MARRIAGE -PREPARATION COURSE
The Ideal Husband- The Ideal Wife
The choice of a companion is one of the most serious responsibilities incumbent upon young persons entertaining dreams of married life. In days gone by, the burden of this choice rested on the parents; oftentimes it was made long before the child even thought of marriage. Modem custom, however, has shelved this method of procedure and the young people of today pick their own partner.
But, if young people of today would only go about this matter by letting their head, rather than their heart, decide the choice, and if they would heed the advice of heads wiser than their own, the modern method of determining who is going to marry whom would seem to be the more sensible. After all, the future at stake is that of the young people themselves - not that of the parents.
REASONS FOR A GOOD CHOICE
Young man . . . young woman, up until now you have been alone; no one has depended upon you; you have charted out the course of your life. But once you join yourselves to each other in marriage, your manner of life must change; there will be two of you, two leading one life, each for the other, two planning to bring new life into the world in order to increase and multiply the sons of God on earth and to people the heavenly courts in the after-life.
You must not let yourself be blinded as to the importance of making a good selection of a life's companion. Happiness in married life depends upon it; very often, too, it will not only be a question of happiness in this life, but also in the one that lies beyond the borders of time. Certain marriages do not content themselves with being a "hell-on-earth"; they lead to Hell for all eternity. Speaking of this matter to a group of young men and women, a member of the Canadian hierarchy had these striking words to say
"Pray to God for light in determining your future husband or wife. It's so very important! It's hard to imagine a man in Heaven whose wife is in Hell, or vice-versa. No, it does not usually happen that way: if it does happen, that's the exception to the general rule. Either both of you will find your eternal resting-place in Heaven, or both of you will be consigned to the fires that refuse to be quenched. And now is the time to decide, because, to a great degree, it will depend on the choice you make of a life's partner. Moreover, none of you here is ignorant of the important part played by the woman in this matter. I was struck by something I read this morning. It has a lot of truth in it: 'Half the men in the world are ruled by women and don't know it; the other half know it but they can't do a thing about it'. Young people, I implore you, be careful and be prudent in making your choice".
There is a further point to consider: Your choice does not affect yourself alone. Think of the family that is to come. Young man, never forget for one moment that the girl you ask to be your wife will also be the mother of your children; young lady, when you say "yes" to the all-important question, remember that the father of your children will be no other than the young man who has led you up to the altar. Make your choice in such a way that you will never have to regret in your children the choice you made in a husband.
TO KNOW EACH OTHER BETTER
In such an important issue, we cannot afford to let sentiment, impressions, or egoism interfere with our right reason and clear judgment. If we do, we're sure to stray along the wrong path and regret it when it's too late.
Happy is the young person wise enough to seek the advice of an older and more experienced person. The best advice in this matter will come from your parents. As a rule, they will be entirely unbiased in their judgment. Their only aim will be your happiness. Because of her maternal intuition and long experience, your mother will be the best equipped to guide you in this matter. You cannot err in following her good judgment. As may happen in the rare case, if you have very serious reasons to doubt the impartiality of your parents, then turn to someone else whom you know you can trust. Under such a condition, no one can aid you better than a priest.
There are certain little tricks, the fruits of long experience, that will help young people immensely in coming to know and understand each other better. First of all, their company-keeping must be something normal and natural, not stiff or formal. To bring out the point, let's turn back the pages of our calendar some forty or fifty years ago. Having donned his Sunday best and plastered down his hair with the latest grease on the market, our young Romeo sallied forth to court his Juliet, looking every inch - and feeling that way, perhaps - as if he had been prematurely embalmed. What did he have to look forward to? An evening well spent . . . seated on the family couch that Juliet's mother and father might have used in their courting days. Past experience should have told him that half of the evening would be spent in exchanging comments on the weather and trying to keep his new bow-tie off his Adam's apple, the other half in fishing into his pockets for coppers to buy off Juliet's impish little brothers and sisters who had the unhappy good fortune of appearing on the scene just when the important question that would bring them a brother-in-law was to be popped. For good measure, we can throw in Juliet's father, coming in to get the alarm-clock off the mantle-piece, winding it very audibly and mentioning the fact that "It's getting late, it is".
The young people of this year of Our Lord (2003) will read the generally-exaggerated parts of the last paragraph and smile a bit sadly, remarking, perhaps, that it was all so old-fashioned. Old fashioned, yes, but at the same time the way some of our young people spend their engagement time isn't any better, rather it is often much worse. On the other hand, an evening spent in the family circle, contacts in normal every-day life, in the homes of each other, in parish activities, even in the kitchen some Sunday when Mary promises her mother that she and the boy-friend will get dinner ready for the family - all these will give young people a better understanding of each other and a deeper insight into their qualities and their faults and failings. This is the way a young man gets to know the atmosphere in which his bride-to-be grew up to be so charming; and a young woman will understand the influences that moulded the character of the man she will accept as the father of her children.
You can learn much about a person from the friends he usually keeps, from the environment he frequents. The old saying about "Tell me your friends and I'll tell you who you are" is just another way of saying "Birds of a feather flock together".
Another important detail. Young lady, search deep in the heart of your lover. If you can read there a sincere, deep-rooted love for his mother, consider yourself a fortunate young woman. The young man who is in love with his mother will certainly love his wife and you can be quite sure that he will never be disrespectful towards any woman. And does he love children? If he does, it is a good sign that he will be a devoted father. If not, there's something lacking. For his part, the future husband should know that there is something abnormal about a young woman who has no love for children. Such a person is usually the selfish, cold-hearted type. Love for children should be a characteristic of every feminine member of the human race.
In studying the character and the temperament of your future spouse, don't let love, or rather infatuation, come tripping into your consideration. If it does, it will blind you to anything you do not want to see. Do not leap headlong into matrimony, but take sufficient time to make sure you are making the right step with the right person. A certain young man had a very soft spot in his heart for red hair, and it came to pass that he married a certain young lady who, if we believe his rantings and ravings, had "the most beautiful red hair mortal eyes every beheld". All well and good, but what a rude awakening it was when, not many months after the honeymoon, he finally realized that he had married not only the red hair, but the girl and her character, as well.
Having come this far, our reader will be asking himself just what are the main qualities one would expect to discover in an ideal husband or wife. This brings us to the very point of this second instruction of our course. We intend to keep a double objective before our eyes in our considerations on this subject:
The plan to be followed will search out the qualities and the defects of your future spouse, and of yourself as a future partner to someone, from a four-fold point of view: physical, intellectual, moral and religious.
I PHYSICAL ASPECT
This, you will readily agree, is not the most important element of our study, but due to the intimate relation existing between body and soul, it has its place of importance. Let us proceed to it at once.
HEALTH For both husband and wife, this is an important consideration. The father is expected to be the bread-winner of the family, to support his wife and children "by the sweat of his brow". The mother, on her part, must take care of the children and keep the house in a becoming manner. Ill health and sickness, especially of the father, usually breeds misery and suffering for the whole household.
Moreover, as a rule, the children's health will be in direct proportion to that of their parents. And because the role of the mother is so vital, she should be in good health in order to transmit health to her children.
A conscientious doctor is undoubtedly the most competent judge of your health. It is good for both parties to pay him a visit before contracting marriage. We would likewise commend the practice of a complete physical examination before tying the bonds of matrimony, but this matter will be dealt with at more length in the twelfth instruction of this course. Suffice it to mention here that an accident or wound that has had no effect on any of the vital organs will have no influence on the health of the offspring ... (quite a consoling thing for war veterans to bear in mind.)
APPEARANCE A pretty face and a well-formed body are only secondary indications for gauging the value of a young man or woman as a future spouse. It unfortunately happens too often, that the beauty of such people is no more than "skin-deep". If your fiancé or fiancée is fortunate enough to possess physical beauty, over and above more profound qualities, both of you should be grateful to a kind Providence. If not, in its place you should demand a ready smile and an expression in the eyes that tells of something more precious than good looks, for the eyes are mirrors of the soul. Every young person should keep in mind the fact that it is not necessary to be pretty or "cute" in order to be beautiful.
Young people about to follow out the designs of Providence in marriage and to pledge themselves to each other until death, should know that the best way to be attractive is to be natural. One layer of rouge or lip-stick or finger-nail polish smeared one upon the other with neither taste nor art, in no way enhances a woman's natural attractiveness. "A little powder and a little paint will make a girl's freckles as if they ain't", but the freckles are there just the same. Of course the ads will contradict all we are trying to say here: they will have just the right shade of something or other to make you completely "luscious", "rapturing" and so forth ... but the ads! Exaggeration, no matter how nicely decorated, is still exaggeration.
AGE Natural sentiment seems to demand that the husband be a bit older than the wife. There are certain physical and moral reasons that lead us to agree.
Whether young men, sophisticated as some of them are, will admit it or not, the girl is usually the more precocious of the two for her age. In the first place, her body reaches its complete development earlier than the body of the young man. As a result, she is generally more serious, more set in her ways. It is difficult to draw up a definite rule of conduct in this matter, but it would seem that the ideal age for young people to marry is about 26 for the man, 22 for the woman, though our mothers and fathers married much younger in their day. This, of course, varies with different people and under different circumstances. They must know how to adapt themselves to individual conditions. If, for instance, the wife is the older of the two, she would be expected to be younger in spirit and character, her husband a bit more serious and settled than other young fellows his age.
MASCULINITY AND FEMININITY Every young person wishes to marry someone who is a complement to himself or herself and who has not only all the characteristics proper to himself or herself but who has also all the characteristics proper to his or her respective sex. Not every girl dreams of marrying a Prince-charming who will come riding down the highway of her dreams and whisk her away in a gilded chariot, but every young maiden does want to marry someone who is every inch a man ... and they do put the stress on man! Girls usually shy away from members of the male sex who are effeminate and they do well to act thus. On the other hand, no decent young man wants to lead up to the altar someone who isn't a complete woman: he abhors the thought of placing the ring on the finger of a cigarette fiend or an alcohol addict. Even a young man of looser morals, who might seek out these unfortunate creatures for a so-called "good-time", expects and demands much more from the girl he wants to make his wife. And this should be a good lesson to those young women who think they have to give in to every demand of young men to make sure of winning them. On the contrary, it is the best way to lose them. Young women have no reason in the world to think themselves inferior to men because they happened to enter this world as a member of the weaker sex. In the first place, no comparison should be made between the sexes, because no real comparison can be made. Each sex excels in the God-given vocation assigned to it; each limps when it adopts the habits and mannerisms of the opposite sex. Each should remain in its own domain. A woman's greatest glory will ever be that of being a real woman according to the perfect model given by the Mother of us all, Mary, the Mother of Christ. This is the surest way a girl has of pleasing her husband; this, her great assurance that she will have a husband worthy of being pleased.
II INTELLECTUAL ASPECT
Man is an intelligent being and it is only his intellectual life that distinguishes him from the rest of the animal world.
When faced with the final choice to be made, young people should consider the fact that in this question of intelligence, like calls to like. In other words, a marriage where there is absolutely no common meeting-ground for the intellects of both parties as to education and culture has little chance of being a happy marriage.
INTELLECTUAL EQUALITY So that husband and wife might have a common view-point in facing the problems of everyday life that confront them, they should belong to an approximately equal level in the intellectual sphere. Otherwise, interchange of ideas will be difficult. This, of course, does not mean that Mary Jones from around the corner must have had as much schooling as the expected hubby. If she did, it does not mean that she should have majored in the same subjects as he. Over and above a certain degree of culture and education demanded by the stratum of society to which they belong, it is best if each of them has specialized in the domain proper to individual taste and talents.
The point we are trying to make here is that when hubby comes home from the office or from some political or social meeting, Mary will be able to meet his problems with something more than a blank stare on her pretty face. A husband has every right to expect intelligent and sympathetic understanding from his wife. It is her duty to share his difficulties, to encourage him when things go wrong, and to have the right word of advice when he needs it most. Happy the man - and already well on the way to success - who feels that his best adviser is the little woman whom he has made the queen of his home and of his heart.
JUDGMENT Good judgment is indispensable in a home. When it becomes a question of furnishing the wherewithal to run the home, the husband must let his good judgment and practical sense shine forth. A man couldn't be considered up to par in his duties if he thought nothing of hazarding his income on some enterprise or other, which might result in reducing the family to financial ruin.
The lack of judgment in the mother would have results as disastrous, if not more so. One of the first ends of marriage could hardly be attained: the education of the children. Some children go through life suffering enormously because they did not receive the right care and education during their formative years.
PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE Whether it be tiling the soil from dawn till dusk, or sitting behind a desk from nine till five, a man must be competent in the work he undertakes. The wife, for her part, must prove a real mother in a real home.
In the professional and social field, a man's success is the gauge of his worth. He will be a boon to his community and to his family only in as much as he is master of the task to which he sets himself. Prayer, hard work and diligent study are his only key to success: The sympathy and encouragement of his fiancée or wife will aid him much in this endeavor.
The wife, in turn, must bring to this newly-formed cell of society, called the family, skill in housekeeping, in cooking, in sewing and in everything else that goes to make a home out of a house. Her task includes the balancing of the family budget, making the home attractive both for and to her husband and children. There is a danger of extremes here: The home must be well-kept and attractive since it is a place in which the family must live. It should not, on the other hand, become a place where the normal, intimate friendliness of family life is destroyed by a too great devotion to spotlessness for the sake of spotlessness. There is a vast difference between a house and a home!
In our day, many young girls. spend the years before marriage in an office or store or running a machine in some factory. This has sad consequences: they are lost when they come face to face with the many demands of domestic art. The good housekeeper, to tell the truth, is becoming rare. Some "modern" girls look upon such things as cooking and sewing with suspicious eye, all but saying that the maid will take care of such things. For this reason, the future husband should lay down the law, making it plain that he expects the wife and not a third person, to be in charge of the home. If, as may happen, a girl hasn't had the time to learn all the necessary arts of homemaking, her first duty is to set about learning them. Those who can follow classes in domestic science and housekeeping will never regret the time thus spent. It may be trite to repeat that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but we can't imagine happiness in a household where the wife is at a loss when she steps into the kitchen.
SOCIAL CLASS Cheap novels long ago tired us of the idea of a penniless Cinderella being led up to the altar by one of the "big names" in the social register. Nevertheless, some over-ambitious mothers are not tired of the idea; they are always looking forward to the day when they will be able to hand over their prize daughter to the latest Baron or Count on the market. We claim that in ordinary cases it is a serious mistake to marry far above or far below one's own social rank. Of course, in our society the lines are not drawn finely enough to allow us to be too prudish or exacting in this. Many such weddings turn out exceptionally well, especially when it is the girl that makes the step up the social ladder. Due to their instinctive adaptability, women are more likely to find themselves at home when they are placed above their own social standing. Young men from the poorer classes are usually lost when they find themselves cast into the ranks of "high society." These marriages, we say, can be successful; if they are not, it is usually due to the fact that there is an inborn difference in the intellectual culture of the two parties. Their families and friends move in different social circles. Such marriages usually produce a social type caricatured by the wags as Mr. or Mrs. Newlyrich.
As a closing comment, we want to mention that it is not our intention to exhaust the list of intellectual qualities required of the ideal husband or wife. Let us underline but one of the intellectual faults to be avoided: stubbornness. It is a fault that is not easily overcome, because it has its roots firmly planted in pride. If not overcome, this will be the cause of much grief in married life, where the greatest generosity and understanding is called for. The stubborn, self-opinionated father will bring many tears to the eyes of his wife and children. The stubborn, self-centred mother can produce results that may extend their disastrous effects far beyond the radius of the family circle.
III MORAL ASPECT
Here's the important point. In searching for a suitable partner in life, pay special attention to the good moral qualities and to the defects of the one you hope to marry. Here, too, our focal point of study will be the ideal husband and the ideal wife, but this time from a moral viewpoint.
AFFECTION Love is the greatest unifying force at our command. Of its very nature it tends to unite the lover with the one loved. In marriage its role is to make one flesh and one spirit out of a man and his wife. The next instruction in this course will deal more fully with this subject. At present we will concern ourselves only with the normal manifestation of love, namely affection. Egoism, coldness, a rapid change of moods, lack of the delicate touch in the little amenities of life - all deal a death-blow to the love that should blossom from the union of man and wife. Foresight, gift of self, cheerfulness, good humor and optimism in spite of little setbacks are among its chief nourishing forces.
You have to find a happy medium in this question of affection. A young girl simply bubbling over with affection ought never pledge her hand to an irresponsive "iceberg" of a man; nor should a warm-blooded, young lover tie himself up with a girl who becomes a bunch of uncontrollable nerves at the least manifestation of tenderness. Some girls just can't stand a man around them. Marriage is the last thing for them. The Latins had a word to summarize all this, "simile simili gaudet", roughly translated into, "Birds of a feather would do much better if they flocked together".
It doesn't take a young man long to realize that most young women want their love dished out to them with an over-generous helping of tenderness. Little things mean so much to them; their lives are made up of little things. A pleasant word, a smile, a small gift on her birthday, a compliment on her choice of, a new hat will make her ever so much happier than a cold-blooded, "Here's my bankbook; go down and get yourself anything you want". On the other hand, the young lady should not prove too demanding in this matter; it's pretty hard for some males to be tender. They mean well, they love you deeply, but after all boys will be boys even when they've grown up and are married men.
ECONOMY Economy is a wonderful quality, but it is often relegated to second or third place - if it is given any place of importance in the family life of our generation of heavy spenders. Only the economical man will salt a little away from each week's pay-check with an eye to the future. The man who knows how to look ahead will make provision for the education of his children as well as for possible sickness and any other unforeseeable conditions that might possibly arise. Woe to the man who never bothers about saving up for a rainy day. It's a dangerous game, to say the least, this living from hand to mouth. More so for him who has no scruples about sinking into debt far above his financial capacities to repay. But the height of it all is to wake up one bright morning to find oneself married to a man who is known as a ready spender but who is too lazy to go out and earn what he needs to keep up his spending exploits.
But economy is not reserved for the man. The wife is likewise called upon to practice it. She must know how to take the best advantage of everything, allowing nothing to go to waste. The best housekeeper is the one who depends least on merchandise coming from outside of the house. As much as possible, everything she uses must be home-made. Things that come from the ingenuity of a woman who has the knack of depending on herself and thereby relieving the budget, always have about them a charm which is never achievable in "store-bought" goods. As far as saving is concerned, the wife and mother should remember that hers is the task of setting the pace. Her husband doesn't work six days a week just so she can have the best dresses on Fifth Avenue. If she takes the lead, the rest of the family will follow; if not, it's quite certain that economy will make a speedy exit out of that family.
A word of caution is in order at this point. So imbued do we become with the spirit of our age, that we tend towards extremes. Either we center our attention upon making money in an effort to provide for every contingency, or we go to the opposite extreme of utter carelessness.
In the first case, we may become so engrossed in temporal matters that we gradually develop what might be called a "mania for material things". It is a grave danger and one to be avoided. Material things, it is true, play an important part in our lives. But, the possession of material things is NOT the most important phase of life. Material possessions are to be used only for the development of our spiritual growth. See what our Lord has to say about this matter
"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will stand by the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. Therefore, I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat; not yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life a greater thing than the food, and the body than the clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they? But which of you by being anxious about it can add to his stature a single cubit? And as for clothing, why are you anxious? See how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more you, 0 you of little faith! Therefore, do not be anxious, saying 'What shall we eat?' or, 'What shall we drink?' or, 'What are we to put on?' (for after all these things the Gentiles seek); for your Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides. Thus we have our Lord's promise to provide for our needs if we will but concentrate our attention upon fulfilling the spiritual duties of our state in life.
On the other hand, we face the danger of expecting God to provide everything while we do nothing. This is equally wrong. God has given us talents and natural means of earning our daily bread. We must cooperate with Him and neither neglect the means He furnishes us nor dissipate carelessly the gifts of His Providence. The promise of the God of Truth that "all these things shall be given you besides", applies only if we earnestly, honestly, sincerely "seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His justice". Let's place the accent on the one thing we can take with us when we must leave earthly things behind.
If our young couples would but base their married life on this principle, it would eliminate, at the outset, much of the bickering and dissension provoked by a too great engrossment in material things. It would, on the contrary, release them from such undue worry and anxiety, and would permit them to realize the real happiness of marriage as a mystical body.
And while we are on this matter of economy, it seems that a word on gambling wouldn't be out of place. Perhaps none of the more common vices is more difficult to eradicate than this one. When the father of a family is an ardent gambler, the rest of the family must content themselves with a meager existence. A young bride-to-be should hesitate to give herself in marriage to one whom she knows to bb an inveterate gambler. She should refuse to take that step, until he has given sufficient proof that he and his gambling habits have parted ways.
TEMPERANCE The abuse of intoxicating liquors is another cause-of tears and of the eventual ruin of many households. It is manifested in two ways: drunkenness and alcoholism. Due to the amount consumed by a habitual drunkard, his health and then his reason will eventually suffer. Alcoholism, the regular absorption of smaller quantities, gradually tears down even the strongest constitutions. Everybody knows the disastrous effects of drunkenness both upon the family and upon society: the newspapers and the police courts keep us well informed. Too many, however, do not realize the consequences of alcoholism as well upon the health of the offspring.
It cannot be denied that the abuse of liquor is a definite menace to our well-being. During the past few years, this vice has made alarming inroads even among women. And this, together with the immoderate use of cigarettes, is reducing future mothers to bundles of sensitive nerves with the complete ruin of their health a matter of time alone. Future spouses, we are firmly convinced, should be very exacting of each other in these respects since not only their own conjugal happiness but their children's health and character as well are at stake. Competent doctors, well qualified to speak on this matter, do not hesitate to assert that the evil consequences of such demoralizing habits can affect even the fourth or fifth generation of offspring. Moral teaching backs this up.
Bear well in mind: this is not intended to be a blanket condemnation of all alcoholic drinks. In the mind of the Church temperance does not mean abstinence. They are different virtues. By temperance is meant (as far as drinking is concerned) taking only as much as sane reason dictates and no more than that; in other words, taking only what is good for us as human, reasoning beings. A glass of beer or wine taken now and again does not go beyond the limits of moderation. Nay more, it may prove of great help. The thing is to know when to take a glass and no more. For many, total abstinence is the best way; for the inveterate drinker, it is the only way if he wishes to rid himself of the vice. A young man who claims he has been cured of the habit should undergo a period of probation under the watchful eye of his fiancée. Her vigilance should continue long after the Sacrament of Matrimony has joined them together, for human nature finds it very easy to wend its way back to a past it claimed to have laid aside.
PURITY Marriage is much more than the mere union of bodies; it is above all the union of two souls. But this latter is impossible except where both parties bring to the marriage bed a purity unblemished by sin, or at least purity regained through long-established self-mastery. A person who puts too much accent on sex cannot arouse in his soul the lofty sentiments of true love. He finds himself a prisoner, a prisoner chained to the gross, material pleasures of the body. We may well look askance at any complete about-face on the part of those who find themselves on the verge of marriage. It is very possible, we admit, to turn one's footsteps from the much-trodden labyrinthian ways in order to follow the more narrow path of virtue. The grace of God is all powerful, yes, but it nevertheless usually follows the trend of our nature, and nature's law tells us that such a change takes a very long time and much hard, uphill struggle. To go a step further, we find something very illogical, very unhealthy, in the remark heard from a young lady: "When I make up my mind to get married, I'm going to get me a man who has already tasted life, a man who has been around a bit, who has had experience with women. Having had his fill before marriage, he'll be content to settle down with me and I'll be assured of a husband I can trust". Poor, self-deluded young maid ! Will an inveterate drinker who lays aside the bottle only long enough to hiccough "I do," stop drinking when he sobers up to the fact that he's a married man ? We hardly think so. And does a wedding-ring on the finger of an escaped inmate of the insane asylum restore his lost sanity? Of course not; it isn't an Aladdin's lamp with the mysterious power of turning black to white, vice to virtue. But what sort of ideal is it for a young girl to hope to be happy with a moral wreck, with someone who may have the germs of disease in his body, and who certainly has them in his soul !
Impurity before marriage, nine times out of ten, will engender infidelity after marriage. Company-keeping on an honest, high moral level is one of the best guarantees of a happy marriage. If the beautiful virtue of purity keeps unsullied the very life-source, retaining it in all its natural vigor, impurity has just the opposite effect. The evil consequences of impurity do not stop with the individual; they gnaw away at the very essence of the family; they go beyond the family and make themselves felt on all society. This is one of the reasons why sins of this kind are so serious.
But we do not want to say that an unfortunate past is irreparable. A brave and courageous battle with oneself will make up for what has been lost by an unfortunate fall. Difficult? Yes! But how consoling! God, whose grace is never distant from those who seek Him, will bless abundantly the families of those parents who have made noble efforts to preserve or win back the holy virtue.
A question of conscience might arise here: Has the future husband or wife the right to demand of the other an avowal of illicit relations with other persons if there have been any? If a general answer could be given, it would be negative. Our recommendation, however, is that they seek the advice of a priest in each particular case. But as a general rule, questions of conscience should remain the secret of the individual. There may be an exception, in the case, for instance, where a fault is already known or can easily become known or where evil consequences might follow. In such given circumstances, it might be prudent or even obligatory to expose the affair to one's future husband or wife. Here, again, we would recommend that they first consult a priest.
LOYALTY No sincere union is possible without absolute frankness and loyalty on both sides. Marriage, more than any other type of contract, makes this absolutely necessary. No air of secrecy should surround one or the other, nor should secrets be kept from each other. This of course excludes the secrets of one's own conscience or professional secrets confided to one personally. Mutual confidence begets and nourishes mutual love. Those who find themselves reticent by nature must learn to be absolutely open with their spouse. A further point to keep in mind is that, if a person has proven faithful to the promises made at the time of the betrothal, he'll usually be faithful to his marriage promises also.
But there is always another extreme. We cannot push the demands of fidelity to such a. point that it falls into jealousy. This is a very dangerous fault. Some would class it as a real mental disease and claim that it is handed down to us in a small package marked "heredity". If jealousy is a mere failing, by all means stifle it; if it is a sickness, there is nothing left to do but break off relations that would lead to a marriage already doomed to unhappy consequences.
IV RELIGIOUS ASPECT
Where there is no deep Christian life for a foundation, there can be no happiness in marriage. Of course, you might say you are happy, but are you not deceiving yourselves? God be praised for the great number of young people who do demand of each other the qualities that will make their families thoroughly Christian. Nevertheless, many other young persons are not sufficiently exacting in this matter.
SPIRIT OF FAITH AND OF PIETY As far as the Christian spirit is concerned, both the man and his wife should have a strong and lively faith. But we cannot deny that this faith is seen in a little different light by each of them. The head of the house, whose task it is to make the family decisions and to guide its destiny, should have a strong, manly faith in Divine Providence and in the other great mysteries of our holy religion. His guidance and judgment will have a happy effect only in so far as he depends on God and seeks Him as the ultimate perfection of everything he does. A Christian wife's main desire is to live her life according to God's laws. Her surest support in this is her husband's staunch faith. If he has allowed his faith to diminish, she can have no guarantee of remaining in the state of grace for very long. Marriage is too intimate a union for the two parties concerned to follow different roads therein.
The chief religious quality demanded of a wife and mother is a spontaneity of faith and piety that will cause her to turn to God in her moments of trial as well as in her moments of happiness. In very many cases, the piety of a good mother is the only instrument that taps effectively the sources of grace for her husband and children. Without faith a mother is unable to teach her children to love and to serve God. She will be unable to answer the most fundamental questions that present themselves to their young minds. For the husband, the strong faith of his wife will be a guarantee of fidelity.
It is well to keep in mind that a man does not usually have the emotional external piety often found in women. With him, it is more a matter of reason than of feelings; more devotion and fewer devotions. Young ladies should not, as a consequence, go too far in demanding external signs of religion from their less sentimental husbands.
FREQUENT RECEPTION OF THE SACRAMENTS The sacraments are the ever flowing channels of grace, the continuation of the life of Christ among men. Find out how your future husband or wife feels about them, and how often he or she approaches them. It would be quite normal to agree upon weekly communion as a regular program of your married life. But why wait until you are married to begin this very salutary habit? Begin at once, during the engagement. Take the habit of going to communion together, thereby laying the beginnings of a sort of family liturgy. In later life, its normal consequence will be prayer in common, Sunday communion for the whole family, the rosary recited in the family circle. We know a certain young priest who is firmly convinced that the most powerful influence for good in his life was the sight of his mother and dad kneeling down near their bed at night, reciting the rosary together. If the children see their parents going to confession and communion regularly, they will follow this example. Earth does not furnish us with a more beautiful picture than that of a father and mother and four or five children all lined up together at the Holy Table, receiving the Lord of their family life as the nourishment of their soul.
IDEAL OF SANCTIFICATION Marriage isn't something that was thought up for the less perfect members of the human race, nor is it an afterthought on God's part to give men and women a licit outlet for their passions. It is a supernatural vocation, a vocation coming from God as much as the vocation to the Priesthood or to the religious life. It is a sacramental state of life; it imparts all the graces necessary to lead to real heights of sanctity those who partake of it. But it is a state that consists in an intimate union between two human beings. Neither of them can reap the full benefits of matrimony unless they have high ideals of holiness.
Because weak human nature is ever-present, the person with lofty ideals is usually pulled down to the level of his (or her) partner. The Christian way of life providing a similarity of ideals should be part and parcel of their daily lives. More especially should the Christian ideal of marriage determine their attitude to all the problems that arise in the married state. It is our hope that both parties to an intended marriage .will follow either these correspondence courses, or the ones given orally by the different specialized movements of Catholic Action, or in closed retreats. Without the right preparation, there can exist no real ideals of marriage.
There is one thing that will have an extraordinary influence on the Christian ideal of marriage: namely, the constant desire of having a priest in the family. A saint once said that "A family that counts a priest among its members is ennobled for all eternity".
A FAULT TO BE CORRECTED Blasphemy is a debasing vice. Yet, some young people are being taught it from their tenderest years. They hear it all around them and can hardly be blamed if they acquire the habit. The trend towards women going to work in factories, seems to have been accompanied by a deplorable tendency among them towards the use of blasphemous language. Even from the point of view of self-interest, a woman who would have the respect of others must first respect herself. From the point of view of her high dignity as a woman, she must go further and strive to follow the example of the Virgin Mother who, after almost 2000 years, still commands the respect and admiration of even her bitterest enemies.
We have to be strict about this. We cannot expect God to bless our family if we think nothing of blaspheming His Holy Name. Its only effect is to bring down the anger of heaven. On the other hand, with a little effort on our part and much trust in divine grace, we can easily overcome this vice.
AN ERROR TO AVOID Mixed marriages are becoming more and more frequent in our day. They are dangerous! . . . so dangerous that even Protestant ministers have come out strongly in opposition to them ! Happiness in marriage depends almost entirely on common aims and common ideals. There is nothing that can cement two souls together more solidly than religion. There can be no real union of two souls if they do not meet on the same religious ground, if one of them lives in constant error as to the most essential thing in life. When you are married to a person of different religious beliefs than your own, you have no guarantee that the Christian laws of marriage will be observed. We pity those children who during their whole life see their mother and father separating when it comes to the question of religion, each going to a different Church.
How can any child be expected to consider religion as serious when he sees one of his parents quite uninterested in religion! How can any child be expected to live according to any set standards when he is told to act one way, and then sees one of his parents doing quite the opposite! Children look to their parents for guidance in the serious business of living, and when that guidance, however well-meaning, ends only in confusion, it is scarcely surprising if these children of mixed marriages often lose all interest in religion; others never have the chance of acquiring any to begin with.
For yourself, how could you avoid the dissension that is bound to arise when your non-Catholic spouse, unable to understand your devotion, insists that you miss Mass or some other devotion in favor of some social activity that might possibly procure some material benefit! How could you explain that you are really vitally interested in the temporal welfare of your family when, as far as your spouse can see, you are ready to relegate it to a secondary position in favor of something about which he is quite unimpressed!
A mixed marriage presents another serious menace to the happiness of the Catholic party. The increasing frequency of divorce is cause for ample worry, especially for the Catholic member in a mixed marriage. Should the non-Catholic spouse decide to obtain a "divorce", the Catholic spouse is left in a most unenviable position. He or she must practice rigorously complete sexual abstinence until death or until the death of the "divorced" spouse. This is only one of the many serious trials imposed upon Catholics when "divorced" by the non-Catholic spouse. (This question of mixed marriages will be given further treatment in Lesson 4.)
Think seriously about this; have the courage to make the necessary decisions; ask the advice of a priest about your case before becoming engaged.
Your choice of a life's companion is of prime importance. Your happiness in marriage depends on it as well as, very often, your eternal salvation. Your children's education and training is another thing you must consider when looking forward to marriage.
When you have sought the advice of those best equipped to help you and when you are convinced that your marriage with a certain person will not succeed, there is only one thing for you to do: break off the relations that will lead to such a disaster. If, on the other hand, you are quite sure of a happy marriage, your first task is to set to work correcting your own faults and defects, conforming your character to the Christian ideal, and helping your future husband or wife to do likewise. In this way your company-keeping and the time of your engagement will be among the most precious moments in your life. With the help of God's grace they will be spent most beneficially, in helping you and your life-partner to become more worthy of each other.