CHRIST IN THE HOME
BY RAOUL PLUS, S.J.
a Translation from the French
FREDERICK PUSTET CO., INC. Publishers NEW YORK AND
JOHN M. A. FEARNS, S.T.D., Censor Librorum
+FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN,
Archbishop of New York
New York, June 19, 1951
The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that
a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No
implication is contained therein that those who have granted
the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents,
opinions or statements expressed.
COPYRIGHT, 1951, IN UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN
BY FREDERICIC BUSTET CO., INC. Third Printing Printed in
U.S.A. Biblical Quotations have been checked with the
Confraternity Edition of the New Testament and the Douay
Version of the Old Testament.
TO JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH
THE HOLY FAMILY
THAT THEY MAY OBTAIN
FOR THE WORLD
THE GRACE OF MANY FAMILIES
CHRIST IN THE HOME
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Saint of Modern Times
Sanctity of the Laity
Fantasy or Sacred Duty
My Personal Vocation
What Kind of Soul Am I?
Before Embarking (1)
Before Embarking (2)
Requisites for a Happy Marriage
The End of Love?
One Only Being
The Palace of Chance
The Nuptial Liturgy
The Wedding Day
The Four Bonds of Conjugal Union
Life Together Is Difficult
Loving Each Other In God
United Striving for Sanctity
Ideals for Marriage
One Heart, One Soul
Marriage and the Bible (1)
Man Born of Slime
Some Feminine Traits
Marriage and the Bible (2)
Is Birth-Control Permissible?
Why Have a Large Family?
The Bell of Life
The Impossibility of Having Children?
The Only Child
Christ and Marriage
Marriage and Baptism
Respect in Love
Marriage and the Mystical Body
The Boss in the House
Marriage and the Eucharist (1)
Marriage and the Eucharist (2)
Marriage and the Eucharist (3)
Marriage and Sacrifice
A Mystic Moral Bond
A Father's Answer to His Daughter
Single Though Two
Marriage and the Priesthood (1)
Marriage and the Priesthood (2)
Marriage and the Counsels (1)
Marriage and the Counsels (2)
Marriage and Vows
The Social Ideal
The Psalm of Young Mothers
Up to Date
The Family Spirit
"The Whole Sea"
The Family Table
A Christian Setting
The Providential Role of Insecurity
The Womanly Ideal
Her Husband's Helper
Women and Education
The Counsels of Madame Elizabeth
Woman, The Strength of Man
Is Genius Celibate?
The Power of a Smile
A Devastating Disposition
Man's Virtues versus Woman's Virtues
A Wife with Character
A Director's Counsels
The Psychology of a Mother
A Mother's Zeal
Love Out of Bounds
The Folly of Love Out of Bounds
The Prayer of the Married
Prayer for Each Other
Marriage and a Life of Prayer
The First Years
Love for Children
From Three to Five
The Art of Giving Children Faults
The Untimely Laugh
Love versus Maternal Instinct
Training in Obedience
Children Who Command
Training in Docility
Intelligence and Firmness in a Mother
Difficulties of Christian Education
Education to the Supernatural (1)
Education to the Supernatural (2)
Education to the Supernatural (3)
Jesus and the Child
The Father Who Doesn't Pray
Children and Christmas
Eucharistic Education (1)
Eucharistic Education (2)
Eucharistic Education (3)
Eucharistic Education (4)
Eucharistic Education (5)
Training to Purity (1)
Training to Purity (2)
Training to Purity (3)
Training to Purity (4)
Training of the Emotions
The Child and Laziness
Training in Sincerity (1)
Training in Sincerity (2)
Training in Sincerity (3)
Honesty and Tact
Is Self-Accusation Obligatory?
Training to Confidence
All My Faith
Formation of Character (1)
Formation of Character (2)
Formation of Character (3)
Education in Reverse
Training the Adolescent
Girls versus Boys (1)
Girls versus Boys (2)
A Father's Letter
A Defaulting Father
A Mother to Her Son
Training in Generosity
Mothers and Vocations
Priests in the Family
The Mother of a Saint
Parents of Saints
Training in Charity
Training in Social Responsibility (1)
Training in Social Responsibility (2)
Training in Social Responsibility (3)
Training in Social Responsibility (4)
The Family and the School
The Secularism of Christians
The Hierarchy of Duties
A HOME ruled by the spirit of Christ is a happy home. It is
also a school of virtue directed to spiritual transformation in
But Christ does not force His entry into a home. He enters
only by invitation. He remains only when evidently welcome.
It is the wise bride and groom who let Him know by their
spiritual preparation for marriage that they want Him to
accompany them from the altar of their vows into the home
they are about to establish. It is the wise husband and wife
who let Him know they want Him always present by striving
to put on His mind and to establish their family according to
In such a home, husband and wife and children will enjoy
gladness of heart, happiness in the fulfillment of duty, and
intense union of souls.
The strength and honor of the family come above all from
within, from union with Christ which gives power to manifest
in daily living the beautiful family virtues of patience,
energy, generosity, forbearance, cheerfulness, and mutual
reverence with their consequent effect of peace and
This book is an invitation to the married or those about to
marry, to spend the interior effort required to unite them
solidly in Christ and to make them worthy transmitters of the
Christ-life to their family. It is an invitation to fulfill the high
purpose of their marriage which is to help each other to
sanctity and to rear saints for heaven; to possess Christ
themselves as completely as possible and to give Christ to
Now sanctity is the result of personal cooperation with grace.
It is no passive attainment. Equally true is it that spiritual
truths and principles merely known but not realized are of
little force in stimulating spiritual energy and effort.
Consequently this book of spiritual readings makes no
attempt to present fully developed meditations. It is not to be
a substitute for personal reflection and prayer. Its various
topics are presented as points of departure into deeper
realms of thought and prayer; by the personal following
through of the ideas offered, conviction and realization will
be achieved and lives transformed. A stronger bond of
communication will be established between the soul and God
resulting in real prayer and not prayers said. The affections
made will be the outpouring of the individual's response to
God and not someone else's pre-planned expression of what
that response ought to be.
The essential thing is to talk over the subjects with God. It is
important then to enter into His Presence before each reading
by a reverent act of recollection; to beg His light to see the
truth and His strength to act on conviction and realization. It
is important to see; it is more important to will.
The points offered for prayerful consideration are not meant
to carry the reader into the clouds of elevated speculation
and theory but rather to direct the soul to study prayerfully
the daily, common, routine elements of his life in order to lift
them out of possible monotony and deadening repetition into
the challenging and absorbing adventure of making them
This book in no way presumes to replace what should be for
all Christians the two essential meditation books--the Gospels
and the Missal. In fact, it presupposes that its readers are
Christians accustomed to live in the spirit of Our Lord's life
according to the rhythm of the liturgy. It endeavors to
provide variety and to bring into practical application some
of the lessons hidden in the Gospels or the Missal.
Of vital importance is it, no matter what the meditation book,
to draw from the little that one reads a maximum of
nourishment for the soul. That is not impossible. All one need
do is to beg God for His grace and to co-operate with the
grace that He gives.
Such a manifestation of good will is a sincere invitation to
Christ and a convincing proof that He is welcome in your life.
CHRIST WILL ENTER YOUR HOME
HE WILL REMAIN TO DWELL WITH YOU
THE SAINT OF MODERN TIMES
FORMERLY when people dreamed of sanctity or even of the
interior life, they aspired to one thing only--to get away from
the world, to go off to the desert, or at least to the priesthood
or the religious state. To become a saint in the world, to
acquire a true and profound union with God in the world, to
exercise oneself in the practice of complete abnegation, and
to pursue perfection in the world seemed scarcely possible.
People are beginning to realize better that there is such a
thing as sanctity in the world.
We honor those who follow a priestly vocation or a
consecrated life in religion. They have chosen the better part
which will not be taken from them.
But are we to conclude therefore that the laity, because they
live in the world, because they have entered the married
state, must be content with a cheaper view of perfection?
Must assume that the practice of the highest virtues is not for
them? That they may not aspire to divine union and the
secret joys of a valiant fidelity inspired by love?
Fortunately there are many who realize the falsity of such a
conclusion. Saint Francis de Sales challenged the laity to
strive for high sanctity.
"The world of today longs to contemplate the saint of modern
times who will take his place beside the ancient and
venerable figures of our history," observes Rademacher, the
author of "Religion and Life." "It demands the saintly man of
the world who unites harmoniously in his personality all the
aspects of a noble humanism established on correct values,
entirely impregnated with a living faith, a strong love of God,
and a supple, joyous participation in the life of the Church....
There ought to be even now on this earth a type of saintly
employee, saintly merchant, saintly industrialist, saintly
peasant, saintly wife, saintly woman of Christian culture and
refinement. The saint's role in the world today is to be the
pioneer of the new family, of the new State, of the new
Society, of the new humanity, of the Kingdom of God which is
No profession is of itself an obstacle to holiness. No state of
life is an obstacle; and marriage, if rightly understood, not
only demands holiness but leads those who fulfill all its
requirements to true sanctity.
In trying to picture what the saint of the next centuries
should be, Foerster, a Protestant author, did not hesitate to
write: "Just as in former times the saint was characterized by
his courage to confess his faith and die a martyr, since he
held faith to be his highest ideal for which he must be willing
to suffer; just as the saint of the Middle Ages and even of our
own day, has been characterized by virginity, since then and
now, and especially in our times, it requires a struggle to
conquer many temptations to preserve personal purity; so
perhaps the saint of the centuries to come will be the perfect
wife or husband, since the vital ideal for which we should
willingly suffer today is the sacredness of marriage."
There is much truth in these words. It may be though that the
age of martyrs is not so far distant as the author would have
us believe. And consecrated virginity, thank God, continues
to hold a strong appeal for many souls. But is Foerster not
pathetically correct in stating that saints in married life, in
conjugal fidelity, are a crying need of our age to counteract
the attacks on the family and notably the attacks on the
indissolubility of marriage?
What thirst consumes me as I begin this book of spiritual
readings? Is it the thirst for sanctity? How far am I willing to
Let me gauge the measure of my desire, of my sincerity.
SANCTITY OF THE LAITY
THE author of the so-called "Precepts of Contemporary
Philosophy" may have been trying to be witty when some
years before the war broke out in 1939 he wrote the following
comment on sanctity:
"Sanctity: An idolistic word no longer having any more than
historical interest. Civil and military society has preserved its
heroes; religious society has lost its saints or, if any more of
them remain, we no longer hear them mentioned.... The age
of great Christian fervor has indeed passed away.... Without
wanting to appear sacrilegious, I believe that the Catholic
faith would have difficulty finding martyrs thoroughly
convinced of their faith and ready to sacrifice themselves for
it even to death."
True, heroic virtue is rare and where it does exist, it makes so
little noise! How much real sanctity there is! Sanctity which
may never be officially canonized but real just the same: the
sanctity of a doctor who spends himself for the love of God
and for the suffering members of Christ without counting the
cost; the sanctity of a servant who lives her life of obedience
and continual renunciation humbly and in a supernatural
spirit--multiple types of sanctity, hidden and unknown but
effective and a delight to the Heart of God. We should of
course like to see sanctity more widespread, but we must not
deny what already exists.
Furthermore, opportunities for martyrdom are not of general
occurrence, and sanctity adorned by the martyr's palm is not
the only kind of sanctity. As Rene Bazin so truly wrote: "Men
do not seem to recognize the sacrifice of life unless it is
made all at once." Martyrdom by the little fires of hidden
fidelities constantly adhered to, of tormenting temptations
courageously and perseveringly repulsed, of the exact and
loving fulfillment of duties toward God and neighbor, of
prayer faithfully practiced despite disgust, aridity and the
pressure of work--is it not a martyrdom? Who can estimate
the value of its countless offerings which are not publicized
but which cost . . . and which count!
The amount of sanctity in the world today is not the essential
problem; the important question is how much there ought to
be, what the needs of the world demand, what the glory of
God and Christianity well understood require.
Speaking one day with a group of cardinals, the Holy Father
Pius X put this question to them:
"In your opinion, what is the most vital need for the salvation
"To build schools," answered one cardinal.
"To build more churches," suggested another.
"To increase the number of priests," said a third.
"No, no," replied Pius X. "All those things are important, but
what is most necessary at present is to have in every parish a
group of lay people who are very virtuous, very determined,
enlightened in their faith and who are true apostles."
Let us consider now just the two words "virtuous" and
The Holy Father said "virtuous"--"very virtuous" and he was
speaking of lay people.
Do I belong to that number of virtuous lay people?
"What luck not to be a saint!" Doctor Vittoz of Lausanne used
to say, "For then I can exert myself to become one!"
Pius X had good reason to add the word "determined" to the
word "virtuous." Is my resolution to reach high sanctity
FANTASY OR SACRED DUTY
IN his interesting book, "Man the Unknown," Alexis Carrel
makes this statement:
"Each individual is set by the conditions of his development
upon the road which will lead him either to the solitary
mountains or to the mud of the swamps where humanity
If not rightly understood, this statement might imply that, by
a sort of pre-established harmony over which we have no
control, we are inevitably directed in spite of ourselves either
toward the heights or toward the lowlands.
It could be that because of inherited tendencies, family
traditions, examples we may have witnessed, or the training
we have received, we are more strongly drawn either to
laziness or to generosity. However, everyone has the duty on
his own responsibility to make himself what he ought to be.
The problem of salvation and the degree of sanctity to be
attained is essentially an individual problem. We save
ourselves or we damn ourselves; we conquer ourselves or we
let ourselves be conquered--these are all personal verbs.
"Everyone has the duty," that is the reality. It is not a matter
of satisfying a fantasy, a more or less poetic taste for the
heights. So much the better if the heights tempt me! So much
the worse for me if I am the prey of a positive spirit of low
ideals. I do not have to strive for the Christian ideal simply
because of a certain forceful subjective attraction. No, I have
an obligation to strive for it and this obligation springs from
the Gospel command, a command given to all, Be ye perfect
as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Am I perhaps too much in the habit of seeing in the Gospel
only the restrictions it imposes upon me? Of viewing religion
from the negative side? I must accustom myself to consider
the Gospel from the positive aspect--the call to sanctity. The
capital problem for the Christian who wants to be a real
Christian is not the problem of sin but the problem of
Not to fall back!
Much more and much better--to rise.
In the "Journal of Salavin" by George Duhamel, Salavin
laments in self-disgust, "How can one resign himself to being
only what one is and how try to be other than what one is."
Then he declares:
"After some indefinite time, I am going to go away."
"And where are you going?"
Evading--when it should be a matter of ascending.
For me as a Christian, the road is known. I know where to go.
And the instructions are clear. Someone expressed them in
1. To commit this year the least number of sins possible.
2. To acquire this year the most virtues possible.
3. To do to others the most good possible.
Here is a program that will not only avoid the abyss but lead
to the heights.
MY PERSONAL VOCATION
NOTHING is more interesting and at the same time more
stirring than to study my particular role in the eternal
destinies of the world . . . what God from all eternity has
planned for me . . . what kind of saint He wants me to be . . .
by what combination and sequence of circumstances He
established me where I am . . . all He has given me--a
Christian country, a Christian family, a Christian education,
numberless graces exterior as well as interior, the
Sacraments, interior inspirations, invitations to mount
spiritually--and then to discover in what degree He intends to
use me to lead other souls to salvation and perfection.
Religion in spirit and in truth--what is it? It consists in
participating in the very sanctity of God Himself in my own
personal life, and in cooperating with God to bring grace into
the lives of others and to help keep them to grow in the
There is no question then of eternity forcing its way into my
existence without my opening the door to it; it permeates me
from within in keeping with the freedom I give it.
Nor must I be aiming only at my own sanctification. I have
the responsibility of souls, not only the souls of my own but
of multitudes who are in some way connected with my soul.
The salvation of the world depends in part on the saint that I
One author puts this thought very well. "Each being in the
universe must act with the consciousness of having been
chosen for a task that he alone can accomplish. As soon as he
discovers what this task is and he begins to dedicate himself
to it, he can be sure that God is with him and that He watches
over him. Let him be full of confidence and joy! He is
associated with the work of creation." And we might add "with
the work of redemption." This ought to be a continual marvel
to him that weak and sinful though he knows himself to be he
is nonetheless called, unquestionably called, to an action of
unique value, to the exaltation of the divine in himself and
the propagation and the extension of the divine in humanity!
I ought to try to realize ever more deeply the tremendous
significance of my personal vocation; to consider the degree
and the kind of sanctity to which I am called; to measure the
extent of the field where my zeal for souls is to labor--the
family, the parish, the city....
Everything in my life should be referred to God. As Saint
Augustine said, "Totum exigit te qui fecit te, He from whom
you received all things demands all." I must therefore make
the gifts He bestowed on me serve for His glory alone. I
should not deny these gifts, nor store them away; on the
contrary, I should exploit them, but for Him. To quote Saint
Augustine again, "Let everything useful that I learned as a
child be consecrated to Your service, O my God. Let it be for
Your service that I speak, that I read, that I write, that I
count!" He did not renounce the use of his mind, the exercise
of his intelligence, the application of his profane sciences
but he subordinated all to spreading the glory of God and
extending his apostolate for souls.
I can be inspired to a like rule of life. I can use human gifts as
well as divine gifts to attain the highest peak of my vocation.
I am not what my neighbor is and my neighbor is not what I
am. I have a role to fill and no one else but me can fill it.
I must know my capital and prudently determine my
WHAT KIND OF SOUL AM I?
SOMEONE has said, "All beings receive the same light but all
accept it unequally. Some are like white surfaces and they
shed the light all about them; these souls have the most
innocence. Others are like black surfaces and they enfold the
light in their own darkness; these souls are like closed
coffers. Then again some divide the light keeping part for
themselves and reflecting the rest as do surfaces of
variegated colors and, like these same colored surfaces,
change the intensity of light and shadows according to the
time of day; these are the most sensitive souls. There are
others who like transparent surfaces let all the light pass
through them retaining nothing of it; these souls are nearest
to God. Some might be compared to mirrors in which all
nature and the people who look at them never cease to see
themselves and to reflect themselves; these souls are nearest
us and their presence alone suffices to judge us. Some make
us thing of prisms in which the white light is spread out into
the rainbow colors of the spectrum...."
In which class do I belong?
I need not indulge in morbid or vain introspection but try
merely to get a clear view of God's intentions concerning me.
I know the Parable of the Talents. I must not envy the riches
of another but determine exactly the capital that God asks me
to exploit for His greater glory, for my own sanctification, for
the good of all souls with whom my sanctification is bound
up, from those nearest to me even to the most distant at the
other end of the world. Tu quis es? "Who are you?" the judges
asked Our Lord, Et quid dicis de teipso, "and what do you say
Who am I? The mystery of each personality! It is a mystery
which even the most perfect and most intimate union with
another personality cannot completely pierce, as for example
in marriage. There is a limitless diversity in personalities,
since God made all souls originally without ever copying any
previous model. How delightful this variety is: rose,
anemone, violet; an extraordinary medley, gradations without
limit of cut or of color....
Who am I? What are my resources? What are my good points?
What are my faults? What is the color of my desires, the force
of my will, the intensity of my religious need, my thirst for an
integrated life, my Christian fervor, the value of my fidelity?
Who am I? That is a different question from what I say I am or
what I give to understand that I am. No, I am not a hypocrite; I
do not seek to deceive for the sake of deceiving. But I am like
everybody else and, without wanting to, without directly
saying it, I fix up the pages of my country's history--I try to let
myself be seen only under the most glorious aspects. People
believe me to be better than I am. In any case they have a
different opinion of me from what I really am.
Who am I? And what difference is there between what I am
actually and what I let others discover of my person and my
Saint Augustine prayed, "Lord, let me know myself, let me
know Thee." He desired nothing else. I want to make that my
BEFORE EMBARKING (1)
WHOEVER desires to marry ought to prepare himself for that
--First of all, by preserving chastity.
--Then, by praying much for his future home and family.
By preserving chastity: Whoever cannot see the need for this
will not be likely to understand the need for anything. But
one must be able to see the need for more than this, to desire
The practice of purity in its entirety involves not only the
avoidance of serious wrongdoing harmful to the integrity of
the body but also whatever sullies imagination, thought or
desire. Consequently questionable companions, flirtations,
and imprudent reading are out of the question. Custody of
the eyes is essential. Death enters in through the windows of
the body. Eve and David both sinned through their eyes.
For certain temperaments, such vigilance demands great
generosity. No one can deny it.
"The good is more difficult than the evil," wrote Paul Claudel
in response to Jacques Riviere who had explained that to
remain pure was difficult. "But there is a return. The good
opens up before us incomparable horizons because it alone is
in keeping with our reality, our nature, our life and our
vocation. This is particularly true where love is concerned.
How ridiculous the romantic fever of a purely fleshly love
seems to me!"
Sensing the old classic objection in his correspondent,
Claudel took the offensive:
"As for the emotional cramping Christianity imposes upon
you, I can scarcely understand what you mean. When you
speak of sins, I suppose you refer to sins of the flesh,
because I cannot imagine that you have any tendency to
drunkenness, avarice, acts of violence or similar things.
"The first answer to your difficulty is that when we become
Christians, it is not for our pleasure or personal comfort, and
further, if God does us the honor of asking sacrifice of us,
there is nothing to do but consent with joy.
"The second answer is that these sacrifices amount to very
little or practically nothing. We are still living in the old
romantic idea that the supreme happiness, the greatest
interest, the only delight of existence consists in our
relations with women and in the sensual satisfactions we get
from them. But we forget one fact, the fact that the soul, the
spirit, are realities just as strong, just as demanding as the
flesh--even more so; we forget that if we accord to the flesh
everything it demands, we shall do so with the consequent
loss of other joys, other regions of delight which will be
eternally closed for us. We shall be draining a glass of bad
wine in a hovel or in a drawing room and be unmindful of
that virginal sea which stretches out before others under the
How splendidly Shakespeare has expressed the same
What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week?
Or sees eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the wine destroy?
Or, what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?
(Rape of Lucrece, Stanza 31)
This is also what Saint Augustine has written in his own
epigrammatic style: momentaneum quod delectat, aeternum
quod cruciat. One instant of pleasure, an eternity of
Let me examine my own soul. Have I come to marriage
entirely chaste? Chaste in body? Chaste in thought? Chaste in
If my answer is Yes, then I must thank God. It is a choice
If my answer is No, then what can I do to make reparation, to
obtain from God the grace of entire fidelity to my duty, from
BEFORE EMBARKING (2)
IN addition to the preservation of chastity, the person
aspiring to marriage has a second great duty--to pray much.
An old proverb wisely states, "Before embarking on the sea,
pray once. Before leaving for war, pray twice. Before
marrying, pray three times."
And this necessity of praying more before marriage than
before a voyage or a battle is evident for several reasons.
Consider the risk of associating oneself closely with a
creature who has many limitations; with a creature about
whom one knows very little particularly in the matter of
shortcomings, since during the period of courtship and
betrothal one unconsciously does everything not to reveal
himself; with a creature whom one loves with all one's heart
but who possesses not only lovable traits, but also faults
which can cause suffering; with a creature who can bestow
the greatest joy, but who can also unfortunately inflict the
Furthermore, in order to bear joys as well as possible trials,
do we not need much help from God? And to obtain this help,
must we not pray much?
Another reason for the necessity of such prayer when one
desires to establish a home is that from a union once
sanctioned by the Church and consummated there is no
possible withdrawal. It is a choice which is definitely
established. For two changeable human beings to dare to bind
themselves to each other forever in a relationship so intimate
as the realities of marriage, is not God's sustaining help a
prime requisite? And to obtain this help is it not necessary to
Has my life before marriage been one of sanctification and of
prayer in preparation for my marriage? Or have I confided
solely in the human merits existing on both sides and
neglected to place under God's protection the union I was
about to contract?
If I have been neglectful, I must make up for it now. There is
If, on the contrary, I prayed much before my marriage, I may
not leave off earnest prayer now that I am married. The
greater the place God holds in my life, the greater can be my
assurance that my home shall be supernaturally happy and,
without a doubt, humanly happy as well.
"To you, O Mary, my good Mother, I confide my marriage and
my home. It seems that marriage is the means of
sanctification destined for me by God as it is for the chosen
soul whom you have given me.
"Together we shall do our best to glorify God--this is our firm
resolution. Bless us, help us, strengthen us. Sailors call you
Stella Maris. Be for us, too, the Star of the Sea and keep us
safe throughout our crossing; we put under your care our
vessel and its crew. You shall be the Queen on board ship."
REQUISITES FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE
FOR a happy marriage, it is necessary, of course, that the
engaged couple find each other congenial and enjoy each
They must agree to share loyally the joys and the sorrows of
wedded union and fulfill its obligations.
Each one must be bent on procuring for the other as much
happiness as possible and oblige himself beforehand to a
mode of life which will disturb his partner as little as
The husband must love his profession, and his wife should
share this love or at least neglect nothing in order to respect
and facilitate it.
They should be able to make their decisions together, not
certainly without sometimes having recourse to the counsels
of competent authorities, but with a beautiful and joyful
independence of any member of the family who may be too
prone at times to attempt to domineer over the young couple.
There should, of course, be no presumption, no narrow
aloofness, but a serene and supple liberty of spirit; serene
and supple humility.
In order to be able to practice the sanctity of their state in all
the details of their life, they must understand their duty of
leaning upon God. It will not be sufficient to link together
their two wills; they must be determined to pray to obtain
help from on High.
They must likewise have a certain concern, a legitimate
concern, for physical charm, without, however, losing sight of
the fact that beauty of soul is superior to beauty of body; so
that if some day the physical attraction should diminish, they
will not be less eager to remain together, but each will strive
to find in the other the quality upon which profound union is
Both of them must love children. They must develop in
themselves to the best of their ability the virtues necessary
for parenthood, the courage to accept as many children as
God wants them to have and the wisdom to rear them well--
difficult virtues requiring strong souls.
Each must be possessed of a rich power of cordiality for the
members of the other's family. Both must resolve to take their
in-laws and their household as they find them, and adopt as a
principle for their contacts with them, It was not to share
hates but to share love that I entered into your family.
Consequently, they must refuse to be drawn into family
quarrels, seeking rather in all their actions to promote
charity, union, and peace.
Even before their marriage, the young couple should decide
to keep their expenses at a minimum, according to their
situation, not with avarice or niggardliness, but with the
desire to live in the gospel spirit of detachment from the
goods of earth. Such judicious economy, which should of
course be devoid of even the appearance of stinginess, will
enable them to set aside something useful and necessary for
their children. It will also enable them to relieve the misery
It is to be assumed that both individuals contemplating
marriage have the requisite health, since marriage has been
created not only for mutual support but also to transmit life.
It is further to be assumed that each of the two has kept
nothing of his past life hidden from the other, and that in
view of this entire loyalty which is so desirable a trait in
married couples, each has kept himself pure and refrained
from dangerous experiences.
LOUIS PASTEUR came from a family of modest means. When
he was twenty-six years old, his astonishing discovery in
regard to crystals drew upon him the attention of scientists.
In 1849, he was named assistant professor in the University
of Strasbourg. The rector of the university, Mr. Laurent, had
three daughters. Fifteen days after Pasteur's first visit, he
asked for Marie in marriage. The young scientist felt that this
young woman understood life as he did and wanted the same
kind of life he sought--a life of simplicity, of work, and of
goodness. He sent this letter to Mr. Laurent:
"Sir, a request of great significance for me and for your
family will be addressed to you in a few days and I believe it
my duty to give you the following information which can help
to determine your acceptance or your refusal.
"My father is a tanner at Arbois, a little city in the Jura region.
My sisters keep house for my father since we had the sorrow
of losing our mother last May. My family is in comfortable
circumstances, but not wealthy. I do not evaluate what we
own at more than ten thousand dollars. As for me, I decided
long ago to leave my whole share to my sisters. I, then, have
no fortune. All I possess is good health, a kind heart, and my
position in the university.
"Two years ago I was graduated from l'Ecole Normale with the
degree of agrege in the physical sciences. Eighteen months
ago I received my doctorate, and I have presented some of my
works to the Academy of Science where they were very well
received, especially my last one. I have the pleasure of
forwarding to you with this letter a very favorable report
about this particular work of mine.
"That describes my present status. As for the future, all I can
say is that unless I should undergo a complete change in my
tastes, I shall devote myself to chemical research. It is my
ambition to return to Paris when I have acquired a reputation
through my work. Monsieur Biot has spoken to me several
times to persuade me seriously to consider the Institute. In
ten or fifteen years I shall perhaps be able to consider it
seriously if I work assiduously. This dream is but wasted
trouble; it is not that at all which makes me love science as
Could a more modest, more completely sincere letter ever be
sent by a young man in love?
And when he addressed himself to Marie he assured her with
touching clumsiness that he was sure he could hardly be
attractive for a young girl, but just let her have a little
patience and she would learn his great love for her and he
believed she would love him too, for "my memories tell me
that when I have been very well known by persons, they have
But great as was his love for Marie, his heart was divided:
Louis Pasteur loved science, he loved his crystals. He began
to scruple about it, and finally wrote to his fiancee, asking
her "not to be jealous if science took precedence over her in
She was not jealous. Madame Pasteur married not only the
man but also his passion for science. Her love had that rare
quality of knowing how to efface itself, and to manifest itself
precisely by not manifesting itself at all at times. She was a
worthy companion of this great man, of this great scientist, of
this great heart.
THE END OF LOVE?
A CERTAIN essayist makes this appalling statement: "What a
sad age this is in which one makes his First Holy Communion
to be through with religion, receives his bachelor's degree to
be through with studying, and marries to be through with
Let us omit the first two statements from this consideration
and take up the third.
Is it true that for some, marriage is the end of love?
That statement can be taken in different ways.
Some think that before marriage one can play at love. Then
when the senses have been dulled, one shall try to find a
companion for himself. "Youth must pass," people say
condescendingly on observing the looseness of young men.
There are even certain pseudo-moralists who advise young
girls not to marry before "deliberately having their fling as
well as the boys"--advice which unfortunately some of them
do not fail to follow.
This is an odious concept of love and marriage or of
preparation for it. I certainly want none of it.
Again there are those who think that love is all well and good
before marriage. As for marriage itself, it is first and foremost
an investment. The problem is not so much to marry someone
for whom one experiences a strong attraction, but rather to
realize a good business deal. It is not the person one seeks,
but the name, the status, the fortune. There is nothing of love
in this. No, indeed, it is all a matter of interest: a concept
equally as odious as the first, equally repellent.
What the author of the statement probably meant is that
before marriage, the young man and woman are all fire and
flame, and perhaps for a short time after marriage. Soon, or at
least comparatively soon after marriage, they no longer speak
of love. They have become two under the yoke--two bearing
the necessary restraints of their united existences. Gone is
the enchantment of betrothal days or of the early days of
married life. There is nothing left but the grayish prose of
humdrum existence with an individual of whom one has
made a god or a goddess--a person who is after all only a poor
--A man, "a poor man who eats, drinks, wears shirts and
drawers, and who loses his buttons," as someone jokingly
described him. "A man who will never be able to find
anything in a dresser or clothes closet; who will never
appreciate the cooking or the menu; who at night throws his
clothes in a heap on a chair and the next morning complains
that the creases in his trousers are not pressed in well
enough; a man who formerly seemed like a knight, a
magician, a prince charming, and whose bold gestures so
commanding yet so delicate thrilled the heart and stirred
one's whole being, causing one's imagination to crown him
with the aureola of perfection," and who now . . .
--A woman, a poor creature indeed, perpetually thirsting for
caresses even at the most inappropriate times; a woman who
has foolish notions, headaches, fits of humor; who manifests
a flare for spending which can never resist the appeal of any
show window, particularly if there is an interesting clearance
sale on; a woman who wants a wardrobe capable of ruining
the most industrious man, the wealthiest husband--a poor
sort of woman, indeed!
Is it not because of all these things, at least partially because
of them, that Our Lord wanted to make marriage a rite giving
divine graces--a sacrament?
Perhaps we have exaggerated the poetry of conjugal life; let
us not now exaggerate the prose of life together.
As a preparation for this prose, which is always possible and
often very real even in the most successful marriages, I shall
aim to sanctify myself in the practice of charity and patience.
ONE ONLY BEING
"LOVE seeks to escape through a single being from the
mediocrity of all others." This is the definition one author
gives of love.
It is not a matter of reviewing all human beings with whom
one comes into contact as if they were on parade, so that with
methodical, rational, and cold discernment one might pick
out the chosen man or woman. It is not a selection; the object
of one's desire attracts at once; it is just he or she; all the rest
do not exist. As one writer put it, "Love is monotheistic." There
is no need at all of overthrowing idols; one pedestal alone
stands, bearing the holy representation that the eyes feast
upon and toward which the heart turns with an irresistible
Oh, the incomprehensible power of the heart in love promptly
to divinize the poor reality it has chosen! Nothing else exists
for it any longer! In the play "Asmodee," by Mauriac, the
heroine Emmanuelle, who had thought of religious life until
she met Harry with whom she fell deeply in love at first sight,
goes so far as to declare:
"You know when I used to hear a person say of someone, "He
is everything for me," I did not know what that meant. I know
now. Our pastor tells me that husbands and wives love each
other in God. I can't understand that. It seems to me that if
Harry were some day to be everything for me, then there
would no longer be any room in my heart or in my life for
anyone, not even for God."
Aside from this particular example of Emmanuelle, there is
some truth in those words; they emphasize a well-known fact.
How many young girls during their engagement period, how
many young wives in the months following upon their
marriage, neglect the spiritual, overwhelmed as they are with
human happiness! Previous to that time, all their love, all the
need they felt for giving themselves was directed to divine
realities. Their capacity for tenderness was showered upon
Jesus and Mary; it was fed in Holy Communion.
Now another object engages all their concern. They must be
vigilant that their piety does not diminish. Their needs have
increased; it is not the time to decrease their cultivation of
holiness. Doubtless, and above all in the case of a married
woman, some spiritual exercises will not be possible; for
example, daily Holy Mass and Holy Communion in certain
cases will have to be sacrificed through fidelity to duty in
their new state. But piety itself must not diminish as it so
often does in a period of human happiness.
It is essential in the midst of marital joys, and above all in the
joys preceding marriage or following immediately upon it, to
strive to preserve a sense of balance and of true values. Love
of God does not operate exactly as the attraction of creatures.
In the one case, it is a question of an invisible reality; in the
other, of a sensible reality. This last, even though closer and
more accessible, never eclipses the first. Esteem as divine
what is divine, and do not knowingly divinize or, more
correctly speaking, transfigure to excess a creature, no matter
how rich its gifts.
Remain if possible always in truth. Realize that God alone is
God, and that every created being has its limitations. Strive to
make your limitations and your mediocrity as little felt as
possible and generously pardon the limitations and
mediocrity of your companion for life.
The earth shall never be anything but the earth; it is untimely
to try to make it heaven.
Why does a woman desire a man? Why does a man desire a
woman? What is the explanation of that mysterious attraction
which draws the two sexes toward each other?
Will anyone ever be able to explain it? Will anyone be able to
exhaust the subject?
One fact is certain: Even aside from the physiological aspect
of the problem, the effeminate man does not attract a woman;
she makes fun of him, finds him ridiculous. So too the
masculine woman weakens her power of attraction for a man,
and ends by losing it entirely.
The age-old spell which each sex casts upon the other is
closely allied to the fidelity with which each exactly fulfills
its role. If woman copies man and man copies woman, there
can be comradeship but love does not develop. In reality,
they are nothing more than two caricatures, the woman being
degraded to the rank of a man and a second-rate man at that,
and the man to the rank of a manikin in woman's disguise.
The more feminine a woman's soul and bearing, the more
pleasing she is to a man; the more masculine a man's soul
and bearing, the more pleasing he is to a woman.
We do not mean to say that between two poor specimens of
either sex there will never be any casual or even lasting
sexual appeal and experience. But we can hardly, if ever, call
it love. If men and woman are no more than two varieties of
the same sex, a sort of neuter sex, the force which creates
love disappears. Normally, as we say in electrical theory,
opposite charges must exist before any sparks will shoot
forth. Bring into contact two identical charges and there will
be no effect; electricity of opposite polarities must be used;
then and then only will there be reaction.
In the realm of love, the general rule is the same. In fact, man
and woman are two different worlds. And that is as it should
be, so that the eternal secret which each of them encloses
may become the object of the other's desire and stimulate
thirst for a captivating exploration.
That is love's strange power. It brings two secrets face to
face, two closed worlds, two mysteries. And just because it
involves a mystery, it gives rise to limitless fantasies of the
imagination, to embellishments in advance of the reality. So
One finally loves all toward which one rows.
Whether that toward which one rows is an enchanted island or
one merely believes it is, what ecstasy!
Comes the meeting, the consecration of the union by
marriage; each brings to the other what the other does not
possess. In the one, delicate modesty and appealing reserve;
in the other, conquering bravery. A couple has been born.
Love has accomplished its prodigy.
Yet, how true it is, that having said all this, we have said
nothing. The reality of love is unfathomable.
Could it be perhaps because it is the most beautiful
masterpiece of God?
THE PALACE OF CHANCE
A MODERN writer describes marriage as "having an
appointment with happiness in the palace of chance."
Two persons are complete strangers to each other. One day
they meet. They think they appreciate each other, understand
each other. They encounter no serious obstacles; their social
position is just about the same; their financial status similar;
their health seems sufficient; their parents offer no
objections; they become engaged. They exchange loving
commonplaces wherein nothing of the depths of their souls is
revealed. The days pass; the time comes--it is their wedding
They are married. In the beginning of their acquaintance,
they did not know each other at all. They do not know each
other much better now, or at least, they do not know each
other intimately. They are bound together; possible mishaps
matter little to them; they are going to make happiness for
themselves together. It is a risk they decided to run.
That this procedure is the method followed by many can
scarcely be denied.
Let us hope that we personally proceed with more prudence.
Upon the essential phases of life together, the engaged
couple should hold loyal and sincere discussion. And in these
discussions and exchange of ideas, each one should reveal
himself as he really is, and let us hope that this revelation is
one of true richness of soul.
To make a lover of a young man or young woman is not such
a difficult achievement. But to discover in a young man
before marriage the possibility, or better still, the assurance
of a good husband who will become a father of the highest
type, and in a young woman, the certain promise of the most
desirable type of wife who has in her the makings of a real
mother and a worthy educator--that is a masterpiece of
"To love each other before marriage! Gracious, that is simple,"
exclaims a character in a play, "they do not know each other!
The test will be to love each other when they really do get
acquainted." And he is not wrong.
In keeping with his thought is the witty answer given by a
young married man to an old friend who came to visit him.
"I am an old friend of the family," explained the visitor. "I
knew your wife before you married her."
"And I, unfortunately, did not know her until after I married
But even when a man and woman do know each other deeply
and truly before marriage, how many occasions they will still
have for mutual forbearance. It is necessary for them to have
daily association with each other in order to understand each
other; for the woman, to understand what the masculine
temperament is; for the man to understand what the feminine
temperament is. That may seem like a trifling thing; yet it
goes a long way toward a happy marriage. To understand
each other not only as being on his part a man and on her
part a woman, but as being just such a man or just such a
woman, that is to say, persons who in addition to the general
characteristics of their species possess particular virtues and
particular faults as a result of their individual temperaments-
-that requires rare penetration!
A home is not drawn by lot, blindly. A palace of chance! No,
indeed. If we want to turn it into a palace of happiness as far
as that is possible here below, we must above all things
refuse to have anything to do with chance. We must know
what we are doing and where we are going.
"ONE of the duties of husband and wife is to pardon each
other mutually for not giving infinity after practically
How much each of them expects from the other, from this
union hoped for, guessed, discovered, known and loved!
"Is it true, then, that the mystery of infinity is written upon
this little forehead, which is all mine," sighs the man with the
Hindu poet Tagore. "You are half woman and half dream."
And what a seraphim, what a dream prince and legendary
hero she believes to be marrying, she whose imagination is
livelier and more powerful in evoking imagery?
Ah, the sweetness of loving, the sweetness of being
two to know
The ineffable depths of the heart and its burning love's glow,
. . . To know all that a soul holds of power to feel,
To understand the eyes' great force magnetic, fair,
To sob softly--my forehead pressed against your hair
Because I feel so small before Love which passes.
But even in the very moment of the embrace, how difficult--
impossible even--to arrive at perfect unity; physical union
can be achieved, but how delicate an attainment is union of
souls! As an English novelist expresses it:
"The anguish of those who love is caused by their
powerlessness to surmount the barrier of their individuality.
Even in love we cannot escape from the eternal solitude of
ourselves. We embrace without being able to be fused into
one . . . We yearn to be but one and we are always two . . . We
are frustrated as two birds would be who sought to be united
through a pane of glass."
Thus it is even when the two understand each other. In vain
do they try to transfigure poor reality, seek to keep their idol
more clearly before their vision, by closing their eyes, and by
renewing marks of affection compensate for the infirmity of
nature present in their very efforts at mutual tenderness; it
still remains true that they always desire more than they
possess; of what import is it that their substances intermingle
if their consciences remain separated?
And what about those who only half understand each other or
do not understand each other at all? Not only is their
intimacy no mutual exchange, but their very cohabitation
accentuates their isolation all the more. The poet, Anna de
Noailles, who was unhappy in her married life, expressed this
idea when she said, "I am alone with someone."
It is a suffering for two who do not love each other to be
together; it is a suffering to be together if they do love each
other, because they never know if they embrace all they
really believe they embrace. Berdyaev, the author of "The
Destiny of Man," expresses this suffering of love when he
says, "If unreciprocated love is tragic, reciprocated love is
perhaps even more so."
How incorrect to think that there is no matter for
renunciation in marriage!
The Nuptial Liturgy
ORDINARILY there is very little recollection manifested at a
wedding ceremony. It is just as if the congregation had no
idea of the sanctity of the place or the grandeur of the event.
Yet, all is holy.
The priest begins "In the Name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Ghost," and prays that God may bless the two
about to be married so that all may redound to the glory of
Then follows the exchange of consent accompanied by the
rite of joining hands.
"The Lord be with you," says the priest before blessing the
ring. . .
And later, "Be unto them, O Lord, a tower of strength." Can
anything less than this Almighty protection suffice for the
work of sanctification in their life together?
The Gradual of the Nuptial Mass invokes the blessing of
fecundity upon the marriage. "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful
vine on the sides of thy house. Thy children as olive plants
about thy table."
Marriage is not a union founded on chance or pure caprice;
reason must control the glow of passion, and the union
effected by marriage must be of such a nature that death
alone can break it. The Gospel of Saint Matthew gives us Our
Savior's own words on this subject. In answer to the question,
"Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause,"
Christ answered very definitely, No, and quoted the Scripture
text, "They shall be two in one flesh." Then He made it more
emphatic by adding, "What therefore God hath joined
together, let no man put asunder."
At the Pater Noster of the Nuptial Mass, the priest does
something he never does in any other Mass. He interrupts the
Sacrifice, permits the Body and Blood of Christ to lie upon the
altar, and turning, calls down a new benediction of God upon
the bride and the groom. He recalls how the Most High God
has watched over the sacred institution of marriage from the
beginning of the world, to keep it intact in spite of the frailty
of humanity. The rest of the prayer besides referring to the
examples of faithful wives of the Old Testament--Rachel,
Rebecca, Sarah--implores rich graces for the bride.
"O God, by whom woman is joined to man, and that fellowship
Thou didst ordain from the beginning is endowed with a
blessing which alone was not taken away either by the
punishment for the first sin or by the sentence of the
flood; look in Thy mercy upon this Thy handmaid;
True and chaste let her wed in Christ . . .
Let the father of sin work none of his evil deeds within her...
Let her be true to one wedlock and preserve inviolable
Let her fortify her weakness by strong discipline;
Let her be grave in demeanor and honored for her modesty.
Let her be well taught in heavenly love;
Let her be fruitful in offspring."
The priest continues the Mass and receives Holy Communion.
The bride and groom should also receive the Body and Blood
of Christ during this Nuptial Mass. The rubrics of the missal
call for it expressly. The ideal then is to communicate not at
an earlier Mass but during the Nuptial Mass itself, which
nothing, not even the early hour of the day, can prevent from
Before the Last Blessing, the priest speaks once more to the
newly married couple as if he could not tire of blessing them
before their great departure:
"May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of
Jacob be with you, and may He fulfill His blessing in you:
that you may see your children's children even to the third
and fourth generation, and afterwards may you have life
everlasting, by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ: who with
the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth forever."
THE WEDDING DAY
WHAT a marvel of grandeur and of poetry is the nuptial
liturgy! The Church, full of solicitude for the two daring
young souls ready to launch out on the voyage of life, is
eager to prepare them as seriously and as solidly as possible,
to put before them essential principles, and to petition God to
take this holy couple under His especial care, and conduct it
to the great eternal family after their life of reciprocal love
and confiding generosity.
Is it any wonder that such a noble and meaningful ceremony
should bring to mind the First Mass of a newly-ordained
Unfortunately, the worldly trappings that often accompany
the marriage celebration detract considerably from the
sacred atmosphere of the event. Particularly true is this of the
banquet which is generally a part of the celebration.
The Church has nothing against wholesome joys, particularly
family feasts to commemorate an outstanding occasion in
life; but she certainly does not approve of the carousings for
which wedding banquets are so frequently the excuse, or the
tone of certain parties held in connection with weddings.
Could anyone imagine an ordination to the priesthood
celebrated in such a fashion?
After the Nuptial Mass, the world takes over, there are the
congratulations, the general stir to get into the line of march
in order to see and be seen; there is not a minute for prayer,
for recollection, for thanksgiving. The world, even during the
Mass as well as after it, assumes control of the couple and
their family. Events following the marriage ceremony do
nothing to correct these concessions to the world. Does it not
seem reasonable that when the fundamental interests of the
family are impeded by the worldly spirit, the family should
do everything in its power to escape from it?
There are those who understand this: Sodalists, the Jocists,
members of Catholic Action groups or similar organizations,
even previous to the war, wanted to break away from these
pagan practices. It is not a matter of seeing in the holy place
only the Church vestibule or the Church lobby. No, no, the
church is the house of God. Let everything there be holy and
all that is done there be done holily, the founding of the
family more than anything else!
Those groups who recognize the sanctity of the marriage
ceremony have set the example of communicating at their
Nuptial Mass; they have suppressed boisterous and giddy
celebrations. In the same spirit they decided to delay their
departure for their honeymoon and postpone the distractions
it entails; so beneficial is it to remain in prolonged
recollection during their first days together. They remember
to make their union of souls predominate. Therefore, together
they restrain themselves and by mutual accord embrace
Saint Paulinus, a renowned lawyer of Bordeaux, who
renounced a worldly life when he was at the height of
success, and with his wife retired into the city of Nola in
Campania, wrote these significant lines:
Concordes animae casto sociantur amore;
Virgo puer Christi, virgo puella Dei.
which mean: "Let these souls who are one heart and soul be
united in a chaste love; he, a virgin, a son of God; she, a
virgin, a daughter of God."
Why not secure for these two splendid baptized souls, these
two virgin souls, whom marriage has united forever, a
departure worthy of them?
IN "Les Vergers humains," Louis Lefebvre has this charming
verse in which the poet addresses his wife:
I speak to God most often in my verse;
I speak to my own destiny;
I speak to my own son;
With every living being, I converse
But I speak not to you; you are myself; we are but one.
There are other exquisite examples of such perfect union
between husband and wife realized not only in poetry but in
the prose of everyday life.
See this husband and wife seated before the fireplace
watching the play of the flames.
"What are you thinking about?" queries the wife.
"The same thing you're thinking of."
Idyllic, some will say. And why not, just as truly, an exact
Then there is the example of another couple so completely in
accord at all times that the husband one day playfully
petitioned his wife, "Contradict me sometimes, so that we can
be two." These two fulfilled to the very letter the statement of
the Bible, "They shall be two in one flesh." They were one, not
only in their flesh, but one in a communion of thought and
opinion. They had become so thoroughly one that they forget
to be two.
This could be an evil if it meant the weakening of one of the
two personalities to the point of absorption by the other.
Some women when first married are in such adoration before
their husbands or the husbands are so infatuated with their
wives that unity is effected, but it is a unity through
suppression and narrowness. God grant, however, that such a
unanimity never be replaced by the less happy state wherein
each one clings tenaciously to self-assertion. What should be
sought is unity through mutual enrichment in mutual
In some marriages this unity becomes so complete that not
even death can break it. Such, for example, was the union
between Queen Astrid and King Leopold III, or between
Mireille Dupouey and her husband, a naval officer killed in
1915. During the seventeen years Mireille Dupouey lived
after her husband's death, she continued to write letters to
him as if he were still living, and to set a place at table
between herself and her son for her dear departed who was
forever present to her, forever one with her.
In contrast to these families where union is complete, how
many there are in which dispute rages permanently; or, if not
dispute, at least misunderstanding, constant bitterness.
It has been said and truly said that it is not easy for a man
and woman, two poor human beings, finite, limited, and
possessed of individual faults, to spend cloudless days
together. "A woman must take much upon herself, to live with
a man, whoever he may be," writes a moralist. "A man must
take much upon himself to live with a woman even though
she be most loving. How many perplexities between them,
how many veiled enmities even in their most evident
caresses! How many half-consented-to abdications on both
But live together they must. How can they achieve as perfect
a harmony as possible?
Day after day they must seek it, study, meditate, resolve and
THE FOUR BONDS OF CONJUGAL UNION
THE four bonds of conjugal union are the bond of
consciences, the bond of intellects, the bond of souls, and
the bond of hearts.
The bond of consciences: This means that husband and wife
must have the same norms for judging between right and
wrong. Is it not only too clear that if they do not have an
identical point of view in their appreciation of God's law, a
fundamental disunity will be introduced into the very
foundation of their unity? If one, for example, holds to the
principle of free love while the other advocates the principle
of unity in marriage, can there be complete communion? Or if
one is determined to abide by the demands of the moral law
in the difficult duty of procreation while the other has no
intention of abstaining from the latest practices of birth
control or from onanism, will there not be constant struggle
in their home, and that in regard to their most intimate
relations? If both are not in agreement on the question of
their children's education, one will insist on secular
education, the other on Catholic education, and again conflict
The bond of intellect: This bond is not so essential as the first-
-it is in the realm not of strict requirement, but of the
desirable. There is much to be gained from shared reading
experiences, from a mutual exchange of artistic impressions
and psychological observations.
For this, it is not necessary that the wife share her husband's
work. It is enough if she is able to be interested in his
profession. Nor is it necessary that they have the same tastes,
the same outlook; a certain diversity in mentality, on the
contrary, is desirable on condition that there are possibilities
for mutual exchange of ideas which will lead to mutual
That evidently supposes great simplicity in both husband
and wife, a loving liberty in their communication of ideas, a
very humble recognition of any superior quality in each
other, an entire good faith which makes each one willing to
yield to the ideas of the other when they are better.
The bond of souls: It is not sufficient to enjoy an exchange of
ideas in profane matters only. It is very desirable that there
be harmony of action in the domain of the spiritual, the
supernatural. . .prayer together. . .meditation in common . . .
reception of Holy Communion together.
Father Doncoeur and several others go so far as to advise
making the examination of conscience together with mutual
admonition and mutual resolves. This would surely call for
extreme delicacy and could not be so generally recommended
as the suggestions given previously. But how beautiful it is
when husband and wife are as an open book to each other!
Is it good to tell each other the graces received from God, the
aspirations of the soul to become holy, to become a saint?
Yes, certainly, on condition that all be done with simplicity,
with mutual spontaneity, with nothing of constraint,
exaggeration or artificiality. Why should one hide perpetually
from one's life companion the best of oneself? Some
individuals remain much too reticent and it is a hindrance to
great depths of intimacy.
The bond of hearts: How many in marriage love each other
selfishly, show themselves demanding, moody, eager to
receive, but never generous in giving. There is so much
selfishness in certain families even when they are very
The remedy is to supernaturalize the affections; to pass as
quickly as possible from passionate love to virtuous love and
to make conjugal love a permanent exercise of the theological
virtue of charity.
LIFE TOGETHER IS DIFFICULT
MARRIAGE is not an easy vocation. It requires great virtue of
husbands and wives.
Personal experience reveals how true that is; those who
cannot claim this personal experience can, in any case,
accept the statement of psychologists who observe, "Marriage
is the most difficult of all human relations, because it is the
most intimate and the most constant. To live so close to
another person--who in spite of everything remains another
person--to be thus drawn together, to associate so intimately
with another personality without a wound or without any
shock to one's feelings is a difficult thing."
According to an old saying, "There are two moments in life
when a man discovers that his wife is his dearest possession
in the world--when he carries her across the threshold of his
home, and when he accompanies her body to the cemetery."
But in the interval between these two moments, they must
live together, dwell together, persevere together. "To die for
the woman one loves is easier than to live with her" claim
those who ought to know. And how many women could claim
similarly, "To die for the man one loves is easier than to live
They must bear with each other.
A French journalist while visiting Canada stopped for a time
at Quebec. "You have no law permitting a divorce in the case
of husbands and wives who do not understand each other?"
"But what do those married persons do whose discontent is
continual and whose characters are in no way compatible?"
"They endure each other."
How expressive an answer! How rich in meaning! How
expressive of virtue which is perhaps heroic! They endure
This is not an attempt to deny the delights of married life,
but to show that more than a little generosity is required to
bear its difficulties.
In "The New Jerusalem" by Chesterton, a young girl is sought
in marriage. She opposes the proposal in view of differences
in temperament between herself and the young man. The
marriage would certainly be a risk; it would be imprudent.
Michel, the suitor, retorted to this objection in his own style:
"Imprudent! Do you mean to tell me that there are any
prudent marriages? You might just as well speak of prudent
suicides . . . A young girl never knows her husband before
marrying him. Unhappy? Of course, you will be unhappy.
Who are you anyway to escape being unhappy, just as well as
the mother who brought you into the world! Deceived? Of
course you shall be deceived!"
Who proves too much, proves very little. We can, however,
through the exaggeration find the strain of truth. "Michel" is a
little too pessimistic. He makes a good counterpart to those
who enter into marriage as if in a dream. "Marriage," wisely
wrote Paul Claudel--and he gives the true idea--"is not
pleasure; it is the sacrifice of pleasure; it is the study of two
souls who throughout their future, for an end outside of
themselves, shall have to be satisfied with each other
LOVING EACH OTHER IN GOD
WE HAVE already seen that it is essential to advance as
quickly as possible from a purely natural love to a
supernatural love, from a passionate love to a virtuous love.
That is clear. No matter how perfect the partners in marriage
may be, each has limitations; we can foresee immediately
that at the point where the limitations of the one contact the
limitations of the other, sparks will easily fly;
misunderstandings, oppositions, and disagreements will
No matter how much effort one puts forth to manifest only
virtues, one does not have only virtues. And when one lives in
constant contact with another, his faults appear quickly; "No
man is great to his valet," says the proverb. Sometimes it is
the very virtue of an individual which seems to annoy
another. One would have liked more discretion; one is, as it
were, eclipsed. Two find their self-love irritated, in conflict.
Or perhaps virtues no longer appear as virtues by reason of
being so constantly manifested. Others become accustomed
to seeing them and look upon them as merely natural traits.
"There is nothing more than that missing for him or her to be
different." It is like the sun or the light; people no longer
notice them. Bread by reason of its being daily bread loses its
character of "good bread."
Daily intercourse which was a joy in the beginning no longer
seems such a special delight; it becomes monotonous.
Husband and wife remain together by habit, common
interests, honor, even a certain attachment of will, but do
they continue to be bound together by love in the deepest
sense of the word?
If things go on in this way, they will soon cease to be much
concerned about each other; they may preserve a mutual dry
esteem which habit will render still drier. Where formerly
there existed a mutual ardor, nothing more remains than
proper form; where formerly there was never anything more
than a delicate remonstrance, there now exists depressing
wrangling or a still more depressing coldness.
Married persons must come to the help of weak human nature
and try to understand what supernatural love is in order to
infuse it into their lives as soon as possible.
Is not the doctrine of the Church on marriage too often
forgotten? How many ever reread the epistle of the Nuptial
Mass? Meditate on it? In any case, how many husbands and
wives read it together? Meditate on it together? That would
forearm them against the invasion of worrisome
misunderstandings. Why not have recourse to the well-
springs of wisdom?
There are not only the epistles. There is the whole gospel.
The example of Joseph and Mary at Nazareth is enlightening.
What obedience and cordial simplicity in Mary! What
deference and exquisite charity in Saint Joseph! And between
the two what openness of heart, what elevated dealings! Jesus
was the bond between Mary, the Mother, and Joseph, the
In Christian marriage, Jesus is still the unbreakable bond--
prayer together, Holy Mass and Holy Communion together.
Not only should there be prayer with each other, beside each
other, but prayer for each other.
SOME persons imagine that the endeavor to transform their
natural love into supernatural love will make them awkward,
make them lose their spontaneity, their naturalness.
Indeed, nothing is farther from the truth, if supernatural love
is rightly understood.
What does it really require?
First of all, does it not require us to fulfill the perfections of
natural love? Supernatural love, far from suppressing natural
love, makes it more tender, more attentive, more generous; it
intensifies the sentiments of affection, esteem, admiration,
gratitude, respect, and devotion which constitute the essence
of true love.
Supernatural love takes away one thing only from natural and
spontaneous love--selfishness, the arch-enemy of love. It
demands that everything, from the greatest obligation to the
simplest, be done as perfectly as possible. Then by elevating
simple human love to the level of true charity, it ennobles the
greatest powers of that love. It suppresses nothing. It
enriches everything. Better still, it provides in advance
against the danger of a diminution in human love. It pardons
weaknesses, deficiencies, faults. Not that it is blind to them,
but it does not become agitated by them. It bears with them,
handles them tactfully, helps to overcome them. It is capable
of bestowing love where all is not lovable. Penetrating beyond
the exterior, it can peer into the soul and see the image of
God behind a silhouette which has become less pleasing.
That is the whole secret. Supernatural love in us seeks to love
in the manner and according to the desire of God; it requires
us therefore to love God in those we love and then to love the
good qualities He has given them and bear with the absence
of those He has not given or with the characteristics He has
permitted them to acquire.
Loving without any advertence to self, supernatural love is
patient and constant in spite of the faults of those it loves.
The Little Sister of the Poor loves her old folk despite their
coughing, their unpleasant mannerisms, their varying moods.
The Missionaries who care for the lepers love them in spite of
their loathsome sores.
Unselfish as it is, supernatural love inspires the one who is
animated by it to seek the temporal and above all the
spiritual good of the one he loves before his own. Delicately
it calls the attention of the loved one to his faults, not to
reproach him, but to help him correct them. It does not give
in to irritability or moodiness; it is quick humbly to beg
pardon and to make reparation, should it ever fail. And when
there has been a little outburst, how comforting it is, in the
intimate converse of the evening, to acknowledge one's
failings, to express sorrow, and to promise to do better in the
future with the other's help!
But all this presupposes prayer and a true desire for union
UNITED STRIVING FOR SANCTITY
A BEAUTIFUL work which husband and wife can pursue
together is the mutual effort to correct their faults. Maurice
Retour, an industrialist and one of the youngest captains of
World War I of which he was a victim, suggested this to the
woman he loved even during their engagement. He wrote to
her, "I must confess something to you . . . I became aware of
your imperfections and I thought how pained I should have
been if I had not been able to see clearly into your soul . . .
You see how frank I want to be with you. We are just engaged
and yet instead of paying you compliments, I do not fear to
speak to you of your imperfections which my love for you
cannot hide . . . Tell me you will pardon me."
Another time he wrote, "In general, engaged persons strive to
shine in each other's eyes. We, on the contrary, began by
showing each other all our faults...You have acknowledged all
your faults to me; I confessed to you all my weakness . . .
Thank you for your great confidence in me. But never forget
that if I permit myself to give you advice which seems good
to me, I can always be mistaken and you ought to discuss it
with me. Otherwise I shall never dare to give you my
In a later letter he said to her, "I have already abused the
liberty you gave me. I have told you frankly all I thought
about you, nor was I afraid to recognize before you what you
call your great faults. It was, I must confess, most difficult
for me to tell you because I love you so much that I dread
causing you the least pain." He added, "The interior life is
what we need to correct our failings and we shall work from
now on, if you wish, to grow in it."
This mutual effort of husband and wife to correct themselves
of their faults may be much, but it is not enough. Something
more beautiful remains--to strive positively for sanctity
through mutual instruction, loving encouragement and a
united and confiding zeal for each other's perfection.
"Why should we not live a saintly life?" asked Maurice Retour
of his bride-to-be. And they decided upon some very definite
principles for themselves.
"Let us put no faith in fortune, in pleasures, even in our self-
love which always increases and makes us run the risk of
becoming blind.... The one who receives the most grace will
make the other profit by it. What do we care what the world
says! It will say what it pleases, but it never will be able to
say that we are not true Catholics . . . Our life will be holy and
"As far as jewels are concerned," commented Maurice, "I
understand you perfectly. If you had loved them, I should
never have opposed your tastes, but I tell you frankly, I
should have suffered. We shall not fail by excesses on this
score. We can do so much good with money that it would be
wrong, in spite of my desire to spoil you, to spend it only on
you. We shall save all we can to enable us to give more to
charity. We shall always go straight to our goal and make no
concessions to worldliness."
There is however, nothing admirable in a gloomy life. "Our
interior life must be so intense that it remains alive in all our
exterior actions, our pleasures, our work, our joys and our
sorrows. I do not mean an interior life which makes us
withdraw into ourselves and become bores for other people.
On the contrary, we ought to spread our gaiety generously
about us and spend all the activity of our youth to attract
those who meet us. But, in order to be saints, we must be able
to conserve in the midst of the most captivating pleasures
and the most intense activity an interior calm which enables
us to remain self-possessed always. . ."
A saint who is sad is sadly in need of sanctity!
A truly inspiring program!
IDEALS FOR MARRIAGE
ON ONE occasion when Maurice Retour was talking with some
comrades about his ideals of marriage, he saw some of them
smile sceptically. He who had written, "Love has always been
sacred to me. In its name I desired to remain faithful to my
fiancee even before knowing her," was to discover that all his
companions did not share his noble sentiments, his desire for
a chaste marriage.
That did not cause him to lower his standards. He simply
tried to lead his companions to a more Christian
understanding of married life and if he could not do that, he
at least showed his displeasure and withdrew from the
Writing to his future wife, he said, "I have heard some
comments about our future, each one more offensive than the
other. But I pity these unfortunate individuals who have
never known how to love truly, who have never experienced
real intimacy with their wife, and who have sought nothing
more than appearance or the satisfaction of their caprice.
They can say what they wish, they can tell me that I am
young or even a little simple but I shall never change my
idea. They can never destroy my confidence--first of all, my
confidence in you because of God who has certainly
protected me in order to find you . . . secondly, my
confidence in myself, because I know that I am different from
certain individuals about me and I am not ashamed to say so
even if it does sound like pride on my part."
If that is pride, it is permissible pride! Rather is it an
expression of perfect mastery! It is the magnificent dignity of
the Christian who knows, of course, that he is weak but who
refuses to justify in advance his failings and cowardices, and
who counts not upon himself but upon God for strength to
"Pay no attention to those who tell you I shall change," he
wrote. "Do not listen to those who say that men who marry
young will become unfaithful later. No, I do not want anyone
to believe such a monstrous thing of me."
Who was to give him the strength to resist temptations which
were always possible?
"The sacrament of our marriage will impart to us the graces
necessary to keep our good resolutions. How few understand
this sacrament! How few prepare themselves for it and expect
to receive from it the graces it can give to those who seek
Noble and irresistible pleading! It recalls the words of
Lacordaire, "When a person has not taken the trouble to
overcome his passions and when the revelation of chaste joys
has not come to him, he consoles himself with vices,
declaring them necessary, and clothes in the mantle of
pseudo-science the testimony of a corrupted heart."
Surely marriage is a sacrament, but it is not a miracle. He who
has prepared for it only by youthful escapades will possibly
fail to remain steadfast. But can not he who has prepared
himself by the chastity of celibacy for the chastity of
marriage be trusted to preserve with the help of God, a chaste
ONE HEART, ONE SOUL
How happy are married persons who can say as Maurice
Retour to his wife, "We love each other for our ideas. We see
only God and we have become united in order to serve Him
better." Such is Christian love.
"We shall ask Christ, who sanctified marriage, to give us all
the graces necessary for us. We pray with force but also with
joy because we have great confidence in the future since both
of us expect our happiness from God alone."
And after Holy Communion which they both received on their
wedding day they begged God "to make their mutual love
always effect their personal sanctification, to bless their
home by sending them many children, to keep in His grace
themselves, their little ones and all who would ever live
under their roof."
Sometimes we hear it said that there are no examples of
married persons living effectively the holy law of marriage as
God prescribed it and Christ ratified it.
There are many. More than one might think. And, thanks be to
God, there have been some in all ages.
In the time of the early Church, Tertullian, believing his
death to be approaching, wrote two books entitled Ad Uxorem,
"To My Wife." In the last chapter of the second book he gives
an unforgettable picture of marriage. One cannot meditate on
it too often.
He extols the happiness of marriage "which the Church
approves, the Holy Sacrifice confirms, the Blessing seals, the
Angels witness, and God ratifies. What an alliance is that of
two faithful souls united in a single hope, under a single
discipline, under a similar dependence. Both are servants of
the same Master. There is no distinction of mind or of body.
Both are in truth one flesh; where there is but one body, there
is but one mind. They kneel in prayer together, they teach
each other, support each other. They are together in church,
together at the Banquet of God, together in trials, in joy. They
are incapable of hiding anything from each other, of
deserting each other, of annoying each other. In complete
liberty, they visit the sick and help the poor. Without anxiety
about each other they give alms freely, assist at Holy Mass
and without any embarrassment manifest their fervor daily.
They do not know what it means to make a furtive sign of the
Cross, to mumble trembling greetings, to invoke silent
blessings. They sing hymns and psalms vying with each other
to give God the most praise. Christ rejoices to see and hear
them and gives them His peace. Wherever they are, Christ is
"That is marriage as the Apostle speaks of it to us . . . The
faithful cannot be otherwise in their marriage."
Oh, that we might fulfill this ideal in our marriage
We must pray for it and really want it.
MARRIAGE AND THE BIBLE (1)
I. The Law of Union.
How marvelous is the description of the creation of man and
woman which the book of Genesis gives us.
God has created the universe. He has hurled worlds into
space. Among all these worlds is the earth and on it are all
the splendors of the mineral world, the plant world, and the
animal world. Each time God sent forth some new creature
from His creative Hands, He paused and said, "It is good!" God
saw that it was good.
Yes, all of that creation is but a framework, a pedestal. Whom
does He intend to place within that framework, upon that
Look at Adam. He has intelligence, free will, and a heart.
A heart--the power to love. But to whom will man direct that
power of love which God has placed in him?
God placed all of creation "beneath his feet." But what does it
mean for man to have everything beneath his feet if he has
no one to clasp to his heart? God understood man. That is
why the Most High is not satisfied upon the completion of His
masterpiece. He does not say as He did after each preceding
creation, "It is good," but He says, "It is not good for man to be
Therefore, the Most High, the divine Sculptor, chisel in hand
approaches His masterpiece to attack the marble anew; he
lays open its side and from the avenues to the heart removes
a part; this part of Adam, He forms into woman. A
magnificent indication of how close must be the union
between husband and wife! A union of wonderful strength,
engendered by love and for love! Saint Thomas explains that
"God took the substance with which He formed woman close
to the heart of man. He did not take it from the head for she
is not made to dominate. Neither did he take it from man's
feet, for she is not made for servitude. He took it near the
heart because she is made to love and to be loved."
Such is the marvel of the union of love in marriage according
to God. Love will make of two beings a single one.
Adam acclaimed it upon awaking: "This now is bone of my
bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman,
because she was taken out of man." That is why the sacred
text adds: "Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother
and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh."
This virginal page does not yet speak of the mother but only
of the spouse. God gives Man a companion--not several but
one--and this society is called conjugal society. This society
will be composed of two persons, a couple, only two. So true
is this that until this first woman became a mother she had
no name of her own. There was only one name for both.
How wonderful is the inviolable oneness of the human couple
according to the desire of God!
MAN BORN OF SLIME
WHAT was God's first aim in instituting marriage? Was it the
mutual union of the couple? Was it procreation?
We can learn much of God's designs without departing from
the story of Genesis. God desiring to multiply humankind by
means of generation (the first aim) created a mutual
attraction between the sexes which would lead them on to
love (the second aim). That is how the matter stands from a
logical point of view. Considered from the psychological
point of view, the first aim is the union of the two; the child
comes only as an issue and consecration of the union.
This is no time to develop a thesis. Much more valuable is it
to draw inspiration for useful reflection upon the plan of God.
Adam was formed from the slime of the earth, Eve from the
body of Adam. Might not this great difference in origin
explain, in part at least, the essential difference between the
masculine temperament and the feminine temperament? Man
is coarser grained, more vehement in passion, more readily
excited to physical desires. That is understandable because
of his role in generation; he is constituted for conquest and,
with rare exceptions, more readily advances beyond the
suggestions or demands of delicacy and restraining modesty
than a woman does. In many ways he evidences that he is
more earthy than his wife. This is not a condemnation but
simply a statement of a providential reality. Woman,
according to Bishop Dupanloup, is more soulful than man.
That, too, can be understood in the light of her role in
marriage. Might it not also be explained by the fact that, born
as she was from a living human being, the beginnings of her
material being were nobler than Adam?
In any case, one thing is certain--God wanted Adam and Eve
to be different from each other. It is a mistake for man to
become effeminate, for woman to play the man. They are not
made to resemble each other but to complement each other.
Let man keep the department of masculine forcefulness and
let woman keep the department of necessary refinements.
Woman has probably failed at times in fidelity to her
essential feminine vocation. Her game of imitating man
whether attempted through perversity or thoughtlessness
goes contrary to the plan of the Most High. God does well
what He does. If He created Eve after Adam, it was not that He
might have upon the earth only Adam and Adam.
Man too does not want to see just himself again in woman.
Just because he has enough of being himself only, he desires
something else. If woman presents nothing but an extension
of masculinity, he has nothing but that to go on. He becomes
completely himself only when a woman who is truly a woman
comes to join him according to the plan willed by Providence.
Let women take on men's work, if need be, during difficult
times which call men to arms; they but do their duty and we
extol them for it. Aside from such an emergency, let them
keep to their own field, the exercise of womanly functions,
and leave to men the functions of man.
SOME FEMININE TRAITS
THE Bible clearly reveals the role designed for woman by
Providence. Formed from a living person rather than from
slime, her lead in the home is to be spiritual; drawn from
close proximity to man's heart she is to rule by loving
devotedness. Created as man's complement, she is not to
become his rival but his helpmate.
It is worthy of note also that the first woman was imposed on
Adam. The first man did not have a choice among several
women. Eve formed by God from Adam's own being was given
to Adam by God.
Ever after, aside from the periods in history when woman was
nothing more than a slave or when she was given in marriage
without her consent, she would be chosen by man in order to
enter into marriage. As a consequence, woman has a double
characteristic--an innate genius for adornment and, in regard
to other women, a jealousy that can be inflamed by a mere
She has a genius for adornment. She must please. And that is
right. No one need reproach her for striving to do so. "The
pheasants are preening their feathers," Saint Francis de Sales
humorously commented in answer to Saint Jane Frances de
Chantal's letter expressing worry over her daughters' newly
evidenced concern about their dress. It is excess that is
Charles Diehl, in the first volume of "Figures Byzantines" tells
us that political reasons did not always direct the marriages
contracted by the emperor of Byzantium. When the Empress
Irene wanted to marry off her son Constantine, she sent
messengers everywhere to find the most beautiful girl in the
empire; she herself set the requirements as to age, height,
and personal appearance of the candidates.
A fig for nobility! The basilissa needed only to be beautiful.
That alone qualified her to be considered sovereign; the
marriage would follow. It was not therefore as wife of the
emperor that she received power but rather as a sort of
choice by God indicated by her beauty. . .
How many women at that time must have hoped to become
And how many women since the Byzantine era as well as
before have counted on their "beauty" to come into power and
acquire a husband. Provided that she stays within her bounds
when capitalizing on her real or supposed beauty, woman
does not depart from her role.
She does however depart from it when concern for her looks
becomes her sole interest or when she gives herself up to
jealousy of actual or possible rivals.
Her aim should be to keep within the plan of Providence and
never go beyond it.
MARRIAGE AND THE BIBLE (2)
II. The Law of Procreation.
God did not create love and marriage only for the mutual
pleasure of husband and wife. The purpose of their union
goes beyond union. From the married couple's intimate union
a third person will issue, and if the marriage is fruitful a
series of thirds, a progeny which will be the glory of the
Increase and Multiply. God could have multiplied the living
without using his creatures as instruments. Adam and Eve
were directly created. God needed no one. So true is this, that
in the creation of the soul the Most High uses no
intermediary. He reserves to Himself the power to infuse the
soul into the child whose body the parents cooperate in
As far as the body is concerned God permits and even desires
that there should be an intermediary cause, and that
constitutes a great marvel. God imparts to His creatures a
share in His creative power. The parents are united in the
physical expression of their conjugal love and from this
bodily union, provided nothing bars the way, life will be
born. For the soul there is to be no human agent. For the body
a human agent shall exist. It is through the instrumentality of
the parents that the body of the child will be born. But God
reserves to Himself the power to put the soul into that body
by a direct act of creation.
That is the basis for the sovereign beauty of fatherhood and
motherhood . . . At the birth of her first born son, Eve,
transported with joy, exclaimed, "I have gotten a man through
There is a double law in marriage--the law of chastity and the
law of fecundity. The law of chastity permits the husband
and wife to regulate according to their desire the frequency
of intercourse. Should they by mutual consent decide to live
for a time as brother and sister, say during Lent or Advent, or
at some other times in their life together, for any just and
noble reasons, they may do so provided they run no risk of
The principal application of the law of chastity for the
married is this: If they decide either by explicit or implicit
agreement to perform the marriage act, they may do nothing
to prevent conception.
Let them petition God for the desired grace to practice the
restraints and continence they recognize as helpful or if it is
not advisable for them to abstain from physical union, the
grace to do nothing counter to duty.
THE demands of married life emanate above all from the
Natural Law; in other words, right reason left to itself would
reveal them to conscience. Even if Christ had never come, if
Revelation had never been given, these requirements would
be what they are. The Church, keeping to the doctrine of
Christ merely upholds them with her supreme authority; she
does not institute them. She reaffirms the law, explains its
application, clarifies the ideal every time someone attempts
to obscure it.
To that end we have various encyclicals of the popes as
Maximum illud by Leo XIII and Casti Connubii by Pius XI and
also pastoral letters issued periodically by bishops as the
One of the most complete of such letters on conjugal duty is
the one written by Cardinal Mercier. Reminding the people of
his diocese of the true doctrine on marriage, he explains the
Christian concept of the conjugal life:
"The original and primary reason for the union of man and
woman is the foundation of a family, the beginning of
children whom they will have the honor and the obligation to
rear in the Faith and in Christian principles.
"It appears, therefore, that the first effect of marriage is a
duty which the married may not avoid . . .
"How far from truth are those who present marriage as a
union whose sole purpose is physical love.
"The attraction to conjugal intercourse is legitimate, beyond a
doubt. But such satisfaction of the sexual appetite is
justifiable only in the function for which it was destined and
which it was meant to ensure.
"How grave then is the sin of those who circumvent the divine
law in this matter. A mortal sin is committed every time that
the conception of a child is prevented by a deliberate
Deliberately, before, during or after intercourse to take
precautions destined to prevent conception constitutes a
formal and seriously unlawful act.
The insidious propaganda on birth control that is being
spread about through pamphlets, lectures, and
advertisements is nothing but an effort to make an attack on
life a lawful act. Cardinal Mercier condemns doctors,
pharmacists, or mid-wives who betray their social mission.
It is forbidden to attack life, even in the generative act itself,
that is to say, at the very point of origin. And those who dare
to kill the living one being formed in the womb of its mother,
are punished by the Church with censure reserved to the
bishop. That means that the priest who absolves them must
obtain from the bishop special authorization to do so,
although he need not mention their names.
How the thought of all the souls sacrificed through marriage
frauds ought to incite me to pray for holiness of family life
and general observance of conjugal duty. War is not the
scourge which kills the most people. It is lust.
THE writer who said, "Man conquers and woman gives
herself," was correct. Such indeed is the difference between
man and woman in their attitude to life. His is an active
heroism; hers a passive heroism. For the grown man, life is
but a series of conquests; he goes from one victory to the
other, carried along by the zest of it until he fails. Woman
makes a gift of herself to life; she spends herself to the point
of exhaustion for her husband, for her children, for those who
suffer, for the unfortunate. But this gift of hers in its fullest
significance is childbirth, a supreme act of passive heroism.
Giving birth to a child is not a purely physical achievement. A
mind, a soul come to life and uniting with the foetus form,
without the mother's awareness, a man--a miracle indeed.
What is the most wonderful is the blossoming and growth of
maternal love in the woman from the very moment of her
child's conception, through its birth, and throughout its
whole life, but particularly during its baby days.
In a certain sense, every woman from her earliest years has
the makings of a mother in her. As a little girl she plays with
her doll, and the game holds her interest only because her
imagination transforms the rag doll or china doll she clasps
in her already expert arms into a living child. So true is this,
that even virginal souls who consecrate themselves to the
service of the neighbor may be called mother; that they really
are for their poor, their orphans, their sick . . .
But it is quite evident that at the time of actual maternity, of
physical maternity, a special creation is effected in the
woman. At the same time that milk mounts to her breast,
maternal love takes possession of her soul, a love of a very
special quality which does not precede but which follows
childbirth. Before the child appears, there can be expectation,
yearning, vague tenderness like the dawn preceding day; it is
not yet maternal love in the strongest and strictest sense of
The child is born. The woman, even though she had been
extremely lazy, manifests an astonishing energy for all that
concerns her baby. Though she had been previously most
shiftless now she becomes ingenious, attentive, watchful and
almost anxious. No one need tell her that her tiny babe can
do nothing for itself and that it is exposed to danger of death
at almost every instant. She anticipates its needs, its desires
and a frown appears at the least cloud that passes over the
cradle. No trouble daunts her. As a young girl and young
woman she grumbled over sacrifice and became irritable;
now she is eager in sacrifice--hours of watching, getting up at
night; if not able to nurse the child, she makes minute
preparation of formulas, and even later, pays careful
attention to the kinds of food the baby may have. It all seems
to come to her naturally; it seems to be second-nature. But
even if she has acquired her knowledge through training and
study in special courses which she may have taken with no
particular relish, now she carries it out with special zest and
warmth of feeling.
If her baby is well formed, beautiful, healthy and lively, she
rejoices. But if, unfortunately, it is deformed, weak, listless,
her love increases. It is as if she wishes to shower him with
love to make up to the little one for all he lacks as if by
clasping it more tenderly to herself she can supplement its
Should her child later become a prodigal, she will have for
him an astonishing partiality; if she believes him to be a
hero, it is her prejudice in his favor! Marvelous contradiction
in which maternal love reveals itself!
How eagerly she desires the father's love for the child. Then
again she is afraid that the father will not be sufficiently firm
and will give in to him too easily. Now the warmest caresses,
now the height of disinterestedness born of maternal love!
IS BIRTH CONTROL PERMISSIBLE?
To LIMIT procreation by the practice of contraceptive devices
without foregoing sexual union is forbidden. No one has the
right to suppress life. To do away with a living adult is
homicide; to do away with the living child in the course of its
development within the womb of its mother is the crime of
abortion; to destroy the seed of life, in the very generative act
itself so as to prevent possible conception is Onanism, so
called after Onan in the Old Testament who indulged in this
No one has the right to place any act which by its nature is
productive of life, and on his own authority, frustrate the
effects of that act which is the generation of a life. Nature
must be allowed to take its course. However, if for some
reason decreed by Providence, conception does not take
place, that is God's act. The individual has not on his own
decision killed or sought to kill human life.
It has already been said that to limit procreation by
abstaining from intercourse is within the right of the husband
There is however another method of birth control which has
been much discussed and about which it is essential to have
clear ideas. May the married couple profit by the wife's cycles
of infertility, as suggested by the Rhythm theory, limiting
their sexual union to such periods as seem less likely to
result in conception? The answer to that question ought to be
To adopt this practice temporarily in order to space births
somewhat without having to deprive themselves of each other
is certainly different from making the practice habitual in
order definitely to avoid having any children or to avoid it at
least for a long time.
Certainly graver reasons are needed to justify the second
instance than to justify the first. Are the reasons for it purely
selfish? Then the married partners are at fault. They do not
by their conduct violate the law of chastity in marriage, that
is true, but they do violate the law of charity, or to put it
more graphically, the law of fruitfulness.
The plan of God for married persons in this matter of
fecundity is not that they have the largest number of children
possible. Rather it is that they should have the largest
number that they are capable of rearing well considering the
position in which Providence has placed them or in other
words taking into account the health, the economic status of
the family, and other such considerations. It is a problem of
It is up to each individual to face himself squarely on this
problem, if it is his, and examine himself sincerely on the
complete honesty of his manner of acting. Then such a one
will be ready to meditate often upon the reasons that argue
for peopling the cradles.
WHY HAVE A LARGE FAMILY
WE HAVE seen that the practice of Rhythm, above all if it is
only temporary, is legitimate and reasonable. But, even in
that case, particularly when it concerns those just starting
out on their marital life, it is advisable to call attention to
some vital considerations to be taken into account:
--The harm it can do by separating the idea of sexual pleasure
from the idea of fatherhood and motherhood.
--The harm it can do by overemphasizing the carnal side of
life together at the expense of the tender and spiritual aspect.
--The harm it can do by causing inordinate abandonment to
the senses during the infertile periods.
Rather than seeking out the means--even legitimate means--of
limiting the offspring, what is really important for the
married couple is to discover the reasons for having many
There are reasons of charity:
1. Toward children who depend upon the parents to be called
or not called to life--to eternity.
2. Toward Christian society to which they should seek to give
as many baptized souls as possible and, if God permits,
priests and religious for a world that needs them so much.
3. Toward their country for whom they may rear citizens who
will bring her life and prosperity.
How beautiful are such reasons!
Consider these young chosen ones in perspective. It depends
on me--on us--with just a little generosity on our part, to dare
to bring them forth from nothingness, to call them into being,
That will mean greater glory for God; it will mean for them an
eternity of happiness. It is up to me--to us--to open for them
the book of life, the Book of Life; for a life in its fuller sense is
not merely a period of time, it is part of a life which will
never end. In bringing forth children, parents are fashioning
citizens of eternity.
It is not enough to consider the Church triumphant and how
to help the greatest possible number to enter into it; we can
and we ought to consider the Church militant. Are the number
of baptized souls bent on living their baptism sufficient in
number? Where can they better increase, develop and aid in
the Christian renewal, that is, the baptismal renewal of the
world than in Christian families? Are there enough priests? . .
. War has mowed down a great number of them. Even before
the war there were not enough for the work to be done. Now,
the need is tragic. Bishops can only ordain . . . The priesthood
depends mainly on marital holiness. If parents do their duty,
if they are generous, there will be priests; otherwise, the
Church will weaken.
As for our country, its beauty is proportionate to its men, to
its men of valor. The recent wars showed the tragedy of a lack
of manpower. These are of course temporal reasons, but
spiritual interests are closely linked with them.
Reflect on all this . . . Let life live!
THE BELL OF LIFE
IN 1935 there was a project on foot to install a bell of life and
a dial of death in the heart of the city of Berlin. The plan may
have fallen through. A large bell was to boom out every five
minutes; in the interval a smaller bell was to ring nine times
announcing to the neighborhood that nine children were
being born in Germany during that time. Then an hour glass
was to indicate to the passersby that in the space of five
minutes, seven Germans had gone to their graves.
Whether realized or not, the project was worthwhile. To
announce the increase of life is helpful; to call to mind the
work of death more helpful still, but not the least important
is to point out the triumph of life over death.
Today's meditation is to dwell on this last thought. It is not so
important now to contemplate the end of life and the
responsibility to be faced at that dread moment as to
welcome the new cradles of life and to determine whether I
am increasing for my country as I should the chiming of the
In November 1939, a leader of a heavy artillery division at
the Maginot line wrote in a letter: "I have eighteen men in my
sector. They are between thirty and thirty-five years old; all
except a few are married; all of them together have only eight
If, as good Political Economy points out the average number
of children per family for a country which does not want to
die out is three--two to replace the father and mother and a
third destined to fill the void caused by infant mortality--then
those eighteen men should have had at least fifty-four
children among them. They had eight. The deficit then: Forty-
There is of course no moral law that requires the married to
have three children. The example given here is simply a
social or national aspect of the problem. It has already been
pointed out that the moral law is determined not by the
country to which one belongs--although there might be a duty
to give it a thought--but by the law of chastity in marriage on
the one hand and the law of fecundity on the other.
It might be well here to come back to these points. The law of
fecundity expects the parents to have as many children as
they are capable of rearing in a human and Christian manner.
As for birth control, the law of chastity sets the rule: nothing
may be done artificially to frustrate conception.
But to return to the social viewpoint--my country's future,
society's need: Of what good is it to cry out Long live my
country! if my only contribution is to her death?
More cradles than tombs! That should be our motto. How
great is the disaster when the contrary is true! Does not such
an argument which possibly has no force with weaklings or
those too wrapped up in themselves bear weight with me? It
is not the most decisive argument to encourage large
families, but it is not a negligible argument.
Patriotic duty does not belong to morality in war time only. It
exists and binds conscience in peace as well. In another way
perhaps but just as imperatively.
Do I love my country? Do I love her enough to be willing to
give her children? Certainly not primarily for the time of war,
but for peace-time equally. The more valiant hearts and arms
there are, the more prosperous is the country. The true wealth
of a people is their wealth in men.
THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF HAVING CHILDREN?
WE HAVE seen clearly that it is a "serious matter" to prevent
conception by any voluntary positive act and if full
knowledge and complete consent of the will are present it
constitutes a mortal sin. If the marital act is performed, then
God may not in any way--by the opposition of the parents--be
hindered from creating a soul.
--But we cannot, considering our burdens, increase the
number of our children!
--That may be, responds the Moral Law; such a case is far
from being imaginary. But you do not enter upon marriage
only for enjoyment. In the plan of Divine Providence,
pleasure is the accomplishment or the result of duty fulfilled.
To separate the pleasure from the duty, to seek the first while
evading the second is to go counter to the divine plan. Sexual
pleasure presupposes the normal exercise of the generative
function, the acceptance of the resultant burdens for which it
is, as Cardinal Mercier expresses it, "the providential
--But when you consider the intimacy of life together, how
can we refrain for any length of time at all without giving
ourselves to each other?
--There is every reason to believe that, without prayer and
recourse to the sacraments, you are right. But what is your
supernatural program? What are you doing to rise above the
senses, to moderate the flesh?
--Can't we choose those times when fertility is least probable?
--Yes, if you have a sufficient reason, as you seem to have.
And the necessity of having to practice prudent and
courageous continence several days each month will in itself
force you to a certain and meritorious generosity.
--Even that is not possible for us; for then we would have to
renounce marital intimacies.
--Of course. But nowhere has it been said that marriage is a
state where one can allow himself every liberty suggested by
his caprice without exercising any judgment.
That is said nowhere; at least, not in any sane and honest
books on morality. Married persons are too quick to think
that, because they have not chosen "the state of perfection"
in absolute virginity, the great virtues are not for them.
Even in granting themselves what they may legitimately
permit themselves, the husband and wife have a large field
for detachment. They ought to be willing to profit by the
opportunity and not reject it on the plea of moral or
physiological impossibility when it is really because of their
lack of stamina, of Christian spirit, and the will to self-
How will such married persons aenemic in their spiritual life
and accustomed to denying themselves nothing, even when
the cost is not too great, deny themselves when a serious law
One must learn to will in order to know how to will. And if one
falls he must not excuse but accuse himself.
You are the Judge of my past, O my God. I offer You all its
efforts and its weaknesses. Give me the grace to be generous
in the future.
THE ONLY CHILD
THERE is, as we have seen, a double duty involved in the
--The duty of chastity: In no way to attack the law of life.
--The duty of charity or fruitfulness: To do one's best for the
production of life.
It is impossible--and that is self-evident--to set a definite
figure as the gauge of duty in procreation. A very competent
authority on this subject, Father P. Boisgelat, S. J., has this to
"Who keeps below his minimum possibilities fails in the duty
of his state of life and sins through selfishness. Who strives
for his possibilities and realizes them does his duty. Who
exceeds the maximum of his possibilities sins by imprudence
As for this level of possibility about which he speaks, it must
be determined by each one's conscience without selfishness
and without imprudence.
"One must on his part confide in God, abandoning to Divine
Providence the possibility of unforeseen misfortunes, such as
the unexpected and early death of the father, a possible lower
economic status in the future, war. . .
"Duty obliges us to foresee only what is foreseeable and
likely; all the rest must be confided to God."
There are couples who eagerly desire one child but not
several children. They want the one either to have a tangible
proof that they have made a fruitful marriage or to create a
precious and living bond between them. They desire only the
one because they do not want to be encumbered; they do not
want to limit the regular tenor of their lives, the quality and
variety of their wardrobe, and they are afraid to run the risk
to their health that every new birth might bring; they dread
the crying and the inconvenience caused by very little
children. These reasons and others just as selfish are worth
nothing. Serious reasons are necessary to dispense from
The idea of limiting the family in order to give to the one (or
to the very small number) resources which will eliminate the
necessity of working or assure the whole benefit of the entire
fortune is not in itself selfish on the part of the parents. It is
extremely harmful however. We are not born to avoid work
here below. Each one is obliged to contribute his maximum
effort to the welfare of society. We are not here to reign, but
Parents do not manifest much esteem for the fruit of their
blood if they do not deem it capable of gaining, by its own
power, a place in life whenever it so desires.
Then, too, is there not always the danger that the only child
will receive too soft a training, that he will be spoilt and be of
an inferior character?
Should this only child die young, what anguish for the father
and mother! They themselves become the very first victims
of their damnable birth control.
CHRIST AND MARRIAGE
OUR LORD did not come to destroy but to fulfill the law.
Marriage was to remain exactly what it was in the Natural Law:
the exchange of two wills for the purpose of procreation. Our
Savior who knew very well the difficulties of the marital state
made a sacrament of this mutual exchange of wills, a rite that
imparts grace. Each of the two in becoming united to the
other will enrich that other one with an increase of
sanctifying grace. Both should be in the state of grace before
the marriage takes place since it is a sacrament of the living,
which means that its purpose is to intensify the divine life
already existing in the soul. By their gift of themselves to
each other they also obtain for each other a gift of new
growth in the divine.
Because marriage is fundamentally a contract--a double yes
giving to each of the two complete right to the other--it has
this special feature that there is no other minister than the
two concerned. Sometimes people say, "That's Father So and
So; he married us." The expression is incorrect. It is not the
priest who marries the bride and groom; they marry
themselves. They themselves are the ministers of the
sacrament which they receive at the same time. The priest is
there only in the capacity of a witness representing the
Church; as the witness required for the validity of the
marriage; but a witness only.
What eminent dignity therefore has the sacrament of
Matrimony! What eminent dignity have the bride and groom!
They are for each other transmitters of the divine.
The bonds which they contract bear upon two points: the
oneness of the couple, the indissolubility of their bonds. Our
Lord, who made of marriage a grace-giving rite, also stressed
the double obligation of unity and indissolubility.
Oneness: They form a single unit. They shall be two in one
flesh, says Genesis. But due to human grossness, forms of
polygamy were introduced. Our Savior forbade them, and the
Church has always taken care to require the observance of
the law. Love itself demands it. Marriage is such an intimate
reality. To live it with several individuals at the same time is
condemned by natural feeling itself. Divine law merely
reaffirms this basic requirement. Furthermore, family
stability as well as the happiness of the children militate
equally in favor of oneness.
Indissolubility: Marriage creates a oneness forever; a oneness
that can be dissolved only by the death of either partner. The
encyclical of Pius XI, "Casti-Connubii" reminds the world of
"For each individual marriage, inasmuch as it is a conjugal
union of a particular man and woman, arises only from the
free consent of each of the spouses; and this free act of the
will, by which each party hands over and accepts those rights
proper to the state of marriage is so necessary to constitute
true marriage that it cannot be supplied by any human power.
"This freedom, however, regards only the point whether the
contracting parties really wish to enter upon matrimony or to
marry this particular person; but the nature of matrimony is
entirely independent of the free will of man, so that if one
has once contracted matrimony he is thereby subject to its
Divinely made laws and its essential properties."
MARRIAGE AND BAPTISM
CHRIST came to restore to us the divine life lost by original
sin. He instituted baptism as the practical means of entering
upon the supernatural. The baptized person is not only a soul
and a body, but a soul in which God lives.
According to one of the Fathers of the Church baptism is a
marriage between God and the soul; he goes so far as to call
the soul Spirita Sancta the feminine form for the Holy Spirit
(Spiritus Sanctus). Without this marriage of God and the soul,
the individual can have no spiritual fecundity. It is
impossible: The most noble human act performed by one in
mortal sin has no value at all for heaven.
What then is the marriage of two beings of flesh and bone?
It is the image on an earthly plane of a union which is more
beautiful although invisible--the union of God and the soul.
Baptism, marriage--two sacraments of union--and the second
will always be but a symbol of the first. Union of God with the
soul, union of husband and wife. Two sacraments of union;
two sacraments of fecundity. Without God, the soul can do
nothing fruitful for heaven; without each other, husband and
wife cannot beget children. And just as Saint Paul could call
all sin adultery since it is deliberate divorce from God, so
every break in the marriage bond is blameworthy and true
Both baptism and marriage then are sacraments of inviolable
union. A rupture of the union whether a divorce from God or
a divorce from one's partner in marriage can in either case be
What better guarantee have the wedded couple of their
reciprocal fidelity than their common life in the state of
grace! Each of the two refusing to be divorced from God is
thus more sure of the other. United as they are by the same
promise, by conjugal embraces, they are likewise united with
each other by the same Holy Spirit who forms the Bond
between them. Any husband or wife who denies this is
already committing an offence against the integrity of the
gift of self. Each of the two must live the truth of Tertullian's
definition of a soul in grace. "What is a Christian?" he asked.
"A Christian is a soul in a body and God in that soul." To give
to one's partner in marriage only the first two elements and
refuse the third is not to give all, not to give the best. Truly it
is a plunder, a plunder which injures husband and wife. Is it
possible not to realize this? It remains profoundly true just
the same: Indeed, it is a double betrayal. For who can say that
one who has been coward enough to betray God will not be
just as likely to betray the partner of his life?
So true is this, that only fidelity to God can give
completeness to marriage.
RESPECT IN LOVE
COMPLETE fidelity in marriage is essential. It is however only
a minimum. To treat each other as living tabernacles of God--
that is what marriage between two baptized persons
Know you that the sacrament of Christian initiation
transforms a person into a living temple of the Most High?
Well then, behind this more or less attractive human
silhouette which is the person of the marriage partner, body
and soul, there is God dwelling within and living His Divine
life in the depths of the soul. Consequently when poor health
or advancing age cause husband or wife to grow less
attractive exteriorly, that is not a reason for love to wane.
How many know that when husband and wife in the state of
grace embrace each other by conjugal privilege, they clasp
the Holy Trinity, who unites them even more closely than
their human embrace? Far from coming between them, what
supernatural intimacy and what magnificent dignity does it
give to their union! How it elevates, and idealizes what in
itself is good though still carnal and therefore capable of
easily becoming earthy and, for some, difficult to consider as
It is rare to find Christians who truly have faith at least faith
in the fundamental mystery of the life of the baptized. Father
Charles de Foucauld wrote to his married sister who was the
mother of a family:
"God is in us, in the depths of our soul . . . always, always,
always there, listening to us and asking us to chat a bit with
Him. And that is, as much as my weakness will permit, my
very life, my darling. Try, that more and more it may become
yours; that will not isolate you, nor draw you away from your
other occupations. It only requires a minute; then, instead of
being alone, there will be two of you to fulfill your tasks.
From time to time lower your eyes toward your heart,
recollect yourself for a mere quarter of a minute and say:
"You are there, my God. I love You." It will take you no more
time than that and all that you do will be much better done
having such a help. And what help it is! Little by little, you
will acquire the habit and you will finally be always aware of
this sweet companion within yourself, this God of our
hearts... Let us pray for each other that we may both keep this
dear Guest of our souls loving company."
If husband and wife were equally convinced of the living
splendor their souls actually present, how the marital act, so
holy to begin with, would become for them an act of divine
faith, an act penetrated by the highest supernatural spirit.
I want to meditate often on my baptism, and the mystery of
the divine life in me. I want to become accustomed to treat
myself as a living tabernacle of my Lord, to regard the
companion of my life as the thrice holy shrine of the
Divinity, for I know this to be a reality.
The just live by faith. I want to live by faith.
MARRIAGE AND THE MYSTICAL BODY
CHRIST came to restore the divine life lost to us by sin. But
how? He did not save us only by some act external to Himself
as one might lay down a sum of money to ransom a slave but
by incorporating us in Himself, by making all of us with Him
a single organism. "I am the Vine, you are the branches."
Christ is the Head, we the members and together we are the
whole body, Christ. The aggregate of all the members, all the
branches united constitutes the Church joined by an
unbreakable bond to Christ, its Leader and Head.
And Christian marriage will be . . . and will only be . . . but the
symbol of this union of Christ with His Church, of the Church
with its Head Saint. Paul at the end of his Epistle to the
Christians at Ephesus gives no other rule of love and of
security in their union to the married than the counsel to
copy this union in their life. He says to wives. "Let women be
subject to their husbands as to the Lord: because the husband
is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the Church
being Himself Savior of the body. But just as the Church is
subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all
Then addressing himself to husbands, he continues:
"Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the
Church and delivered Himself up for her." This is the way
husbands ought to love their wives and recalling the words of
Genesis. "They shall be two in one flesh," Saint Paul concludes,
"This is a great mystery.... I mean in reference to Christ and to
Is it possible to imagine a divorce between Christ and the
Church, between the Church and Christ? By the same token, it
should be impossible to conceive of a divorce between a man
and woman in Christian marriage, the man being but a
double, an image of Christ; the woman a double, an image of
This is but a negative aspect . . . not to be disunited. The
union of Christ with the Church which baptism symbolizes
invites the married to have for each other the most profound
and entire consecration to each other. It is this entire
consecration to each other which Saint Paul demands.
It is not without reason that the liturgy of the nuptial mass
contains this particular epistle of Saint Paul. Unfortunately
how few understand something of the significance of these
How much more fitting would it be, at the time of the
marriage, to profit by the marriage discourse to explain to
those concerned the sublime meaning of the ceremony and
the obligations which will ensue instead of handing out just
so much twaddle and bestowing so many compliments!
The whole difficulty is that it would necessitate touching
upon the profound Gospel spirit and, for the majority of
persons, the Gospel is a dead letter. As a consequence,
everyone keeps to the low level of hackneyed themes
understandable to all.
I shall come back often to this Epistle of my nuptial Mass; it
will help me to deepen my Christianity.
THE emphasis upon the duty of reciprocal devotedness of
husband and wife is evident in the previous quotation from
Saint Paul. So that the Church may remain intact, beautiful,
and immaculate, Christ is lavish in His care of her. In return
the Church leaves nothing undone to bring glory to her
That is how husbands and wives should treat each other. The
husband must be another Christ, a faithful copy of Christ. He
ought to neglect nothing for the honor and the welfare of his
wife; he should even be ready, if the need arose, to shed his
blood for her. She, on her part, ought to do everything to
revere her husband. It must be a mutual rivalry of love.
Just as there exists between Christ and the Church, in perfect
harmony with their mutual devotedness, a bond of authority
on the one side and of submission on the other, so too in the
home, the husband is entrusted with the lead in their advance
together and the wife joins her efforts to his in sentiments of
The wife's duty of subordination to her husband does not
arise from woman's incapacity but from the different
functions each of the two are to exercise. When each fulfills
well the proper function, the unity of the home is assured.
The wife is not a slave; she is a companion. On essential
points there is no subordination but necessary equality.
The man has no right to come to marriage sullied and yet
demand that his wife be still a virgin. The man does not have
permission to betray the home, and the wife the obligation to
remain faithful. And when it is a question of the marriage
right, the duty is conjugal, equal for each: When the husband
asks the wife to give herself to him she must grant the
request. But there is a reciprocal duty. When she makes the
same request of him, he too must grant it.
The duty of subordination holds only where the direction of
the home is concerned. It does not give the husband the right
to impose any of his whims upon his wife. In fact, should he
go so far as to make demands contrary to the law of God, she
has the duty to resist him with all gentleness but also with
the necessary firmness. Rightly understood, then, the wife's
submission to her husband is not at all demeaning. Moreover,
to obey is never to descend but to ascend.
Let husband and wife strive not so much to equal each other
as to be worthy of each other. Let the husband put into the
exercise of his authority the reserve and prudence which win
confidence and let the wife strive to be an accomplished
woman not masculine but feminine.
The interesting character of the home is not a man, a woman,
but the couple; not an individual, but the family, the
harmonious development of the family cell; not duality as
such but the advance in common of the two.
IN HIS book "Il Sangue di Cristo," Igino Giordani pronounces
"Even when he is good, man always reminds one a little of a
heron; he stands on one foot and assumes poses. He turns to
the right, then to the left, and what concern he shows for his
"The Christian woman fulfills the more obscure domestic
tasks, services humble and hidden. The woman is to be like
Mary. She will become familiar with the tasks that require
abnegation. Is it not perhaps easier to ascend the pulpit than
to watch at the bedside of the dying? There are plenty of such
examples. Saint Augustine wrote stacks of books but who
made a confessor of the faith out of this professor? His
mother--with her tears.
"More women than men enter religion; yet they do not have
the satisfaction of the priesthood. It is perhaps because of
these interceding and retiring women that all does not go up
in the smoke of vanity's fireworks."
Men might perhaps retort that on the score of vanity, women
do not yield to them a point. If they, the men, know how to
pose to advantage, and women, just to win admiration, also
do their share of strutting, and with an earnestness worthy of
a better cause. Would they be such slaves to fashion if they
did not have--and how much more than men--the mania for
excelling their rivals and gaining notice?
Certainly in self sacrifice and above all in the daily humble
hidden devotedness which the tasks of the home require,
woman is in the lead. That does not mean that man, in his
profession, does not know how to sacrifice himself for the
one he loves. Would he spend himself as he does if he did not
know that a smile would reward him in the evening and a
gentle voice would sing his praises? Nevertheless, in general,
the opinion of Giordani can be accepted as well as the proofs
he gives for it.
We need not consider religious life now. It has no point here.
All we need do is look to the Christian home to find without
difficulty numerous and sometimes touching examples of
devotedness which nothing can exhaust. Here is a wife; she
has a husband who gets beside himself with rage; he has real
fits of temper, the blood rushes to his head and he is
practically on the verge of a stroke. Will the woman let him to
his fate and punish him for his violence by depriving him at
least for a time of her attentions? Not at all!
Wasn't it Shakespeare who gave us this delightful scene: A
sheriff is enraged against his wife. She leaves the room.
Perhaps she has gone off to pout because she is away for a
while. But no! Here she comes, her arms loaded down, and
sets about preparing mustard packs for her husband's feet
and cold packs for his head to avert the ill effects of his
moments of fury.
It might be just an episode in a play but it is none the less
That is woman for you!
THE BOSS IN THE HOUSE
AFTER a meditation on his duty of ruling his future home,
Maurice Retour wrote the following ideas to his fiancee: "In
all the families I have visited, the husbands want to appear to
rule their wives while the wives quietly claim that they rule
their husbands. I eagerly desire to have influence on your
soul to help you ascend; but I desire just as eagerly to have
you exercise a great influence on mine. Let us leave to others
such petty behavior and thank God in all humility that He has
In another letter he came back to the same idea "I wish to be
master before the law, I even want to be responsible to God
for the morality of our home, but for all the details of our life
there is no master. I have never had greater disdain for
anyone than I have for a married man who presumes to
dominate his wife. I have seen some husbands grow actually
stubborn over some detail so that they do not have the
appearance before others of giving in to their wives. I think
such husbands are idiots." Then as a reason for his opinion
he adds, "Two persons living together necessarily have an
influence upon each other, but I promise you never to try by
any subtlety to hold you under my dominion. We shall live
side by side without a thought for such notions.
I want to believe that we can belong to each other in order to
enjoy life but with a love that will bring us ever close to
God.... God must always be foremost and He must be our goal
even in our love, now and always."
All husbands are not of that calibre. In a novel by a German
author, a certain baron gives his idea on how women should
"They must be made to feel their inferiority otherwise they
will be spoiled.
"If you get married, do as I do. Never tell her beforehand
about a trip or a horseback ride. Just lead in your horse.
'Where are you going, my dear?' she will ask the first or
second time. Give no answer, but continue putting on your
gloves. 'Are you going to let me alone like this?' she will add
stroking your cheeks. You seize your riding whip quickly and
say, 'Yes, I have to go to town. I have this and that to do.
Goodby. And if I'm not back at nine o'clock for supper, don't
wait for me.' She trembles, but you don't pay any attention.
She runs after you, but you signal with your whip for her to
go back. She runs to the window, leans out and waves her
handkerchief crying 'Adrien!' But let her white banner wave
and don't bother. Dig in your spurs and get going! I swear that
that's the way to keep women respectful. By the third time,
my wife asked no more questions and God be praised, the
wailing has come to an end."
A mere comparison of these two different attitudes makes the
right one stand out clearly. There are some husbands who are
blackguards; others who are gentlemen.
My choice is made.
MARRIAGE AND THE EUCHARIST (1)
A YOUNG lady before her marriage wrote to her future
husband asking him to go to Holy Communion with her as
often as possible; "The Eucharist is the sacrament of those
who are engaged to be married because it is the Sacrament of
Love." So impressed was the young man by her thought and
so much good did he derive from it, that he engraved the
sentence on her tombstone when she was taken from him by
an early death.
Marriage and the Eucharist. . . how true that they are both
sacraments of love.
What does love require?
Love expresses itself by these three needs: the need of the
presence of the beloved, the need of union, the need of
exchange of sacrifices. Each of the two sacraments satisfies
this triple need.
Need of presence. In the Eucharist: "This is My Body." God
present in us in His divine nature by sanctifying grace
received at baptism found the means to unite to Himself a
human nature: "The Word was made flesh." He was certain
that under that new form He would find a way to make
Himself present to humanity. Therefore, the Eucharist.
In marriage: Needless to mention the yearning the couple
have to be together. If they talk, it will only be to tell each
other how glad they are to be near each other. They may say
nothing, but then in the deep silence which envelops them
their souls will be knit together, they will commune and
exchange the best of themselves. Silence between lovers is
often more eloquent than words; the following advice of a
Chinese sage to a young girl considering a proposal of
marriage evidenced judgment and experience:
"If he tells you, "I love you more than all the world," turn away
your head and nonchalantly fuss with your hair. If he tells
you, "I love you more than the golden rod in the temple,"
adjust the folds of your dress and reproach him laughingly as
if amused at his impiety.
"If he passes beneath your window on a white horse to say
goodby because he prefers to die by a thrust of the sword
than to despair, give him a flower and wish him a happy trip.
"But if he remains beside you, numb as a slave before a king
and clumsy to the point of spilling tea on your blue
tablecloth, then smile at him tenderly as you would for the
one whom you wish to accept for always."
Even though at the beginning of marriage, being together is
unalloyed joy and there is no need to urge cohabitation upon
the newlyweds, it can happen that in the long run
unpleasantnesses arise; the charm of being together wanes
perhaps because faults show up more readily than in the past
or because the couple's concept of marriage was overly
romantic, not preparing them for the possible flaws in each
other or simply because a man will never be anything else
but a man and a woman never anything else but a woman,
that is, two limited beings who can not avoid discovering
their limitations sooner or later.
No one is obliged to marry. But once married, cohabitation is
a duty. Canon Law states: "The spouses must observe the
community of the conjugal life." Saint Alphonsus says even
more specifically, "The married are bound to cohabitation in
one house to the sharing of bed and board." Separation
regarding the last two points can for just reasons, be
permitted in certain cases. Grave reasons are necessary to
dispense husbands and wives from living under the same
roof; there is always the danger of scandal to be feared and,
under the stress of temptations which may arise, also the
danger of transforming simple separation of bodies into real
MARRIAGE AND THE EUCHARIST (2)
LOVE, which thrives on the mutual presence of the two who
cherish each other and yearn for each other, also seeks
It is true for marriage; it is true for the Eucharist.
That physical expression is a need of love, both experience
and the most elementary psychology more than amply prove.
Doesn't a mother often say to her baby whom she is
smothering with kisses, "I could just eat you up," as if she
vainly dreamed of being able to reincorporate it?
What is impossible to the mother is possible to Our Lord. He
wanted to give Himself to us as food not so much that we
might incorporate Him in ourselves as that He might
incorporate us in Himself. In the case of ordinary food, it is
the one who eats who assimilates. In the Eucharist, it is the
Living Bread which assimilates us in Itself: "Take and eat, this
is My Body; take and drink, this is My Blood. If you do not eat
the Flesh of the Son of Man, you shall not have life in you. He
who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood shall have life
The Eucharist requires that we take it and consume it. The
Host is not made for the eyes, to be seen, but to be eaten. It is
not enough to look and to adore; we must receive and
assimilate: "Take and eat." The Real Presence is already a
great gift and to be present at Benediction of the Most Blessed
Sacrament a precious exercise which the Church praises. But
that is not the whole significance of the Eucharist. The
Eucharist demands communion, the common union . . . and
what a closely bound community . . . of two beings who love
each other, Christ and the Christian.
Because love is the ideal basis for the sacrament of
matrimony, marriage in its turn dreams of physical
Since it is concerned with uniting not angelic but human
natures, that is, spirits within bodies, marriage, while it
involves a union of souls, also normally involves a union of
bodies which should facilitate the union of souls. It is the
entire being of the one which seeks to become united with
the entire being of the other.
It can then readily be understood how in view of the
particular intimacy sought through bodily union, delicacy
claims privacy. It is a good act without question and willed by
God who by His nature can permit not even the shadow of sin.
The Church, in the course of her history, condemned those
overly severe moralists who wanted to oblige the married to
go to confession before receiving Holy Communion if they
had previously had intercourse.
There is no question about the couple's right to all those
marks of affection and tenderness which normally
accompany the generative act. Still, between Christian
husbands and wives, a wise modesty, not in the least fearful,
but decently reserved, will be the rule.
The strict right by which sin is measured is one thing; quite
different is the domain of perfection or even of imperfection
which extends far beyond that and which is properly the
course of Christian refinement.
MARRIAGE as a sacrament which should be based on love,
looks to the conjugal act as an expression of love. And since
this embrace is in the nature of the closest of intimacies,
everyone understands that it demands unity of the couple.
We have spoken of that before. But it is essential to be
convinced of it on account of the objections that come up
frequently in conversations and the arguments advanced by
certain modern authors like Blum, or Montherlant or
Lawrence. This last mentioned writer gives us a scene like the
Jack who is married to Monica by whom he has several
children makes advances to Mary:
"Oh, Jack! You are married to Monica."
"Am I? But she doesn't belong entirely to me; she has her
babies now. I shall love her again when she is free. Everything
in season, even women. Now I love you after going for a long
time without ever thinking of you. A man is not made for a
"O God," she cried. "You must be crazy. You still love
"I shall love Monica again later. Now I love you. I don't
change, but sometimes it is the one, sometimes it is the
other. Why not?"
Yes, Why not? Simply because the rule as regards marriage is
not the mere caprice of man and the satisfaction of his
sensual desires; because woman has a right to respect and to
the pledge that has been given her; because marriage is made
not for the individual but for the family, the social unit, and
to carry on in such a fashion is the break down of the family.
But Jack--or rather Lawrence--hears nothing of all that.
"Mary, all alone, was incomplete. All women are but parts of a
complete thing when they are left to themselves . . . They are
but fragments . . . All women are but fragments."
Where does such a theory originate if not in the unbounded
sensuality of man? But Jack listens to nothing. What do
judgments other than his own mean to him? As he said, "He
hated the thought of being closed up with one woman and
some youngsters in one house. No, several women, several
houses, groups of youngsters; a camp not a home! Some
women, not one woman. Let the world's conventions be
ignored. He was not one of those men for whom one woman
Why doesn't the logic of sensuality accord woman what man
so brutally claims for himself? Are there two Moral Laws?
Here is another character, Helen. She is a doctor's wife and
his most devoted assistant. But she divorces him for a snob
whose life is all race horses and receptions. There she is,
soaked in worldliness. She gets another divorce to marry a
young poet, the latest rage, and transforms herself into an
intellectual . . . Marvelous richness of the feminine soul! Says
your sophisticate, she is like a fountain of glistening water
which catches its coloring, green, red, or blue according to
the men she chooses in turn!
Are we dreaming? That's the kind of thing we are likely to
hear in certain gatherings and cocktail parties.
What a profanation of love!
Complete oblivion of the significance of the conjugal act! It is
not only two distinct physical acts, but, through the medium
of the body, a most ineffable exchange between two souls.
MARRIAGE AND THE EUCHARIST (3)
MARRIAGE as a sacrament that should be based on love in the
beginning and that must foster love in those who receive it
together expects the mutual presence of a respectful and
devoted cohabitation. From the very nature of marriage there
devolves the duty of union and of procreation.
Marriage requires still more . . . mutual sacrifice. And here
again its similarity to the Eucharist is remarkable.
Our Lord instituted the Eucharist not only to give us His
Presence, not only to provide us with the benefits of Holy
Communion. Rich though these benefits be, they do not
constitute the culminating benefit. What is the great wealth
of the Eucharist?
On Calvary, Our Lord offered Himself all alone to His Father.
But by His sacrifice He merited for us the grace to be grafted
on Him. Stretched upon the bloody Arbor of Calvary Christ's
Hands and Feet and Side were cruelly notched; through the
benefits of these divine openings we have gained the
privilege, we wild offshoots since the time of Adam, branches
deprived of divine life, to be set, to be grafted to the single
Vine, the only Possessor of sanctifying sap.
Made other Christs that day, all Christians . . . Christiani . . .
received the power, each time that the Lord Christ Jesus
would repeat His sacrificial oblation of Calvary through the
hands of His priest for the glory of the Father and the
salvation of the world, to offer it with Him. This repetition of
that offering is the Mass. Jesus, the divine Mediator, assumes
again His attitude of Mediator; held between heaven and
earth by the hands of the priest, He reiterates the
dispositions of the complete immolation of Calvary.
On Golgotha, He was alone to carry through the sacrifice, the
bloody sacrifice. Having been made that day by Him into
Christ, we, since we are inseparable from Him except by sin,
have the mission, whenever Christ renews His oblation, to
offer it and to offer ourselves to Him. Effective participation
in Mass is to be united with the Divine Head and all members
of the Mystical Body in the intimacy of the same oblation
Jesus brings to us the benefits of His very own sacrifice; we
bring to Him the offering of our own sacrifice. It is this part
of the offering that the martyr's relic in the altar stone and
the drop of water into the wine at the Offertory represent; the
union of two sacrifices in the unity of the same sacrifice.
Marriage will have to reach heights like that to succeed in
satisfying the utmost demands of love. The husband must be
ready to sacrifice all for his wife; the wife must be ready to
sacrifice all for her husband. From these conjoined sacrifices,
love is made; love likewise demands these conjoined
What shall I do to show my wife that I love her? What fine
deed can I accomplish, what prowess display, what humble,
noble act perform? That is the spirit of chivalry.
And the wife: What shall I do to make my husband happy?
What will give him pleasure?
This is the nourishment and the condition of love, the relish
for mutual sacrifice.
MARRIAGE AND SACRIFICE
IT IS not only the highest Catholic doctrine which requires
the spirit of sacrifice of the married couple but more
immediate common experience.
To live mutually in the closest proximity, in constant
forgetfulness of self so that each of the two thinks only of the
other requires something more than mere human attraction.
"Do not believe those who tell you that the road of love offers
only the softest moss for your feet to tread. There are some
sharp pebbles on the trail blazed by Adam and Eve."
The married woman who wrote those lines in verse, said the
same thing in prose, a prose strangely poetic:
"To enter into marriage with the idea that someday they will
be rid of self is like putting a moth into a piece of wool.
Whatever may be the embroidery, the gold threads, the rich
colors, the piece of wool is destined to be eaten, chewed with
holes and finally completely devoured. It would be necessary
for two saints to marry to be sure that no bitter word would
ever be exchanged between them; even then it is not
predictable what misunderstandings might crop up. Did not
Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas have to separate because they
had too many altercations? Then, can these two unfortunate
children of Adam and Eve destined to struggle in life with all
that life brings in our days of recurring difficulties expect
never to have any temptations to wound each other and never
to succumb to such provocations?"
If marriage is difficult even when the husband is a saint and
the wife is a saint, how can we estimate the sacrifices it will
require when the couple are to put it briefly but "poor good
Here however we are discussing the case of two who are
sustained by dogma, morals, and the sacraments. But
suppose one of the couple is a sort of pagan, or if baptized,
so far removed from his baptism that nothing recalls any
longer the mark of the children of God. What a secret cause
Such was the suffering of Elizabeth Leseur who was happy in
her married life in the sense that her husband was completely
loyal to her but unhappy in her home because on the
fundamental point for union, there was disunion, a separated
life, the wife being Christian to the degree of astonishing
intimacy with God and the husband remaining perfectly
satisfied with the superficial life of so-called society.
Even when souls live in closest harmony, there will always be,
even in the best of homes, a hidden cause for mutual
suffering, which one author calls, "the eternal tragedy of the
family, due to the fact that man and woman represent two
distinct worlds whose limits never overlap." For woman love
is everything. For man it is but a part of life. The woman's
whole life rotates about the interior of the home, unless
necessity forces her to work to earn a livelihood. The
husband lives whole days much more outside the home than
in it; he has his business, his office, his store, his shop, his
factory. Except for the early days of his married life, he is
absorbed more by ambition than by love; in any case, his
heart alone is not busy throughout his days, but also and
frequently more often, his head.
Sometimes the wife suffers from not having her husband
sufficiently to herself; the husband suffers because he
appears not to be devoting himself sufficiently to his wife.
Over and above other causes of tragedy, here is the eternal
and hidden drama. Much virtue is needed by both to accept
the suffering they unwittingly cause each other.
A MYSTIC MORAL BOND
ASIDE from the helps of Faith, two things especially can aid
the married couple to practice mutual forbearance and to
accept the sacrifices inherent in life together.
The first is the fact of their mutual share in the birth of their
Saint Augustine speaks beautifully of the two little arms of a
child which draw the father and mother more closely together
within the circle of their embrace as if to symbolize the living
bond of union the child really is between them.
Even when one's choice of a marriage partner has been
perfect, when ardent tenderness is evinced on both sides,
there can still develop a period of tenseness and strained
relations. Who can best reconcile the two souls momentarily
at odds, upset for a time, or somewhat estranged?
Someone has said it well: "Life is long, an individual changes
in the course of ten, fifteen, twenty years shared with
another. If the couple that has a had a fall out, has known
love in its fullness. I mean by that the love of hearts and
souls above all..., if the two have the noble and deep
memories which constitute our true nourishment during our
voyage on earth, if they are above all bound together by the
children that their love has brought into the world, then there
is a good chance that even though they are caught by the
undertow of passion, they will emerge safe and sound."
In addition to having children . . . that bond of love between
the father and mother even in the greatest stress and strain . .
. what most contributes to a speedy reconciliation after the
clashes that eventually arise or the misunderstandings which
set them at odds is the thought that they must endure, they
must remain together.
What is to be thought of the following practice which is
becoming quite customary? In the preparation of the
trousseau, only the bride's initial is engraved on the
silverware or embroidered on the linen. Does it not seem to
be a provision for the possibility of a future separation?
By the constant repetition of the idea that man is fickle and
that "her husband is the only man a woman can never get
used to," the novel, the theater, the movies, set the stamp of
approval on the "doctrine" of the broken marriage bond as
something normal, something to be expected.
"On the contrary," says Henriette Charasson, who is a married
woman and an author quoted before, "if husbands and wives
realized that they were united for life, if they knew that
nothing could permit them to establish another family
elsewhere, how vigilant they would be not to let their
precious and singular love be weakened; how they would
seek, throughout their daily ups and downs, to keep vibrant,
burning, and radiant, the love which binds them not only by
the bond of their flesh but by the bond of their soul."
We must thank God if He has blessed our home by giving us
many precious children; thank Him also for the Christian
conviction which we received formerly in our homes,
convictions which will never permit us to consider the
possibility of the least fissure in our own family now.
A FATHER'S ANSWER TO HIS DAUGHTER
IN THE book "My Children and I" by Jerome K. Jerome, which
is as full of humor as of common sense, a young girl tells her
father that she is frightened at the possibility of love's
"Love," she says, "is only a stratagem of nature to have fun at
our expense. He will tell me that I am everything to him. That
will last six months, maybe a year if I am lucky, provided I
don't come home with a red nose from walking in the wind;
provided he doesn't catch me with my hair in curlers. It is not
I whom he needs but what I represent to him of youth,
novelty, mystery. And when he shall be satisfied in that? . . ."
Her father answers, "When the wonder and the poetry of
desire shall be extinguished what will remain for you will be
what already existed before the desire. If passion alone binds
you, then God help you! If you have looked for pleasure only,
Poor You! But if behind the lover, there is a man (let us add a
Christian); if behind this supposed goddess, sick with love,
there is an upright and courageous woman (again let us add
Christian); then, life is before you, not behind you. To live is
to give not to receive. Too few realize that it is the work
which is the joy not the pay; the game, not the points scored;
the playing, not the gain. Fools marry, calculating the
advantages they can draw from marriage, and that results in
absolutely nothing. But the true rewards of marriage are
called work, duty, responsibility. There are names more
beautiful than goddess, angel, star, and queen; they are wife
Marriage is a sacrifice.
In order to live these four last words, "Marriage is a sacrifice,"
it is not enough to have started off on a good footing, to be
enthusiastic about fine ideals, to put all hope in mutual
Since marriage calls for more than ordinary sacrifice, it will
be necessary in order to remain faithful to the habit of
sacrifice, to have more than ordinary helps.
We have already meditated on the similarity between the
Eucharist and marriage; we have seen that not only is there a
bond of resemblance between these two sacraments but that
there is in the Eucharist, above all in participation in the
Eucharistic sacrifice and in Holy Communion a singular help
for the married.
Prayer together must also be a help. Someone has rightly
said, "The greatest sign of conjugal love is not given by
encircling arms in an embrace but by bended knees in
In his "Confessions," Saint Augustine describes his last
evening with his mother at Ostia. It is worth quoting. When a
husband and wife have reached such a degree of soul-union
in God, they can face all life's tempests without trembling.
"Forgetting the past and looking toward the future, we
pondered together in Your Presence, O my God, the living
Truth, on what the eternal life of the elect would be like. . . .
We came to this conclusion: The sensible pleasures of the
flesh in their intensest degree and in all the attractiveness
that material things can have, offer nothing that can compare
with the sweetness of the life beyond, nor do they even
deserve mention. In a transport of love, we tried to lift
ourselves to You there...."
I must understand more clearly than in the past how essential
it is to be rooted in prayer and if possible in prayer together.
I will meditate on this again.
WE ARE not considering the word "transported" in its
emotional and rapturous sense, not as a paroxysm of
exaltation, but rather in the sense of an ascent in a vehicle
toward a determined destination.
Marriage is a trip for two. A trip. They travel ahead, enjoying
mutual happiness on earth even as their destination gets
nearer; and farther on, over there, up yonder, they shall both
have the happiness of paradise.
Do I have my destination, our common destination,
sufficiently before my eyes . . . sanctity here below, then
death; then in the next life, the reward for our mutual efforts
How quickly we slip along hardly noticing our advance; I am
scarcely aware of having started on the way. How distant the
end seems; it escapes my sight; I am all taken up with what is
right before me; I can't see the forest for the trees.
Am I advancing? In sanctity? In union with God? In patience?
In purity? In charity? In generosity?
How many questions? Am I really asking them of myself? And
if I am, how must I answer them if I want to be honest?
But I am not alone. This is a trip in company with others. We
are several; we are two not counting the children.
How do I conduct myself toward this company, my co-
How do I act toward the partner of my life?
A recent "before and after" cartoon gave a series of pictures
indicating changes in attitude toward one's life companion:
During the engagement period, the young man is holding the
umbrella very solicitously over his fiancee's head with no
regard for the rain pouring down on him. Shortly after
marriage, he holds the umbrella between them so that each
receives an equal share of the raindrops. A long time later in
marriage, the husband is no longer concerned about his wife;
he holds the umbrella over his head and lets his wife get
soaked to saturation.
Is that a reality or only an accusation? Selfishness so quickly
regains its empire. It is not always bad will; inattention,
perhaps, plain and simple. Yes, but isn't even that too bad?
What happened to all the little attentions of courtship and the
honeymoon days? Those countless delicate considerations?
The constant thought of the other?
There is the root of much suffering especially for the wife
who is keener, more affectionate, more sensitive; she thinks
she is cast off. She lets it be known on occasions. Oh, not
bluntly, but with that subtle art she has for allusions,
implications, and expressive silences. She might upbraid: "If
you were in such a situation, if you were with such and such a
person, I am sure you would be so obliging, so engaging, so
attentive. But it is only I. Consequently you don't have to
bother, isn't that so?" And, little by little, bitterness creeps in.
It was nothing at all to start with. They made something--
matter for friction.
I know a priest who wanted to preserve until he was at least
eighty all the freshness of his priesthood: "I shall never let
myself get used to celebrating Holy Mass." I should be able to
say the same thing in regard to the sacrament I have
received, the sacrament of marriage: "I will preserve my love
in all its freshness. I shall remain considerate, delicately
attentive. I shall do everything in my power to travel forward
together not only in peace but in light and mutual joy.
SINGLE THOUGH TWO
ANNA DE NOAILLES, a French poetess, summed up her
unhappy married life in the words, "I am alone with someone.
It is an expressive but sinister remark.
People marry in order to be two, but two in one, not to
continue to be alone, alone although with someone.
Aloneness for two can have a double cause:
1. Waiting too long to have children through a mutual
agreement at the beginning of married life.
2. Loving each other too much perhaps. Too much, selfishly
of course. Man and wife united, together, yes; and in this
sense, it is not the solitude of which Anna de Noailles spoke.
But if their union for two deserves rather to be called
selfishness for two, it is not a true union.
These are the reefs upon which many a marriage has been
Granted that if they do nothing to prevent generation, they do
not sin . . . at least not against the law of chastity for
marriage; but besides going counter to the law of fecundity,
they are running the risk of sterility.
If they wait too long to have their brood, the nest hardens,
loses its softness and adaptability. They get so accustomed to
being only two that the presence of a third, even though the
fruit of their union, does not seem desirable. There will
always be time later, later! Let us enjoy each other first.
Selfishness for two: conjugal solitude. And let us add, a risk
for later on. The wife will probably suffer from not being able
to be a mother; the husband gets used to seeing in her only a
wife. "It is in springtime," the proverb picturesquely says,
"that the father bird learns to do his duty." The wife is very
imprudent if she lets her husband prolong unduly a sort of
bachelorhood; let her teach him how to assume his duties
without too much delay.
There can be another reason more harmful still for this being
alone though two and that is born of opposition of characters.
Generally it does not appear in the first years of married life.
Everything is marvelous then, sunshine and moonlight.
Though there may be exceptions, they are rare.
But there comes a time when tension creeps in, more or less
restrained, then hidden resentment, finally opposition if not
with weapons at least by tongue lashings, sullen silences,
disagreeable attitudes. There is in every man, even a married
man the stuff of an old bachelor; in every woman, even a
married woman, something of . . . well, a person shouldn't
really use that word to speak of unmarried women.
When husbands and wives notice their rising irritability, they
should take hold of their hearts with both hands so to speak
and refrain from words they will regret soon after. If they
have the courage, let them have an understanding with each
other as soon as possible. They should learn not to notice
every little thing; to forget with untiring patience all the little
pricks; to remember only the joys they lived through
together; to make a bouquet of them, not a faded bouquet
like dried out artificial flowers that are kept in a drawer, but
alive and fresh, beautiful enough to be put in full view on the
Everything that is typical of the single life is taboo. They are
united. They are to remain united. Two in one. In one: It is not
always easy; it is always necessary.
MARRIAGE AND THE PRIESTHOOD (1)
THERE is a greater resemblance between the sacrament of
matrimony and the sacrament of Holy Orders than is
immediately evident. The encyclical "Casti Connubii" of Pope
XI does not fail to point it out. Here are a few similarities:
1. Although the sacrament of matrimony does not like Holy
Orders impart a special character to the soul, it does
consecrate "ministers" appointed to communicate grace. The
priest is but a witness at the marriage. It is not the priest who
marries but the man and woman who marry themselves who
by exchanging their mutual "yes" give to each other more
divine life. A sublime dignity which we have considered
2. Both marriage and Holy Orders give and sustain life. Holy
Orders, supernatural life; marriage, natural life. The object of
marriage, however, is not only the formation of bodies, but
also the education of souls; procreation is nothing if it does
not duplicate itself in education. It is up to the parents to get
their children baptized, to prepare them for their First Holy
Communion, to help in their religious formation, to assist
them to remain in grace, a ministry which paves the way for
the ministry of the priest, makes it possible and doubles its
3. Marriage and Holy Orders are both "social sacraments";
they are not intended only and principally for the personal
sanctification of the recipients but are directed more
especially to the general good of the Christian community.
The priest is not a priest for himself; he is ordained for the
sheep entrusted to him; he is commissioned to work for the
flock the bishop designates for him. Parents are not married
only for their own good; they are married for the good of the
children who will be born of them.
When the number of priests decreases, what harm results for
the spiritual future of society! (Isn't today's terrible proof of
this a real anguish for the heart?) If marriage is not
undertaken by the fit, or the fit determined to fulfill its
obligations, what harm will ensue for the temporal future of
4. Those who receive the sacrament of matrimony are vowed
just as truly as is the priest to the exercise of charity.
For the priest it is clear. A bishop is established in the state
of perfection by his very function which is to spend himself--
to the giving of his life if necessary--for the welfare of the
faithful. Because he is perpetually in the state of complete
charity, we say that he is in the state of perfection, perfection
consisting in the more or less extensive and permanent
exercise of charity. Priests share in this state of holiness of
the bishop. They must spend themselves for their sheep, be
ready day and night to bring them spiritual help, to do all in
their power to instruct them in the Word of God, to prevent
them from losing their souls, to lead them back to the fold if
they are tempted to go astray.
The married are, in their turn, and in a broad sense,
established to a degree in a state which can, if they live it as
they should, bring them to high perfection.
Ought not the husband exert himself with his whole soul for
the well-being of his wife and children; should he not work
and spend himself for love of them?
And what about the wife and mother? The pelican appears on
the chasuble of the priest to symbolize his duty to imitate
Christ by giving his very heart's blood for the faithful. Could
it not also be a symbol for maternal sacrifice?
MARRIAGE AND THE PRIESTHOOD (2)
PRIESTS receive Holy Orders at the foot of the altar, so too do
the bride and groom receive the sacrament of matrimony.
It is as if the Church appointed the same place for the
reception of both sacraments because she wished to
emphasize the relationship between matrimony and Holy
Now that we have seen the points of resemblance between
them, we are ready to draw some profitable conclusions:
1. The two who are married are called to help each other in
the life of grace. Therefore the couple will become channels
in the communication of grace in proportion to each one's
own wealth in the divine life. What a long preparation the
priest must have for his priesthood--long years in the
seminary, the reception of minor Orders before admittance to
the priesthood, the retreats before each of his ordinations.
By contrast, how many enter upon marriage with no
preparation. Even when they do prepare for it and give it
thought, how superficial and brief their preparation is; how
easily lost are the effects by a flood of social events and
distractions. Strange conduct!
2. The two joined by marriage will have to propagate life, and
what is more, a life which will resemble theirs. A most
frequent comment made over a new baby, a comment which
is quite telling is "Why, he's his father all over," or "She's a
vest-pocket edition of her mother." What if this is to be true
morally as well? What am I, the father, like? Or I, the mother?
Do I really want this little one to resemble me? Oh, no! I want
it to be better, much better than I!
But am I free, as I go along, to weaken what I expect to
transmit and what I expect to keep for myself? No. I can
refrain from begetting children, but if I do have them, I must
know that they will resemble me. I ought not to have to say as
someone said, "My children will be like me, but you will have
to forgive them for it."
Is that not a thought that should move me strongly to
Since I am not only to beget children, but I must also rear
them, ought I not examine myself on the degree of my virtue?
Is it such that I can really contribute to the advancement of
other souls, to contribute to the growth of the Mystical Body
of Christ, to intensify the supernatural in the souls around
me--my partner in marriage, my children?
The Cure of Ars once asked a priest who was complaining
over his lack of influence on his parishioners: "Have you
fasted, taken the discipline, struggled in prayer?" In other
words, "Have you pushed your efforts in prayer, penance, and
sanctification to the highest point?"
Perhaps I complain of my powerlessness with one of the
children. Have I taken all the means to draw down God's
maximum graces upon me? Souls cost dearly. To be sure
there is always individual free will to contend with; it can
resist God; it can resist the prayer and the parents' striving
after holiness. I may not get discouraged. Have I not perhaps
been measuring out my generosity a bit too carefully? I shall
try to reach the heights. We cannot lift up unless we
ourselves are higher.
I should see, in the light of the parallel between the
sacrament of matrimony and the sacrament of Holy Orders,
the extent of my responsibilities. Like priests, I have a heavy
responsibility. A magnificent responsibility but a frightening
responsibility! If I am only so-so, I shall--according to the
logic of things and barring a miracle of God's grace--rear
souls who are only so-so.
Is that what I want?
Have I up to now measured how far-reaching my mission
WOMEN have their faults; while they are generally more
irritating than man's, they are less to be feared. Man more
readily betrays; he is more truly all of a piece; when he falls,
it is the whole way.
That should not cause a wife to be constantly on needles and
pins; it is harmful for the man and she does herself great
harm by so acting, for nothing will as quickly drive her
husband into another woman's arms as jealousy in his lawful
The knowledge of man's tendency should incite the husband
to watch over himself more closely to avoid imprudence that
might run into flirtation, then into a friendship, then into
adultery. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, above all
in the strong sex.
Even in cases where the quality of the person, the honor of
the family name, nobility of origin would seem to give every
guarantee of perseverance in good, we sometimes meet
lamentable examples of a man's infidelity to his home.
In the diary of Eugenie de Caucy, the second wife of Marshal
Oudinot, it is related that on Sunday of shrove-tide 1820,
there was a very spectacular showing of "Le Carnival de
Venise" at the Opera.
The Duke de Berry had left the theatre before the last act to
escort his wife to her carriage. Upon turning to go back to his
box he was mortally wounded by the anarchist Louvel.
He asked for a priest and then made another request: "I want
to see all my children." The people about him knew only of
Mademoiselle, the four year old daughter, the child of his
marriage with the Duchesse.
His wife, the Duchess, did not dare to understand his request.
He explained, "My wife, I admit, I have several children.
Through a liaison of mine in England I had two daughters."
He died shortly after, asking mercy for his murderer and
regretting from the depths of his soul, a little late to be sure,
his unfaithful conduct.
Many thoughts suggest themselves on hearing such a story.
First of all, think of dying in such a setting! Yet, there is
certainly nothing wrong with attending a play if the play is
morally good; we just have to remember to be always ready
wherever we are; death can strike us in society and even
while we are in the proximate occasion of sin.
Another more appalling thought is the wife's ignorance of her
husband's life. How can a man so betray the one to whom he
has pledged his faith? Furthermore, how brazen, to ask a
young girl to be his wife, the cherished companion of his life
after giving if not his heart at least his body to another
woman! Truly, man is not charming! Not that woman is
incapable of betrayal and of giving herself unlawfully, but we
should like to think that it happens more rarely.
Finally a third observation comes to mind--the picture of this
man lying in his blood, confessing his past and by this act of
humility, which is to his credit, trying to redeem the failings
of the past.
Thanks to God's grace, I have not similar failings on my
conscience. But are there not many thoughts, many desires,
certain types of reading, much imprudence even in act, and
unwarranted liberties of which I have been guilty? If those
about me knew what I really am, how would they judge me?
MARRIAGE AND THE COUNSELS (1)
IS IT possible to arrive at perfection without following the
Put in this way, the question can have two answers depending
on whether the effective practice of the counsels is to be
understood or simply the spirit of the counsels.
1. Perfection consists in the exercise of charity as the duty of
one's state implies it. "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is
perfect" was said to all not just to priests and religious.
And again to all, "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with thy
whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind
and with all thy strength."
The perfection of charity is commanded to all and not only
That the evangelical counsels are a help to the exercise of the
virtue of charity for those who have elected to live by them is
certain; they are not the only means.
The Gospel makes it perfectly clear: There is the observance
of the Commandments--a necessity for all; there is the
observance of the counsels--for those who desire it; those
only would be obliged to adopt this second means who have
evidence that without them they could not attain their
salvation--a rare case indeed.
2. But it appears to be a very difficult thing to arrive at the
perfection of charity without adopting the spirit of the
In fact there are three great obstacles to the perfect service of
God: excessive attachment to the goods of earth; the
tendency to seek purely selfish satisfactions where the
affections of the heart are concerned; finally the habit of
obeying not so much God's will for our life as personal
caprice and the false demands of the world.
From this it is evident that the pursuit of perfection
presupposes the spirit of detachment; it means using things,
as Saint Paul would say, as if we did not use them at all. That
suggestion is good not only for life in the cloister but every
bit as good if not more so, in view of the greater difficulty, in
the simple life of observing the Commandments. The spirit of
poverty in either case is essential.
The pursuit of perfection while living in the midst of the
world likewise calls for the spirit of chastity, the chastity of
the heart--not to the point of having to deprive themselves of
everything as those do who are vowed to the virginal state
but to the point of the privations necessary to meet the
demands of the conjugal state. Therefore, the spirit of
chastity is equally essential.
Striving for perfection in the midst of the world still allows
the individual entire liberty regarding many of the details of
life, the so-called good things of life as well as ideas,
companionship, dress. The soldier Ernest Psichari yearned as
he used to say "to be free of everything except Jesus Christ."
Strive for obedience to God alone who said "Seek ye first the
kingdom of God and all the rest shall be added unto you." I
must not let "the rest" take precedence over "the Kingdom."
Obedience to God should not be marked by formal passivity
but by vision and conviction. Let me measure the distance
from the place I am now to the summit of Christianity.
MARRIAGE AND THE COUNSELS (2)
THIS subject has too great significance for one meditation
Before the Fall there was a triple harmony in man:
--Harmony between God and the soul: Adam and Eve
conversed familiarly with the Most High who used to walk
with them at twilight in Paradise; He often left His footprints
in the sands of their garden.
--Harmony within man himself between his body and soul:
The senses were active but they were submissive to reason
and will; concupiscence existed but it was just concupiscence
not evil concupiscence; the powers of desire were not
--Harmony all about man, between him and nature: The
animals were subject to him and were not hostile to him.
Inanimate nature did not refuse its secrets to his work which
was but a joyous extension of his activity and not as it has
become in part at least--fatiguing labor. "You shall eat your
bread in the sweat of your brow."
Then came the Fall. Immediately this beautiful balance was
destroyed. Man revolted against God. The result: Man's senses
rose up against right reason and will enlightened by faith;
nature and all about man turned hostile. There would be wild
beasts and venomous creatures among the animals; the earth
would resist his toil and the labor of generations to come,
revealing its treasures only with discouraging parsimony and
at the cost of fearful toil and sweat.
What should be most profitable for my meditation is the
consideration of the revolt in man himself, his lower powers
against his higher powers. From then on man would have to
struggle against the triple and fatal inclination which was
born in him:
--An inclination to take an exaggerated possession of the
goods of the earth, the fruit of concupiscence of the eyes:
Man will rush after all that glitters. How many crimes have
been committed because of an unregulated love of money!
--An inclination to seek after excessive carnal satisfactions
contrary to true discipline of the senses and the commands
of God. What crimes have not the follies of lust produced!
--An inclination to pride: Man, proud of his liberty, but not
sufficiently concerned about keeping it in dependence on
reason and the Divine Will, runs the risk of forgetting the
majesty and sovereignty of God and the prime duty of
obedience to the Master of all.
How can one struggle effectively against this triple and
Do violence to self, declare spiritual writers with good
common sense. First and foremost among them in suggesting
this technique is Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Choose the
counterpart: poverty, chastity, obedience.
Religious men and women make it the matter of a vow. Their
lives serve as an inspiring example to draw forward those
whose lesser courage or less demanding vocation have kept
in the common way of life.
I shall hold religious life in high esteem. Although my
vocation is different I shall learn to live in a wise spirit of
detachment from created things, of chastity according to my
state, and of obedience to the Holy Spirit.
MARRIAGE AND VOWS
THE problem of personal vocation, as I have seen from my
meditations, is not a problem to be solved in the abstract, in
pure theory, but in the concrete, taking each particular case
into consideration. The best vocation in an individual case is
not the vocation which is best in itself but the best in fact,
that is the one which Divine Providence prepares for each
I have recognized mine quite clearly. I have no worry on that
Without wishing to belittle in the least the merits of those
who pronounce religious vows--for they are privileged souls--
can I not in a way compare my life with theirs and find a
resemblance between them?
In the writings of his mother which the poet Lamartine
published we find these lines:
"Today I attended the Investment of some hospital sisters.
The sermon which was addressed to them was beautiful: The
speaker told them that they had chosen for life a state of
penance and of mortification. A crown of thorns was placed
upon their heads to symbolize this . . . I greatly admired their
self-sacrifice; but I reflected that the state of a mother of a
family can approach the perfection of theirs if she fulfills her
"A person doesn't give enough thought to the fact that when
she marries she also makes a vow of poverty since she
practically puts her fortune into her husband's hands, and
that he has something to say about how she spends money.
"She makes a vow of obedience to her husband and a vow of
chastity inasmuch as she is not permitted to seek to please
any other man. She also dedicates herself to the exercise of
charity toward her husband and her children; she has the
obligation to care for them in sickness and to give them her
Isn't there much truth in this comparison? Evidently in the
case of marriage, husbands and wives are largely
compensated for the sacrifices they have to make by the joy
that comes to them from life together. In the virginal state
there is no such human compensation. That is no reason to
underestimate the value of the married state. Because the one
state is more beautiful, it does not follow that the other is not
It may well be that a certain father or mother who hesitated
before entering the married state because they felt called to
the life of consecrated virginity fulfilled God's plans for
religious vocations better by their marriage; God used them
as instruments for a series of vocations that would develop
among their offspring.
When Pius X was promoted to the bishopric of Mantua, he
paid a visit to his mother at Riese. "Mamma, look at my
beautiful episcopal ring." His eighty year old mother let her
wrinkled fingers pass over the ring thoughtfully. Then she
said, "It is true, Guiseppe; your ring is beautiful; but you
would not have had it, if I had not had this one," and she held
up her wedding ring.
THE SOCIAL IDEAL
YOUNG Maurice Retour found himself at the head of a textile
factory upon the early death of his father.
Shortly before his marriage, he wrote to his bride-to-be.
"To know that more than three hundred persons depend on
you for their daily bread, to be certain that with work,
intelligence, and patience you can make them earn more,
what else would you need to become inspired with the desire
to discover all possible improvements."
He let his fiancee know that he planned to have her share in
the furtherance of his enterprise. He added:
"To be a Christian, to have the happiness of knowing your
wife will one day work hand in hand with you, to feel that you
possess this sister-soul to help bring to success the noble and
beautiful ideal you dreamed of accomplishing is almost too
great a bliss; it's enough to make you beside yourself with
The young industrialist, in full agreement with his wife, set
himself to the duty of providing the desired improvements: a
free Saturday, a cafeteria for the workers, a benefit fund.
Naturally he was criticized by his fellow industrialists who
did not have a like Christian sense. But he held his own and
went even farther. Sometimes before some of his reforms
which had as their only purpose better conditions for the
workers, a number of the workers themselves either from
force of habit or ill-will evidenced displeasure. He still kept
to his plan, tried to win them over and was patient with them.
In spite of his firm principles, the exactness of his economic
and sociological knowledge, his good judgment, his Christian
spirit which guaranteed the usefulness of his efforts, he was
still eager to be supported in his labors; he told his wife his
difficulties and asked for her opinion and advice. He counted
on her either to help him to study and to grow in his
understanding of social problems or more often still to have a
part in his work.
In the fight against alcoholism, in the care of the workers'
children, in the visitation of the sick, in planning for big
celebrations, in organizing vacation camps, what a wide field
there was for the wife of an industrialist!
Maurice Retour did not believe in getting himself involved in
so many activities that he would neglect his factory; interest
in free schools, attendance at Saint Vincent de Paul meetings
were all fine, but they should not separate him from his
"We ought to think first of our workers, of their children, of
those who are in our direct contact in order not to scatter our
efforts in all directions uselessly. Let us try to sow a bit of
happiness about us . . . Let us give as much as we can to
others . . . We are responsible for the good we do not do . . .
All our life spent in this work hand in hand, united in the
same ideal, the same faith, the same great love would not be
From the Front in 1915, he often wrote asking for news: "Tell
me about our dear workers of whom I think so often."
What a god-send when a wife finds in her husband such a
magnificent social spirit; when an industrialist finds in his
wife someone who understands him and backs him up!