God in Marriage Preparation
Great numbers of marriages tragically have been terminating in separation or divorce, even though the commitment included “until death do us part.” In trying to determine various causes for the failures, we should consider the definition and scope of marriage as declared in some authoritative source such as, for example, the 1930 Encyclical Casti Connubii of Pope Pius XI.
Matrimony is one of the Seven Sacraments, hence a religious and very serious undertaking, for the double purpose of having:
a. The couple sanctify each other, which I would interpret to mean “to help each other to go to Heaven, and thus avoid Hell and Purgatory”;
b. Children, raised in a Catholic manner conducive to Heaven.
An enlightening biblical lesson, against someone’s idea of marrying primarily for sex, given by the Archangel Raphael to young Tobias, appears in Tobias 6:16-22. Two of those verses, from the Douay-Rheims Bible, follow:
Marriage of Tobias and Sara - Speculum Humanae Salvationis
“For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power” (n. 17, emphasis added).
To achieve purposes a and b of above requires a good knowledge and practice of the “old fashioned” (as compared with the wounded or incomplete modern versions) Catholic Faith – treated, as a good start, in the Baltimore Catechism. Where said knowledge and practice are absent, very likely the void becomes filled with some combination of the following: bickering, a marriage displeasing to God, separation, divorce.
“And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children” (n. 22, emphasis added).
If the Faith be well known and practiced, the answers to some fundamental questions that a couple, preparing for the wedding, must eventually address should engender no discord. But let us face three realities of life:
a. Nobody is perfect;
Question 1 – Where shall we go on dates, to explore compatibility?
b. Nobody knows the future behavior and mindset of others;
c. Some people do change their minds. Accordingly, and to avoid possible misconceptions or untrue assumptions that can cause disaster or much anguish, I strongly urge said couples to write, and answer (in a Catholic Doctrine way, of course) the alluded questions, six of which are to appear as a sample shortly; then sign the commitment in front of two witnesses, as the matter is too important to be left to trust alone.
Answer 1 – To the living room, den or kitchen in the household of the maiden, and with her parents present in the house. This destination:
a. Protects against occasions of sins of impurity, in contrast to an automobile on a lonely dark road, for example;
Question 2 – Shall we use contraceptives, especially during the first few years of our marriage, thus saving much money for a house and education?
b. Affords a comfortable and private environment for discussion, whereas none of the following can serve the purpose: restaurants, theaters, a ball-game stadium, a picnic, a party, a dance hall. (Note: St John Vianney, the Patron Saint of Parish Priests, teaches against dancing altogether);
c. Saves the couple valuable money, badly needed in the married state;
d. Eventually accommodates also the four parents for their input.
Answer 2 – Absolutely not! Use of contraceptives in marriage produces a mortal sin as taught, for instance, in the Encyclical mentioned above; this same Encyclical gives a theological reason for the prohibition, so that the doctrine in question, like other Catholic doctrines, is not a mere human whim. Reminder for the benefit of “beginners”: Any one unforgiven mortal sin is sufficient for condemnation to eternal suffering in Hell.
Question 3 – Shall we have lots of children, or just two or three?
Answer 3 – The Creator of life, namely God, will determine the number; the couple must not pretend to know better than God by limiting themselves to a particular quantity. In case of extreme poverty in the household or some other serious difficulty, consult your Pastor; but contraceptives remain off limits as an option.
Be aware that many great canonized Saints have come from large families. For instance:
a. From a family of 13 children came St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits;
Question 4 – How shall we educate the children for Heaven, and not for Hell?
b. From a family of 9 children came St. Therese of Lisieux, one of the Patron Saints of the Missionaries;
c. From a family of 10 children came Pope St. Pius X.
Answer 4 – I hope to have an article on this crucial topic for posting very soon on TIA website. Temporarily and briefly, the guidance goes like this: Send the youngsters to a school that follows the directives given by Pope Pius XI in his 1929 Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri. Three of those directives are:
a. No co-education;
Unfortunately, such schools are rare. Therefore, most parents need to resort to home schooling, for which undertaking many resources exist (including Catholic Schools specifically for the purpose) to provide help, books, teacher’s manuals, grading of tests, etc. Clearly, the just proposed task becomes impossible whenever both spouses have jobs with employers, whence one reason for the next Question-Answer passage.
b. A curriculum “permeated with Christian Piety” in all subjects, that is;
c. No sex education.
Question 5 – Shall the wife also take a job so we can draw two incomes, especially since she, when still a maiden, spent much money and time to become a …?
Answer 5 – A sonorous “No.” The wife, as a Catholic housemother, already has a very noble job, which requires more hours than a typical full-time employment, and which admits much more importance than any secular job on the market. She must exercise care-vigilance-prudence over the mental, physical, and spiritual development of her husband and children. This solemn obligation cannot materialize to a satisfactory degree when she serves an employer, especially if she must makes trips far away from home for seminars, conferences, sales presentations, and so forth. For example, when would she have time to teach Catechism to her children, and grade their test papers?
Yet another danger presents itself. A young, handsome mother working outside the home may be gazed at, day in and day out, in the work environment by men tempted to disobey Number Nine of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not desire thy neighbor’s wife.
Question 6 – Should we enact a dress code for ourselves and our children, or shall we just omit such concern, and thus avoid possible bickering and hurt feelings?
Answer 6 – The matter is too important to neglect, and I intend to have a separate article on the subject, although good articles and books already exist in this area. For the time being, let me warn readers that immodest dress, particularly on the part of females (such as shorts, miniskirts, low-cut blouses, etc.) and particularly in Church (of all places!) constitutes yet one more major evil.
Once sufficient compatibility looks likely and a wedding day is chosen, it’s a terrible waste of time and money to go (for dates) to restaurants, ball games, amusement parks, parties, theaters, and the like; these destinations have nothing to do with the purpose of matrimony, nor do they contribute to a holy and successful married life. Rather, I suggest religious preparation and exercises (recall that Matrimony is a religious commitment) individually or – when appropriate – together: memorize a great deal of the Baltimore Catechism; pray a lot for Divine assistance and guidance, especially Rosaries (with meditations) and Novenas; go to Church and pay a visit to the “Prisoner of Love” – Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; do some voluntary penance; read some of the vast and precious Catholic literature accumulated over two millennia, such as Church documents and Lives of Saints (more on this in an intended future article, on Education).
Hopefully, the present article will help couples contemplating marriage to make:
- Their future house a home, rather than a business merger;
- the said home a little “Church Militant,” rather than a hotel;
- the said Church Militant victorious, rather than a victim of the abundant agents of Hell.
Posted January 8, 2007
The pleasure TIA has to publish collaborations of our guest columnists
does not imply that it endorses all the opinions expressed in their articles.
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