answer to marriage failure or
disillusionment lies hidden therein. Let us get a better picture of
this matter here and now.
The whole problem of human adaptation consists in fitting
dynamically into an environment made up of other individuals,
whether considered in groups or singly. The equation of
adaptation is made up of (1) the raw materials inherent in a person
and (2) that person's environment. Individual variation is greater
in man than in any other species. Two flies are more similar than
two birds, two birds are more similar than two cows, but not until
one gets to the human species does individual variation become so
First among these variables comes intelligence, then temperament,
inherent personality, emotions, will, and environment. These
things differ in every individual and thus adapting oneself to a
mate is, to say the least, tricky. Causes of maladaptation may be
divided into two general categories: first, those arising in self; and
second, those arising from environment, such as a bad example
derived from the family, harmful education, or ignorance.
Newlyweds must keep all this in mind during the period of
adjustment, and they must accept the fact, too, that adjustment or
adaptation is never a static condition but requires continual effort
and continual improvement in technique. All human relationships,
and above all marriage, grow only through increased mutual
understanding. There should be no such thing as a state of routine
relationship. Human relationships either grow or starve. The
general slump that follows the honeymoon must not be accepted
as the normal flavor of marriage. It is really essential that when
the new low is reached, that is the time for the ideals that
developed during courtship to be renewed, and the promises made
to be restated, and for love to be intensified.
Many of the recent books on marriage would incline one to the
belief that the only important problem for newlyweds is
adjustment in the matter of suitable and satisfactory physical
mating. Important as this is, it is but one in the adjustment group.
As we shall see later, it is seldom that violent acts cause
unhappiness and failure in marriage, but rather an accumulation
of small things. Small cumulative irritations are harder to put up
with than great sporadic blasts of human nature. A vulgar belch,
an unsocial mannerism, a constantly repeated hackneyed
expression, nagging, fault-finding and the lack of a sense of humor
can be as catastrophic as an atom bomb. To have achieved
excellent sex adjustment and to have ignored any of the other
elements that go into the making of a happy marriage may easily
hamper or ruin sex compatibility.
Generally speaking, marital adjustment falls into several logical
(1) Personal adjustment
(2) Domestic adjustment
(3) Sexual adjustment
(4) Social adjustment
(5) Economic adjustment
Personal Adjustment. Anyone who enters marriage armed only with
a faulty preconceived idea of matrimony, based on the unreal
movie or modern novel pattern of a sticky romance kept aglow
with constant burning thrills, is headed for failure. The Hollywood-
or love-story attitude toward marriage is deceiving and fallacious
simply because it ignores the fact that both individuals must put
forth constant effort to keep happy and stay married. The whole
problem of happiness in marriage begins first with the individuals.
Finding the right mate is not the most important thing in making a
success of matrimony. What is more important is being the right
Being the right mate demands personal adjustment. It means
acquiring and practicing such traits as:
(8) Eagerness to help
(10) Emotional control
Volumes might be written on each of these ten traits and their
effects on marriage. Their importance might be pointed out by
taking number ten, emotional control, as an example. For instance,
let us consider the effect of the voice in our relation to others. The
personal adjustment of the voice as the vehicle of the emotions is
so important that it can be used to provoke or reduce about
seventy per cent of daily frictions in marriage Have you ever
noticed the effect of your voice on, say, a strange cat you
encounter on the street? If you speak kindly to it in a sweet, gentle
voice, saying, "Come here little kitty--nice pussy," you will
invariably find that it reacts favorably. On the other hand, if you
raise your voice and say, "Get out of here, you mangy brute," you
will experience the opposite effect. If the dumb beast reacts
favorably to the controlled voice, how much more the intellectual
being-your mate. Always remember that a gentle, controlled,
persuasive voice will most certainly reduce friction. Foghorns
screech only when the deep fog surrounds them. The person who
has to sound off in a loud, raucous bellow to get a point across
demonstrates that he or she is in a fog. It is a good rule never to
holler except if the house is on fire.
What we have just said concerning one little angle of emotional
control may open up a new avenue of thought concerning this
whole matter of personal adjustment to marriage. It is told by the
great sculptor Michelangelo that when at work he wore over his
forehead, fastened to his artist's cap, a lighted candle, in order
that no shadow of himself might fall on his work. There is a fine
thought here for every married person and one that teaches a great
lesson, since most of the shadows of doubt and unhappiness that
fall over marriage come from the individuals themselves. It was
Tennyson who wrote:
Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control
These three alone lead man to sovereign power.
The same three lead to happiness in marriage.
Domestic Adjustment. One day not long ago, when I was taking a
walk, I passed a very old brick residence. It must have been built
well over a hundred years ago. As the sun played upon it, I was
struck by the fine brick work in the construction. As I gazed upon
that wall, the sun lit up the little shining crystals of sand in the
cement between the bricks. I reflected that while the sand blended
with the cement to hold those bricks in place, each grain retained
its own individuality. The sand remained sand, the cement
remained cement, but both were united in such a way as to form
one to keep that house together.
Much the same thing takes place in marriage. Two people are
united to form one in a union that surpasses human estimation.
"They shall be two in one flesh," says Holy Scripture, and yet each
will retain his or her own individuality. Domestic adjustment must
be considered in this light.
If men and women could only see the worst side of each other
before marriage and demonstrate their real tempers, dispositions,
manners, pet peeves, and weakness of character instead of
camouflaging them until after the honeymoon, many of the
hazards would be removed from marriage. Since that does not
happen (nor will it ever happen), those who enter marriage must do
so with a spirit of adventure and the determination to make a
success of it in spite of the faults or imperfections that time will
It is a good idea not to expect too much of matrimony. The very
vows of marriage warn one against this by having each of the
parties repeat aloud: "I take thee for better, for worse, for richer,
for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." The
very fact that such a promise is required points out the margin of
error or chance in the lives of all married couples. The ideal thing
is to enter wedlock with the firm purpose to take the other partner
as he or she is. Marriage is no reform school. The man who is a
drunkard before marriage doubtless will be a drunkard after
marriage. The careless, untidy girl before marriage will be a
slovenly housekeeper after marriage. The best you can hope for is
to be able to alter to a degree the deep, ingrained fundamental
traits. The rest calls for adjustment on your part. For example,
once I knew a timid man who became a nervous wreck simply
because his wife tried to remake him into an aggressive
businessman and social lion. Her mistake was in not being content
with a partial accomplishment of her designs and in her failure to
adjust her life as much as humanly possible to her husband's.
Domestic adjustment entails the task of trying to understand the
other partner. Love, of course, is the leaven of married life. It was
Goethe who said: "A man does not learn to understand anything
unless he loves it." But even with a heart full of love, right reason
must also function.
Fewer conflicts would arise if the husband and wife would stop to
think that they are really two fundamentally different persons and
that their approach to things is different. Each person is
influenced by the kind of body he started with, the kind of home
he was born into and the persons he associated with in that home,
by his relatives, and by circumstances such as being the only
child, the youngest, middle, or last child. The age of the parents
when he was born, his religious educational advantages, early
emotional training, family status in community, and other things
influence him. Domestic adjustment simply means taking all these
items into consideration and attempting to adapt oneself and one's
life to them.
I have said that men and women differ fundamentally in their
approach to the same problem. This is so true that it would be well
to examine this statement. Its acceptance will lessen conflict
because it will make married couples patient with one another.
The very fact that man as an individual and woman as an
individual can be so different in their approach to the same
matter, yet be so one in their common life, is one of the great
mysteries of matrimony. Let us take the subject of clothes as an
example. Most men would rather be shot than wear, say, a pink
vest. They would argue that other men do not wear such things.
The fact that ten men at a banquet were dressed in the same dress
suits would not be thought strange. But ten women at a banquet
wearing the same color, the same style of dress, would make each
of them most self-conscious and uneasy. A man feels comfortable
only when he wears what every other man wears, while his wife
strives frantically to purchase the gown that differs from all
others. Right here we see a difference of opinion in a man and a
woman's approach to the simple matter of wearing apparel. Men
and women differ in their individual approaches to numerous
Men and women also differ in their emotional demonstrativeness.
When angered, a woman generally expresses her emotion in tears,
while a man wants to fight with his fists. Reaction to certain
circumstances shows differentiation in men and women. A man
will think nothing of taking a mouse from a trap while his wife
would shudder at such a task; but a woman, in turn, would care for
the personal needs of a sick infant, while the child's father
entertains only the urge to flee.
Again, the fact that women differ psychologically from men is
another thing that demands consideration. Elizabeth Kidd gives
the following list as the basic differences between the sexes. (I'm
glad a woman compiled this list. I'd hate to have had to do it. The
parentheses are mine.)
1. Women are intuitive Men are intellectual
2. Women are identificationalists Men are realists
("It's an adorable dress, Angela. ("What mileage can you get
I had one just like it when I was per gallon?")
3. Women are subjective Men are objective
("I like--I think") ("He's O.K.--he is a good guy.")
4. Women go by inner perception Men go by rationalization
("I don't know why--but I just ("Do you have any figures on
5. Women are more indulgent Men are more influenced by
in fancy facts.
(That is why there are so (No comment.)
many soap operas on the radio
If the reader's temper has a low boiling point, the truth of the
above will be apparent. Take, for instance, the matter of feminine
intuition. Intuition in women is uncanny. By it, she is able to grasp
what is not openly stated better than if it were openly stated. A few
weeks ago, a mother came to me with a letter from her daughter,
who was a student in a fine college. The girl told her mother that
she was not interested in her course and could not seem to decide
what she wanted to be. The mother read between the lines and she
said to me, "Mary will be home next week. I just feel it." Mary was
home that Saturday. It is that same intuition that plagues many
husbands. Most wives know things are not just right long before
they find that blonde hair on the coat collar or the lipstick on the
Good domestic adjustment can never be achieved unless
allowance is made for the difference in the mental processes of
men and women. Whenever I hear a man storm and fume over the
fact that his wife "does not talk his language," "does not see things
his way," or when he says that he "does not understand how her
mind works," I know I am in the presence of one who is utterly
ignorant of the fact that men's and women's minds work
completely differently. Unless and until this fact is accepted there
will be conflict.
It is a good rule for married people to take each other as they
really are. To desire to make radical changes in another is not the
sign of love but of hate. When a wife wants to make a man over
into something she wants him to be, it shows clearly that she
dislikes him as he is. When a husband always wants to have his
wife think as he does, see eye to eye with him in everything, he is
asking the impossible. Don't start married life under that delusion.
Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower offers brides the following sage advice:
"If a bride can make up her mind at the beginning of her marriage
that she is the wife and that her husband is the head of the house,
all of the adjustments and strains that are sure to come will take
care of themselves. 'Happily ever after' does not follow the
ceremony automatically. It takes wit and straight thinking and a
good deal of adapting on both sides. The wise wife is the one who
says at the beginning:
"'I will be the one to volunteer to do most of the adapting. It is
"If I were newly married today I could wish nothing better for
myself than to understand that idea in so many words, rather than
instinctively. Men are so easy to please if you do not become
belligerent over the little things that make no difference anyhow.
But there were many times in my early married life when I had to
go into conference with myself and say:
"'Listen. Is it worth it to have my own way about this? What am I
gaining, anyway, if Ike would rather have it some other way?'"
Since domestic adjustment involves putting up with another's
habits it will serve a great purpose if newlyweds during the first
year will, on their monthly anniversary of the wedding, check up
on the things they have found more or less irritating. It could take
the form of a little celebration. A nice dinner out or at home,
exchange of little gifts, then after eliciting a promise from each
other not to get angry, go over the little (or the big) things that are
found to be irksome in the other. The lists might include such
Sloppy table manners (be specific)
Nervous mannerisms (e.g., snapping knuckle bones)
Leaving clothes around on chairs
Yelling from room to room
Leaving wet towels on bathroom floor
Belching without effort at apology
Cold cream on face at night
Thoughtlessness of others (radio on when the other wants to sleep)
Chin-strap worn to bed
Garbage left in sink.
If such a check-up is really made in a mutual spirit of help and
love, it will be found to be of inestimable value. After the first
year, the monthly check-up can be changed to a quarterly one, but
never less frequently. Make it a rule never to use these check-ups
as an excuse or occasion to nag. A grindstone will sharpen a knife
to a razor-edge, or it will ruin the blade--it all depends not on the
grindstone but on the way you hold the knife. Monthly or quarterly
friendly, understanding discussions of the annoying traits of the
other partner can make living together a keener thing, but if such
exchanges of "peeves" bear the least tinge of sarcasm, they can do
more harm than good.
Some readers may feel that none of these things is really big
enough to cause any marital trouble. Believe me, it's the small
things that cause most trouble in marriage. Never underestimate
the effect of small things on a common life. Here is something I
read lately. I think it is very good and to the point. "One day in
Colorado a great stalwart tree fell to the ground. It was a sapling
when Columbus landed at San Salvador. It had been struck by
lightning fourteen times. It had braved storms, defied earthquakes
and hurricanes. But in the end tiny little beetles killed it. They
bored underneath the bark, dug into its heart, ate away its mighty
fiber--and down came the king of the forest. It is the little things
that make or break marriage. Oliver Wendell Holmes realized
this when he wrote: "Life is a great bundle of little things."
It is advised that newlyweds study each other carefully during the
first months of marriage to find out the other's vulnerable spots.
Once determined, you avoid these altogether or tread gently as
you pass them. The great art of living happily in marriage--the
great achievement in domestic adjustment--is never to develop a
martyr complex, but rather to use all your skill in developing in
the other partner the habits that please you. This might be called
"the art of arts."
A cardinal rule to follow during the adjustment period and
throughout life is for the husband to strive always to make his wife
proud she is his wife and for the wife, on the other hand, to make
the husband proud of her and proud of himself.
Nothing can kill respect so completely as for a husband to
habitually berate women as inferior, weaker, and less efficient
than men. It's never very flattering to a wife to hear her husband
scoff at, say, "women drivers," and blame them for most of the
traffic snarls or fatalities. In addition, the records do not bear this
statement out. Never do anything that would induce an inferiority
complex. Without a feeling of equality--of partnership, of really
belonging--no married person can be happy.
Domestic adjustment is not accomplished in a day or a year. This
calls for persistence, patience, the acceptance of the other mate as
he or she is and then making the most of the bargain. It is said that
when an oyster cannot eject an annoying and irritating grain of
sand from its shell, it proceeds to cover it with a coating that
produces a pearl. When you come to think of it, a diamond is
nothing but pieces of coal that stuck together at the same spot for
years and years under terrific pressure.
Here is a little prayer that should be displayed in a prominent
place in every home and recited daily by every married couple. It
contains the whole secret of domestic adjustment.
God grant me the sense
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can:
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Sexual Adjustment. Happiness in marriage depends in no small
way upon good sexual adjustment. Ignorance of the sexual side of
marriage has brought unhappiness and has done irreparable harm
to the bodies and souls of millions of men and women. Many of the
recent books on marriage stress too much the sex side, confuse
and mystify the reader with hard and fast principles for what their
authors determine to be the ideal sex life. There is no such thing
as the ideal sex life but only sex life that is good and satisfactory
for each individual married couple. Certain types of marital
relations that please one couple might be frustrating to another.
Smugness has no place in the matter of the sexual side of marriage
Ignorance is unpardonable. No person should dare think of
marriage unless and until he or she has read some good book
treating the physiological side of marriage. Complete sex
knowledge sufficient for happiness in marriage is not "just
something that comes naturally." In the vast majority of cases this
knowledge must be acquired.
Every married couple has its own story of sexual disharmony.
Some mates are oversexed, some undersexed. Even the most
exquisite made-to-order garment will need a few alterations to
make it fit perfectly, and even where two people might be
classified as perfectly suited mates, alterations in demands,
procedure, approach, frequency, in sexual relations may be
required. It is here that adjustments must be made. Impatience,
unreasonableness, coercion, lack of cooperation and roughness
should by all means be avoided. The end and object of marriage is
the procreation of children--this is its primary function in the
biological sense. The secondary and spiritual function is the
furthering of the higher mental and emotional processes, the
fortification and enlargement of the whole personality in all its
Proper sexual functions in wedlock is the passing from husband to
wife of the chalice of love, the wine of which imparts one of the
deepest joys man and woman can know on the earth. The wine is
of their own vintage and requires expert blending and time to
improve its strength and savor.
Social Adjustment. The problem of adjustment of newlyweds to
their enlarged circle of friends, relatives and in-laws resulting
from marriage is by no means the least. In fact, it is a most
important adjustment, and one that requires prudence, tact and
skill. A basic principle for happiness in marriage is "Don't live with
your in-laws. Go it alone."
The worst snare and pitfall to newlyweds is the offer of a nice
apartment with "his people" or "her people." Usually, such offers
are made by parents who naturally want to keep the lovebirds a
little longer in the old nest. Even when the motives are of the
highest nature, such arrangements are fraught with dangers.
The first years of marriage, no matter how they are considered, are
trying, and the very presence of a third party is always a
disturbing element. Usually, the first months of marriage are filled
with much fondling and caressing, and nobody wants to carry on
so in front of in-laws. Unfortunately, the whole tone of wedded life
is keynoted by the first year of marriage, and if all the little
affectionate acts are neglected then, they may never again burn or
Cruel as it may seem, the best marriages result from the breaking
away (and I mean a complete break) from the ties of the former
family life. Social adjustment in marriage calls for a new attitude,
a subordination of, and, in a certain manner, a forgetfulness of,
the home of one's childhood. It would be better to postpone the
wedding if it means having to live with in-laws. For the one
marriage you know of that has weathered the storm, ninety-nine
have failed from "in-lawitis."
As is the case for all rules, there are exceptions. Circumstances
may arise where a newly married couple must move in with in-laws
or permit in-laws to move in with them. In such cases, the
following suggestions may minimize the causes of friction and
assist social adjustments under such conditions.
Primarily, it is important to rid the mind of the idea that in-laws
are natural enemies. Every effort must be put forth to overcome
this common in-law complex. There is no law--human or divine--
against liking in-laws. Begin by resolving never to repeat old,
hackneyed "mother-in-law" jokes. At the best, it is bad taste.
If you have moved in with in-laws, remember it is their home, and
it was just that long before you came into the picture. Try to settle
a program for a division of the work and do it in as far as you are
able according to the existing procedure. Fix up your own room as
a bed-sitting room where you and your mate can spend whole
evenings together. Keep your personal problems to yourself.
Discourage in-law interference in such matters right from the start.
Sharing a house does not include sharing your problems.
If "his" parents or "yours" must of necessity live with you fix up a
nice bed-sitting room for them--with a radio, good lights and easy
chairs--and encourage its use. Divide the work, take turns at
getting the meals, and giving a little praise now and again will
work wonders. You can stretch a point to rave about the coffee,
even if it tastes like something the Borgias might have concocted.
Your partner will love you the more for your efforts. Make it a rule
to report something your mother or father said that was
complimentary to your mate. Forget the uncomplimentary things.
Samuel Johnson observed that "Praise, like gold and diamonds,
owes its value only to its scarcity."
Should conditions become intolerable, remember you have but one
choice to make--"A man shall leave his father and mother and
cleave to his wife," and that's Holy Scripture. Find new quarters for
yourself or for the in-laws.
Now, regarding his or your parents when, God willing, they live
apart from you. Social adjustment is demanded in your relations
toward them. Encourage frequent visits by your partner with his or
her parents. Never be afraid of a woman who is devoted to her
parents. Such a grand quality will revert to your benefit if you are
prudent in your attitude. The same holds true of a husband and his
parents. Never force visits to your parents on your mate. Above all,
don't have two nights a week set aside for such visits. That sort of
routine is killing. Have it understood by your relatives that you
want to be free to drop in any old time, but not on a fixed day and
Remember your mother-in-law's and your father-in-law's birthdays
and anniversaries, but be wise enough not to spend more on gifts
for one side of the house than for those on the other side. Don't
side with your mother or father against your mate in arguments or
someone is going to be certain the cards are stacked against him.
Never brag about your rich relatives or your brainy aunt or uncle.
Brains, like lightning, seldom strike in the same place (or family)
twice, and the person who has nothing to be proud of besides a
rich, dead relative is poor indeed. Avoid mentioning the obvious
defects of your partner's family. Blood is thicker than water. If you
berate his "shiftless brother," he'll throw up to you your "half-
witted sister." The law of compensation, you know. And it is a good
rule to discourage long visits from your relatives or friends, or his.
Everyone, even though married, has the right to keep the friends
he or she had before marriage. To ask one to sacrifice a friendship
is asking a great deal. Social adjustment demands that every effort
be made to make your partner's friends like you and to make
yourself like them. Consider that there is something wrong with
you (and there really is) if all your wife's or your husband's friends
displease you. Find the cause and eliminate it. It usually stems
from selfishness or jealousy on your part.
A couple of good principles need considering in adjusting oneself
to one's in-laws and your husband's or wife's friends--Be courteous-
-Be agreeable. "Courtesy," says Hamerton, "lives by a multitude of
little sacrifices," and Lady Montague remarks that "to be beloved
one must ever be agreeable."
Economic Adjustment. Many marriages go wrong simply because
the husband and wife have never become economically adjusted.
Usually, discussions of money problems have a way of starting
reasonably enough and then suddenly deteriorating into a series of
blasts and explosions.
In most cases the wife earned her own living before marriage. The
money she earned then, apart from a token allowance she donated
to her board and room (and which she borrowed back again with an
additional two dollars), was hers to spend in any way she chose.
After the wedding she finds herself rebelling against the awful role
of having to beg for an allowance. Under normal conditions she
should never have to experience that feeling of lost or surrendered
independence. Here is where economic adjustment comes in. Every
wife should, after the current expenses are taken care of, be given
a separate and fixed allowance for her to do with as she pleases
with no accounting required. In like manner, the same holds true
of the husband. My heart bleeds for the man who must hand over
his pay envelope and then be doled out two dollars as his share for
the week. That is not a partnership, but a dictatorial monopoly. I'd
picket such a wife.
Budgets are, I suppose, necessary in the first few months of
marriage, but speaking from experience I hate the idea. I kept a
budget for but one month, and when I totaled up what I spent on
tobacco, tips, magazines, papers, and gasoline, I nearly swooned.
Post-mortems are always disconcerting, to say the least. If you
must follow a budget, then make it a flexible one. ("Magazine
Digest" published one called "The Way to Save Money," April,
The happiest couple I ever met had a good system all their own.
They paid all their bills by check, set aside money regularly for
savings, insurance, rent or payment on house, then put the residue
in a cigar box in the buffet. When the wife wanted a hair-do she
just went to the "kitty" and took out the cash. The same procedure
was followed for clothes, hats, and other items. The husband did
likewise. When he wanted golf balls or a fishing pole he was, as the
Irishman says, "beholdin' to no one." There was only one
restriction on raiding the "kitty"--withdrawals of more than ten
dollars were mutually discussed. Of course, what is one's man's
meat may be another man's poison. The point I want to establish is
that some system must be evolved for the handling, saving, and
the spending of the family income. Public libraries are well
stocked with books on the subject of home economics. For
instance, if you ask for "Controlling Your Personal Finances" by
David F. Owens (published by McGraw-Hill, N. Y., 1937), or
"Managing Personal Finances" by D. F. Gordon and E. F. Willett
(Prentice-Hall, N. Y., 1945), your librarian will get them for you.
In drawing up your budget, make provision for a widowed mother
or mother-in-law or a father who lives with you. A little personal
spending money, to do with as they see fit, will go a long way to
ease the feeling of utter dependence. If you live with your own
parents or your in-laws, make ample provision for your share of
the expenses or set a straight rental payment.
Where husband and wife both work, the income should be pooled
and rent, taxes, household expenses, medicine, recreation,
insurance, investments, and savings deducted, then the residue
divided in proportion to each one's income. What each does with
his or her share should rest with the individual. However, I still
like the common "kitty" idea. It suggests a fine partnership.
It was Cato, I think, who said that "the foundation-stones of a home
are the woman and the ox: the ox to plow and the woman to save."
Part of every pay check, if it is only five dollars, ought to be put
into a savings account. "The trip of a thousand miles," say the
Chinese, "begins with one step." Someone has calculated that if the
Dutchman who "squandered" twenty-four dollars on the purchase
of Manhattan Island had invested that money at current rates of
interest, he would today be able to purchase the island as it now is
and have forty thousand dollars over.
Train yourself in resistance to installment buying. Experience
shows that articles purchased for cash are usually cheaper. If you
must purchase something on the installment plan, complete the
payments before the next article is ordered. Never run up bills
anywhere. Make it a rule to pay as you go. Your credit is part of
your reputation. Keep it good. You can judge a person's
intelligence by what he does, and his character by what he doesn't.
A person of good, honest character does not demand luxuries he
All this bosh about bringing a wife flowers before breaking the
news of the purchase of a new fishing pole, or preparing a
husband's favorite meal, getting his slippers, and lighting his cigar
before mentioning the purchase of that "divine" little hat, can be
overdone. No husband, no wife, ought to be too apologetic about
asking for money or getting things they really want or need. Get
started right and keep your self-respect.
Looking back over this chapter, the reader must of necessity be
impressed with the importance of proper adjustments in the role
of being a Mr. and Mrs. How the various adjustments are
accomplished may spell the difference between harmony and
heartache. Tact, persistence, a spirit of fair play, determination,
and compromise are omnipotent.
The changing of the water into wine at Cana in Galilee provided
one of the greatest lessons in adjustment this world has ever seen.
Our Blessed Lady, when she noticed the failure of the wine, merely
mentioned the fact to her Divine Son. She did not give her request
a big build-up, nor did she demand a miracle, but, with reserve
and superb tact, said simply: "They have no wine." Now Our Lord,
although He remarked that His hour for miracles had not come,
nevertheless adjusted His divine plan in favor of His mother's
request and changed the water into wine, or, as the poet put it, "the
water beheld its God and blushed."
If all husbands and wives the world over would follow Our Lord's
example and, in marriage, adjust themselves to the likes and
dislikes of one another, the years of their lives, like the waterpots
at Cana, would be filled to overflowing with the rich, red,
intoxicating wine of love.
1. "Just Like a Woman," Elizabeth Kidd. New York: D. Appleton-
Century Co., 1945.
2. "If I Were a Bride Today," by Mamie Doud Eisenhower, as told to
Llewellyn Miller in "Today's Woman," June, 1948.
3. Quote--"The Weekly Digest," October 12, 1947, Vol. 14.
4. Recommended: "The Art of Happy Marriage," James A. Magner.
Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1947. (Request your Public
Library to get this book for you.)
Chapter Eight: BASIC REQUISITES FOR MARITAL HAPPINESS
In the blessing of Moses, pronounced before his death upon the
different tribes, there was this strange, added warning, particularly
addressed to Aser: "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass." A little
geographical research will help make the meaning of the warning
plain. You see, part of Aser's allotted portion was hilly and rugged.
Common sandals made of wood or leather would never endure the
wear and tear of the sharp, flinty rocks. There was need therefore
for some special kind of shoes. Hence the form of the warning:
"Thy shoes shall be iron and brass."
Turning the age-old phrase into a caution for married couples, we
get from it these salutary lessons. The road two lovers must travel
together in matrimony is usually rough and rugged. The words of
the marriage ceremony warn of this: "So not knowing what is
before you, you take each other for better, for worse, for richer, for
poorer, in sickness and in health, until death." Now, no living soul
could keep such a vow and live nobly and worthily without rugged
self-denial and an uphill struggle against the world, the flesh, and
the devil. Indeed, the more one thinks of the dizzy heights that
must be scaled and the rugged terrain that must be conquered
before the summit of happiness in marriage is reached, the more
necessary the shoes of iron and brass become.
One other lesson is apparent in Moses' caution. He wisely
suggested that the shoes be of iron and brass. Not of iron alone or
brass alone, but a combination of both metals. In marriage,
likewise, not one element alone, even though that be love, will
suffice for its ultimate success. A strong blend of many other
elements must be mingled in the alchemy of wedlock if the
treacherous ascent be made safely.
As we remarked elsewhere, the real cause of broken hearts and
homes, of separations and divorces, is seldom the isolated violent
and vicious flare-up, but rather the result of an overwhelming
accumulation of little things--little annoyances, little aggravating
mannerisms, thoughtlessness, and so on. Nor ought the little
things be ignored as inconsequential. Small leaks can sink a ship.
A tiny sharp pebble in a shoe may be ignored as a "little thing," but
it may cause such an irritation or serious infection as to lead to an
Most of the sharp, flinty rocks on the road to happiness in
marriage could be traversed in easy safety if both husband and
wife would don the following shoes of iron and brass. And they
come in pairs too. Let us try them on for size:
Love and Contentment
Cheerfulness and Courtesy
Patience and Helpfulness
Truthfulness and Tact
Neatness and Politeness
Generosity and Loyalty
LOVE AND CONTENTMENT
Love: Nothing is so tragic in marriage as the taking of love for
granted. "Love," remarked Beecher, "cannot endure indifference. It
needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of
another heart or the flame burns low." There is a wealth of wisdom
stored up in that statement, and a good deal of food for thought,
too. Why in the world two people who were so eloquent in love
before their marriage should suddenly become so indifferent to
love after marriage is beyond me. It is one thing to marry and
quite another thing to stay married, and no one can hope for the
latter without love, love frequently expressed and with an ever
increasing number of external acts to prove it.
Fine grapes and water need time to become a superb wine.
Romantic love in the hearts of two newly married persons likewise
needs time to become wholesome conjugal love. There is a
difference, you know, between romantic and conjugal love.
A marriage built on romantic love alone is a precarious thing. After
the first ecstasies of romantic love are over, after the heart is filled
to overflowing, giving the impression that there can be nothing
more perfect, such a love begins to diminish. Conjugal love, on the
other hand, waxes stronger with the months and years. Each day
opens up new vistas. Each day gives birth to new joys. Conjugal
love is purified, sanctified and perfected romantic love, or as
Gustave Thibon puts it: "The final essence of the great love of man
and woman consists in the confidences and divine graces
transmitted from one soul through the chosen channel of another
True marital love, according to Amiel, is "that which ennobles the
personality, fortifies the heart, and sanctifies the existence. And
the being loved must not be mysterious and sphinx-like, but clear
and limpid as a diamond; so that admiration and attachment may
grow with knowledge."
One of the most strikingly beautiful stories of a love between a
man and his wife that grew stronger and greater with the years, in
spite of poverty and adversity, is that of Nathaniel and Sophia
Hawthorne. On the first anniversary of their marriage, Nathaniel
wrote these touching words to his wife: "Dearest Love, we have
never been so happy as now. This birthday of our married life is
like a cape, which we have now doubled and find a more infinite
ocean of love stretching out before us."
Twenty-two years later, shortly before his death, Nathaniel again
wrote of his love--love that had grown stronger from continuous
association, love that he called "that enchanting mystery." Writing
then, he left the world this single touching testament: "Happiness
has no succession of events because it is part of eternity. And we
have been living in eternity since our marriage."
Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne had learned the lesson that every
married couple must strive to learn and to practice, and that is
that conjugal love can never survive neglect. Like a precious,
delicate plant, it must be diligently tended daily if it is to grow.
Never must the weeds of indifference be allowed to smother it. A
husband must never grow into that sort of person who takes his
wife's love for granted, content solely in the knowledge that it is
always there. All through the years he must reassure her of his
continued love--by paying compliments, by sending flowers and
candy, by taking his wife out evenings, by tenderly caressing her--
such things will reassure his wife that she is still "lovable." Love
frequently and adequately expressed will keep a woman young and
give meaning and purpose to her life. Without love of a sufficient
degree to fill her heart and warm her soul, a wife becomes
disinterested in married life and, like a tender plant, withers and
A wife must never, on the other hand, blackmail her husband into
loving her by crying spells or by using such hackneyed
expressions as "You don't love me any more," simply because he
forgot a birthday or wedding anniversary gift. If he has given up
that gift-giving routine perhaps it is because his wife has taken
such things for granted and neglected on past occasions to praise
him for his choice of remembrances. It is a smart wife who makes
a fuss over her husband's gifts, even if he gives her the car or golf
clubs he always wanted. "As long as he brings home the bacon,"
says Matilda Rose McLaren, "don't beef if he forgets an
anniversary. You should casually mention the event days in
advance or helpfully mark his fresh desk calendar on New Year's.
It isn't easy for Bill to bring the flowers and candy he proffered as
a sweetheart; marrying you gave him a bread and butter
The best all-round resolution for husbands or wives is to renew
daily the intention of loving the other party enough to make him
or her happy, rather than seeking to be made happy himself. Never
be afraid or ashamed to express your love. Malcolm Canmore and
his sainted Margaret gave to the world a wondrous formula for
successful living. The soldier-king, Malcolm, was remarkable for
his reverence, gentleness, and tenderness in the presence of his
lovely wife. He could scarcely think of her without tears, without
wondering how such an angel was given him to keep and love. The
very prayer book she used was something holy, which he would
allow no one but himself to carry, kissing it reverently as he gave
it to her or received it from her, even in the presence of his rude
Scottish chieftains. Until his dying day he demeaned himself in
public and private toward his spotless queen as if he were her
servant and bondslave. How truly Margaret must have loved him
all the while--how truly, how tenderly--that she could inspire him
with a devotion that never decreased and a reverence which ever
grew with age.
Conjugal love dies in that heart where respect diminishes instead
of daily increasing, and where delicacy and courtesy in word and
manner--what we call outward respect--is dispensed with on
pretext of nearness, intimacy, and reserve.
Make it, therefore, the law of your life that as the years pass by,
they shall find the ever-blooming flower of love in the center of
your home-garden--the flower of undying reverence. One cannot
live without the other. And to the wife we say: If you would have
your husband's love and respect to know no fading, make it a
sacred duty to God, every day of your life, to invent new methods
of showing your companion that your love in turn is ever new and
Contentment: Be ever mindful, however, that love alone is not the
sole requisite for marital happiness. Love is but one of many
I have known scores of married people who were very much in love
with one another, but they were not happy. Love must be
accompanied by a sane, placid spirit of contentment if happiness
is to be attained in matrimony. Never in any age was the spirit of
contentment so rare as it is today. Everyone is striving to get more
than they have--more money, more power, more pleasure, and
more luxury. Yet Cicero wrote, centuries ago, that "to be content
with what we possess is the greatest and most secure of riches."
And speaking of contentment in marriage, Le Sage compared it to
"a river which must have two banks--one on either side." In other
words, both the husband and the wife must be content.
Married couples could get much more out of life if they made the
best of what they have. Grumbling does no good. If the thing that
bothers or aggravates is of such a nature that it can be changed,
change it. If it is not, then why grumble? Ignoring an unpleasant
situation minimizes its unpleasantness. Remember no home that
shelters a grumbler can be happy. On the other hand, a home
where conditions are accepted as not only right but pleasant, or at
least to be tolerated, or made the best of, is a haven when one
grows up with the sweet spirit of satisfaction with things as they
True contentment does not interfere with advancement, nor does it
narrow one's outlook or inspire indifference and lethargy.
Contentment is the antidote for restlessness; indeed, it is the calm,
quiet influence that is so sorely needed in the home today.
CHEERFULNESS AND COURTESY
Cheerfulness: Thackeray gave as good a definition of cheerfulness
as I ever read anywhere when he defined it in his "Sketches and
Travels in London": "It is a contented spirit, it is a pure heart, it is a
kind and loving disposition, it is humility and charity, it is a
generous appreciation of others and a modest opinion of self."
Nothing can possibly be more conducive to happiness in marriage
than a sustained mood of cheerfulness, a cheerfulness that is
made up of the various components described by Thackeray.
Lightheartedness will do so much to smooth out the rough spots
on the highway to heaven. Horace reminds us that "the mind that
is cheerful in its present state will be averse to all solicitude as to
the future and will meet the bitter occurrences of life with a happy
There are no greater enemies of cheerfulness than gloominess,
sulkiness, and moodiness. Gloominess is like dark glasses; the sun
may be shining all around you but so long as those dark lenses
shut out the sun from your eyes all appears dark and overcast.
Then the reasonable thing to do is to take the glasses off.
Gloominess can be overcome by training oneself to look for the
bright side of every difficulty. Don't be like the old lady who
complained about the failure of her potato crop one year, and the
next year complained about the bumper crop of potatoes, and
especially of their large size, gloomily remarking that now she
would have no small potatoes to feed the pigs.
Sulkiness is also a great enemy of cheerfulness. It is a despicable
thing in child or adult. Sulkiness is definitely indicative of
emotional immaturity. The silent treatment after a
misunderstanding or a real or imaginary offense is a great wrecker
of marital happiness. The best cure for hurt feelings is simply not
to let on to yourself that you have been offended. Refuse to notice
an insult or a slight. Keep right on talking and smiling and the
thing will fly right over your head. Never hold out for an apology
for any sort of offense (real or imaginary). Just be your own self
and multiply your kindness, and you'll soon see an apology on its
way that will be more sincere than anything you could elicit at the
point of a gun or from the "I'll go home to Mother" line.
The third of the triune-demons and arch-enemies of cheerfulness
is moodiness. Moodiness takes several forms in different people
and not infrequently in the same person. A moody husband or wife
will be all smiles and cheerfulness one day, but the very next, for
no apparent reason, will be all gloom and silence and storm. A
moody husband will leave the house in the morning the
pleasantest of men, only to return in the evening like a bear with
the mumps. A man may himself possess an even temper but be
married to a wife whose temper he can never trust. Although all
smiles and perfectly serene one moment, she changes quickly
from sweet to sour, from mildness to the downpouring of wrath.
It is difficult to say which is more unbearable--a person who
suddenly gives way to successive or continuous spasms of ill-
humor, censoriousness, and impatience, or the one who subsides
into a gloomy silence lasting day after day and making the whole
atmosphere of the home as unendurable as the cold darkness of
the long polar region nights. Both are cruel.
For your own happiness and that of your home, fight these
enemies of cheerfulness in an unrelenting warfare. Work and pray
for a cheerful, even disposition. This won't be too difficult if you
force yourself to like what you like more than you dislike what
bothers you. E. P. Whipple, in "Success and Its Conditions," says:
"Cheerfulness, in most people, is the rich and satisfying result of
Courtesy: Lack of courtesy on the part of a husband or wife, or
both, is the basic cause of eighty per cent of the coldness and
estrangements, if not absolute quarrels and separations, in
married life. "Politeness," said Joutert, "is one development of
virtue," and in reply to those who would contend that it is to be
used in society only, not in the horne, he remarked that "we should
wear our velvet indoors," that is, give those nearest and dearest to
us the chief benefit of gentleness. It is a terrible mistake to
suppose that the forms of courtesy can be safely dispensed with in
the family circle. Like charity, courtesy begins at home.
Courteousness demands that a husband refrain from teasing a wife
on a subject in which there is danger of hurting her feelings. Never
ought a husband speak of the virtues of his own mother, or of
another man's wife to remind his own of a fault. Nor should a man
treat his wife with inattention in company or upbraid her in the
presence of a third party.
The courteous wife is never too tired to accept an invitation from
her husband to step out for an evening. She ought to be wise
enough to reach for the Lady Esther powder, the Chanel No. 5, put
on an extra snitch of lipstick, and say, "Let's go!" It is courteous
and wise, too, to remember always to say "Thanks" for such sorties.
A sincere "Thanks, John--that was a swell night," will do much to
make him say, "Let's do this more often!" The Big Three in
marriage are "Pardon me," "please," and "thank you." Use them as
often as you can. They are miracle words, and they are infinitely
more potent when accompanied by a tender caress. One of
Shakespeare's heroines suggests the latter as the easiest and most
successful method of getting things done.
"You may ride us
With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs, ere
With Spur we heat an acre."
A courteous wife or husband will never invade the privacy of the
other party. Being married to someone does not privilege one to
dispense with the rules of common decency. A closed door is
usually closed for a purpose. Someone wants privacy. Never enter
a closed room without knocking and without receiving a gracious
permit to enter. A courteous (and trusting) wife or husband will
never open the other's mail, read opened mail without permission,
or go through pockets or pocketbook. A courteous wife will not
keep her husband waiting while she fusses in dressing. A wise wife
begins that intricate and delicate operation well in advance of the
zero hour. A courteous person does not read a paper or letter while
the better half is talking or, worse still, contradict while the other
is relating something.
Observe these rules and the thousand others that will become
obvious as the years go on, and you will appreciate more keenly
what Hamerton meant in "Human Intercourse" when he said:
"Courtesy lives by a multitude of little sacrifices."
PATIENCE AND HELPFULNESS
Patience: It has always been interesting to me that the words
"patience" and "passion" are so akin to one another.
Etymologically, they are synonymous. "Patience" comes from the
active participle to suffer; while "passion" comes from the passive
participle of the same verb. In other words, patience signifies a
determination to suffer, while passion signifies what one suffers
due to the lack of power to prevent it. Patience, simply put, is the
spirit to endure without bitterness, without complaint, whatever
things are hard to endure in life. With that definition in mind, it
will be apparent how essential the virtue of patience is to every
married person. No career makes so many demands on patience as
does matrimony. When Plantus said "patience is the best remedy
for every trouble," he must have had wedlock in mind.
Most married couples can muster enough patience to put up with
the great crosses and vexations of marital life, but where many fail
is in exercising patience with the little annoyances that crop up
when two people live so closely as do a man and his wife. It is the
old story of "the little foxes spoiling the grapes."
Many a wife can suffer the physical discomforts of childbearing--
morning sickness and all--and come down from the delivery room
after hours of racking pain with a smile on her face, but that same
woman may fly into a fit of temper at the sight of the once neatly
arranged dresser drawer thrown into a sudden state of chaos by a
clumsy husband in pursuit of an elusive collar button. And many a
husband can keep a stiff upper lip when sickness or financial
losses crowd in upon him, yet the same lad may lose patience
beyond all reasonable bounds because half the evening paper was
used to roll up the garbage before he got a chance to see the sports
Little wonder St. Paul said "love is patient," and since love must
ever abide in the hearts and souls of married couples, so must
patience. It is needed all the days of marriage. It is needed when
the children come. It is needed in the acceptance of great crosses,
trials, and misunderstandings. It is needed when such cutting little
digs are passed out in the old routine: "Well, she doesn't get that
from my family."
While all will agree that patience is a "must" during the first years
of marriage, few realize how essential it is for every day of married
life, especially around the twenty-fifth anniversary. The first year
and the twenty-fifth year are both dangerous. It has happened that
some married men or women, feeling themselves slipping down
the sharp decline to old age, will step off the reservation in an
attempt to prove to themselves that they are just as young and
attractive as they were years before. The delusion is only
temporary. They soon realize that age has cramped their style, and
they quickly want to come back to their old love. Patience and
understanding can make this easily possible--impatience can
cause an unforgiving rupture and be the spearhead that leads to
the eternal ruin of one or both of them.
Bad temper grows strong upon what it feeds, that is, itself. When
displayed over a long period of time its victim receives a sort of
pleasure from it. Little does he who hugs anger and bad temper to
his heart realize that it is like a serpent that will sooner or later
strike a fatal blow.
Home is no home, and home life is at best but a long purgatory,
where a wife or husband lives in constant dread of doing or saying
something that will set off the fireworks of ill-temper. If you know
you have a quick, uneven temper, do something about it. Never
apologize for an ugly scene of ill-temper by saying, "But you know
I have a bad temper," as if the mere fact of your being quick-
tempered were a sufficient excuse for it.
Here are a few hints for the bad-tempered person. Know the things
that provoke you and by all means avoid them. Resist the
temptation to speak or act during the first moments of excitement.
A prime rule is to keep your mouth shut. A fire that is sealed off
with no vent will burn itself out. In your better moments reason
with yourself whether it is better to have a home with an untidy
husband, or have all the bath towels perfectly arranged on the
towel rack and no husband. Are the little things that cause you to
flare up worth fussing about? Make it a rule never, never, never, to
bring up anything at mealtimes that might prove disagreeable. To
do so is unpardonable.
When you feel out of sorts keep away from people you can hurt.
Mary E. Thomson tells this story of a handsome, rosy-cheeked old
gentleman of about eighty, who went to a doctor for a general
The physician checked him over with great care, and reported that
he had no cause for worry. "Tell me," he asked the octogenarian as
he helped him into his overcoat, "how do you account for your
unusually robust condition at your age?"
"That's easy, Doc," chuckled the old chap. "When Martha and I
married sixty years ago, we made an agreement never to quarrel.
When I lost my temper and began to blow off steam, she was to
keep quiet. And I promised that when she was in a bad humor I'd
leave the house. And, Doc, I've enjoyed a fine outdoor life for sixty
years. Guess that's why I'm still hale and hearty!
If fate has been so unkind to you as to have thrown you into the
union of marriage with an irascible person, here are a few rules for
you, too. Do your best to avoid the things that, in the past, have
caused your partner to blow his or her top. Wives would do well to
learn a few fundamental principles in dealing with men:
Give him his meals on time.
Cook him a real he-man meal. Don't make him diet because you
are on one.
Fold the paper up again in its original state after you have finished
giving it the once-over before hubby gets home.
Never touch his razors or pipes.
Never reprimand a waiter or waitress or be too fussy with them
when you go out with the lord and master.
Never talk about his relatives--in fact, try always to praise his
mother and father and even his dopey sister.
Don't get on the telephone when you know he is coming home,
waiting to eat, or ready to go out.
Never call him at his office or place of business. (Except if Junior
has swallowed the egg-beater.)
Don't kiss him when you have on fresh make-up.
Don't argue over unimportant things.
Don't ask him to carry parcels that would stagger a coolie.
Don't start discussions at breakfast.
Don't give away his things without asking him. (That old brown hat
is his prize possession.)
Don't go with him to pick out his clothes unless he expressly asks
you. If he comes home with a green plaid suit, praise him for his
Don't give him a list of things to lug home from the store on his
way from work.
And here are a few good rules for husbands:
Never butt into the management of the kitchen and the children.
Never say her hat is crazy. Praise her for her unusual headgear.
Don't complain about the junk in her purse. Think about your own
Don't keep telling your wife to "step on it" when she is trying to do
her nails or pour herself into one of those new dresses. You'd be
all thumbs then, too.
Don't forget her birthday or the anniversaries. (The same goes for
Don't pass remarks about her girl friends.
Don't stay at a party when you can see your wife is uncomfortable
or bored. Take your cue from her when to leave.
Don't neglect to compliment your wife often on her beauty and
efficiency. It works wonders.
Remember she loves attention. In public, really turn it on. Help her
off with her coat, stand behind her chair until she is seated. Order
for her. Light her cigarette. Look interested in what she is telling
you. Just remember that women love attention. Pour it on!
There is nothing like a good start, and if, during the first scene of
temper displayed by a husband or wife, the innocent party would
pay no attention to the outburst at all, the irascible one will see
that fits of temper are not going to achieve much. When the storm
is past, talk the matter over and simply state that such storms are
not going to be effective ever. Frank and open discussions of
tensions and disagreements can promote understanding. Claude C.
Bowman gives the following observation, which I think is very
good. "In all honesty," he says, "it must be admitted that frank and
open discussion of intimate problems is difficult for certain types
of husbands and wives. There is, for example, the self-assured
egotist, so thoroughly convinced of the superiority of his own
claims that any cooperative effort is out of the question. The
dogmatic man or woman whose mind is completely closed is hard
to deal with. So is the person with a strong sense of inferiority who
is afraid to see any merit in the views of his mate."
The sulky, petulant type, who stores up resentments secretly and
will not talk them out, is likely to be a poor risk for the method of
rational discussion. Such persons brood darkly and build up
barriers of isolation. Both the woman who expects to weep her way
to triumph, and the man whose impatience is touched off by any
family problem that keeps him from the evening newspaper, are
incapable of understanding the approach advocated here. Yet I
believe that the great majority of married people can learn the
secret if they are determined to do so. And he might have added,
"if they have patience," for as Benjamin Franklin once said, "He who
can have patience can have what he will."
Strive for a happy medium in the matter of patience. "Be not too
sweet," says an Afghan proverb, "else men will eat you; be not too
bitter, else men will loathe you." Avoid extremes and remember the
words of Pope Pius XII addressed to newlyweds on June 7, 1939:
"Eucharistic Communion," he said, "generates strength, courage
Helpfulness: Another important factor in achieving success in
matrimony lies in the development of the spirit of helpfulness.
Marriage must of necessity be more of a mutual aid society rather
than a mutual admiration society. I think it was H. G. Wells who
said that "a day arrives in every marriage when the lovers must
face each other, disillusioned, stripped of the last shred of
excitement--undisguisedly themselves." Doubtless that is true, and
when that time arrives, every husband and every wife must
instinctively turn to his or her mate for mutual aid, courage, and
comfort to continue in love and life together.
Every married person ought to take time out to read and meditate
on the words of Holy Scripture relative to the first married couple
who were ever joined in sacred wedlock. It is worthy of note that
after God had created Adam and set him in "a paradise of pleasure
to dress it and keep it," He commanded the first man not to eat of
the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Only after that primeval
command was given did God say: "It is not good for man to be
alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.... Then the Lord
God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, He
took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it. And the Lord God
built the rib which He took from Adam into a woman: and brought
her to Adam."
Observe in the Scriptural account as recorded in Genesis, Chapter
2, first verse, that one of the reasons for Eve's creation was that
she should be a helper to her husband. Secondly, note that Adam
was commanded to abstain from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
prior to Eve's creation, that, doubtless, God created Eve to help
Adam keep that law, and finally, that Eve was made from one of
Adam's ribs--that is, from his side. The early Fathers of the Church
drew therefrom this lesson. They reasoned that God had not made
Eve from a bone from Adam's foot, lest some might believe that
woman's place was ever to be at the feet of her husband, groveling
in servitude. Nor was woman made from a part of Adam's head lest
woman might claim dominion over man's mind, but, rather, Eve
was made from the side of man, to indicate forever that a woman's
place was to be beside her husband as his helper.
With this in mind, let us consider the different kinds of help, and
the extent and scope of the help a husband and wife must render
each other. To be effective, such help must extend to the spiritual,
moral, physical, economic, and domestic life of the other mate.
Spiritual help takes in everything that would assist the other
partner to save his or her soul. This implies encouragement by
word and example in such things as family prayers, assistance at
Mass, reception of the sacraments, keeping of the commandments
of God, and the precepts of the Church, along with the faithful
observance of many duties implied in this state of life. Every
husband and every wife must strive to make God the central figure
of the whole family program. Salvation of one's soul and the soul
of one's partner and the children must be a chief concern of
married life, for Our Lord said, "What doth it profit a man if he
gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"
Moral help is equally important. A married person must strive to
diffuse around the home an atmosphere of cheerfulness, piety,
truthfulness, generosity, and magnanimity. This is not so much a
matter of great talent as it is a matter of great effort. There is an
obligation on the part of every husband and wife to point out the
moral faults of one another, pointing them out tenderly, humbly,
sadly, yet with such plainness as not to have to repeat it over and
over again. Wives can do so much to help an erring husband.
There is no man so full of pride,
And none so intimate with shame;
And none to manhood so denied,
As not to mend if women blame.
If a husband is not chivalrous, or is selfish, shiftless, and lacking
in consideration, it is generally the fault of the wife. In such cases
it will be found that the wife does not demand and insist upon
attention, consideration, and help.
Sir James Mackintosh paid a wonderful tribute to the helpfulness
of his wife when he wrote: "She gently reclaimed me from
dissipation; she propped my weak and irresolute nature; she urged
my indolence to all the exertions that have been useful or
creditable to me; and she was perpetually at hand to admonish my
heedlessness and improvidence."
For every man who can rightfully claim that a woman ruined his
life, there are ten thousand who could never have succeeded in
any career--including marriage--except for the help and guidance
of a wife.
Every wife must strive to realize that a sweet, modest influence
will never be exercised over a man so long as she resorts to sharp,
bitter words or resorts to hateful nagging. Nothing can snatch
power quicker from her heart and hands than the latter.
Nagging is one of the sharpest stones on the highway to happiness
in marriage and its varieties are legion. While most writers on
human relations intimate that most wives nag and that no two nag
in the same way or on the same subject, I feel that husbands can
be naggers too. It matters not too much whether it is the husband
or the wife who is given to nagging--the point is that it is one of
the most destructive forces in married life. Whatever you do, shun
it as you would the most loathesome of infectious diseases.
In the vast majority of cases, nagging may be traced to the
following real or imaginary causes: frustration, jealousy, faulty
preconceived idea of marriage, or the downright feeling that the
wrong choice of a mate was made. A little thought will demonstrate
how each or all of these will set a husband or wife to nagging one
Since, as we have already stated, few persons realize that they are
naggers, the following questions may help you determine whether
or not you are a nagger.
Do you repeat the same request over and over?
Do you make frequent comparisons between your spouse and
other married men and women, being vocally eloquent in praise of
them and disparaging of your own mate?
Do you continually point out the glaring faults of your mate?
Do you frequently point out the ill effects of the other's choice of
Do you excuse your nagging by saying, "It's for his (or her) own
Do you harp on "duty"?
Do you keep love-nagging? (Do you love me?--I don't believe you
do love me.)
Should one or several affirmatives to the questions indicate that
you are a nagger, do all in your power, by prayer and self-
discipline, to shed the habit. Nagging is deadly to marital bliss and
marital security. In the words of Percy there is much wisdom:
Oh shun, my friends, avoid that dangerous coast,
Where peace expires, and fair affection's lost,
By wit, by grief, by anger urged, forbear
The speech contemptuous and the nagging air.
Praise, constructive criticism, tact, and good old common sense
will accomplish more than all the combined nagging that has ever
scourged this world.
Physical help is as real a necessity for a happy marriage as any one
of the other aids. Adam's proclamation stands today and will until
the end of time, ever the same: "Wherefore a man shall leave father
and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in
one flesh." The obligation to help one another to bear the burden of
human nature is clear from those words and must be clearly
understood as such if the ends of marriage are to be achieved.
Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical letter "Casti Connubii," after
confirming the primary end of matrimony to be "to procreate
children," goes on to say that "in matrimony as well as in the use
of matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends such as mutual
aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of
concupiscence, which husband and wife are not forbidden so long
as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the
intrinsic nature of the act is preserved."
Regarding the obligation of husband and wife in the matter of
marital intercourse, St. Paul is very definite: Let the husband
render the debt to his wife: and the wife also in like manner to the
husband. The wife hath not power over her own body: but the
husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power over
his own body: but the wife." (I Cor. 7:3, 4.)
It has been the constant teaching of the Church that sexual
intercourse cannot be withheld by a husband or wife without a
grave reason, for the rendering of marital dues is an obligation of
justice. Consequently, it is grievously wrong for married persons
to live apart from one another, except by mutual consent, or for
clearly specified and grave reasons; to refuse marital relations
from a whim or for minor inconveniences is to violate a grave
contract for insufficient reasons, and to expose the partner not
infrequently to sin. So that the marriage act may remain a lovely
thing, it must be governed by rational kindness.
Economic help is an important factor in the matter of marital
success. The satisfaction the family needs and feels in its home
life may be vitally influenced by the amount of income Without an
adequate income to provide the family with the needs and
comforts demanded by the normal standards of good living makes
for the distressful feeling of insecurity.
Recent trends toward higher living costs have had drastic effects
on those whose salaries have not kept pace with the cost of living.
As a result of this, hard-pressed wives have sought elimination of
the problem by going back to work. In seeking the solution of one
problem, many have raised newer and greater problems, such as
neglect of the family to such an extent that juvenile delinquency is
on the up-grade; divorces have increased and are blamed upon
the arrogance of the working wife and upon her lessening
domestic tranquility, due to over-fatigue, nervousness, and
Married women would do well to reflect that all men have an
insatiable ego, and if that is punctured, man is reduced to a
second- or third-rate chattel. Even nature goes along with this. The
males of most species of birds and animals are usually more
colorful and stately than the females. Take the rooster, for
example. His bright, colorful feathers and stately strut are
obvious. The hen, by comparison, is rather drab and dumpy. The
same holds true for most all of the animal kingdom. In the human
race, man must be allowed to think he is cock of the walk or he
loses something of his nature. There are exceptions, but the
general rule holds good.
Some husbands just can't keep their self-respect and allow their
wives to work. (The old Pennsylvania Dutch husbands used at one
time to give their wives marriage plates inscribed: "Rather would I
single live than to my wife the britches give.") Most of them have
been brought up to feel that a woman's place is in the home. The
wise wife will sound out her husband on this matter and if there is
the slightest danger of its developing in him an inferiority
complex, it would be better to struggle along with love and fewer
of the world's goods than to have luxury and no love.
I wonder if working wives have ever sat down to figure out a
balance sheet of profit and loss in the matter of their employment
outside the home.
Here are a few questions they might ask themselves.
(1) How much extra money do I bring into the house each month?
(2) How much more could I save by being home to plan and
prepare food than I spend on prepared foods and on eating out?
(3) How much more could I save by doing the washing and
cleaning at home rather than sending things out to be done?
(4) If I were home all day, how much more could I save on making
clothes for myself and the children, whereas by working I have
neither the time nor energy to do such things?
(5) By staying home, couldn't I be more rested, more ready to
please my husband, better groomed when he comes home from
work; couldn't I keep the house cleaner and prepare more tasty and
(6) Don't I spend most of what I make working out, on myself, for
clothes or for furniture for the home--always things that I want?
(7) Isn't the real reason basically for my working that I am bored
by home and domestic routine?
His Holiness Pope Pius XII addressed these wise words to working
mothers in an allocation delivered October 21, 1945. He said in
"We see a woman who, in order to augment her husband's earnings,
betakes herself also to a factory, leaving her house abandoned
during her absence. The house, untidy and small perhaps before,
becomes even more miserable for lack of care. Members of the
family work separately in four quarters of the city and with
different working hours. Scarcely ever do they find themselves
together for dinner or rest after work--still less for prayer in
common. What is left of family life? And what attractions can it
offer to children?
"To such painful consequences of the absence of the mother from
the home there is added another, still more deplorable. It concerns
the education, especially of the young girl, and her preparation for
real life. Accustomed as she is to see her mother always out of the
house and the house itself so gloomy in its abandonment, she will
be unable to find any attraction for it, she will not feel the
slightest inclination for austere housekeeping jobs. She cannot be
expected to appreciate their nobility and beauty or to wish one day
to give herself to them as a wife and mother.
"This is true in all grades and stations of social life. The daughter
of the worldly woman, who sees all housekeeping left in the hands
of paid help and her mother fussing around with frivolous
occupations and futile amusements, will follow her example, will
want to be emancipated as soon as possible and in the words of a
very tragic phrase 'to live her own life.' How could she conceive a
desire to become one day a true lady, that is, the mother of a
happy, prosperous, worthy family?
"As to the working classes, forced to earn daily bread, a woman
might, if she reflected, realize that not rarely the supplementary
wage which she earns by working outside the house is easily
swallowed up by other expenses or even by waste which is ruinous
to the family budget. The daughter who also goes out to work in a
factory or office, deafened by the excited, restless world in which
she lives, dazzled by the tinsel of specious luxury, developing a
thirst for shallow pleasures that distract but do not give satiety or
repose in those revue or dance halls which are sprouting up
everywhere, often for party propaganda purposes and which
corrupt youth, becomes a fashionable lady, despises the old
Nineteenth Century ways of life.
"How could she not feel her modest home surroundings
unattractive and more squalid than they are in reality? To find her
pleasure in them, to desire one day to settle in them herself, she
should be able to offset her natural impressions by a serious
intellectual and spiritual life, by the vigor that comes from
religious education and from supernatural ideals. But what kind of
religious formation has she received in such surroundings?
"And that is not all. When, as the years pass, her mother,
prematurely aged, worn out, and broken by work beyond her
capacity, by sorrow and anxiety, will see her return home at night
at a very late hour, she will not find her a support or a help, but
rather the mother herself will have to wait on a daughter incapable
and unaccustomed to household work, and to perform for her all
the offices of a servant.
"And the lot of the father will not be any better when old age,
sickness, infirmity and unemployment force him to depend for his
meager sustenance on the good or bad will of his children. Here
you have the august holy authority of the father and mother
Better think it all over; in the vast majority of cases, you must
agree that little is gained by the economic help wives can
contribute by working. Much more might be achieved in the way of
economic help to the husband and family if the wife would remain
home and make of it a haven of peace and rest. Three blocks away
from where I live two little children were burned to death in their
home where they had been left alone while the father and mother
were away at work. Moral damage to lonely children can be as
tragic as death.
The extra dollars earned by a wife may be costly indeed. They will
never compensate for the other losses. The constant pressure that
goes with trying to run a home, prepare meals, doctor Junior's
cold, and do outside employment, is killing. No wife can do all her
home duties and work out, too. Something will suffer, and usually
it is her home. She will soon find her most useful tool is a can-
opener, and find that she comes home too tired to enjoy the
family. Even her social life will suffer, simply because her
evenings must be devoted to duties which ordinarily would have
been done during the day. In most cases, a married woman who
works builds up her world on a false security--the security of the
dollar. Gulping coffee on the run in the morning; dashing home
like mad at noon to see if the house is still in one piece; worrying
every time the fire engines pass the office, store, or plant;
wondering whether little Jane decided to light a fire on the living
room floor; plodding home at night too tired to be fit company for
man or beast, ready to pick on the least little annoyance, to create
a scene--I ask you, is it worth it?
Think it over, and if your job is costing you too much, give the
boss two weeks' notice!
In committing all this to type, I have not intended to condemn in
toto the practice of married women working at jobs outside their
homes. In some cases such work is an absolute necessity, and the
wives who perform it deserve the full credit due them. A sick
husband or a not too robust one, a veteran husband, a casualty of
the wars, a family plagued by debt or business failure, a son or
daughter being afforded a college education, or a thousand other
valid reasons might well make such work imperative and even
meritorious. My peeve is with those who work from caprice and not
In no family should a wife work outside the home without first
weighing the necessity, the advantages and disadvantages, and
without careful discussion of the matter with her husband and
securing his unqualified approval of the project.
In many cases such a thing would be unnecessary if both husband
and wife would endeavor to live within their budget and stop
imagining luxuries as necessities and by refusing to "keep up with
the Joneses," if that means saying those tragic words, "Charge it."
The best help to be given to the permanency of married life is for
husband and wife to plan and save for a home of their own, a home
with a garden, too. It is a wise wife who insists on this, for it is
very seldom a husband will "walk out" of a home in which he has
invested his life's savings. As to that garden, well, someone said
once that "the man who plants his own apple tree will never betray
his country" (or his family). Home ownership is one of the answers
to America's divorce problem. Statistics show that divorce is thirty
times more prevalent among those who do not own homes than it
is among those who do.
Domestic help is also an important feature in the smooth running
of marriage. By domestic help I mean, here, the teamwork
demanded in household management.
One of the remarkable changes in society today is that of the
attitude toward the traditional home life. A few generations ago
there were marked and sharp distinctions between a man's work
and a woman's work. A man in those days did the outside chores--
worked the farm or garden, milked the cows, or looked after the
stables; while the woman ruled supreme in the home, doing the
cooking, cleaning, and sewing. Today those sharp distinctions do
not exist. Today our educational system is such that most young
people graduate from high school and college with an adequate
scholastic training but with little training for the important task of
home-making. The finishing school will see that one knows how to
serve cafe noir in a demi-tasse but not how to make it. Modern
education includes the subtle art of mixing a cocktail but ignores
the more important art of making a pie or a pot of soup. As a result
of this, many a girl comes to marriage with little or none of the
know-how of cooking and so many a husband is forced into the
role of chef. It is my personal belief that any young woman who
goes into marriage without a good basic knowledge of cooking and
home management is guilty of fraud. The average husband has a
right to expect such knowledge and, believe it or not, many
divorces or separations spring from the kitchen. Good cooking is
simply a matter of getting the know-how and patience. A wise
husband will encourage his wife in the culinary arts and be loud in
his praise of each and every attempt by his wife to provide new
and appetizing dishes. Not a few potentially good cooks are ruined
by the take-it-for-granted type of husband. The husband who
forgets to praise his wife's cooking is a knave. He will soon be
trying to draw water from the well with a broken pitcher!
Teamwork in the home requires a division of the chores and a well-
defined division. Work as well as pleasures ought to be shared. If
the wife remains in the home, then she should, with a little bit of
planning, be able to look after the whole matter of meals and
housework. Here is a keen observation by a housewife and I think
it is most apt:
"The advantages of a home should be obvious-a great deal more
freedom than most men ever enjoy, a self-made schedule that can
be changed at will. The woman dusting is all too likely to
exaggerate the joys of being tied to a desk with occasional trips to
the water cooler or ladies' room for diversion; I, for one, am sick
and tired of hearing about the poor woman who works from morn
till night. It's absolutely true, no doubt, that many women spend
their entire day doing housework, but what they do is beyond me.
A six- or seven-room house can be handled quickly and efficiently
in the morning hours, and a woman who spends her entire time
cleaning is making a grave mistake, costly to her mental and
"No house is more important than a well-rounded personality, and
dusting never taught anyone anything. Those perfectionists whose
homes are always sparkling are usually unhappy women trying to
work off a sense of disappointment and failure.
"We all believe in a neat and clean house, but it is second in
importance to husband, children, and fun. If you can't always eat
on my kitchen floor or see your face in the bottom of my pans,
still, none of my family has ever expressed a desire to do so. My
children don't have a cross mother or my husband an exhausted
wife at the end of the day."
As for the husband of a wife who remains in the home, his
communal tasks should be those of the heavier and more
burdensome type, e.g., removal of snow, tending of furnace,
removal of refuse, handling windows and screens, lawns, etc. It's a
wise wife who will encourage him to help around the kitchen, too.
In this matter, as in so many others, the wife must know her
husband. Perhaps his early training was such that dishwashing and
drying was such a burden that the mere mention of it now will
outdo the atom bomb explosion in force and intensity. A little
praise for his feeble efforts at such distasteful tasks will work
wonders. Never find fault if he breaks a few cups or mixes your tea
spoons with the soup spoon. The best way to promote teamwork is
to do it together. Never ask a husband to do housework unless you
In a home where both husband and wife work, then the division of
the housework ought to be settled upon and faithfully executed
(not the husband, but the work). The woman who complains that
her husband never helps with the work or the children in most
cases has only herself to blame. She is usually the fussbug type.
She scolds if hubby splashes water on the floor when he is doing
the dishes, or can't stand to see him wax the floor his way. If
you're fussy, you had better quit your job and stay home or, better
still, join the Foreign Legion. If you don't, he will!
TRUTHFULNESS AND TACT
Truthfulness: Truthfulness is the foundation of all personal
excellence and it is the cornerstone of wedlock, for there it
exhibits itself in conduct.
Truthfulness in the dealings between husband and wife and the
family is rectitude, or truth in action, shining through every word
and deed. It means reliability and proves that one can be trusted--
that when one says he knows a thing, he does know it; that when
he says he will do something, he does it, no matter what the cost.
No husband or wife is really truthful who minimizes important
things or exaggerates minor things into things of major proportion;
who conceals or disguises; who pretends to be with you but is
really against you; who promises things which are never intended
to be done. Such a person is insincere and is an impostor.
Make it a rule of your married life never to attempt justification of
the sacrifice of truth. Truth must be sovereign in your relations
with one another and the family. I think it was Lord Chesterfield
who declared that "Truth made the success of a gentleman," and I
might add that it can help make a success of marriage, too.
There is no excuse for telling your husband that the adorable hat
you bought yesterday--you know, the one with the two crossed
violets and the trailing ostrich plume--cost only $5.95, when you
actually paid the bargain price of $29.95. The worst part about
lying, aside from the moral evil, is the fact that it is much like the
atom explosion--it has a chain reaction. One must tell so many
other lies to cover up the original one. If you needed the hat--and
what woman will ever deny the awful need of new headgear--there
is no necessity for lying about its cost. Tell the truth and let the
chips fall where they will. Your husband will recover, and it will
make it easier for him to tell you about the bargain fishing-rod he
picked up for $19.95. "To Truth," says Richter, "belongs freedom."
Tact: Hand in hand with truth must go tact. Without tact, truth can
be cruel; it can be destructive. And it is important to remember
that tact is a talent, or as W. P. Sargill puts it: "Talent is something,
but tact is everything. Talent is serious, sober, grave and
respectable; tact is all that and more too. It is not a seventh sense,
but it is the life of all the five. It is the open eye, the quick ear, the
judging taste, the keen smell, and the lively touch; it is the
interpreter of all riddles, the surmounter of all difficulties, the
remover of all obstacles." Sargill would appear to ignore the added
two senses that make seven in all--the two additional ones being
common and horse sense--and believe me, those two are basic in
dealing with any consideration of Tact. It may be true, as Amiel
says, "that kindness is the principle of tact," but good common
sense plus a good dash of horse sense make up the prime
requisites of savoir-faire.
Let us go back to that "adorable hat" again. A tactful wife will never
bring up such a topic as the price of a hat, or a dress, or that fur
coat, until after she has served a good meal--one that included the
lord and master's favorite dishes and, above all, until after coffee.
A tactful wife will always speak the truth but she will pick the most
effective, the most gentle way to say it. The same is true of a wise
husband. For instance, he may have a pet aversion for purple but
when his wife shows him a little bargain she ran into in Saks' or
Eaton's--a purple dress-the tactless husband will say, "What did
you get that horrid color for?"; while a tactful one would say: "Gee,
honey, that is a nice dress, but you know blue or brown always
matches your eyes or seems to frame your hair and set it off
better." If the wife has an ounce of sense she will take the hint.
And it is easier to take, too, when what is said is said so tactfully.
Here are a few hints for tactfulness. A tactful husband or wife will:
Never ask embarrassing questions.
Never contradict or correct in public.
Never appear curious about the other partner's mail or telephone
Never use the word "mine" where the word "ours" will fit.
Never blame or criticize until after one has first found something
Never appear jealous when another is praised.
Never accuse the other of thoughtlessness or inconsideration.
Never speak slightingly of the other's parents or relatives.
Never permit relatives "to outstay their welcome."
Never try to put the other person on the spot.
Never forget the words of Holy Scripture: "The soft answer turneth
If married couples would only practice the same tact that clerks
must use in dealing with their customers, how different their lives
would be! A little of that public relations' routine about "the
customer always being right" would pay off in marriage, too. Ask
yourself how long you would last in Macy's or Gimbel's if you
"sounded off" at every silly thing your customers did or said.
Then, why say the catty or cutting thing to those who love you
"If I am building a mountain," said Confucius, "and I stop before
the last basketful of earth is placed on the summit, I have failed."
That is true also of marriage. If you have not used every effort and
power to achieve self-control, if you have not tried always to be
tactful, the mountain of matrimonial bliss will remain unfinished.
Tact is that last basketful.
NEATNESS AND POLITENESS
Neatness: A few years ago I received a telephone call from a young
wife asking that I make a visit to her home that evening to discuss
what appeared to be one of those distressing marital blow-ups. She
was in tears and begged me not to fail to drop in that evening.
After consulting my appointment book I found out that I had other
appointments for that evening, so I decided to run over then and
Arriving unexpectedly, I found the young wife in a most hideous
get-up. Her hair was all done up in curlers and rags; she had about
an eighth of an inch of some sort of beauty cream plastered all
over her face; she had slacks on and a smock that an attendant in
the Fulton Street Fish Market wouldn't have been found dead in-
and the house! Well, that beggars description.
It was the old story--a whirlwind romance, no preparation for
marriage, no thought as to the mutual responsibilities and duties
of marriage, a gradual cooling-off of love (if it ever really existed),
bitter words, and finally the near collapse of the whole deal.
One glance at the pathetic wife and the condition of her home, and
I could see one of the basic reasons why her husband was acting as
he was. He simply could not stand her personal and domestic
Why any woman who before marriage will go to such limits to
appear beautiful and well groomed, and yet after marriage can
take her husband's love so much for granted that she feels he will
love her in spite of her appearance, is beyond me. It is one thing to
find a husband but quite another to keep him. Thomas Jefferson
once wrote a letter to Martha Jefferson in which he laid down a rule
that every wife the world over might do well to make her very own.
"Some Ladies," wrote Jefferson, "think they may, under the
privileges of the deshabille, be loose and negligent of their dress
in the morning. But be you, from the moment you rise till you go to
bed, as cleanly and properly dressed as at the hours of dinner or
Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower goes along with this, too. In a recent
article entitled "If I Were a Bride Today" Mrs. Eisenhower writes:
"A wife does not have to be dolled up in expensive clothes all the
time but I think it is dreadful for a pretty bride to go around in
cold cream or curlers or a sloppy dress. Who ever heard of a
secretary wearing a spotted dress to work "because it is just the
office and no one will see but the boss?
"Your husband is the boss--and don't forget it."
I often feel that wives are, as a rule, very poor psychologists. They
are usually as simple as doves when they ought to be wise as
serpents. Take, for instance, a married man who goes to business.
Usually, the girls in the office come to work well dressed
(becomingly dressed), and their frequent sorties to the washroom
afford them the opportunity of keeping their hair in place and
their face on straight, to say nothing of lip-sticking and nail
polishing, plus the right dab of perfume behind the ear. All right,
that is what hubby comes to believe is an accepted factor in
human relations in office routine.
Now, home he comes for dinner. What he may find there is
problematical. It might happen that his one and only is in the
throes of cooking turnip and cabbage, the aroma of which alone
could slay Goliath. Making his way in through the steamy
apartment, he is fortunate if, without radar, he can locate his wife.
When he does, what he beholds is no vision of loveliness--a halo of
curlers, a soiled housedress if not slacks, unstockinged legs, heel-
turned mules, plus a tale of all the woes that befell his spouse and
the children from breakfast on. Brother! No wonder he bolts down
his food and has to rush back to the office. It's time to find out
what is wrong with you and/or the house when a husband starts to
invent excuses to remain away from the home fires.
A woman is least ladylike and least attractive:
When she smokes on the street.
When she is seated on a stool or standing at a bar.
When she is noisy in a restaurant.
When she argues in public.
When she scolds or slaps a child in public.
When she applies make-up in public.
When she has her hair in curlers.
When she does battle for advantageous position during a bargain
When she runs for a bus.
When she is laden down with parcels.
When she studies her neighbors' clothes in church.
When she wears a handkerchief or Kleenex on her hair for a hat in
When she is passing on a choice morsel of gossip.
When she tells a shady story.
When she is tugging at her nylons.
When she wears slacks.
There is no excuse for a wife letting herself get fat and sloppy, for
being none too clean about her person, for allowing her hair to be
unkempt, or, in general, for becoming careless or slipshod about
herself or her home.
No wife is so busy that she can't take time out during the day to
set her hair while her husband is at work, or change into a fresh
housedress before her one and only arrives home. You can buy
make-up and perfume in the same drugstore his secretary does.
Don't take him for granted. And if you must have cabbage and
turnips cook them early, then air the place out and tidy up the
house so that when your husband does come home he will think
you the most beautiful woman in the whole world and his home his
castle and not a stable.
And this works both ways, too. I know wives whose love for their
husbands has been lost because of the personal untidiness,
slovenly habits, careless mannerisms, and vulgar habits of their
Every husband, no matter what type of work he does, ought to
wash, even shave, and change into a good suit for dinner. Believe
me, it does something to a person. One may be poor, but poverty is
no excuse for uncleanliness or untidiness. The happiest couple I
ever knew, middle-class people, too, made it a rule to make of
Sunday dinner a cause celebre. They both helped to prepare the
dinner, setting the table as elegantly as they could, using their
best silver (even Aunt May's pickle fork). Then they went upstairs
and the wife changed into her one and only evening dress, long
skirt and satin slippers, and the husband donned a tuxedo he had
bought at college. Then they went to the table and ate in the soft
candlelight, with softer dinner music provided by their portable
radio. Any wonder they were happy?
My heart aches for the husband who is married to a downright lazy
and incompetent housekeeper. I was invited to dinner with a
college friend of mine some years ago. He had called his wife and
said I was coming. Well, first she dictated a list of things to bring
home as long as your arm. When we did arrive at the house, the
husband started picking up papers and clothing at the door. There
was a pile of damp wash on the dining table, and although the wife
had six hours' notice of our coming, she had just begun to prepare
the vegetables. Her husband had to set the table and cook the meat
while his wife seated herself meanwhile in a big chair, anxious to
discuss the latest philosophical book she had been absorbed in all
afternoon. It was eight-forty P.M. when that meal began. Once was
enough for me! I fear the woman who can't cook and does. I pity
the woman who can cook and won't!
Likewise, my heart aches for the wife who wants so much to
elevate the social manners of a home only to find an
uncooperative husband who, in spite of all the hints in the world,
finds it less restricting to spear a piece of bread from across the
table with a fork, who insists on buttering a whole slice of bread
on the palm of his hand, while risking his eyesight by leaving a
spoon in his cup. Neat table manners go hand in hand with
personal and domestic neatness. It is unusual that you find the
one without the other.
Make it a cardinal rule in your home to keep the house in that state
you would put it in if your most critical friend were about to visit
you. And never serve a meal to the family that you would be
ashamed to serve to your husband's boss. Plain, simple food,
served on a neatly set table, will more than compensate for all the
bother and extra work.
Before quitting the topic it might be wise to warn against
overdoing this business of neatness. It can be overdone, you know.
All of us are familiar with that fusspot type of person who is
constantly on the run, emptying ash trays or picking up threads
from the carpet or off the furniture, and slipping newspapers
under your feet so you won't soil the carpet. These are the people
who think more of the tidiness of the house than they do of the
comforts of the family. Sir John Ervine in his "Sophia" made a very
understandable comment on this matter "I'm not so fond of
efficiency. Those energetic, neat people who go about the world
furiously tidying things appall me. I like a little dirt about. It
shows there has been activity. That people have been present, that
there is life. The neatest places I know are museums, stuffed with
I read the following in the "Western Recorder":
"Now and then, one hears complaints that young people are
inclined to make a 'ruckus' in the house. Seemingly, young people,
unlike some of their seniors, have never developed aptitudes for
acting other than their age.
"From where we stand, an ounce of boy is worth a ton of rugs and
upholstery, whether in the home or in the classroom.... Boys and
girls have drifted into dangerous, so-called recreational centers
because they were made to feel they stirred up too much dust at
home.... A blacksmith's shop too well kept is a pretty good sign
there hasn't been much horseshoeing going on."
By all means, avoid extremes. Better a shack warmed by love than
a palace chilled by icy formalities!
Remember that a house only becomes a home when it is created by
love, joined with cleanliness and attractiveness, yet where these
do not limit comfort and ease.
Politeness: Politeness is very essential, too, in married life. It ought
never to be dispensed with, for, as Joubert said: "It is one
development of virtue." Since marriage is for life, it is to the
mutual interest of each party that neither grow tired of the other,
and the best possible safeguards against such a thing are kindness
Politeness is simply the showing by external signs the internal
regard we have for others. It stems from sincerity and exhibits
itself in the disposition to contribute to the welfare and happiness
of others and in refraining from anything that would annoy them. I
think it was Dr. Johnson who once remarked: "Sir, a man has no
more right to say an uncivil thing than to act one--no more right to
say a rude thing to another than to knock him down."
Try to keep in mind that you may love your husband or your wife
with deep tenderness and affection, but if you lack politeness you
will cause that love to lose its beauty and luster. "Virtue itself,"
says Middleton, "offends when coupled with a forbidding manner."
The basic rule for politeness is being benevolent in small things.
Observe this rule and there will never be any big things to mar
your family relations.
GENEROSITY AND LOYALTY
Generosity: Writing on generosity in "The Bee," Goldsmith
remarked: "True generosity is a duty as indispensably necessary as
those imposed upon us by law. It is a rule imposed upon us by
reason, which should be the sovereign law of a rational being." The
more one goes over the statement, the more one is inclined to
believe that the author must have had married couples in mind
when he wrote it. Generosity is a duty and it must be the sovereign
law in marriage, for without it the husband or wife or both of them
become unbearably selfish. To be selfish is to be ignoble.
I can think of no quicker way to weaken the wedding knot than by
being selfish, for, as Beecher reminds us, "Thorough selfishness
destroys and paralyzes enjoyment," and to do this at the expense
of others' happiness is demonism.
Since the word "generosity" is usually associated with the idea of
money it might be logical to begin by saying that generosity in
this regard is quite essential. The stingy, penny-pinching husband
is the cause of no end of uneasiness and unhappiness in the home.
There must of necessity be a happy medium between stinginess
and too much generosity. The husband must understand that his
wife is not a servant or a galley slave, but a partner, and that what
is his ought likewise be his wife's. It is a wise husband who makes
it a rule to bring home from time to time little gifts--surprises in
the way of candy, flowers, and other presents to the wife and
family. Sacred Scripture says that "by a man's gifts he makes room
for himself." Think that one over!
Generosity extends to other fields of marital relations too. For
instance, His Holiness Pope Pius XII, speaking to newlyweds on
July 10, 1940, urged all married couples to be generous in
pardoning one another's faults and sins. His Holiness stressed the
necessity for a rigorous application in marriage of Our Blessed
Lord's answer to Saint Peter's question as to whether or not a
person ought to pardon another seven times. "I say not to thee, till
seven times," said Christ, "but till seventy times seven times."
(Matthew 18:22.) Or, in other words, without reserve and without
limit. The Sovereign Pontiff urged on all married people the advice
of St. Paul--"Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if
any have a complaint against another. Even as the Lord hath
forgiven you, so do you also." (Col. 3:13.)
Generosity extends to the social side of married life too. A wife
might like nothing better than to stay home and get caught up with
her darning or she might just prefer to relax by the radio, but a
wise wife will put her own personal likes aside and step out with
friend husband for dinner, a show, a bridge game with friends, or a
game of golf. The same holds true for the generous husband. He
ought to think of his wife's desires more than his own. This type of
generosity pays off in so many ways. The happiest couples or
families are those who do things together. Many a wife has found
out too late, to her sorrow, that by not being generous with her
time and/or charm, she lost her husband to some blonde who did
take time to be friendly and sociable.
Generosity excludes possessiveness, which, along with jealousy,
can cause no end of unhappiness. Let us focus our attention on
these two marriage-wreckers in turn. First, possessiveness.
Possessiveness is an offshoot of selfishness, and although it is
more prevalent in wives, it is not exclusively a wifely fault.
Husbands may be possessive, too, but it usually is with less force.
The ruinous part of possessiveness is that it demands that the
other mate be an exclusive piece of property that may not be
shared with friends or even with relatives. Possessiveness is
progressive. It starts usually with making the other party divorce
himself or herself from the old set. It proceeds then to take
dominion over the other mate's thoughts and actions.
Possessiveness is fatal to love--fatal because in the selfish desire
to possess completely, the other person is held so tightly that love
It might be well for the possessive person to remember that we get
happiness only out of sharing what we have with others. It was
Richter who remarked that "distance injures love less than
nearness." A night out with "the boys" for the husband and a night
out with "the girls" for the wife may prove most beneficial to both.
It's good to remember that you will never get more out of marriage
than you put into it. Be generous in your giving to marriage. It was
Pliny the Younger who wrote: "Generosity, when once set going,
knows not how to stop; the more familiar we become with its
lovely form, the more enamoured we become of its charms."
The sharing of self with one's partner and with the children is the
hardest kind of giving, but it is the best kind of giving.
Generosity is an antidote to jealousy--another of those hateful
enigmas that stem from selfishness. We become jealous when the
love that we feel is our own possession is shared with others. It
arises too from a fear of losing that love to another, and when such
fears become uncontrolled it becomes a mental illness. La
Rochefoucauld wisely and expertly notes that "there is more self-
love than love in jealousy." That is true.
Should you ever notice the first signs of jealousy rearing its ugly
head in your soul smite it with all your strength. Pray as you never
prayed before. Examine your conscience and see wherein you are
failing in your married life. When you arrive at that stage where
you have to worry about your mate two-timing--the fault is yours.
You're slipping. Most likely you will find that you have become
careless about your home, your clothes, your grooming, your
charm, or your home manners. You must then make yourself so
attractive, so alluring, so companionable that your mate will find
all others "phony," and distasteful facsimiles.
Never doubt the love and the good intentions of your partner.
Jealousy lives and thrives on doubt. It is a magnifier of trifles.
Heed the sage warning of J. C. Hare in his "Guesses at Truth," in
which he says: "Jealousy is said to be the offspring of love. Yet
unless the parent makes haste to strangle the child, the child will
not rest till it has poisoned the parent."
If, after sincere prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments,
your jealousies remain unabated or should they reach an
uncontrollable stage, see your doctor.
Should you ever be the innocent victim of a jealous mate, you will
find no little consolation in the midst of your mental agonies by
realizing that jealousy is the cruelest proof of love there is. The
jealous person must and does love you greatly, or he wouldn't care
who played up to you. Be patient and understanding. Try your best
to bring the whole matter out in the open. Often when such
matters are discussed openly and freely they lose their force.
Jealousy is always worse when it is disguised or concealed.
Suggest that it be made a matter of confession.
There is no cruelty akin to that of walking out on a person who has
developed this meanest and deadliest form of mortal ills.
Generosity in such a crisis will pay off in gratitude when the rough
spot has been passed over. Would you leave a wife or husband who
was developing cancer? Indeed, you would not. You would do all in
your power to effect a cure. Jealousy is cancerous, too! Prayer,
patience, and generosity can cure jealousy. Generosity can prevent
Loyalty: The handmaid of generosity is loyalty, and loyalty is a
keystone in any marriage. Be certain, however, that the basic
loyalty is first to God and to His laws, for as Malbie Babcock so
wisely states: "Loyalty to God alone is fundamental. Feeling, words,
deeds, must be beads strung on the string of duty. Let the world
tell you in a hundred ways what your life is for. Say you ever and
only: 'So I come to do Thy Will, O my God.' Out of that dutiful root
grows the beautiful life, the life radically and radiantly true to
God--the only life that can be lived in both worlds."
Married couples might well ponder the warning that the Archangel
Raphael gave to that young and ardent lover, Tobias. "Hear me,"
the Angel said, "and I will show thee who they are, over whom the
devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony,
as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to
give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have no
understanding: over them the devil hath power." (Tobias 6:16, 17.)
Thus from the inspired Word of God a warning--timely and
important. Loyalty first, then, to God and His laws.
Next, loyalty to one another. No loyal husband or wife will ever run
the other down in the presence of the children or attempt to get
even with the other mate by speaking slightingly of his or her
personal habits or family background to the children. A loyal
husband or wife will refrain from criticizing the other to friends or
relatives. "Keep your family troubles to yourself" is a wonderful
rule to observe. You wouldn't go to a party in a shabby housedress;
then why wear the seamy side of marriage in public, either? Some
people love to discuss their family troubles. They go out of their
way to bring such things up. I heard a story the other day about a
priest who met one of his parishioners and said to her: "Hello, Mrs.
Brown! I hear your husband is ill."
"Yes, I'm sorry to say that he is ill, Father."
"Is he critical?" asked the priest.
"Critical!" said Mrs. Brown. "He's worse than critical--he's downright
You see, she couldn't lose an opportunity of getting her family
troubles off her chest. Don't be like that. Domestic silence is the
most important part of domestic science.
Loyalty is paramount when sickness or misfortune strikes one or
the other mate. Nothing is so consoling and fortifying as the
knowledge that the one you love can be counted on to stick with
you in thick or thin, no matter how hard the winds of adversity
blow. Such loyalty should extend itself to every branch of married
life. For instance, if your husband has had a violent disagreement
with his boss and he feels low and beaten as he dejectedly relates
the whole story to you that evening, hear him out. If you can see
his side of the problem, back him up. Tell him he was right. On the
other hand, should you feel his stand was unjustifiable or that he
was entirely wrong, let him get the whole story off his chest, and
then suggest that you would like to think the whole matter over
and that you will discuss it the next morning. The following day
you might try to have your husband see both sides of the problem
and suggest that a certain mode of procedure be followed that
would save face for both your husband and his boss.
Should he have decided that he is going to quit and you know from
experience that nothing can change him, you had better agree that
that is what he should do. What is the use of a man working under
conditions that will make him unhappy or difficult to live with?
Once the decision is made, back him up. He will never forget your
loyalty. You have the same right, of course, to expect loyalty when
you have that inevitable disagreement with Mrs. Quelquechose,
your next door neighbor, over sweeping leaves onto your walk.
At no time in married life is loyalty so necessary and imperative as
when any husband or wife has to face the awful truth that the
choice of his or her mate has been unwise if not downright foolish.
God forbid that any such calamity befall you, but if it should your
one consolation will be found in prayer and in the frequentation of
the sacraments. At such a time, you must recall that the sacrament
of matrimony which you received is an abiding one and that in it
you are assured enough grace to see you through to the very end.
The crosses and sacrifices that such a union will inflict can, if
rightly accepted, be a great means of personal sanctification.
When the true, evil character of such a mate is made apparent,
your sense of duty and loyalty must rise to the occasion. Humble
prayer will be found most efficacious when joined with good
example and patience in the task of reforming what is deformed in
the other's character and temper. They may easily rise higher in
such a heart and lift the level of all goodness and forbearance. The
stronger must support the weaker member of the union. In a word,
a Christian sense of loyalty will lighten the burden that was your
own free choice.
Nothing that I know of will do more to impress the husband and
wife with the abiding need for loyalty to one another all during life
than the wise custom of reciting together on the wedding
anniversary date each month the words: "I take thee for better, for
worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, until death
do us part." Renew this allegiance, this fealty, each month of your
life and your loyalty will grow and blossom with peace and love.
With that final suggestion, we come to the close of our
consideration of the iron and brass shoes which every married
couple ought to don before setting out on the highway of life
together. Only the utterly reckless would go barefoot over a road
that has been found so mountainous, craggy, and precipitous by
so many other travelers.
No one will ever convince me that Moses was not speaking
prophetically to all married couples until the end of time when he
warned Aser about the need for having shoes of iron and brass.
You see, Cana of Galilee is right in the middle of what was once
1. "Husband of the Month of May," John K. Lagemann, "The
Reader's Digest." Copyright, August, 1946.
2. "How to Keep Your Husband," St. Anthony Messenger, June,
3. Your Life. October, 1947.
4. "Home Remedies for Marital Ills," "Your Life," July, 1947.
5. Many of the homes nowadays seem to be on 3 shifts--father is
on the night shift, mother is on the day shift, and the children
shift for themselves.--"Highways of Happiness," Central Culvert
6. Here is an excellent book for brides: "Your First Hundred Meals"
by Mary Scott Welch. Published by Chas. Scribner's Sons, N. Y. C.
7. "The Marriage Mirage," Marion Magee, "Today's Woman,"
8. "Today's Woman," June, 1948 (by Mamie Doud Eisenhower as
told to Llewellyn Miller).
9. Jerome: Peregr. S. Paulae.
Chapter Nine: THE GREAT SIN IN MARRIAGE
I read recently of a man who attempted to make a jump from the
top of his high barn by using an ordinary umbrella for a parachute.
As you can well imagine, the umbrella collapsed under his weight
and the poor unfortunate chutist fell to the ground, severely
injured. He was rushed to a local hospital and later detained for
Any man or woman who enters matrimony with any other end in
view save that ordained by God acts more stupidly and more
foolishly than an umbrella parachutist. The manufacturer of
umbrellas makes his product for the primary purpose of shielding
the purchaser from rain. He may foresee, however, such secondary
uses as a shield from the sun or as a cane for support. No rational
umbrella manufacturer would claim that his product could be used
safely as a parachute. When used for its primary or secondary
ends, an umbrella can be a most useful thing. When, on the other
hand, an umbrella is used for an end never dreamed of by its
maker, it may be a medium of destruction.
The same thing is true of marriage. The primary end of matrimony
is the procreation and education of children, and its secondary
ends are mutual assistance and comfort of the parties, together
with allaying of concupiscence. Anyone who makes use of
marriage for any other ends is headed for disaster. Therein lies the
secret of the vast majority of marriage breakups today.
Examine carefully the word matrimony. It comes from two Latin
words, matris munus, meaning the "office of mother," and it
implies that the man and woman are united principally that the
woman, if possible, may have the privilege of lawful motherhood.
For anyone to enter matrimony with any other intention is to act
Is it not thought-provoking that the first command God ever gave
to human beings was addressed to a man and his wife, phrased
simply in these words: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth."
And never once in all the ages that followed has that command
ever been modified or changed.
God commanded other things in the Old Testament that were
ordered modified, changed, and even abrogated when His Divine
Son became Man. Take, for instance, the ancient sacrifices of the
Old Law. The whole Book of Leviticus treats of the matter and form
of all the sacrifices that were to be offered to God. It was evident
that these sacrifices were to terminate when God's Son was
sacrificed on the Cross.
Four hundred years before Christ came, the prophet Malachias,
speaking for God, told of the passing of the old sacrificial rite in
favor of the new: "The table of the Lord is contemptible.... I have
no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive
the gift of your hand.... For from the rising of sun even to the
going down, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every
place there is sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean
oblation." (The Sacrifice of the Mass.)
St. Paul revealed under inspiration the change from the old to the
new. In Hebrews, chapter 10, we read these words:
Wherefore, when He cometh into the world He saith: Sacrifice and
oblation thou wouldst not: but a body thou hast fitted to Me.
Holocausts for sin did not please thee.
Then said I: Behold I come to do thy will, O God: He taketh away the
first, that He may establish that which followeth. In the which will,
we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.
Let us take another example of how a law of the Old Testament was
changed by the Messias when He came. Moses, in chapter 24 of
Exodus, promulgated God's law relating to justice. Therein we read
how if a man caused fatal injury to another he was to be punished
in like manner: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot
for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
In the New Law under Christ all this was to be changed.
Hear His words as recorded in St. Matthew, chapter 5.
"You have heard that it hath been said: 'An eye for an eye, and a
tooth for a tooth.'
"But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy
right cheek, turn to him also the other."
From the several examples cited, it will be apparent that it was
Christ's policy to make known any changes that were to be made in
the Old Testament laws. In fact, such changes were so numerous
that the New Testament is frequently referred to as the New Law.
But nowhere do we read that Christ rescinded or abrogated the
primal command issued to the first man and his wife "to increase
and multiply and fill the earth." If any change was to be made
Christ would have said so at Cana in Galilee or on the other
numerous occasions when He was questioned concerning
marriage. The primary end of the first marriage in the Garden of
Eden was the procreation of children. That primary end of
marriage still remains the same.
The early descendants of our First Parents realized this to be so.
Note these noble words of Tobias in his prayer to God:
"And now, Lord, thou knowest that not for fleshly lust, do I take my
sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which Thy name
may be blessed for ever and ever." (Tob. 8:9.) Indeed, had not the
Angel Raphael--a messenger from God to man--stated quite clearly
to Tobias this essential condition when he said: "Thou shalt take
the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved, rather for love of
children than for lust: that in the seed of Abraham thou mayest
obtain a blessing in children."
To thou who are inclined to the belief that God's command to our
First Parents "to increase and multiply and fill the earth" was
directed to the peoples of the Old Testament only, I say, read the
great teacher of the New Law, St. Paul, and heed his words. Writing
to Timothy, his beloved disciple, St. Paul said:
"And Adam was not seduced: but the woman, being seduced, was
in the transgression.
"Yet she shall be saved through child-bearing: if she continue in
faith and love and sanctification with sobriety." (I Tim. 2:14, 15.)
Again, in that same epistle, St. Paul wrote:
"I will, therefore, that the younger should marry, bear children, be
mistresses of families, give no occasion to the adversary to speak
Commenting on this latter text, St. Augustine said: "The Apostle
himself is therefore witness that marriage is for the sake of
generation: 'I wish,' he says, 'young girls to marry.' And, as if
someone said to him, 'Why?' he immediately adds: 'To beget
children, to be mothers of families.'"
Woe to the man or woman who enters marriage moved rather from
lust than from love of children. Woe to the married man or woman
who refuses to see a blessing in children. Such make a mockery of
the name "matrimony" (office of mother). The cardinal rule must
ever remain that those who are not willing to become parents ought
not to marry.
To enter the holy state of matrimony with a purpose to defeat its
primary end is to violate it. Those who pervert it inevitably
degrade themselves. They descend from the plane of a spiritual
and intellectual relation into a union beneath their nature as a
whole. Such surrender themselves to a part which is the lesser and
which, out of its proper adjustment to the noblest, not only
becomes the lower, but ceases to be human at all and lapses into
the purely bestial. When the true end of marriage is ever kept in
view, the whole nature of the union is elevated.
In those marriages where parenthood is avoided and where
children that are procreated are accidental, unwanted, and
intruders, the innocent ones become victims of a cruel fate.
According to the principles of heredity, so far as they are known at
present, it would appear that such unwanted children may be
permanently affected. It is known that the mental state of parents
modifies the condition of children physically, mentally, and
morally. The repugnance to offspring on the part of the parents
makes of the child a sort of orphan. It is cheated of natural
affection and such a defect may show up later in its development.
Birth prevention is the curse of our generation. Unless and until
men and women see in it the evil God does, it may wreak its own
punishment on mankind. To prove that contraception is a grievous
sin, one has only to consult the pages of God's Word and read
Genesis, chapter 38, verses 8, 9, and 10. Therein you will see that
Onan (from whom the sin derives its name) "spilled his seed upon
the ground, lest children should be born in his brother's name.
And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable
If contraception was a sin in Onan's day, it still is. God does not
change. If it was grievously evil then, it is grievously evil now. And
it is worthy of note that the word detestable is used only seven
times in the whole of Holy Scripture.
When I wrote that contraception is the curse of our generation, I
did not mean to imply that it is peculiar to our generation alone.
Other peoples and other ages have embraced it, and it destroyed
them. Here is what Polybius wrote circa .c.:
"In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children . . . and a
failure of productiveness followed . . . by our men's becoming
perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasure of an
idle life, and accordingly either not marrying at all, or, if they did
marry, refusing to rear children that were born, or at most one or
two out of a great number, for the sake of leaving them well off or
bringing them up in extravagant luxury."
Doesn't that read like something Will Durant might have penned in
1948? Mentioning Will Durant brings to mind one of the most
striking confessions I have ever read. It was made by Durant
before a group of bankers--the New York State League of Savings
and Loan Associations--at their fifty-third annual convention held
at Lake Placid, June 12-14, 1940. Mr. Durant spoke on "The Crisis
in American Civilization" and readily admitted that, while he had
once been a great admirer of Margaret Sanger and an apostle of
birth prevention, he suddenly began to realize that he had
participated in the creation of a Frankenstein's monster that now
menaces our civilization. Let me quote Mr. Durant verbatim, and I
urge you to read every word of the following:
"I remember, in the first private school that I taught, having among
my pupils two little boys whose name was Sanger. They were the
children of Margaret Sanger, whom at that time I knew as a modest
nurse in a hospital in New York. During that woman's brief
maturity she has changed the whole biological face of the western
world.... She taught the human beings of this country to make
parentage voluntary, discriminating, and perhaps dangerously
"As I contemplate the movement, I must congratulate it on its
victory. It has won almost completely, and perhaps today that
movement stands in the midst of its victory, wondering if it was
good. It is a terrible thing--isn't it?--to give your life to an
enterprise of human liberation and then, having won all the goals
that you set out for, to stand in doubt as to whether this was what
you sought. For today the people of America who could bring up
fine children, whose homes are equipped to give education and
civilization and health, keep those homes more and more empty.
And the homes that are not equipped either biologically or socially
to give civilization and health and education are the homes that
are making the future citizens of America.
"Sometimes, when I look at America today, I wonder: Are all our
victories defeats? And perhaps some of our defeats might be
"I, too, worked for this birth control movement--preached it,
shouted it almost from the housetops shamelessly; and today I see
America breeding from the bottom and dying from the top because
we won so thoroughly. I am not sure that it was good. We have
solved one problem and we have created another that is
"I know what happened to Athens. Infanticide was raised to such a
point that nobody raised children in Athens except the lowest of
the low and the most barbaric of the immigrants. I know what
happened to Rome. I know how Caesar almost scratched his head
bald thinking how he could induce the Roman women to have
children. He decreed that they should have no diamonds if they
had no children--that they should have no jewels of one kind if
they had none of the other. I know that Augustus passed law after
law in the first decade of our Christian era almost two thousand
years ago, trying to stop this current of family limitation. I know
too that all that legislation failed. I know that Rome at last had to
till her soil with barbarians and with slaves; and that finally, the
rapidly breeding immigrant Germans overran Italy. It was the end
of the Western Roman Empire.
"Civilization has to kill itself before it can be conquered. . . . You
will be conquered from within, not from without."
Would that every Planned Parenthood worker could read and study
this apologia. They are blind leaders of the blind. They know not
what they do. Such groups and their sponsors may even in our day
wreak such havoc on our civilization that their names may go
down in the pages of history linked closely with those of Herod--
the slaughterer of the Innocents and with Benedict Arnold, the
traitor to his country.
It is certainly not my intention to go into an exhaustive study of
this birth prevention question. I intend rather to state briefly the
teaching of God and His Church on the matter and then cite certain
authorities to uphold the reasonableness of that teaching.
As far as the Law of God on the morality of birth prevention is
concerned we have already seen that the first man who practiced it
was struck dead because "he did a detestable thing." We have seen
too that the Angel Raphael pointed out to Tobias that marriage was
for the procreation of children and not for lust. We saw St. Paul's
inspired words to Timothy on the ends of marriage, and there
remains but to add the apostle's salutary counsel: "Let marriage be
held in honor with all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for
God will judge the immoral." (Heb. 13:4.) Could anything be more
For the benefit of those who salve their conscience on this matter
of birth prevention by saying that it is nowhere specifically named
as immoral in Holy Scripture, I may say that it is true that the
words "birth control" or "birth prevention" do not appear in the
Bible. Little wonder such words do not appear in Holy Scripture,
since they were only concocted as a propaganda catch phrase
some forty or fifty years ago. The point is that Onan was slain
because he first practiced birth prevention and thus the mind of
God was indicated on the subject. General principles are given
quite clearly in the Bible but not every concrete application of
those principles. All will admit that it would be gravely sinful for a
person to allow himself deliberately to become an opium addict;
yet there is no text in Holy Scripture that says, "Thou shalt not
become a dope fiend."
Indeed, were there no Holy Scripture references to the matter of
birth prevention at all, the sacred traditions of God's infallible
Church would be as binding as the Sacred Word itself. Let us
examine some of these traditional teachings.
Origen, writing against the pagan Celsus in the third century, says:
"At least the more our people obey Christian doctrine, the more
they love purity, abstaining from even lawful sex-pleasures that
they may the more purely worship God. Christians marry as do
others, and they have children; but they do not stifle their offering.
They are in bodies of flesh, but they do not live according to the
In the next century, the fourth, we find St. Augustine writing:
"Relations with one's wife, when conception is deliberately
prevented, are as unlawful and impure as the conduct of Onan who
St. Thomas Aquinas, writing eight centuries later, says: "Next to
murder, by which an actually existent human being is destroyed,
we rank this sin by which the generation of a human being is
Again, St. Thomas says that a man who asks his wife to cooperate
in the marriage act where the intention is to prevent the natural
result of it treats her as a harlot. Here are his exact words: "A
husband seeks from his wife harlot pleasures when he asks from
her only what he might ask from a harlot."
Such testimony from the earliest days of the Church must of
necessity confuse those jokers who would have modern Christians
believe that the Church's present-day stand is an innovation. Read
this portion of Pope Pius XI's great Encyclical letter "Casti
Connubii," and see for yourself how constant the Church's teaching
on this matter has been. Every word is important. Read it carefully.
"And now, Venerable Brethren, We shall explain in detail the evils
opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony.
"First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the
boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which,
they say, is to be carefully avoided by married people not through
virtuous continence (which Christian laws permit in matrimony
when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act.
Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary
of children and wish to gratify their desires without their
consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand
remain continent nor, on the other, can they have children because
of the difficulties, whether on the part of the mother or on the part
of family circumstances.
"But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which
anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to
nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is
destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those
who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and
purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful
and intrinsically vicious.
"Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted
Christian tradition, some recently have judged it possible
solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the
Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the
integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the
moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve
the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul
stain, raises her voice in token of Divine ambassadorship and
through Our mouth proclaims anew: Any use whatsoever of
matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately
frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against
the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are
branded with the guilt of a grave sin."
No matter what you think of the Catholic Church, you have to
admire her steadfastness in preaching the Gospel to a rebellious
world. She never varies her doctrines to suit the tastes of the age.
Little wonder that Professor Draper, historian and rationalist, a
severe but oftentimes wondering critic of the Catholic Church,
could say of that Church in a discussion of "The Age of Faith" in
Europe: "From little better than a slave she raised each man's wife
to be his equal, and forbidding him to have more than one, met her
recompense for those noble deeds in a friend at every fireside.
Discountenancing all impure love, she put around that fireside the
children of one mother and made that mother little less than
sacred in their eyes."
To recapitulate, then, the moral law is simply this: "Any use
whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is
deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an
offense against the law of God and of nature and those who
indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."
Note that I have stated that this is the moral law--the law of God
and of nature. Since the Catholic Church did not make the law, she
can never change it. The Church's task on this earth is to declare
to men the right interpretation of the natural moral law imposed
by God. And since Christ said to His Church, "He who hears you,
hears me," it is really Christ who still teaches men through His
Remember this, too, when a priest in the confessional is unable to
absolve you unless and until you promise to desist from such
offenses: he is morally bound to act as he does. See the spot he is
in from the words of the Pope himself: "We admonish, therefore,
priests who hear confessions, and others who have the care of
souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for
the salvation of souls, not to allow the Faithful entrusted to them
to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they
keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way
conniving at them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which God
forbid, lead the Faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should
at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be
mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the
Supreme judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust."
So much for the moral side of the question. Now let us turn our
attention to the physical damages done by the violation of this
same natural moral law. Here, too, I am going to confine myself to
the barest minimum of medical and lay authorities.
In Monsignor Edward Robert Moore's book, "The Case Against Birth
Control," this eminent writer quotes one Frederick J. McCann,
M.D., F.R.C.S., writing in "Natural Life," March, 1931, as follows:
"All known methods of contraception are harmful to the female;
they only differ in being more or less so."
Dr. M. A. van Bouwdigk-Bastiaansi, a veteran gynecologist of
Amsterdam, declares: "I point to the possibility that the large
increase in cervical cancer may be due to the wide use of
contraceptives. It is admitted that cancer may be caused by long-
continued irritation, produced by a foreign body in contact with
the cervix or through continual vaginal flushings using chemical
elements. I state that inflammation of the neck of the womb
results not infrequently from the use of preventives. That such
inflammation may in turn lead to cancer is mentioned in nearly all
scientific publications dealing with the subject."
Dr. James T. Nix, in his work, "The Unborn," writes:
"In all probability thirty per cent or more of persons who go to the
operating table or are otherwise incapacitated by long illness
resulting from pelvic infection, are there as a result of malicious
interference with conception or impregnation. I would like to
suggest also that one of the principal causes of sterility in the
female comes from this same cause. If I were asked a percentage
of this, I would state about sixty per cent."
That birth prevention and the avoidance of parenthood is bad
neurologically, psychologically, and psychiatrically is also
indicated. Sir Robert Armstrong-James, M.D., F.R.C.P.S., a London
specialist in mental diseases, said in an address to the People's
League of Health: "Birth control leads to lunacy in women. If we are
to have birth control on a large scale we will have to add to our
lunatic asylums for the mothers. The absence of children leads to
neurasthenia in married women and that leads to insanity. I know
from my practice that that is a fact."
This may have some bearing on the terrific increase in mental
cases in our nation. National statistics show that at least one in
every twenty persons will some day be a patient in an asylum.
America has today some six hundred thousand in insane
institutions and an estimated six million mentally ill outside.
This bears out what Dr. Marynia F. Farnham, an outstanding New
York psychiatrist and co-author of the current best-seller, "Modern
Woman: The Lost Sex," stated in the September, 1947, issue of
"Coronet," in an enlightening article entitled "The Tragic Failure of
Dr. Farnham says that a clear majority of all adult American
women are engulfed today in emotional difficulties.
"They come to me complaining about their 'nerves.' These fall into
two classes: the feminine careerists, women who have invaded the
'big league' of male competition; and the women who have no
careers--but wish they did. Both these groups usually have no more
than one child (if any), although physically capable of bearing
more. When I ask them why, they give all sorts of reasons, they
blame their husbands, their figures, their incomes, their landlords,
their health--anything, in fact, but themselves."
Then the author makes this fine observation that is worth
"There is one type of woman rarely seen in a psychiatrist's office.
That is the woman who is glad she is a woman. Although not a
minority in our female population, she honestly enjoys
homemaking, and more than anything in the world wants to raise a
family of healthy, normal youngsters. During twenty years of
listening to distressed patients, I have never met her in my office--
because she doesn't need help."
The following quotation from this same article shows what a clever
diagnostician Dr. Farnham must be:
"In rearing the child, this normal, feminine mother is not bothered
by the guilt feelings that afflict the rejecting mother. For example,
since she has no guilt phobia about germs, she casually sets her
baby down on the butcher's shelf while ordering meat. If Junior
refuses spinach, she says: 'Okay, I don't like spinach either. Try
these peas.' And thus the child eats normally.
"Furthermore, if a mother feels that Junior is taking advantage of
her good nature, she has no qualms about wielding the switch
because she knows she is acting objectively, instead of venting
secret hostility toward the child.
"Such a mother finds child-rearing satisfying because she honestly
likes children. They seem interesting, strange and unaccountably
captivating. The children know that Mother likes them. They also
know that she likes herself and likes Father. And they know in turn
that Father likes Mother and likes them. That combination is
unbeatable for building a sound America!
The social effects of birth control are terrible too. Dr. Friedrich
Burgdorfer, in the April 10, 1931, issue of the "Deutsche
Allgerneine Zeitung," scores the two-child system and gives these
"A population in which the two-child system prevails, and in which
consequently there are but two children on the average surviving
to each marriage, is condemned to extinction.... A thousand people
among whom the two-child system rules will shrink in the first 30
years to 621. In 60 years there will be but 386; in ninety years
240; and in 120 years 194; in 150 years 92, and in another 150
years there will be but eight to replace the original thousand.
Practically speaking, therefore, the two-child system leads to
extinction of a population in three hundred years."
Little wonder that Theodore Roosevelt could say that "the severest
of all condemnations should be visited on willful sterility. The first
essential in any civilization is that the man and the woman shall
be the father and mother of children so that the race shall increase
and not decrease."
And now some practical applications--"But the doctor says I will
die if I have another baby!" How familiar that old chestnut is! And
Pope Pius gives such a question its only answer. He gives an
answer, too, to the question: "But how can we have more children
when we have barely enough money to support our present
family?" Hear the Pope on the first question. "Holy Mother Church
very well understands and clearly appreciates all that is said
regarding the health of the mother and the danger to her life; and
who would not grieve to think of these things; who is not filled
with the greatest admiration when he sees a mother risking her life
with heroic fortitude, that she may preserve the life of the
offspring which she has conceived? God alone, all bountiful and
all merciful as He is, can reward her for the fulfillment of the
office allotted to her by nature, and will assuredly repay her in a
measure full to overflowing (Luke 6:38)."
And to the second he replies:
"We are deeply touched by the sufferings of those parents who, in
extreme want, experience great difficulty in rearing their children.
However, they should take care lest the calamitous state of their
material affairs should be the occasion for a much more
calamitous error. No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting
aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil.
There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife
cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their
duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted."
In other words, where the problem of the health of the wife comes
up, or where economic conditions are such that more children
cannot be raised at that time, then two courses are open: first, both
parties must live as brother and sister until such crises are past or,
after consultation with the confessor, avail themselves of the act
during the so-called "safe period" during the month. Regarding the
use of such "safe periods," His Holiness says:
"Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the
married state use their right in the proper manner although on
account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new
life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use
of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as
mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of
concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to
intend so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so
long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved."
The common name now used for such periods is rhythm, and the
system is technical enough to demand a consultation with your
family physician to work out the date schedule.
On this matter of "rhythm," Rev. Hugh Calkins, O.S.M., makes the
following important comment: "The Church neither approves nor
disapproves of the rhythm method as a system to be followed. The
Church merely tolerates the use of the method. Toleration
indicates reluctant permission. And the Church only tolerates this
method when three definite factors are present. First, there is
sufficient serious reason for a given couple to use this method,
sufficiently serious enough to justify sidestepping the first
purpose of marriage; second, both husband and wife are truly
willing to follow the method--neither one can force the other to
adopt this system; third, the use of this method must not cause
mortal sins against chastity nor become a proximate occasion of
such sins. The breakdown of any one of these three factors makes
the use of rhythm sinful. So the correct attitude is this: The use of
rhythm is sometimes no sin, sometimes venial sin, sometimes mortal
sin. So please stop saying: 'Oh, it's okay, the Church approves it.'"
Getting back to the first suggestion, to say that such a thing as
living as brother and sister is impossible is to admit a terrible lack
of faith and will power. Indeed, it can be done. It was done during
the war years when husbands and wives were separated, and it can
be done again. The Little Flower's mother and father denied
themselves by mutual agreement the marriage act for the first year
of their marriage as a sacrifice to God that He might bless them
with many children. He did. He sent them nine in all, and He sent
them a Saint for heaven and earth--Saint Therese.
To those who want children, but practice contraception solely to
achieve a degree of economic security beforehand, we say that
such a procedure is dangerous. When these persons are ready for
children, they may not be able to have any.
Dr. Edward Reynolds of Boston says that "many cases are seen in
which prudential prevention of pregnancy in early married life has
set up consequences of congestion which persist after pregnancy
Here is a word of consolation from the Sovereign Pontiff Pope Pius
XI himself, addressed to the mate who wants children and is
refused this honor and privilege by a faithless husband or wife.
Where birth control is forced on such a one, the Pope says:
"Holy Church knows well that not infrequently one of the parties
permits the sin rather than commits it, when for a really grave
cause a perversion of the right order is reluctantly tolerated. In
such a case, there is no sin provided that, mindful of the law of
charity, one does not neglect to seek to dissuade and to deter the
partner from sin." Note well, that where contraceptives are made
use of in the marital act, this teaching does not apply.
Whatever you do, do not confuse birth control with abortion.
Abortion involves the cutting short of a life already begun and
hidden in the mother's womb. Birth control or contraception, on
the other hand, is the obstruction of the union of the male and
The Natural Law forbids any attempt at destroying foetal life, and
the Church decrees excommunication against all who seek to
procure abortion, if their action produces the effect. The abortion
here meant is that which is strictly so-called--namely that
performed before the child is viable (before the twenty-eighth
week). Such an act is murder pure and simple.
And who can find words strong enough to denounce doctors who
perform or advise the cutting or tying off of tubes, husbands who
encourage or consent to it, and the wives who submit to it. These
are usually the same persons who would not dare to turn back the
hands on an expensive watch lest they harm its delicate
machinery. Ah, but nature usually punishes in her own way for
such a crime as tube-tying or cutting. Indeed, nature is tenacious
of her rights; she resists grandly and when forced to yield to
violence, she repays the offender with chastisement which is no
less sure because it is sometimes long delayed. Nature is no fool.
Her revenge is quite terrible. Shattered bodies, minds, homes, and
families bear this out. Scripture is most explicit. Four times in
God's Word we read: "For I am the Lord thy God, visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon their children unto the third and
fourth generation." That holds for mothers, too.
My best advice to married couples is to leave off matching their
wits with God. There is plenty of authority for saying that if
married couples would live properly they would not be
overburdened with offspring. That much is true of the lower
animals, for not one of them, when left to the course of nature,
produces offspring too rapidly.
The supreme folly of humans lies in trying to separate duty from
pleasure when they belong together. In marriage these two belong
together and may not be separated.
I plead especially with those couples who have barely crossed the
threshold of wedlock to resist this sin of contraception with all
their strength. Happiness in marriage may depend on just such a
resolve. If contraception is practiced in the early years of
marriage, it will breed disgust for the marriage act and the partner
thereto, and I can say from my experience with broken marriages
that contraception is one of the prime causes leading to
separations and divorces.
Dr. Henry A. Bowman, who organized the marriage preparation
courses at Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri, and whose staff
deals with some eighteen hundred enrollments a year, said in an
interview with Gretta Palmer that "marriages based on a decision
to put off motherhood until later years are highly vulnerable: fear
of parenthood does not make a good companion for a husband and
wife trying to get along together. Approximately three fourths of
all childless marriages end in divorce--ten times the rate of those
where there are children.
"Rather than marry, it is better to remain engaged until a plan can
be worked out that permits a baby to be a blessing, not a
Supreme Court Justice Lewis of Brooklyn some years ago observed
that among one day's undefended divorce cases--sixty-four in all--
there was but one child for every two couples and that the average
duration of such marriages was less than three years. Justice Lewis
said: "If our women had more children there would be more
happiness and fewer divorces. Absence of children promotes
I listened to a radio play recently wherein one of the actors was
made to say that "he had two children--a boy and a girl." Then he
added, "That is par, you know." I could not help wondering that if
one or two children had always been par the world would have
suffered great losses. Benjamin Franklin was the eighth among ten
children; William T. Sherman was the sixth among eleven; Horace
Greeley was one of seven; Longfellow was one of eight; Washington
Irving one of eleven; Beethoven one of eleven; Saint Mother
Cabrini one of thirteen; St. Therese of the Child Jesus, one of nine;
General Pershing one of eleven; and General D. D. Eisenhower one
There is nothing so sad as a deliberately planned one- or two-child
family. Commenting on the fact that once upon a time the family
made character just through its size, Will Durant said: "When you
had eight or nine brothers and sisters, you learned civilization by
attrition. You had decency knocked into you. I had a brother whose
name was Frank. He had two years' start on me--and powerful
muscles.... When I look back on my education, I realize that Frank
was the best teacher I ever had. He had no textbooks, no theories,
he had never heard of Teachers' College. But he just knocked me
down. And to be knocked down at the right time is worth the best
college education. But who is going to knock you down now, when
you are the only son in the family? Your sister can't do it, if you
have one. Your father must not do it--the latest books are against
it. How are you going to be civilized?"
Isn't that a gem?
There can be no doubt that Bacon was right when he said:
"Children sweeten labors and they mitigate the remembrance of
death." Your fortune will be your children and your children may
be your comfort and joy in this life and your salvation in the next.
That numerous children are a comfort is so evident as to need
little proof. Go to any home for the poor and infirm, and you will
find that the great preponderance of those unfortunate and lonely
inmates, if married at all, brought but one or two children into the
world and now find themselves alone--lonely, and dependent on
the state for food, clothing, and shelter.
To faithful married men and women who, through no fault of their
own, are childless, I suggest the adoption of children. Such great
charity is repaid a hundredfold even in this life. Begin, however, to
adopt children within the first five years of marriage. They who
adopt homeless little ones stand nearest to God.
God never intended any love, not even that between husband and
wife, to forever feed upon itself but rather that it should seek and
find ever wider and greener pastures. The mission of children in
lawful marriage is to purify and sweeten the stream of life by
bringing to it a new supply of happiness, so unsullied that it seems
fresh from the eternal fountain and purifies as it blends with it.
Let us return to Cana, for its lessons are forever. There is every
reason to suppose that Our Blessed Lord was present for the
customary bridal procession which made up such an important
part of the ancient Jewish ceremonial at all weddings. If He was
present, then He no doubt saw the bride approach wearing a
chaplet of golden wheat, indicative of fertility, and rose with
everyone else to salute the procession, or join it. It was almost a
religious duty to break into praise of the beauty, the modesty, or
the virtues of the bride, and repeat to the rhythm of clapping
hands: "May you be the mother of thousands of millions!"
How striking such a consideration really is. To the first man and
his wife, God the Father, the Creator, had said, "Increase and
multiply and fill the earth," and, at Cana in Galilee, the Son, the
Redeemer made Man, may have addressed similar words to
another bride saying: "May you be the mother of thousands of
millions!" That ever was and ever will remain God's plan for
married couples and His earnest wish for their happiness.
Take particular care that you build no false conscience in this
matter of unlawful family limitation. I think it was Father Ginder
who remarked that "a freshly painted park bench bearing the sign
'Wet Paint' will not suddenly become dry if the sign be removed."
That holds true of contraception too. Just saying it is no sin in
your particular case will not alter the facts. It is always gravely
sinful and no cause may ever excuse. It is going to be pretty tough
for birth controllers to attempt to excuse themselves on the score
of economic necessity when they stand before a Judge who was
born in abject poverty in a stable, worked as a laborer, and who
could say in full manhood that "the foxes had holes and the birds
of the air nests, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head."
Cana gives the answer to this problem too. Aser's portion which
contained this memorable village was so rough that Moses was
inspired to warn that shoes of iron and brass would be imperative.
Yet there were compensations. The rugged hills abounded in iron
ore. There is your answer. If God sends you children, He will send
you the grace and means to support them. This law of
compensation runs through all God's distribution of duties and
It is more than mere coincidence, too, that Christ should have
chosen a marriage in Cana at which to perform His first miracle.
You see, Cana of Galilee was situated in the terrain given to Aser,
and the word "Aser" itself means "to make or to declare happy."
Odd as it may seem, that name was bestowed by a mother who was
thrilled at the birth of a son, by a mother who hoped, she said, that
through child-bearing, women would ever call her blessed. (Gen.
1. New York: The Century Co., 1931.
2. Quoted in "Birth Prevention Quizzes," by Rev. Fathers Rumble
and Carty. "Radio Replies Press," St. Paul 1, Minn.
3. Copyright, 1947, by Coronet, Inc., Coronet Bldg., Chicago 1, Ill.
(Coronet, September, 1947.)
4. "Rhythm--The Unhappy Compromise," Rev. Hugh Calkins,
O.S.M., "Integrity," June, 1948, Vol. z, No. 9.
5. "Case Against Birth Control," by Monsignor Edward Robert
Moore. New York: The Century Co., 1931.
6. Because of the danger of developing laxity in conscience in this
matter it is advisable to consult your confessor as to the manner of
formulating the warning and the frequency of its issuance.
7. "Marriage Control; A New Answer to Divorce," by Gretta Palmer.
"Your Life," August, 1947.
8. It was specially related of King Agrippa that he had done this,
and a curious Haggadah sets forth that when Jezebel was eaten by
dogs her hands and feet were spared (Kings 410) because, amidst
all her wickedness, she had been wont to greet every marriage-
procession, by clapping hands.
Chapter Ten: MARRIAGE WRECKERS
The Reverend John A. O'Brien, in his scholarly work "The Faith of
Millions," gives a fine pen picture of his visit to the old home of
Napoleon and Josephine, situated a few miles outside of Paris. He
describes how the furniture in Napoleon's room was, on the
occasion of his visit, exactly as it was when the First Consul
mapped his brilliant campaigns which led to his great victories at
Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, and the Pyramids--victories which
changed the map of Europe. It was in Malmaison, a retreat of
sylvan loveliness, that Napoleon and Josephine passed their
The writer then mentions visiting Josephine's room, a study in
contrasts. There he saw the incidentals that minister to the needs
of womanhood and that echo the notes of love and domesticity.
There, among many things, stood one dominating item in the
center of the room--a harp, a harp played by Josephine in the days
of her happiness but now standing mute and silent, its strings
The broken strings on that harp were a jarring reminder to Father
O'Brien of a broken home, a family torn asunder, a sacred vow
trampled underfoot, a domestic travesty and failure that will
forever mar the escutcheon of the great Bonaparte. The man who
successfully conquered Europe, and built new empires, failed at
marriage. Napoleon divorced Josephine and the broken harp in
Malmaison will ever stand as a mute monument to love's failure
and matrimonial disaster. "The broken harp," wrote Father O'Brien,
"sounds with superlative irony a warning to the world today
against the tragedy of a broken home, for which no other victories
over men or nations can ever compensate. It reminds mankind that
the building of a home, where peace and love abound, is man's
supreme achievement, and the source of his deepest and most
abiding happiness. If a man fail in business, politics, or other
enterprises, but has kept intact the empire of his own home, with
the myriad ties of sympathy and understanding unbroken, his
failure is overshadowed by a victory which soothes the sting of
uncounted defeats and brings the richest returns in love and
Have men and women in any age ever repudiated marriage vows
with such recklessness and in such terrifying numbers as in our
day? Statistics point out that there is now one divorce for every
three marriages. And who can estimate the numbers of husbands
and wives who avoid the divorce courts, but whose marriages have
failed just the same and who have decided to call it quits and
separate? Indeed, their number is legion--and this latter group is
made up in no small way of Catholics who are kept from the
divorce mill simply through fear of the discipline of the Church.
How inconsistent such people are! They are the very ones who
would be loudest in their condemnation of, say, a soldier who, in
the midst of battle, would throw down his arms and desert. They
are the ones who would hurl the worst blasts at a pitcher in a world
series who, because he found himself in a tough spot, would throw
down his glove and walk off the mound. Yet the one who walks out
on a marriage when things get tough is the lowest form of deserter
and the poorest sport on this earth.
It is not my intention to give here an exhaustive treatise on the
immorality of divorce or cite in detail its multiple evil effects
upon husband and wife and upon their children. I intend rather to
confine myself simply to presenting the inspired words of God
Himself, the words of His Divine Son in condemnation of divorce
and arbitrary separation from bed and board. The whole argument
for the indissolubility of marriage is based upon the premise that
God is the creator of man and as such has the right to command
what He wills and forbid what He wills. It is based, too, on the fact
that Christ is the Son of God--that He and the Eternal Father are
one--and that therefore whatever the Redeemer of the human race
commanded must be obeyed and whatever He forbade must be
avoided. But let the Master speak for Himself. Here are His very
words: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in
Me? The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself." (John
14:10.) Again, "He that loveth me not keepeth not my words. And
the word which you have heard is not mine; but the Father's who
sent me." (John 14:24.) Did not Christ proclaim his sweeping
authority to command men when He said: "All power is given to me
in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18), and did not His eternal
Father oblige all to hear Christ, when He said: "This is My Beloved
Son in whom I am well pleased, Hear ye Him." (Matt. 17:5.) To hear
Christ, then, is our duty; to obey Him is our obligation! We must
therefore believe and do all that our Saviour commanded.
If you ask where does one find all the things that must be believed
and the things that must be done that salvation may be attained,
we say that these things are found in (1) the inspired word of God,
Holy Scripture; (2) in the traditions handed down to us from the
time of the Apostles; and (3) in the doctrines believed and taught
by the infallible Church which Christ established on this earth.
With all this in mind, let us first see what the Holy Bible says
regarding the indissolubility of marriage. When the Creator
instituted marriage, He inspired Adam to proclaim to all his
descendants that "a man shall leave his father and mother and
shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh"--a
command that is clearly vitiated by divorce. Marriage from the
very beginning, therefore, was to be considered as a most special
form of union.
This primal idea of the indissolubility of marriage persisted
throughout the whole of the Old Testament save for a relatively
short period when Moses, because of the hardness of men's hearts,
permitted divorce. Some writers hold that the fact that Moses was
constrained to permit divorces only goes to prove that the idea of
the indissolubility of marriage except by death was so universally
held that some desperate men tried to circumvent the law by
taking the life of their innocent mates and thus freeing themselves
from the bond. It may have been that Moses permitted divorce as
the lesser of two great evils. Be this as it may, the point is that
Christ, when He came down on this earth, spoke plainly and
authoritatively on this matter of divorce. He forbade it in no
One day some Pharisees came to Him with this leading question:
"Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? But He answering, saith
to them: What did Moses command you?
Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce and to put her
To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your
heart, he wrote you that precept.
But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and
For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall
cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh....
What therefore God had joined together, let no man put asunder."
When the tempting Pharisees had left, His disciples went back to
the question again and this time the Master was very explicit. And
He said to them:
"Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth
adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband
and be married to another, she committeth adultery." (Mark 10:11-
There is no mincing of words here. It was straight from the
shoulder; and to give emphasis to this teaching, the words are
repeated in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Curiously
enough, divorce adherents lay claim to some authority for their
stand, from the recorded words of Our Lord in St. Matthew's
Gospel. Let us look at them. Contrasting His mission with that of
Moses, Christ said:
"And it hath been said: Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him
give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you that whosoever shall put
away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to
commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away
committeth adultery." (Matt. 5:31-32.)
The clause "excepting for the cause of fornication" in no wise is to
be understood as an "out" for those who wish to remarry. It simply
means that by reason of this terrible sin against conjugal fidelity,
the offending mate may be sent away, effecting what is generally
known as "separation from bed and board," but this separation
does not destroy the marriage bond nor render remarriage
That the Apostles understood Our Lord to have indicated
remarriage for separated husbands and wives to have been
forbidden is proved from the cryptic reply they made when Christ
explained His doctrine on the subject. "If the case of a man with
his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry." (Matt. 19:10.) That is,
if marital infidelity is a reason for separation, but afterwards
neither mate can remarry, then it is better not to separate at all.
St. Paul had no delusions on this subject, either. He also spoke
clearly and authoritatively; note his words:
"But to them that are married, not I, but the Lord, commandeth"
(note that!) "that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she
depart, that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her
That would seem to explain very nicely the "excepting" clause in
"And let not the husband put away his wife," adds St. Paul (I Cor.
In a different way, but just as uncompromisingly, the Apostle sets
down this teaching on marriage in another Epistle:
"For the woman that hath an husband, whilst her husband liveth is
bound to the law. But if her husband be dead, she is loosed from
the law of her husband. Therefore, whilst her husband liveth, she
shall be called an adulteress if she be with another man; but if her
husband be dead, she is delivered from the law of her husband; so
that she is not an adulteress, if she be with another man." (Rom.
Well, there you have the words of the Son of God Himself on this
matter of divorce as well as the inspired writings of the Apostle
Paul. And Paul was not inclined to view lightly any attempt to
change the Gospel as he preached it. He it was who said: "If any
one preach to you a Gospel, besides that which you have received,
let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:9), and anathema means cursed--
excluded from the Kingdom of God.
So much for Holy Scripture. Let us turn now to the traditional
doctrine on this matter handed down to us from the earliest days
of the Church.
St. Ignatius, in the second century, said: "Speak unto my sisters
that they love the Lord and be content, in flesh and spirit with their
husbands." (Ad. Polycarp. No. 5.)
St. Basil, in the third century, wrote: "Though the husband be harsh
and savage in temper, the wife must bear with him and on no
pretext seek to sever the union." (Hexaemer. Hom. VIII.)
St. Augustine, in the fifth century, wrote:
"By conjugal fidelity it is provided that there should be no carnal
intercourse outside the marriage bond with another man or
woman; with regard to offspring, that children should be begotten
of love, tenderly cared for and educated in a religious atmosphere;
finally, in its sacramental aspect, that the marriage bond should
not be broken and that a husband or wife, if separated, should not
be joined to another even for the sake of offspring. This we regard
as the law of marriage by which the fruitfulness of nature is
adorned and the evil of incontinence is restrained. (De Genes. ad.
Again, St. Augustine writes, "And they who are well instructed in
the Catholic faith know that God is the author of marriage, and
that as it is from Him, so divorce is from the devil." (In Johan.
Evang. VIII:, and IX:.)
Thus you have a rather striking array of traditional proof as to the
constant teaching of the Church regarding the indissolubility of
marriage, one that comes down to us unchanged in spite of the
assaults upon it by the loss of the sturdy faith of ages past.
The solemn declaration of the Council of Trent is final. "If anyone
should say that on account of heresy, or the hardships Of
cohabitation or a deliberate abuse of one party by the other, the
marriage may be loosened, let him be anathema."
And again: "If anyone should say that the Church errs in having
taught or in teaching that according to the teaching of the Gospel
and the Apostles, the bond of marriage cannot be loosed because
of the sin of adultery of either party, or that neither party, even
though one be innocent, having given no cause for the sin of
adultery, can contract another marriage during the lifetime of the
other and that he commits adultery who marries another after
putting away his adulterous wife, and likewise that she commits
adultery who puts away her husband and marries another: let him
The Third Council of Baltimore decreed the pain of
excommunication, reserved to the Bishop, to be incurred ipso facto
by those attempting marriage after obtaining a civil divorce.
Anyone who would be so reckless as to attempt or even consider
divorce in the face of its prohibition by the Son of God, by Holy
Scripture, by tradition and by the Church, is foolhardy indeed.
Such a one would be well advised to arrange with his or her
favorite funeral director to be sure and place a copy of the divorce
decree, along with the names of the lawyers and the judge, in the
casket when this mortal sojourn is finished. Even then it is going
to be pretty tough trying to convince Christ, the Eternal Judge, who
so vehemently forbade divorce, that their case had special angles
that He hadn't foreseen.
The unqualified statement of Our Lord's that remarriage after
divorce or separation is adultery might not be so terribly
restricting had the Holy Ghost only avoided inspiring St. Paul to
write: "Fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4), and
again: "Do not err: neither fornicators nor adulterers shall possess
the Kingdom of God." (I Cor. 6:9.) There are teeth, you see, in all
In spite of the increasing divorce rate in the world today it must be
said, in all fairness, that among Catholics the percentage is
comparatively low. This group has not accepted the prevalent
belief that "marriage itself constitutes grounds for divorce." No
matter what the numbers of Catholics who defy God's law and His
Church's mandates are, if there be but one case, that is one too
many. What is beginning, however, to be relatively prevalent
among Catholics is separation from bed and board--that is,
husbands and wives deciding, when things go wrong, to separate
and go their own individual ways. The question arises, then, may a
Catholic who is married and for some reason or other tires of his
union, may such a one separate from his lawful mate? He may, but
only under certain well defined conditions.
The Canon Law of the Church regarding separation from bed and
board states this general principle: "The married couple is obliged
to live together in conjugal relations unless a just cause frees them
from the obligation." (Canon 1128.) Then the law states the
following: "For reasons of adultery of one party, the other has the
right to solve even for all times, the community life, though the
marriage bond remains, unless the other consented to the crime,
or was the cause of it, or expressly or tacitly condoned it, or
finally, committed the same crime himself or herself." (Canon
Other reasons for separation are listed in the Canon Law as
If one party joins a non-Catholic sect; or educates the offspring as
non-Catholics; or leads a criminal and despicable life; or creates
great bodily or spiritual danger to the other party; or if, through
cruelties, he or she makes living together too difficult, and other
such reasons, which are to the innocent party so many legal causes
to leave the guilty party by the authority of the Ordinary (Bishop)
of the diocese or also by private authority, if the guilt of the other
party is certain beyond doubt, and there is danger in delay.
In all these cases the common life must be restored when the
reason for the separation ceases; if, however, the separation was
pronounced by the Bishop either for a time or indefinitely, the
innocent party is not obliged to return except when the time
specified has elapsed or the Bishop gives orders to return. (Canon
Note well that where separation is indicated the bond still remains
and there may never be a remarriage while one or the other mate
lives. Note too that one may not separate without consent of the
Bishop, unless delay is dangerous or excepting where adultery is
proved beyond doubt. Father De Smet says that confessors ought
to refuse absolution to those who do not act according to this
Rt. Rev. Louis J. Nau, S.T.D., in his "Manual of the Marriage Laws of
the Code of Canon Law," states that in every case, by reason of the
scandal, permission to go to the civil courts, whether for a decree
of separation or for divorce, must be obtained from the Bishop of
In most of the dioceses in the United States, to sue for a separation
in civil courts, even if only the civil effects are intended, is a
reserved sin, unless the Bishop has granted the proper permission.
Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical letter "Casti Connubii," points out
that separation from bed and board eliminates the need for legal
divorce. Read his words.
"This separation, which the Church herself permits and expressly
mentions in her Canon Law in those canons which deal with the
separation of the parties as to marital relationship and
cohabitation, removes all the alleged inconveniences and dangers.
It will be for the sacred law and to some extent also the civil law,
insofar as civil matters are affected, to lay down the ground, the
conditions, the method and precautions to be taken in a case of
this kind in order to safeguard the education of the children and
the well-being of the family, and to remove all those evils which
threaten the married persons, the children and the State."
"But this is a free country," I hear you say, "I can do what I like."
Can you? You have freedom of speech guaranteed by the
Constitution, but try to use that free speech by yelling "Fire!" in a
crowded theater and see what happens to you. You are free, it is
true, but that freedom is curtailed where the common good
The common good demands that when a man and woman marry
they remain married. Should one have been so unfortunate as to
have been stuck with a lemon, he or she is stuck, and that's that.
Remember the vow: "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in
sickness and in health, until death!" That takes in every emergency
That the common good demands indissolubility in marriage, that it
demands a husband and wife to stay together, is so generally
admitted and so universally proved as to need no underscoring by
this writer. For instance, Judge McNaff of Fort Wayne declared: "A
great majority of the delinquent boys and girls who appear in
juvenile court come from homes that have been broken principally
by separation, desertion or divorce. Therein lie some of the
greatest tragedies of life."
The effect on the children is the same whether the parents are
divorced or simply agree to separate. A two-year study of New York
criminal records reveals that forty-seven per cent of those
convicted of major crimes came from disrupted families. I have
before me on my desk as I write a clipping from a Chicago
newspaper. It is the account of a mysterious brutal killing of a
seven-year-old boy by a twelve-year-old youngster. The alleged
murderer's mother said she and the child's father had been
separated since he was seven months old, and that she had worked
as a domestic to rear him. "He wasn't brought up, he was dragged
up," she said.
Perhaps this and the millions of other examples that might be
cited will at least indicate that the common good demands
husband and wife to stay together for the sake of the family and
the nation. As Dr. H. S. Pomeroy notes: "For reproduction, men
need not mate. For the care of the offspring, they must. And for
the proper care of the moral and intellectual development of the
child they must mate permanently. This is the judgment of the
And what does Holy Scripture say about separating? It commands:
"Keep then your spirit and despise not the wife of thy youth . . . yet
she is thy partner and the wife of thy covenant." (Mal. 2:14, 15.) St.
Paul says: ". . . The Lord commandeth that the wife depart not from
her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried or be
reconciled to her husband." (I Cor. 7:10, 11.)
St. Paul in that same chapter cried out: "Art thou bound to a wife?
Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a
wife." Finally he proclaimed the reason for this doctrine when he
said: "But to them that are married, not I, but the Lord
commandeth that the wife depart not from her husband." Could
any doctrine be more clearly stated or more forcefully
Better remember this rule: Before you decide to separate from your
lawful spouse, take the case to your pastor. Whatever you do, don't
try to make such a terrible decision all by yourself. Someone once
said that "he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client." That
holds true for the person who would settle his marital difficulties
by separation without leave or license from the Church.
"Marriage is the beginning and the end of all culture," wrote
Goethe; "it civilizes the savage and gives the most cultured the
best opportunity of displaying their delicacy. It must be
indissoluble, for it brings so much happiness that any exceptional
unhappinesses it may bring with it are, when weighed in the scales
against the happiness, of no account. There can never be any
adequate reason for separation. The scale of joy and sorrow in
mortal affairs is so high that the sum which two married people
owe one another is incalculable. It is an infinite debt, which can
only be discharged throughout eternity."
There remains now but to examine the causes of marital failures.
Every effect must have a cause. The most eminent and outstanding
court judges, directors of bureaus of domestic relations, and
psychologists point to the following list as basic causes of
divorces and separations.
(1) Meddling and obnoxious relatives
(2) Deliberate childlessness and birth prevention
(3) Boredom, frustration, and disappointment
(4) Hasty marriages
(5) Difference of religious beliefs and lack of religion
(7) Emotional, physical, intellectual, and vocational immaturity
(9) The triangle
(10) Sex ignorance
(11) Low mentality
Practically all the foregoing items have been treated elsewhere in
this work. For instance, we laid down certain basic rules to follow
where a married couple have to move in with in-laws, only to find
them meddling and obnoxious. We did likewise in regard to the
problem of having in-laws move in with you. There is little we can
add except to advise adoption of the rule laid down centuries ago
by St. Benedict for the early monks of his order. It runs something
like this: "If a monk comes to visit from another monastery,
receive him in all charity and permit him to abide as long as he
wishes. However, should it be found that he is contumacious, he
shall be advised to leave. Should he refuse to go then have two
stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him."
We have discussed the dangers to marital bliss resulting from
birth prevention; the folly of hasty marriages--those entered into
without adequate remote and/or proximate preparation; the high
percentage of marriage failures resulting from mixed marriages;
and we have considered the destructive effects of jealousy,
nagging, and sex ignorance, along with the requisite maturities
demanded in every right-ordered union.
There remain but three items in the foregoing list for cursory
treatment; namely, the evidence of low mentality in those who
unjustly seek release from their marital responsibilities, the
triangle, and finally the problem of drink as a cause of marriage
Dr. William J. Hickson, famous Chicago psychiatrist, when asked
by Rollin Lynde Hartt what he considered the chief cause of
divorce, unhesitatingly replied, "Feeble-mindedness, with or
without dementia praecox." The doctor stated that low mentality
was prevalent in a great percentage of the cases that came to his
attention (and his psychopathic laboratory Committed two
thousand cases a year). He intimated that if all divorce petitioners
were given an intelligence test, a great majority would fall into the
twelve-, eleven-, or ten-year mental age class.
Such tests, he felt, would reveal dementia praecox too, which he
described as an insanity of the emotions which in one form
produces fits of uncontrollable rage, and, in another, it declares
itself in the abominations such men and women dodge calling by
their right names.
Mr. Ralph Hall Ferris, one-time director of the Bureau of Domestic
Relations in Detroit, after handling some twenty thousand
marriage cases, concluded as follows:
"Most of them are subnormal, borderline, semi-criminal types.
Most of them are registered in our hospitals also, and with various
social agencies, where they have applied for help. They are
physically inadequate, economically inadequate, socially
inadequate. Having failed in all other relations, they fail in
Such opinions are somewhat strengthened by the suicide rate,
which is very high for divorced people. Dr. Frederick L. Hoffman,
an insurance statistician, has furnished this comparative table for
New York City showing the suicide ratio for married and divorced
people of both sexes:
Married 34.1 15.0
Divorced 113.5 61.2
Now let us turn our attention to the problem of intimate
attachments outside marriage.
The "triangle" is a perennial cause of divorces or separations and
is too obviously immoral to need much discussion here. It
generally results from boredom, frustration, or disappointment on
the part of one or both mates. The new attachment for someone
other than the legitimate spouse is usually an outgrowth of an
attempt to find sympathy.
More often than not, the person seeking a divorce or separation
has fallen for a third party. The reasons given in the courts are
usually trumped-up reasons, designed to provide adequate
grounds for freedom. Everywhere, divorces are obtained for
alleged causes wholly different from the real causes. In a court it
is generally adultery, cruelty, or desertion, but in rectory parlors
the excuses run something like the following:
She is jealous and suspicious.
He doesn't understand me.
She treats me like a child.
He won't give me money enough to run the house.
She can't cook.
He resents my friends.
She refuses to have a family.
He cares more about his mother than me.
She never loved me.
He finds fault with everything I do.
The house is filthy.
Sex relations are repulsive. And so on and on and on.
The lawyers call some or even all of these "incompatibility," and in
most cases Mr. Dooley's explanation of the term is applicable. The
famous American philosopher puts it this way: "Ye can always git a
divorce f'r what Hogan calls incompatibility iv temper. That's
when husband and wife ar-re both cross at the same time. Ye'd call
it a tiff in ye'er family, Hinnessy." Dr. Jules Guyot sagely
observed more than one hundred years ago that a person who
divorces with the hope of finding happiness with another mate "is
like a wretched fiddler who demands another violin, hoping that a
new instrument will yield the melody he knows not how to play."
The person who attempts divorce or separation from a lawful
spouse because he has met someone who, it is thought, will bring
greater happiness, is a great fool indeed. Study well these passages
from Holy Scripture and see if it is worth it.
"Every man that passeth beyond his own bed, despising his own
soul, and saying: Who seeth me? . . . This man shall be
punished...." (Ecclus. 23 :, 30.)
". . . because they have committed adultery with the wives of their
friends . . . I am the judge and the witness saith the Lord." (Jer.
"This man shall be punished in the streets of the city, and he shall
be chased as a colt: and where he suspect not, he shall be taken."
"Take heed to keep thyself, my son, from all fornication: and
beside thy wife never endure to know a crime." (Tob. 4:13-)
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Avoid beginnings. Be careful
and be suspicious of anyone who is attempting to make a play for
your affections, or who praises your beauty or your general
behavior, for, as Saint Francis de Sales says: "He that praises the
ware which he cannot buy, is strongly tempted to steal it; and if to
your praise, such a one adds dispraise of your mate, the injury is
heinous since the bargain is half made with the second merchant,
when one is disgusted with the first."
Should you ever become involved in a triangle, stop and think the
whole matter over and ask yourself if any earthly pleasure is worth
risking the loss of eternal happiness. Get to the sacraments and
pray as you never prayed before. It is important, too, to make a
clean break once and for all from such an attachment and resolve
not to see that person again. If need be, move to a new locality or
even a new city. The alternative is too awful to contemplate, for
the Holy Ghost says: "The eye of the adulterer observeth darkness .
. . cursed be his portion on the earth.... Let mercy forget him; may
worms be his sweetness. Let him be remembered no more, but be
broken in pieces as an unfruitful tree." (Job 24:15, 18, 20.)
No matter how difficult you find married life, remember the power
of the grace of the sacrament you received on your wedding day.
Matrimony is an abiding sacrament and the grace abides until
death of one of the partners. It is wiser to take your counsels from
the Holy Scriptures, from the Church and the writings of the Saints
and the Popes, rather than from some shyster lawyer. In times of
great stress recall the words of St. Basil, written in the third
century: "Though the husband be harsh and savage in temper, the
wife must bear with him and on no pretext seek to sever the union.
Does he strike? Still he is your husband. Is he drunken? Yet he is
united to thee by nature. Is he harsh and hard to please? Still he is
a member of your body and the most honorable of thy members."
Such a set-up might be pretty tough, but you can suffer great
things so long as you have the grace of God to support you. The
sacrament of matrimony guarantees you such grace.
Let us consider, now, the problem of alcoholism and marriage.
Overindulgence of intoxicating beverages is high on the list of
marriage wreckers. Too few realize what a disastrous wrecker
alcohol can be. According to recent surveys, there are upward of a
million chronic alcoholics in America alone, and there are more
than four million excessive drinkers. This nation alone spent
$8,700,000,000 on whiskey, beer, and wine in the year 1946--that
is an average of eighty-nine dollars for every man and woman over
eighteen years of age. Aside from the material cost of alcoholism
to our nation, the physical, psychological, and moral damage is
Alcohol can cause great physical damage or impairment. From
sixteen to twenty ounces of alcohol, fully absorbed, can kill a man
of average size, and lesser quantities can be seriously harmful.
What many fail to realize is that alcohol is an irritant, a habit-
forming depressant narcotic (or anesthetic) drug. Contrary to the
common belief, it is not a stimulant. Its apparent stimulating
effects are due to its suppression of inhibitions. Dr. Emil Kraepelin
of Stuttgart says: "The effects of alcohol are due chiefly, if not
solely, to its toxic action upon the brain and spinal cord and the
central nervous system of man. Alcohol is a narcotic, as are ether
and chloroform, acting on the brain and other parts of the central
The physical damage of alcohol is outdone by the evil
psychological damage. Drunkenness, according to the great
psychiatrists, is a temporary psychosis, and this bears out what
Seneca said thousands of years ago "Drunkenness is nothing but
an insanity purposely assumed."
Recent tests point up the fact that alcohol lessens reasoning
power. Two ounces of whiskey was found to impair judgment over
twenty per cent. Half a pint decreased reasoning power by sixty-
seven per cent.
And what does Holy Scripture say on the matter? Here are some
quotations from the Holy Bible:
"Woe to you that rise up early in the morning to follow
drunkenness, and to drink till the evening, to be inflamed with
wine." (Isai. 5:11.)
"A drunken woman is a great wrath: and her reproach and shame
shall not be hid." (Ecclus. 26:11.)
"Fornication and wine and drunkenness take away the
understanding." (Osee. 4: 11.)
". . . for wine hath destroyed very many." (Ecclus. 31:30)
"Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor drunkards
shall possess the Kingdom of God." (I Cor. 6:9, 10.)
And what can alcoholism do to marriage? Hear the words of
Superior Court Judge John A. Sbarbavor of Chicago:
"Seventy-eight per cent of the divorce cases I have heard resulted
from alcoholism." Another judge, Judge Elmer J. Schnackenberg,
Chicago Circuit Court, stated recently that "the failure of marriage
is the major cause of divorce, and liquor the underlying cause in
over fifty per cent of marriage failures."
The mere fact that liquor has been such a wrecker of happiness in
marriage for so many other couples ought to point up its awful
consequences, thus moving the wise married man or woman to
abstain completely. Whatever you do, don't kid yourself along with
the belief that "to drink in moderation" is perfectly safe. We might
parody two well-known lines from Macbeth:
"Another, and another, and another
Creeps in each little glass from day to day."
"What is moderation in drinking?" asks Dr. Richardson. "I have
asked that question of many people. A few cocktails, a few
whiskey-and-sodas, a half pint of wine (the devil in solution)? I
find that six ounces of whiskey taken in moderation does this to a
man--it makes his heart beat eighteen thousand times a day
beyond what it ought to do, and it makes that unfortunate heart
raise what would be equivalent to nineteen extra tons weight one
foot from the earth. The worst part of moderate drinking is its
Here are a few hints that may help. The wise husband and wife will
not drink liquor at all. If you must drink, do it at home. Women
ought never to drink at a bar. Know your saturation point and stop
well before you reach it. Never drink if you feel you need it. Never
drink alone. Never nag an alcoholic. Encourage such a person to
approach the sacraments frequently. Have such a one join
Alcoholics Anonymous. Heavy drinkers will find it easier to stop
altogether than to attempt to moderate their drinking. Dr. Samuel
Johnson remarked once: "I can abstain, but I cannot drink
moderately." Above all, avoid persons and places associated with
drinking, once you have resolved to quit.
The mention of women drinking in saloons recalls to mind an
editorial which appeared December 1, 1947, in the New York
Journal American. Here are a few excerpts from that editorial. It is
important, since four out of every six alcoholics are women.
"Public drinking by women is bad morally and it is in excessively
bad taste, and it lowers them in the opinion of all who behold them
and particularly in their own self-respect.
"It is no accident that so many women who frequent public
drinking places become involved in violent and sordid crimes, for
when a woman holds herself so cheaply her conduct sets the
example and constitutes both incitation and invitation for
disrespect by others.
"Moreover, when women who drink publicly are mothers, they not
only cheapen and endanger themselves, but by neglecting their
homes and disregarding their duties there they deprive their
children of the natural companionship and guardianship which are
the sacred trusts of motherhood, and lose both the confidence and
the faith of their children.
"Probably the greatest single contributing factor to juvenile
delinquency is the mother who drinks habitually and
promiscuously in public saloons, and it is surely the lowest and
most unsavory estate to which motherhood can sink--and the
nation's accusing and tragic rate of delinquency among boys and
girls bears challenging witness to this fact.
There should be a persuasive and an insistent moral appeal to
American women, and especially to mothers, to refrain from
lending themselves to the personal indignity of public drinking,
but above all to desist from a form of conduct which is loathesome
to those who depend upon them most and love them most.
Should you be one of those unfortunate people who married a
heavy drinker with the secret hope of reforming such a one, you
were foolish indeed. But don't walk out on your marriage. Do your
best to accomplish what you set out to do, pray hard, and God will
surely ease your path. If, on the other hand, your mate did not
drink until after the marriage, then find out the cause. Often a
person drinks as an escape from some unpleasant situation. Check
up and see if perhaps your nagging, lack of affection, lack of
sociability, extravagance, untidiness of person or domicile or plain
boredom might be the cause. Last, when you find the cause do all
in your power to remove it. Wives of such unfortunate husbands
must, above all, avoid the martyr complex. Often the wife must
share the blame for her husband's intemperance simply because
she was not firm enough at the beginning of the married life. A
wife's firmness is a lot more effective at the outset of marriage
because that is the time her husband loves her most and would
sacrifice anything rather than lose her.
Married couples who realize that no reason will ever justify
dissolving of the marriage bond have a better chance of being
forbearing with the weaknesses of their partners; such forbearance
will move them to attempt every means of curing the failing
member of the partnership. Continuance of the married life can
work miracles. It was Lucretius who wrote:
Yet when, at length, rude huts they first devised,
And fires and garments; and in union sweet
Man wedded woman, the pure joy indulged
The rough barbarians softened. The warm hearth
Their frames so melted they no more could bear,
As erst, the uncovered skies; the nuptial bed
Broke their wild vigor, and the fond caress
Of prattling children from the bosom chased
Their stern ferocious manners.
With the foregoing reflections fresh in mind, let us return to the
marriage in Cana of Galilee. That particular wedding blessed by
the presence of the Messias Himself, if it followed common Jewish
custom and prescribed ritual, must have included a special prayer
for unfailing fidelity and a significant ceremony indicative of both
the perfect unity and indissolubility essential in every marriage.
The prayer was offered by the Friend of the Bridegroom and it took
"Lord God, King of the universe, thou who hast set a place in Thy
Paradise for this sweet fruit, this rose of the dales, so that no
stranger may ever hold domain o'er this sealed fountain--wherefore
it is that this fair form of love hath never proven false to her
plighted faith. Blessed be thou forever, O Lord."
Following this, a long white napkin was placed over the heads of
the bride and groom, beneath which they clasped hands and then
the groom slipped a ring on the finger of the bride in token of their
If Our Blessed Lord heard that prayer in Cana of Galilee, and if He
beheld the bride and groom seated with hands clasped beneath the
single white napkin, He must have been reminded of how closely
that wedding followed the pattern of the first marriage in the
Garden of Eden. The words He had heard Adam pronounce in the
morning of creation must have flashed before His eternal mind
with all the depth of their original pathos: "Wherefore a man shall
leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall
be two in one flesh." Holy Scripture is silent on this and so many
other touching details, but this much we know for certain, that
Christ went out from Cana of Galilee and by His prayers, His
works, His sufferings, and His death on the Cross, amassed for all
married couples who would receive the sacrament of matrimony
until the end of time, grace enough to stay together and fulfill the
duties of their state in life.
It was Christ Himself who raised marriage to the dignity of a
sacrament so grace might be made available to all those disposed
to receive it. He was fully aware of the weakness of human nature
and the force of Satan's temptations, and that is why He instituted
the sacrament of matrimony.
Only a few days before He went to Cana, had He himself not been
subjected to Satan's vicious attacks? Had not Satan offered Him,
too, the whole world if He would only abandon His vocation?
Christ understood, better than any man who ever lived, the
fickleness of human nature-how one day men want to make you
king and the next cry out for your crucifixion. He knew what it was
to be betrayed--to be kissed even by a traitor. He knew what it was
to be tempted to seek release from trouble and sorrow. Did He not
cry out in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father if Thou wilt, remove
this chalice from me?" but, also, did He not quickly add, "But not
My will that these be done"? Temptation is one thing, yielding is
No matter how poorly you prepared yourself for marriage, no
matter how unwise your choice of a mate, no matter how crushing
your disappointment and disillusionment with marriage, don't be a
quitter. Christ will never understand if you do. He hung on His
cross for three long hours, nailed hand and foot, to merit enough
grace for you to carry your cross. When the soldiers, in cruel
mockery of their dying Saviour, cried out: "Save thy own self.
Come down from the Cross," did He come down? Then don't come
down from yours.
Christ changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee at the merest
suggestion from His Blessed Mother. When the wine of love runs
short in your marriage, turn to Our Lady for help. At her prayer,
her Divine Son will change tears into the wine of love again.
Whatever you do, stay together. In marriage, as in Cana, often the
best wine is kept for the last.
1. "Our Sunday Visitor," (Huntington, Ind., 1938).
2. "Habit of Getting Divorces," Rollin Lynde Hartt, "World's Work,"
58; 403-9, August, 1924.
4. "For Better, Not for Worse," Dr. Walter A. Maier. St. Louis:
Concordia Publishing House, 1936.
5. "Mr. Dooley Speaks." New York R. H. Russell, 1902.
6. Clipsheet, September 9, 1946.
7. Quoted in "Some Notes on the Alcohol Problem," by Deets Pickett.
Published by the Board of Temperance, 100 Maryland Ave., NE.,
8. "Manners Maketh Man," Anonymous. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
9. "Halechoth gedoloth," 51 b. Quoted in "The Christ--The Son of
God," p. 143, op. cit.
Chapter Eleven: THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF PARENTS
A young man called at the rectory quite a while ago seeking
vocational guidance. He had just been discharged from the army
and was in a quandary as to what he should do. I advised him to
seek an interview with the vocational guidance director at the local
high school and submit to the latest aptitude tests. A short time
later he reported that the tests indicated that he might do well in
drafting or commercial art. He chose the latter and had already
made application for entrance to an art school, where he looked
forward to a four-year course. When I asked why he had rejected
drafting he replied, "That is a tough, tedious course. Anyway, I
could never see myself taking the responsibility for planning
bridges or skyscrapers. That's not for me."
Two more months passed, and the same young man again called to
see me. This time, he had in tow a pretty, misty-eyed maiden. Very
nonchalantly he said he wanted to make arrangements for
marriage. A little questioning brought out these facts. They had
met at a U.S.O. dance in the city some four months earlier. He had
never met her family, and she knew little or nothing of his
background. Neither of them had ever read a book on marriage and
obviously knew nothing about child psychology.
Here was a typical case of a young man who accepted as quite
normal and logical the fact that he must train for four long years
to learn commercial art, but who had never thought of giving one
day, one week, one month, or one year to training for another
career, infinitely more technical and important--parenthood. He
who shied away from the responsibility of building a bridge or
skyscraper was ready rashly to rush into marriage and parenthood
without giving it a second thought.
I imagine that that sort of fallacious thinking and acting will go on
until our educators wake up to the fact that an obligatory four-year
course in domestic science and domestic relations would serve
students in high schools and colleges better than some musty
course in Chaucer's English, or, as Mr. Dooley would say, "Th'
Relations iv Ice to th' Greek Idee iv God."
Marriage is a career--a highly specialized career--and as such,
demands adequate training and preparation. Just pause for a
moment and ask yourself if there is any career on the face of this
earth that you could embrace that does not call for special
training? Could you teach a high-school class without normal
school or teachers' college training? Could you practice medicine,
dentistry, law, without long years of study and sacrifice? Could
you be a successful mortician, chemist, pharmacist, musician,
radio entertainer, opera singer, radio operator, electrician, or
plumber, without training? And yet, men and women marry, and in
so doing, assume responsibility for one of the biggest and most
important tasks in the world--and this they do with little or no
thought of preparing themselves for their work.
The sacrament of matrimony confers grace on its recipients, but
there is no mention of any miraculous infusion of knowledge. The
rearing of children is not something that comes naturally. Nor is it
instinctive. Instinct alone can be a dangerous and deceptive guide.
I heard once of a man whose job it was to assist a circus balloon in
its ascension. His particular work consisted in holding on to one of
the many guide ropes while the balloon eased its way up. On one
particular occasion this man's bulldog followed him to work.
Seeing the master take hold of one of the ropes, the dog did
likewise and, doing what instinct directed, hung on and was
carried aloft only to fall from a great height to its death.
The office of a mother or father is one that demands training and
skill. With the wealth of printed material in books and magazines
today, it is inexcusable for a parent to be ignorant of "the know-
how" of raising children and thus preparing them to face problems
of living normally, happy and holy in a topsy-turvy world.
"We are struck," say the authors of the book entitled "What Is
Wrong with Marriage," "with an immense pessimism. It is not over
the institution of marriage. It is merely despair over the way in
which the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and the
children growing up, inevitably repeat the process. Again and
again, we see the misery of maturity driving men and women to
teach their children exactly those things which will perpetuate the
misery when the children themselves grow up.... Our pessimism is
not, of course, that the circle cannot be broken, but only that it is
so hard to make men and women see this in the face of hoary
tradition. They are so much more interested in their own troubles
than in the troubles their children may some day have. They are
not interested in vicarious atonement. They cannot see that as
parents they can do more to put an end to the things that breed
misery for all who have to follow the way of love from the cradle to
the grave. They cannot see that they are the gods upon whose
knees rests the married happiness in the next generation--and the
next and the next and the next."
Ignorance is no excuse before the law, nor should it be an excuse
in the matter of rearing children. There are right and wrong ways,
there are good and bad ways of bringing up the family. One must
be progressive enough to make use of new ways and methods, in
so far as they produce the desired results. Many a child has gone
through life with a set of neuroses that have handicapped it far
more than, say, infantile paralysis, simply because its mother or
father knew nothing about child psychology. Many an ignorant,
selfish mother has so dominated every single iota of her sons' or
daughters' lives as to render them completely unfit to stand on
their own two feet and face life's problems or solve them.
"Momism" is more prevalent than we like to admit, but the number
of men and women who walk out on marriage and return to their
parental homes because encouraged to do so by their mothers or
fathers, or because they cannot live away from them, is legion. The
awful increase of marriage failures is due in no small way to
mothers and fathers who have never given their children a deep
and abiding reverence for marriage. Their own unhappiness, their
quarreling, their example, has served to pattern the low estimation
their children have of marriage. How the mother and father of a
family succeed at marriage will in turn condition their sons and
daughters for success or failure of their marriages. As Joubert
wrote, in Pensees: "Children have more need of models than of
Let us examine together a few basic principles governing the
important role of parents.
The moment you become aware of the fact that the plenitude of
office of mother is about to dawn upon you, joyfully and
prayerfully repeat the words of Our Blessed Mother: "Behold the
handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy Word,"
and begin at that moment to prepare for the arrival of your child.
The little life scarcely begun, although apparently shut away from
all the influences of the world is, nevertheless, very much under
the influence of the mother.
"The unborn child breathes," writes Dr. Pomeroy, "the air of heaven
through its mother's lungs; it sees beauty through her eyes, hears
harmony or discord through her ears; it lays up stores of future
gladness through her joy in all that is gladsome and good; it lays
foundations for future hope and courage through her exercise of
them at this time; and its quantity and quality of brain and heart
must largely depend upon the pattern she furnishes for its
copying. In view of this, will any woman dare spend the
subsequent months in selfish repining or in the mad whirl of
social gayety? Will anyone worthy of the name woman dare ask for
a larger or more honorable sphere than to mould the destiny of
At the first sign of the great tidings of pregnanc turn to the
mother's Saint, St. Gerard, and recite daily this splendid prayer,
imprimatured by His Excellency Archbishop Gerald Murray,
C.S.S.R., of Winnipeg, Canada.
"O good St. Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and Wonder-
worker of our day, I call upon thee and seek thy aid. Thou who on
earth didst always fulfill God's designs help me do the holy Will of
God. Beseech the Master of Life, from Whom all paternity
proceedeth, to render me fruitful in offspring, that I may raise up
children to God in this life and heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory
in the world to come. Amen."
It is important, too, to place yourself under the care of a capable
doctor. Be sure he is worthy of your trust. Avoid, as you would a
leper, the fashionable medico who has the reputation of taking
upon himself the role of the Deity--with power of life or death, or
who tells you when you can observe the moral law and when he
dispenses from that law. By their fruits ye shall know them.
Once having conscientiously chosen your doctor, follow his advice
regarding diet and exercise. We have touched on the matter of the
effect of diet on the unborn child elsewhere in this volume. Go
regularly for check-ups. Such visits will pay dividends in a
healthy, normal child. Ask the doctor to suggest a few good books
on infant care and child-training. You can't begin too early to
amass good reference books on such topics. Could you embrace
any other career without having to purchase textbooks? Your
public library may be well stocked with such books. However, it's
better to have your own.
When the great day arrives, offer your sufferings and discomfort
to God in behalf of your offspring. Place yourself in the tender
hands of His Blessed Mother, and she will guide you through the
valley of pain and up the Mount of Tabor where your suffering will
be transfigured into joy--joy the like of which no human being
experiences--the joy of bringing into the world a child created in
the image and likeness of God.
From the moment of birth, a baby must experience a feeling of
"being wanted" and needs above all to be loved. That is why a wise
nature calls into play the expression of that love in breast-feeding.
Breast-fed babies have a better chance of good health, and few
ever fall victims of the infectious and ofttimes fatal diarrhea
common among bottle babies. Breast-feeding completes a natural
circle that begins with love, procreation through the birth, and
then through nursing, weaning, and guiding the child to maturity.
To avoid breast-feeding when possible is to break that magical
"This union, it's true," says Dr. John C. Montgomery, "must some
day be broken. Emotionally as well as physically, mothers must
also wean their children. But psychologists have learned that this
'weaning' is most successful and the child's separateness and
independence best achieved when the early tie with the mother
has been a deep and a warm one."
This same eminent Detroit pediatrician points out the utter folly of
present hospital regulations which restrict to certain set times the
mother's fondling and feeding of the new-born infant. He says that
the infant should be kept with the mother as much as possible. It
is better for the infant, too, inasmuch as it has a good
psychological effect on the child.
"Peaceful, satisfied infants, so psychiatrists tell us," says the
doctor, "are more likely than others to grow into self-reliant
youngsters who eventually develop iron enough to stand life's
hardships. The comfort and pleasure of the mother's breast in the
early months favors this sense of blissful well-being. To the
mother herself, the experience brings also a quieting sense of
fulfillment which is deeply satisfying. Such harmony is the surest
foundation for mutual enjoyment in the years ahead."
Don't delay the baptism of the baby beyond a month. It is
customary to have this important and essential sacrament
administered two weeks from the date of birth. The sponsors must
be Catholics (practical Catholics). And be sure the names you
choose are saints' names and not ones which would be suitable for
a dining car, or that spell "box car" backward and nothing
frontward. Incidentally, "Twinkles" doesn't qualify either.
Seriously, though, the choosing of names for your children is very
important. Don't reach too far for originality. "Certain names," says
Joseph Roux, "always awake certain prejudices." Consult your
pastor if in doubt of the propriety of your choice. Anyway, can you
think of better heavenly patrons than Mary or Joseph?
When you receive delivery of a new car, your dealer will invariably
warn you that it should be given special care for the first thousand
miles. He will advise a speed not greater than thirty miles per hour
for the first five hundred miles, and not more than forty or fifty
for the next five hundred. Why does he bother to give out such
information? Simply because experience has taught that a car that
is not broken in properly at the outset of its service may never
again perform properly.
This same thing holds true for new babies. Their whole lives may
be adversely affected by injudicious handling by the parents. Ill-
advised attention can be as bad as neglect. Take, for instance,
rocking a baby to sleep. Nature intended the healthy, normal child
to go to sleep by itself and has arranged that darkness and quiet
assist this natural act. In many cases children are trained from
earliest infancy to expect and then demand to be laboriously put
to sleep with electric lights blazing and parents or in-laws rocking
them, singing to them or later telling them weird bed-time stories.
Under usual circumstances, ninety-nine out of one hundred
children would more quickly go to sleep without artificial props if
they had not been badly trained or spoiled in infancy. Picking up a
baby every time it cries is a bad practice and an injustice to the
tiny mite, because it sows the seeds of selfishness which may
follow it all the days of its life.
This example may point out what I mean when I say get the best
books you can buy on child care and training. Profit by the
experience of the so-called experts. They may have a few crack-pot
ideas about child training, but learn how to separate the wheat
from the cockle.
Let us return again to the example of the automobile
manufacturer. Every car manufacturer issues a book of basic
instructions for the care of his product and prudence demands
that such instructions be followed. This same procedure of issuing
printed instructions for the study and care of their product is
carried out by manufacturers of watches, fountain pens,
refrigerators, washing machines, radios, and an infinite number of
other articles. Since God made man, it would be only natural to
expect Him to set down a few basic principles relative to man's
early training. The Holy Bible contains such basic rules. Let us
examine a few of them now.
From the first dawn of reason, a child ought to be trained to know,
love, and serve God. The Creator warns parents: "It is better to die
without children than to have ungodly children." (Ecclus. 16:4.)
Regarding training and discipline, Scripture says:
"He that spareth the rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him
correcteth him betimes." (Prov. 13:24.)
"A horse not broken becometh stubborn: and a child left to himself
will become headstrong. Give thy son his way, and he shall make
thee afraid.... Give him not liberty in his youth: and wink not at his
devices. Bow down his neck while he is young . . . lest he grow
stubborn, and regard thee not, and so be a sorrow of heart to thee."
(Ecclus. 30:8, 9,11,12.)
That is the broad outline. Nor is it to be considered as addressed
solely to parents of the school-age child. Proper training is
essential from the infant's earliest days. I think it was Aristotle
who, when he had finished an important lecture on child training,
was approached by a bewildered mother and asked by her when
she should begin to train her child. He answered her with this
question: "How old is your child, madam?" Upon hearing the
mother reply that the child was five, Aristotle said: "Hurry home,
madam, you are now already five years late."
While the first child is still an infant, begin to collect your family
library of books on child training. Instead of flowers for an
anniversary, or useless gifts on birthdays, let husbands and wives
give each other the following good books:
(1) "Infant and Child in the Culture of Today," Dr. Arnold Gesell and
Dr. Frances Ilg. $4.50
(2) "The Child from Five to Ten," Gesell and Ilg. $4.50. Both may be
purchased at any bookstore, or from the publisher, Harper & Bros.,
637 Madison Ave., N. Y. C.
(3) "As the Twig Is Bent," Dr. Leslie B. Hohman, published by The
Macmillan Co., New York City.
(4) "Living Together in the Family," Lems T. Dennis, published by
American Home Economics Association, 620 Mills Blvd.,
Washington. D. C.
(5) "Stop Annoying Your Children," William W. Bauer, M.D.,
published by Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1947.
(6) "Some Notes for the Guidance of Parents," The Reverend Daniel
J. Lord, S.J. A superb work--paperbound for $1.00, published by
The Queens' Work, 3742 West Pine Blvd., St. Louis 8, Mo.
When the child is old enough to start school, be sure you enroll
him in a Catholic school. Children need religion from their
earliest youth. The short time devoted to Sunday School or
released time can never supplant whole-time Catholic education.
Public schools as a rule never teach anything offensive about God.
What is worse, they ignore Him. Lt. Ralph Brophy, head of the
police juvenile bureau at Des Moines, Iowa, in his 1946 report,
asserted that "religious education was an antidote for juvenile
delinquency. At least eighty-three per cent have had to deal had no
religious training and the other seventeen per cent were poorly
For parents who are neglectful of their children's welfare and their
future usefulness as American citizens, he listed four certain ways
for making a child delinquent.
1. Don't give your child any religious and spiritual training.
2. Don't let him tell you about his plans, problems and pleasures,
so he won't develop affection, security or trust in you.
3. Don't open your home to his companions; they may muss up the
place. Don't be concerned where he spends his leisure.
4. Never praise your child for his worth-while effort because he
might take advantage of you and try harder to please in the future.
In other words, just don't pay any attention to what your child does
or says. He should be able to take care of himself in this day and
Regarding school, see that home assignments are neatly and
correctly done, and never side with your child against the teacher
in his presence. If you think the child has a case, go to see the
Encourage the children by word and example to approach the
sacraments weekly. The example of parents is by far and large the
And now to the question of discipline. Not infrequently parents
confuse discipline with punishment. They are by no means the
same thing. Nor are their ends the same; the end of punishment
being to inflict pain for a crime or evil done, while the end of
discipline ought to be the development of self-reliance and self-
control. Punishment, at best, is only an emergency treatment of a
problem. Discipline, on the other hand, is a long-range program
concerning itself with ways and means of establishing controls
with the greater aim in view of developing self-reliance and self-
control. Were this always borne in mind, fewer senseless beatings
would be administered to children.
It was James Douglas who once said that "if a history of cruelty
were written, it would fill thousands of volumes and the largest
section would be allotted to the description of cruelty to children."
The parent who through ill-temper slaps a child on the face or
head or who administers severe physical punishment is not fitted
to rear children. The late Monsignor E. J. Flanagan, director of the
famous Boys' Town, once said that even in prisons and jails
"flogging and other forms of physical punishment wound that
sense of dignity which attaches to the self. The result of such
negative treatment is that the child comes to look upon society as
his enemy. His urge is to fight back, not to reform.
"The child is not born bad. It is not born to be bad. The child who
makes mistakes is a spiritually sick child. He is the victim of bad
environment, bad training, bad example. In short, he is a product
of neglect. A person who goes ill-clad into the snow and cold
becomes sick with pneumonia. But who would seek to cure his
illness by forcing him again into the snow and cold? And yet some
people think a child who has become a misfit as a result of being
ill-treated can be socialized by more mistreatment."
To deprive a child of some much enjoyed pleasure is often more
effective as a chastisement than corporal punishment. In justice,
the punishment must fit the crime. Often there is little or no
proportion between what evil or fault a child has committed and
the unreasonable punishment.
The trouble with most parents is that parental authority is divided.
Mother tells Johnny he may not go to the show. Pop vetoes the
order and slips Johnny the money to see the current "Madame X
and Her Fourth Husband." Or parental edicts are not consistent. It
is wrong one day for Junior to walk through the house with muddy
rubbers and he is slapped for so doing, but tomorrow he could
walk through the house with mud galore on his feet and no
comment. Again, the punishment is often delayed far beyond its
proper time, so that Marcella is punished in the evening for some
fault committed that morning. When the punishment does arrive,
her little mind can hardly connect the gravity of the crime with the
severity of the punishment.
No parent ought ever punish a child in anger. Cool down and think
it over, and then think up a proportionate privation of some
pleasure that will have a punitive effect. Mothers ought never to
say to a child who has done something wrong, "Wait till your father
gets home. He'll punish you within an inch of your life." That is the
worst thing you could do. The child will just hate to see Pop make
the bend in the road. Do your own sentencing. Each parent must
agree to back the other up in every instance of punishment.
Here are two excellent rules from the Bible.
"Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be
discouraged" (Col. 3:21), and for mothers, here's a good one for
you: "Be not as a lion in thy house, terrifying them of thy
household and oppressing them that are under thee." (Ecclus.
It is of cardinal importance that parents treat their children as they
themselves would want to be treated. As a parent never ask a child
to do something you yourself would not want to do. If you wanted
a twenty-dollar bill changed would you go into a store and buy an
evening paper? I'll bet you wouldn't. Then don't make a child do it.
Work out a schedule of work and play for the child and then,
barring great urgency, don't break in on a child's playtime to ask
him to run up the street for a box of eye-shadow. Don't blame a
child for taking your things without first asking, if you have the
habit of acting arbitrarily with his. Treat a child with consideration
and he'll treat you with consideration.
I've heard of one mother who was tops as a child psychologist. She
realized that her children had feelings too. She noted how her
neighbor thought nothing of throwing open a door and letting go a
war whoop: "JunIOR, come in here this instant. It's time for bed."
There was no thought of what a spot Junior was in--with three men
on bases and two out, he himself in there pitching to a home-run
king from the next block. The other mother, with a keen sense of
the nice thing to do, arranged with her son that when it was time to
go in she would put the porch light on. Note the difference in the
two approaches. One mother had no consideration for her son,
while the other mother did. One mother was helping her son save
face before the gang, and when he saw the light out of the corner
of his eye, he finished his game as quickly as he could and then,
as if he had decided all by himself, said: "I guess I'll go home."
Such consideration will be appreciated by the tiniest child. The
sooner you begin the better.
I found this little clipping in my desk. I have no idea who
published it, but it sums up clearly what we have tried to say.
"Bring thy children up in learning and obedience, yet without
outward austerity. Praise them openly, reprehend them secretly.
Give them good countenance and convenient maintenance
according to thy ability, otherwise thy life will seem their bondage,
and what portion thou shalt leave them at thy death, they will
thank death for it, and not thee. And I am persuaded that the
foolish cockering of some parents, and the over-stern carriage of
others, causeth more men and women to take ill courses than their
own vicious inclinations."--Lord Burleigh.
Regarding the sex education of children, Pope Pius XI reminds
parents that it is their duty to handle this delicate matter. It should
be always given individually and modestly. It's better for parents
to tell children the truth about "where babies come from." Let them
catch you in a lie about that fabulous stork and they may not
believe you in other matters. Don't underestimate the "education"
of your child in this matter. Junior may be able to enlighten you
quite a little. There is a wonderful little booklet for girls written by
a Catholic woman doctor, and I earnestly advise mothers to buy a
copy and leave it around where Sis can get her hands on it. It is
entitled "Growing Up--A Book for Girls" (and it is in the twenty-five-
cent class), published by Benziger Brothers, 26 Park Place, N. Y. C.
This is a "must" for the noble sex education of girls. Whatever you
do, don't make a ceremony of telling children the facts of life.
They hate lectures. Make it short and to the point.
To better understand the different phases of growing from infancy
to childhood and then from teen-age to adulthood, review what we
have already treated in Chapter III. Facilitate as much as possible
the different transitions. The struggle is pretty rugged in passing
from boyhood or girlhood into the teen-age or adolescent group.
Faults in character-building either on the part of the parents, or in
the response to good training by the teen-ager himself, must be
corrected. Where the foundation has been faulty, a repair job must
be begun in early teen-age, and while some of the marks of the
repair may be noticeable, it must nevertheless be undertaken.
It is important to remember that the same tactics used in the
development of the moral and social characteristics of a child
cannot be used in the repair work done on the early teen-ager. This
needs a decidedly different approach. It demands on the part of
those directly responsible for such training, self-control, good
example, sympathy, and a willingness to let go at the proper times.
The old idea of treating teen-agers as you yourself were treated by
your parents demands radical changing. Parents must keep abreast
of the times and endeavor, if possible, to attain the old standard
results by modern methods. What does it matter what method,
ancient or modern, is used, so long as the desired results are
Few parents seem to realize the terrific effect growing from
childhood into manhood or womanhood really has on a child. A lad
at eighteen is a vastly different person from the one he was at
eleven. Doubtless he was, at eleven, a lanky, gawky little person,
all legs and arms, habitually untidy about his personal
appearance, with everything but the kitchen sink stuffed into his
pockets. The same boy at sixteen is in all respects a man; he takes
particular delight in a swanky sports coat and puts his dad's tonic
on his hair, and if the truth were known, rubs a bit on his face to
encourage a beard so he can brag about his five o'clock shadow.
Changes in a girl's body take place more or less rapidly between
fifteen and eighteen too. While the body changes vaguely mystify
and confuse a girl, the moods accompanying them upset both her
and her parents. She goes through a spell of daydreaming, she
assumes an air of bored condescension, she plays to the gallery by
endeavoring to be noticed, she is moody, unduly emotional and
more or less deaf to parental edict and direction. Frankly, these
moods are common to youth of both sexes.
It is during the adolescent years that young people need
cooperation and sympathetic understanding most. They must feel
the assurance of parental love and affection. Gradually, through
the adolescent years, the youth must be granted his liberty from
the hard and fast rules that tied him to his mother's apron strings
in earlier years. In other words, there must be a gradual
emancipation. The task is to know when to let go and when not to
let go, and parents have to judge this for each individual case. The
best parents are those who "No" best.
What most parents dread above all else is the development of the
romantic urge in their children, and usually they take drastic
methods to circumvent it. Errors in judgment in solving this
problem can do untold harm. Where a good Catholic grammar and
high school education, where good home example and family
prayers and frequentation of the sacraments have been provided
the youth in question, the problem is not how to keep your son or
daughter from getting involved with the opposite sex, but how to
get them launched as graciously as possible.
As much as you may hate to see the children grow to adolescent
stature, you must face it; how you react will affect them more than
you can ever imagine. The best plan is to be pleasantly interested
at the signs of normal social development. It is important that all
"kidding" references, no matter how well intentioned, be omitted.
Adolescents teased about having "girl friends," or "boy friends," or
the "Mary's in love" routine, will have one of two serious effects--it
will make the youngsters crawl back into a shell, or it will cause
the young lover to be defiant and rebellious. On the other hand,
any obvious attempts toward forcing social development will most
Social development must be aided and fostered. The teenager
should be permitted to have friends in on Fridays and/or Saturday
nights. School and church group activities should be encouraged
and supported. Parents who are afraid the furniture might get a
few scratches from such adolescent pow-wows in the home have
no sense of values. Which is worse--a broken chair or a broken
life? If the children can't meet and feel free in their own homes,
they will meet in less protective places.
Care and caution is urged on fathers who take their daughters to
parties and social affairs and who call for them when they are
over. If a father must do this for peace of mind or peace in the
home, he ought to be subtle enough to say that it is for
transportation purposes only and not the act of a virtuous parent.
I recall a family where the father took his two teen-age daughters
to every social affair the girls ever attended, even to church, too.
There was no end to the daughters' embarrassment and the net
result was that the girls never got to know any of the boys well.
Deprived of the chance to make comparisons, one of the girls met
a young man on the train she took to and from her office job in the
city during the summer vacation, and she ran away with him and
got married, a marriage that lasted but two years. Train children
well from their youth as adolescents, let them mingle freely and
normally, and the ultimate results will be better. Never mistrust
youth. Nothing hurts as much as mistrust. Parental supervision
must be exerted, however, yet in such a way that it won't be
One of the finest little booklets, and a "must" for parents
confronted with teen-agers in the family, is "The Adolescent," by
Henry C. Schumacher, M.D., B.Sc. (Write to "Our Sunday Visitor,"
Huntington, Indiana. It may not cost more than twenty-five or fifty
cents.) It is tops for practicality.
Later, when your son and daughter show definite signs of being
bent on marriage, help them then more than you ever did in your
life before. Encourage enrollment in one of the finest courses
given anywhere today. It is a correspondence course in marriage
preparation. Write Marriage Preparation Service, The Catholic
Centre, 125 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, Canada. That would be the best
ten-dollar gift you ever gave your son or daughter. The whole
fifteen installments are issued under the guidance of a priest, a
doctor, and a lawyer.
When Sis or Junior is old enough, if he or she has all the maturities
herein stated, if everything looks to be in order, give them the
green light with your blessing.
May no child of yours ever say about you what St. Augustine had to
say about his father's indifference:
"My father never bothered about how I was growing towards You
(God) or how chaste or unchaste I might be, so long as I grew in
Decrying the lack of sympathy and guidance again, the great Saint
"If only there had been someone then to bring relief to the
wretchedness of my state and turn to account the fleeting beauties
of these new temptations and bring within bounds their attractions
for me: so that the tides of my youth might have driven in upon
the shore of marriage: for then they might have brought calm with
the having of children as Your law prescribes, O Lord, for in this
way you form the offspring of this our death, able with gentle
hand to blunt the thorns that You would not have in Your
paradise.... My family took no care to save me from this moral
destruction by marriage: their only concern was I should learn to
make as fine and persuasive speeches as possible."
I can never understand the psychology of parents who, if a son
chooses, say, to be a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or an electrical
engineer, or if a daughter wants to be a nurse, opera singer, or
artist, will in every case feel it a duty to help in a financial way
toward the achievement of such goals. But when a son or daughter
chooses marriage as a career, how few parents will ever offer them
any real financial help to get them established. Make that one of
the highlights of your relation with your children. Resolve to help
them in marriage as you would if they chose any other career.
They will appreciate your least generosity more in the early years
of marriage than they will if you leave them a huge legacy after
you have passed away. They may feel then that you left your
money to them simply because you couldn't take it with you.
Among life's tragedies the saddest is a mother and father who
when they start down the hill of life into the shadows of old age
find themselves burdened under the crushing weight of remorse
for having neglected their marital duties. The bitterest yoke,
however, is the remorse that follows neglect of parental
responsibilities. The mistakes they made in training their children
they may see perpetuated in their children's children. The
marriage failure of a son or daughter they may then be able to
trace to the faulty pattern they themselves set before such a one.
The weak, watered-down faith of their grown children will haunt
them and will reproach them for the lack of example they gave in
religious practices. The whip of repentance will be severest on a
mother or father who realizes too late that their own personal
selfishness kept a son or daughter from marriage, and in their last
years they must see them wither like leaves at the touch of a heavy
Disturbing thoughts, you say? They are meant to be. Marriage is a
serious business. It's a glorious career but a responsible one. It can
be a joyous career, and it may be a wearisome and even a
thankless one. Children who trample your feet when they are small
may even trample your heart when they grow up. But aren't there
such contingencies in every career? Can you name one career that
one can hope to be a success in without fidelity to duty, untiring
effort, and sacrifice? Do you think Balzac's career as a writer was
an easy one? He wrote sixteen hours a day, sometimes never left
his room for three days at a time. At the age of thirty he started
writing "La Comedie Humaine," and worked at it almost without
stopping for twenty years. If a person could put such zeal and
devotion to duty into writing a book, what can we say of the zeal
and devotion mothers and fathers ought to demonstrate in the
procreation, education, and salvation of their children?
Take care, however, that in being a good mother or father you do
not neglect the duty of being a loving husband or wife. Foolish
indeed is the mother who lavishes all her love upon her children,
reserving little or none for her husband. Such a one may find,
when the children are grown up and have moved away from the
family circle, that she is a stranger to her mate. Diffidence and
neglect are the two antidotes to love. Marital love, like the ancient
manna, must be collected every day. Live such a life of mutual
love that in the closing hours of your life you might in all truth be
able to express sentiments similar to those expressed by Mark
Twain to his beloved wife, Olivia. Keep in mind as you read the
following charming protestation of love that it was written by a
man who was then standing in the awful shadows of financial
disaster and at about the time his great genius was ebbing.
On the seventeenth anniversary of his engagement to Olivia, Mark
"We have reached another milestone, my darling, and a very, very
remote one from the place where we started but we look back over
a pleasant landscape-valleys that are still green, plains that still
bear flowers, hills that still sleep in the soft light of that far
morning of blessed memory. And here we have company on the
journey--ah, such precious company, such inspiring, such lovely,
and gracious company! and how they lighten the march! Our faces
are toward the sunset, now, but these are with us, to hold our
hands, and stay our feet, and while they abide, and our old love
grows and never diminishes, our march shall still be through
flowers and green fields, and the evening light as pleasant as that
old soft morning glow yonder behind.
Co-equal with the obligation resting on husbands and wives of
sustaining and increasing their love for one another is their duty
as mothers and fathers of loving, respecting, instructing, and
giving good example to their children. Above all, they must pray
for their children--for the prayers of parents are most efficacious.
For a proof of this, let us return to Cana--of Galilee.
The immortal village of Cana is mentioned twice in the New
Testament, once in reference to the marriage feast and once in
connection with the story of a father and his dying son. It is to this
latter incident that we now refer.
We should not, in the absence of positive information on the
matter, be far from the truth, we think, in surmising that Christ, in
returning to Cana a second time, simply did so to visit the young
couple at whose marriage He had performed His first miracle the
year before. In any case, Scripture tells us that the Master had
been to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Jews and from there started
for Cana. Passing through Samaria, Our Lord stopped to talk to the
Samaritan woman at the well and gently reproached her for her
infidelity in marriage.
Reaching Cana, the news of His presence spread rapidly and a
certain royal official whose little son lay dying at Capharanaum
"approached the Master and besought Him to come down and heal
his son for he was at the point of death." The deep faith, the
urgency in that father's simple petition, "Sir, come down before my
child dies," touched the tender heart of Christ and He said to the
man: "Go thy way, thy son liveth." And the account written by St.
John ends thus: "And he himself believed, and his whole
Two wondrous lessons flow from the touching mystery of love and
power in Cana of Galilee. The first great lesson concerns the
efficacy of a father's or mother's prayers for their children. Were a
history ever written of all the spiritual and temporal miracles that
have been wrought in favor of children through parental prayer,
the world itself, I think, could not contain the books. For instance,
the conversion of St. Augustine is but one of a legion. Small
wonder that St. Monica, "whose tears flowed down and watered the
very earth beneath her eyes in every place where she prayed,"
should have been, after God, instrumental in his conversion. It was
the great Ambrose who said to her: "Go your way: continue as you
now are: it is not possible that the son of these tears should ever
perish." Monica's prayers and tears saved Augustine. You can save
your children in like manner.
The second lesson is equally great. The royal official "became
obedient unto the faith" and "went his way," presently to find his
faith both crowned and perfected--he and his whole household. In
other words, the believing father and mother can strengthen the
faith of the whole family. Never let your faith waver for an instant,
even when the salvation of your child seems hopeless. Say through
your tears: "Lord, come down before my child dies." Keep saying it
while there is breath in your body. In heaven, some day, your faith
will be rewarded, and your joy will be full when the Christ of Cana
says to you, "Thy son lives."
1. "What Is Wrong with Marriage," Hamilton and MacGowan. New
York: Borli, 1929, pp. 307, 8.
2. The Ethics of Marriage. New York: Funk and Wagnalls Co., 1888.
3. As far as we know now parents have little or no control over the
sex of their offspring. In a way, it is better so. Does not nature
manage this matter better than man ever could? However,
according to Dr. R. T. Trall, the time of impregnation may exercise
some control over the sex of the child. From experiments he
carried out, the weight of testimony goes to show that early
impregnation forms the development of females and late
impregnation the development of males.
Dr. Trall explains it this way. If the impregnation is very soon after
the ovum is matured, it is far up in the Fallopian tubes and
consequently a fewer number of spermatozoa reach it. The result
will be that the germ element will most likely prevail and the
offspring be a female. On the other hand, if the impregnation takes
place at a later period, the ovum will be farther down, and
consequently more spermatozoa will be capable of reaching it and
the probability will be that the sperm element will predominate
and a male will be the result.
4. Breast milk, according to James A. Taylor, M.D., F.A.C.S., of
Tarrytown, N. Y., "imparts to the baby many of the maternal
immunities to contagious and infectious diseases."
5. "Will You Nurse Your Baby?", John C. Montgomery, M.D.,
"Woman's Home Companion," May, 1947.
6. Neutral schools from which religion is excluded cannot exist in
practice. Pius XI declared such schools "are bound to become
According to Canon 1374; and Instruction, Holy Office, Nov. 24,
1875, parents need permission of the local Ordinary to send their
children to other than Catholic schools.
(a) Parents who send their children to non-Catholic schools on
principle because they prefer them, or (b) to schools that are
positively harmful because heresy, etc., is regularly taught, or (c)
to non-Catholic schools when nothing is done to offset the danger
of perversion, cannot be absolved. (Noldin II, n. 296.)
7. "The Love Letters of Mark Twain" Edited by Dixon Wecter. "The
Atlantic Monthly," January, 1948. Copyright, The Mark Twain
Chapter Twelve: CANA IS FOREVER
One night some years ago when I was stationed in the prairies, I
went to the wake of one of my oldest parishioners. She had been
the kind of person whose name would instantly have come to mind
were one asked to select the outstanding mother in the district. It
was not so much her genial disposition, her charities, her
neighborliness, her deep faith, or her abiding love for her husband
and her seven children, as much as the universal consensus that
her family was the closest-knit unit in the district. Everyone
marveled at the love her husband and children demonstrated
toward her in private, as well as in public. So completely did she
symbolize noble motherhood that her passing was taken as a
personal loss to nearly everyone in the community.
As I prepared to say the holy rosary that night, her devoted
husband knelt beside me and whispered: "Father, if you don't
mind, may I say the rosary tonight? You see, for forty-four years
we have never once missed saying the rosary together with the
family. Her last night with us must be no exception." Needless to
relate, he said the prayers.
As I knelt there and answered the prayers, through tear-dimmed
eyes I gazed first upon the placid features of that noble mother
and then my gaze became fixed on the well-worn rosary, wrapped
around two old, wrinkled, parchment-like hands. My thoughts
wandered back through the years to when those hands were
smooth and white and beautiful. One morning long ago they had
clasped other hands before God's altar and vowed love and
fidelity, a trust they never violated. Those same hands had fondled
tiny babies and guided their first steps, and through the years they
had assuaged fevered brows and broken hearts and even clasped
other hands in last farewells. And the key to their terrible strength-
-the rosary--now bound those hands together forever in peaceful
I never hear that modern cliche, The family that prays together,
stays together, without thinking of that old mother. I know now the
secret of her happiness in marriage. I know, too, why her family
was so outstanding and so respected; it was the family rosary.
Tennyson was right when he wrote:
More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friends?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
If married couples would but learn the necessity of and the power
of prayer, especially family prayer, there would be few, if any,
marriage failures. The necessity of prayer in every chosen state of
life was exemplified in Our Blessed Lord's life. Before He went to
Cana, He had prayed and fasted forty days. During His sacred
ministry He often passed whole nights in prayer, and on the eve of
His death did He not pray in the garden of Gethsemane? Indeed,
He it was who inspired Peter to tell husbands to dwell with their
wives "as to the co-heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers be
not hindered . . . Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,
and His ears unto their prayers." (I Pet. 3: 7, 12.)
And who could adequately describe the power of prayer? Prayer
with faith can accomplish anything. "All things," said Christ
Himself, "whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall
receive: and they shall come unto you." (Mark 11:24.) And of
family prayer, did He not say: "Where two or three are gathered
together in My name there I am in the midst of them."?
A few blocks away from where I live there is a large, empty old
house. No one has lived in it for years and years. Every time I pass
it, it seems to be in a worse state of dilapidation. No fire has as yet
touched it, nor have hurricanes shaken it, nor has it been abused
by constant use, but, rather, it is falling into ruin through decay. It
just seems unable to bear the weight of emptiness and silence.
Much the same thing happens to all homes when pagan silence
locks the mouths and freezes the hearts, so that no family prayer
ever ascends from them to the heart of God.
J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, in a recent radio broadcast
urged a return to the practice of daily family prayer. "Our nation,"
said Mr. Hoover, "is sadly in need of a rebirth of the simple life--a
return to the days when God was a part of each household, when
families arose in the morning with a prayer on their lips, and
ended the day by gathering together to place themselves in His
care. A Godless home is built upon sand; it is an inviting breeding
ground for moral decay and crime."
Whenever in ages past an antidote was discovered for some dread
ill, its use has been maintained even to our day. "The Holy Rosary,"
said Pope Leo X, "was instituted to crush heresiarchs and growing
heresies," and we know how well it accomplished its purpose
against the twelfth century Albigensian heretics. In the sixteenth
century we know its effect upon the Turks, who at that time
threatened to impose the yoke of superstition and barbarism on
nearly the whole of Europe. Its use in favor of victories at
Temeswar in Pannonia and at Corfu needs no reiteration here. For
centuries now, the rosary has been an antidote to heresy--will it
cease to be effective against modern heresy inherent in the false
doctrines of easy divorce, birth control, free love, broken homes,
and juvenile revolution?
Whether you are on the threshold of matrimony or whether you
have already set sail on its unchartered seas, I beseech you, begin
the daily recitation of the rosary in your home. After you have read
the following Promises of Our Lady to those who devoutly recite
the Holy Rosary, you may better understand how and why those
who pray together stay together.
1. Whoever will faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary
shall receive signal graces.
2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all
those who will recite the Rosary.
3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it shall
destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
4. It shall cause virtue and good works to flourish; it shall obtain
for souls the abundant mercy of God; it shall withdraw the hearts
of men from the love of the world and its vanities and shall lift
them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify
themselves by this means!
5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the
Rosary shall not perish.
6. Whoever will recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the
consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never be conquered by
misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice; he shall not
perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the
grace of God and become worthy of eternal life.
7. Whoever will have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die
without the sacraments of the Church.
8. Those who faithfully recite the Rosary shall have during their
life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His
graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits
of the saints in paradise.
9. I will deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to
10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of
glory in Heaven.
11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the
12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me
in their necessities.
13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of
the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court
during their life and at the hour of death.
14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons and brothers of my only
Son, Jesus Christ.
15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
It is striking to note that the Canon Law of the Church nowhere
obliges priests to say Holy Mass daily while it does specify "that
the Ordinary must take care, (1) that the clergy frequently go to
confession, (2) that they make each day a meditation of some
duration, visit the Blessed Sacrament, say the Rosary, and examine
their conscience." (Canon 125) Holy Mother Church knows that a
priest who frequents the sacraments, meditates and says his
rosary, will have such a love for the Holy Sacrifice that to miss it
would cause such a one keen sorrow.
If frequentation of the sacraments and prayer, especially the
Rosary, is so important for priests, how much more so for those in
the midst of a sinful world who have embraced the holy state of
matrimony? Indeed, married persons will find in prayer and the
sacraments the greatest source of their strength. There is no
conceivable situation that cannot be bettered by prayer. Prayer
divinely dissolved the worries of Moses and the doubts of
Jeremias; it purified and sanctified Tobias' love; it brought about
the return of the Prodigal Son; it extricated David from a vicious
triangle; it guided Ruth in the problem of handling in-laws. And to
the husband whose bitter experience has taught him that he chose
neither wisely nor well, we respectfully point to what prayer did
for Daniel in the lion's den.
But let us again return to Cana and learn well its lessons. First,
note that Christ came to that marriage because He was invited; by
the same token, He will come to your marriage and dwell with you
in your heart and home only if He be invited. The familiar painting
of Our Lord Knocking at the Door was completed when someone
remarked to the artist that he had neglected to put any latch on the
door. The artist replied that "the door at which Christ knocks must
be opened from the inside." Secondly, note that it was through the
power of prayer--the simple prayer of Our Lady--that the great
miracle of the changing of the water into wine took place. Therein
lies a two-fold lesson: the power of prayer and the power of Mary's
prayers. Likewise, in the second miracle, the curing of the son of
the royal officer, the efficacy of parental prayer is made obvious.
Nothing great happened in Cana that was not the result of prayer.
Cana's greatest lesson, other than the sanctity of marriage, was the
power of prayer.
Ever since I began this book, I have searched high and low for a
hidden meaning behind the word Cana. I knew, for instance, that
Bethlehem meant "House of Bread," but what "Cana" could be,
puzzled me. Today, I found out. It comes from the Hebrew word
for "reed," and so Cana simply means a reedy place. It was not
until I had consulted the encyclopedia that I realized the full
depth of mystical meaning that the name "Cana" implies.
I learned that these Palestinian reeds were of considerable
importance in ancient days. They were useful in binding the soil
and impeding denudation. Their close-set stems broke the current
of water around them and so caused deposition of rich sediment
that furnished annual contributions to incipient soil. Their tall,
straight stalks were much sought after for use in the building of
the walls and roofs of homes; they provided pipes for musical
instruments; and very frequently they were used as measuring
The mystical application to marriage found in the nature and the
common usage of reeds is intriguing and limitless. The most
striking application, however, to my way of thinking, lies in the
use of the reed as a measuring rod. I firmly believe that God in His
great providence intended Cana ever to be the measuring rod
against which all Christian marriages should be laid. The closer
they measure up to it, the greater the success--the greater the
happiness. Verily, Cana Is Forever.
1. "The Crown of Mary." Apostolate of the Rosary, 141 East 65th
St., New York City.