MARRIAGE - PREPARATION COURSE
LOVE & HAPPINESS
In the offertory of the Mass, we pray "0 God, Who in creating human nature hast wonderfully dignified it and still more wonderfully renewed it : grant that, by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His divine nature Who didst deign to become partaker of our human nature, namely, Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
Thus, through the Mass we humans are raised to the status of partakers of God's nature. We grow in Divine life, becoming more and more like God according as the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity grow in our souls. In this lesson, we shall consider only the last of these virtues, charity or love, and see how it affects our happiness in the single and married states.
In a broad sense, love can be classed as self-love or divine love. In the former, self-love, the lover is interested primarily in his or her own motives and reactions. When sacrifices are called for, the demand is met and weighed in the balance of selfishness : "What can this person give to me?" "What will I get out of this?" "How does this appeal to me ?" It is an unhealthy love since it is one based on selfishness, a desire to escape an irksome routine job, a desire for personal security, a desire to avoid the "disgrace of being branded an old maid",a desire simply to acquire the glamorous title of "Mrs."
On the man's part, it may be a desire for creature comforts, someone to mend his socks, cook his meals, give him a comfortable home. All these, it is true, may lead to a higher form of love but, by themselves, they are a poor foundation for a rich, fruitful life together. There are much higher ideals towards which to aspire.
Of these latter, we have the Divine Example of Christian love in its highest form : the love that considers only the welfare and happiness of the beloved without counting the cost to oneself. The life of Christ, the love of Christ led Him, God, the Creator of all the riches of heaven and earth, to be born in the poverty of a stable, to endure trials and persecutions and finally, though innocent, to be condemned as a criminal to death through crucifixion - because of His love for us.
He is God, and as God, His happiness is complete and eternal. Nothing can ever lessen or impair that happiness. And yet, He "came down from Heaven for us men and for our salvation," accepted all our miseries and heartaches to a greater degree than we ourselves are called upon to face, and did so in order that we might be given a share in His happiness. "Greater love than this no man hath." Such is the love to which we are invited. We who contemplate marriage will do well to remember that the selfless love of Christ for His Church, and of the Church for Christ, her Spouse, is the model upon which should grow the mutual love of husband and wife. Like Christ and His Church, they too constitute a mystical body, true to each other in faith, hope and love till death do them part.
It is love, (whether selfish or selfless) that attracts a young man and a young woman towards each other and that later leads them to blend their lives in marriage. Upon their love, God lavishes His blessings in proportion as they, in turn, cooperate with His graces. He, on His part, honours and sanctifies by a Sacrament the union of their love and, through this sanctified love, gives real and enduring meaning to the intimacies and joys of married life. At the same time, though married life will offer trials and sacrifices to be faced, nevertheless, this sanctified love, nurtured by God's manifold help, will render more easy and acceptable the many difficulties encountered in the tasks of building a house into a home, and raising a family to inhabit it. Heavenly help is never lacking, for He Who urged "Suffer little children to come unto Me" is the same Christ Who proclaimed "Ask the Father anything in My Name and it shall be given you".
Since the importance of love cannot be too greatly stressed, it should be quite apparent how important to us is this course in preparation for marriage. Certainly, this lesson should be studied, time and time again, even after marriage, so important is it to your happiness for, (and we cannot emphasize it too strongly), upon the kind of love that characterizes the home, depends the happiness of that home. However, the kind or quality of love that will govern our home life and, in fact, every phase of our living, depends entirely upon what we mean by that word "love". Clear-cut, wholesome and complete convictions concerning conjugal love (the ideal married love) are absolutely essential for any one who looks for happiness in married life.
I. CONJUGAL LOVE
In order to better understand conjugal love, we must extend the scope of our study we must understand what love is, in general we must understand what human love is we can then describe conjugal love in all its richness and its complexities. false love will then seem to us a caricature, wholly unworthy of the beautiful, sacred name of love. Between these two extremes, that is, "conjugal love" and "false love," we must concede a place for many kinds of imperfect love. Nor will we have a complete understanding of this subject until we see how love can and must be purified in order to be really worthy of the name.
II. CONJUGAL LOVE AND HAPPINESS
Having completed the first part of our study, we shall then be better able (a) to understand in what happiness does consist, and (b) to know where and how to find it.
1) CONJUGAL LOVE - LOVE, IN THE GENERAL SENSE In its most general sense, love is a tendency or inclination to a person or thing that we find pleasing or agreeable to us. This tendency leads us to seek this desirable person or thing as long as we do not yet possess it and causes us to be overcome with happiness when we are able to enjoy it ourselves or with friends. In this way, we like a book, a delicacy, a musical selection, a theatrical production, a movie. To love, means that I abandon myself completely to the thing or person that can make me happy. However, we do not love a person in the same way as we love a thing. The range of love is extensive. For example, when I say "My fellow-workers are very pleasant. I like them very much," I am certain that the love which I feel for them is quite different from the love I describe when I say, "I like to read".
At the same time, this feeling towards my co-workers or towards reading differs also from that which I experience towards my parents, my close friends, or my most intimate friend. With these last-mentioned, we are in the presence of a love that may be developed and elevated to its highest form, a love that unites us with God in charity, the love that we call "friendship". To love to the point of complete forgetting of myself in order to bring about the happiness of another, and to feel myself being likewise loved, in turn, is the mark of true friendship. Is there any sentiment more beautiful, more to be desired ? For a parent whom I truly love, or for a friend who is worthy of that name, I consider no task too difficult to undertake if my doing so may give them happiness. My only hope, my only purpose is to make them happy, utterly disregarding or ignoring any cost or reward to myself.
The Italians have a delightful way of saying "I love you": "Ti voglio bene" It means "I desire your well-being!" It is a happy choice of expression because true love, true friendship is exactly that : a desire for the welfare of the one we love, a wanting him to have everything necessary to make him happy. To love is to desire and to strive to bring about the well-being, the happiness of the beloved. Because my love is sincere, I am ready and anxious to do my utmost to procure this well-being for my beloved, to give him whatever may make him happy. We want not only to give of ourselves, but rather to give our very self to the other. Love is the gift of oneself to the one we love.
Such a love presupposes a noble, loving heart; it presumes, in the beloved, a heart worthy of such a love: a heart that, in turn, lets itself love, a heart having already its own admirable qualities or the dispositions proper to acquiring them. The person loved, even if not yet ready to reciprocate this lofty, unselfish love, nevertheless can still prepare himself to respond with a love no less noble and no less detached from self-seeking. When free rein is given to the exchange of such love, that day will see their friendship cemented. Needless to say, this feeling is very remote from that which we feel towards a book or towards some fruit. We may love this book or this fruit - but it is for our own good that we desire it. In the case of friendship, however, we forget self. We emerge from the circle of self-interest in order to love another for his own sake and for his own sake alone.
Only an intelligent and free being is able to love in this way. Only he can rise to the grandeur and disinterestedness of true love. An animal loves its food; it loves its own gratification. It cannot love in the majestic, disinterested manner we have just described.
2) HUMAN LOVE Of all the beings inhabiting the earth only human beings are capable of unselfish love. Human love ! How precious and yet how complex it is ! A human being, whether man or woman, is a veritable mystery ! Body and soul, matter and spirit, humility and greatness are, in each of us, intimately united in a marvellous fashion. Love is the hidden force which attracts one to the other and unites these mysterious beings. Human love, therefore, consists of two mysteries (a) the mystery of love, and (b) the mystery of man. Then should be added (c) the mystery of grace, in order to understand this master-piece which is human love supernaturalized, and which should be the bond in every Christian marriage. Since we are speaking to Christians, we can consider as incomplete and imperfect, all human love tainted by infidelity to the baptismal promises.
I, as a man or woman, am composed of a body and soul and all that pertains to me is at once physical and spiritual. I am in no sense purely animal, not even in my most lowly actions, unreasoned and closest in appearance to those of the animal, such as the acts of eating and sleeping. Nor am I exclusively spiritual ; not even my soul which, although totally spiritual in itself, is nonetheless united to the matter of my body ; not even my intelligence which relies on the knowledge conveyed to it by my eyes, my hands, my ears, etc.
I, as a human, am body and soul. In the human it is the soul that is the more nearly perfect and superior. It is, therefore, my soul that permeates my body, giving it life, purpose, and aims, while at the same time respecting the natural limitations and just claims of my body. Thus, the human is the soul dominating the body to which it is united, but dominating in such a manner as to permit the body to retain its true nature in all its entirety. (It is the function of the soul to direct the activities of the body. In other words, it is my soul that tells my body to act, and tells it how to act.) We must keep this in mind if we are to understand how human love is neither the entirely spiritual love of the angels (who lack the body and bodily sensation), nor is it the entirely sexual attraction of an animal for another animal. Neither is it a confused, discordant mixture of angelic love and animal attraction.
Human love is a movement of the soul, originating in the spiritual soul (lacking in animals) and in the emotions. This movement, under the direction of the soul, is shown in the increasing external expressions of this inner activity. That is, as this love grows in the soul, it expresses itself by more and more frequent outward expressions of affection. Normally, to love a person with a human love (in the complete sense of that phrase), it is essential for that person to be pleasing in some way to our senses. But just as love is born in the soul, so also it develops in the soul. It is as the soft but powerful breathing of the soul, which, though invisible, is nevertheless intimately united in every way with the body.
Love, therefore, normally tends to pass from the soul to the body, from the spiritual to the emotions. The body must share in this soul-breathing which so completely permeates it. Thus, love concealed in the soul must prove that it is really there. By comparison, we may be inwardly very happy but, unless we show that happiness by a smile or by light-hearted demeanour, no one could know our inner feelings. Love, too, must show itself outwardly in some way to the object of its love in order to assure her of its real presence in the soul. And, by a wonderful reversion these signs of affection, if they be sincere, produce similar sentiments in the beloved and result in the further growth and development of human love. That is human love.
In order to understand supernaturalzed human love, it is necessary to add grace. Also, we must remember that this grace pervades, elevates and develops human love while at the same time respecting it in all its greatness: the spiritual imbues and ennobles the emotions but without destroying them. Simply, grace elevates the emotions from the natural level to the supernatural level. It transforms and raises our love to a higher plane. In natural human love, we love a person for his own sake; in supernatural love, we love the person, not only for his own sake, but because he is a child of God, having a Divine eternal inheritance, one who is a partaker through grace "of His Divinity". The body and the emotions remain the same body and the same emotions but now, under the influence of grace, they serve to express a sublime, noble, God-like attitude of soul. When this generous love becomes mutual, we have supernatural human friendship, a love stronger than death, the love described by the Holy Ghost : He who has found a friend has found a treasure.
We may now begin our study of conjugal love. Since conjugal love is a human love, we shall find in it elements of both the spiritual and the physical. In true conjugal love, we shall find that grace elevates each of these elements of human love to a supernatural level.
3. TRUE CONJUGAL LOVE Thus, true conjugal love will be composed, or made up of three different elements:
A physical attraction between opposite sexes, an attraction proper to conjugal love, and distinct from any other form of human love like the attraction for a book, candy, flowers, etc.
A spiritual element, possessing special characteristics
A supernatural element of unsurmised, immeasurable richness.
Consequently, we shall study, separately at first, later in combination, these different elements and their manifestations in married life.
Elements and bases of conjugal love
1. PHYSICAL ELEMENT IN CONJUGAL LOVE A resemblance in physical features, community of social life, consanguinity (common bloodties) - such are the varied physical elements of human love. All of them explain in some degree the tenderness of motherly love, the loyalty of filial affection, -and the bond uniting brothers and sisters. This conjugal love is based on the difference between the sexes and on the tendency of each to complete the other.
Here and now, let us realize this fact : the principles of the sexual life of animals cannot solve the problem of human sexual love. In the animal, the sex appetite is ruled entirely by instinct whereas, in man, the sex appetite should be under the control of his intelligence and his free will. In the beautiful opera "Carmen", the author Bizet, declares "Love is like the gipsy in that it knows no law". Whatever may be Bizet's talent as a musical composer, his statement is utterly wrong. To actually love according to his doctrine would be to degrade human love to a level even lower than that of animal instinct because even the animal is governed by a perfectly regulated law placed in it by God. The sexual instinct in the human being is no lawless gipsy love, unless he disregards his true nature and gives himself over to his animal nature. Even then, he still knows the law, even if he may lack the strength to observe it .
That does not mean that the sexual element has no place in conjugal love. On the contrary, any explanation of marital love that excludes sexual love is false, as we shall see later. "The great love of man and woman does not start with the flesh in order to finish in the soul. At its beginning as at its end, it binds indissolubly the flesh and the soul. It permeates his entire being." (Gustave Thibon)
This sexual element is manifested in conjugal love by all the physical signs of mutual affection and of the emo¬tional and sexual satisfactions they produce ... signs and satisfactions which find their complete expression in the ma¬rital act : "Therefore now they are not two but one flesh" (words of Our Saviour Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St. Mark 10-8). Mutual physical attraction which, however, does not exclude reciprocal sexual attraction, is the physical element of conjugal love. Nature has made such provision here that we have no difficulty in recognizing its presence, and for the husband and wife it goes directly to the other and is absorbed.
2. SPIRITUAL ELEMENT IN CONJUGAL LOVE Conjugal love (being a love between two human beings of opposite sex) is not merely sexual as is the case with animals. It contains a higher element and this element is of a spiritual order, that is, it is born in the soul and unites with the soul of the other. This spiritual love tends to unite two beings of opposite sexes into one soul; it seeks to unite two intelligences, two free wills into one life consecrated by the Sacrament of Matrimony. This spiritual element of conjugal love is vastly superior to the sexual and sensitive element, although inseparable from them for, in life, the soul is not separated from the body. This union of intelligences, and of free wills, will be apparent in the acceptance of the same principles of life, of the same moral laws.
The husband and wife who share such a spiritual conjugal love will quickly come to enjoy mutual understanding. On the other hand, the couple whose love is based solely on sexual attraction receive only sexual satisfaction. If for some reason this becomes impossible or insufficient, disaster will result. Evidence of this is to be seen daily, and parti¬cularly in the divorce scandals of Hollywood. Whereas in spiritual love between the sexes, the attraction, being based on a higher plane than the merely sensual, will be firmly established so that separations, trials, sickness will leave it untouched and thereby save not only the life of one or both parties but prevent the home from becoming what is called 'hell on earth'. The remedy for these disorders is therefore found only in the spiritual element of conjugal love.
From this may be seen the supreme importance of the mutual and unselfish union of the intelligence and free will of both parties. This mutual union of body and soul should be so strong as to restrain either the husband or wife from any desire to conceal from the other any details of their private lives which are not strictly in the professional domain. Otherwise, conjugal love would not be the union of two unselfish loves into a solid unity.
3. SUPERNATURAL ELEMENT IN CONJUGAL LOVE Finally, in Christian marriage, the supernatural element is added to,and superimposed upon the sexual and the spiritual elements. The husband and wife must never forget the fact that a marriage contracted between two baptized people is a Sacramental marriage and not merely a simple union in the natural order. It is much more than the legitimate but entirely natural marriage of pagans or unbaptized people. With all the more reason it is infinitely superior to the 'so-called' marriage of Catholics before a Protestant minister or civil officer. In the eyes of the Church, this latter is not a marriage and consequently it changes nothing of the status of the two parties ; in the eyes of God they are not married even though considered so in the courts of law.
As marriage between Christians is a Sacrament, many blessings flow from it, a spring of blessings that begins the moment the Sacrament is received and which continues to flow during their entire lifetime. Death alone will have the power to stop this flow of blessings as then they will no longer serve the purpose for which they were given.
When the Christian husband and wife are united in supernatural love, the Christian home possesses a happiness, a stability, a vitality that the non-Christian home may never experience to so high a degree. It is due to this supernatural love that the husband and wife will be able to aid each other, render mutual support, lean one on the other and together climb the heights to eternal life. Look elsewhere I You will find emotional love, you will find human love but nowhere else will you find this supernatural love based on God and the presence of the Holy Trinity and sanctifying grace in the souls of the husband and wife, a love that is rare on earth, love so strong, so powerful, so faithful that St. Paul uses it as a comparison to express the love Jesus Christ bears Holy Church, which is His Mystical Body.
The more engaged couples reflect and meditate on what we have just said, the more anxious they will be to prepare suitably for their life of union in Matrimony, the more they will find it a source of light, joy, happiness, the more deeply they will feel a growing desire for God Himself Who alone can quench their thirst.
Comparative value of the three elements of conjugal love
If perfect conjugal love is composed of the three elements we mentioned, then the absence of one of these elements will render this love imperfect and incomplete. A conjugal love that seeks to change the order between these three elements and their proper evaluation, (placing, for example, the spiritual at the service of the body) will be false. Later we will explain these two points by studying the subject of false conjugal love and imperfect conjugal love. We shall now explain what is understood by the comparative value of the three elements in conjugal love.
To be perfect, Christian conjugal love should be composed of the three elements above mentioned and each in its proper order. The dominant love should be the supernatural based on the supernatural value of the husband or wife and on the anxious desire to aid in the development of sanctifying grace in the other. In the second place is the spiritual love for the intellect and character of the partner; finally, sensitive or sexual love based on the physical qualities of the other or the sexual attraction to which these qualities give rise. Speaking of physical qualities, it is well to remark that from the sexual point of view, they do not have an absolute value. It is not necessary, in fact it is rare, that one person's build would be pleasing to everybody. It is sufficient that the future partners are mutually pleased, are attracted one to the other. Here we may quote in a certain sense the words of the poet: "The heart has its reasons which reason doesn't know". It is proven in daily life that there exist between different people of opposite sexes attractions, appeals, a mysterious harmony which appearances, features, etc. do not seem to justify. And of certain engaged couples everybody is amazed at what he sees in her or she in him. "Look at his manners ..." Nonetheless, they appreciate each other. They love each other and are indifferent to the rest of the world.
The three elements of conjugal love (the supernatural element, the spiritual element, and physical attraction) should exist in each partner. But these elements are not independent one of the other, any more than the soul is not independent of the body to which it is joined. Nor are they independent of one another any more than grace and the supernatural value of a certain person is independent of the soul and body of that particular person. These three attractions, physical, spiritual and supernatural, which perfect conjugal love, are normally internamed. This explains the various manifestations of this love : body gestures, manner of thinking and desiring, intimate preoccupations. And this because each partner, composed of body, soul, and supernatural grace, remains an individual complete in himself or herself, and capable of free action.
Perfect conjugal love, sensitive, spiritual and supernatural, is a gift of self to the other, a seeking to enrich the life and procure the happiness of the other. It expects a like return.
Supernatural love will tend to consider the husband or wife as an adopted child of God, and will seek his or her growth in grace. In other words, supernatural conjugal love will incline each partner to work for the sanctification of the other, to help him or her become a saint, even if at certain times great acts of courage, of self-denial are necessary.
Spiritual love will enrich the husband and wife with truth and light. It will show each the road to follow ; it will cause each to work to develop the intelligence of the beloved. It will direct the will by furnishing opportune and needed counsels, while at the same time it respects and assures the complete and perfect use of individual personal liberty according to God's plan.
Sexual love will bear witness to the supernaturalized spiritual love of the husband and wife, one for the other ; it will enrich the union with affection and tenderness which, given and received according to God's plan, will be sane and calm (very different from the troubled and reproach-laden carnal enjoyment surreptitiously stolen outside the state of Matrimony). The natural expression of this sexual love of husband and wife will result in the propagation of the life of a child : the most sublime fruit of love existing here below. In God's plan, the child is the primary purpose of marriage : "Increase and multiply!"
Differences in conjugal love
In Sacred Scripture, in the book of Genesis, we find the story of creation. There, in the beautiful words of God, we read : "Let us make man to our image and likeness .. . And God created man (by man is understood human nature or humanity) to His own image ; to the image of God He created him : male and female He created them. And God blessed them, saying : 'Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it' . . . And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good." He created them male and female, man and woman: (1) of different sexes, but (2) both with the unity of human nature ; (3) He commanded the union of the two sexes in love for the purpose of propagation. Such is God's admirable plan.
This difference in the sexes is not limited, as we are inclined to believe, solely by the difference of the body and the sexual organs. It extends over the entire life and its various manifestations. Primarily and necessarily, it affects conjugal love. There will be a sexual love proper to the male, and another proper to the female ; there will be a feminine spiritual love differing from the spiritual love of the male. Finally, (and this should not be surprising as grace elevates and perfects human nature while removing none of its peculiar characteristics) there will be a feminine supernatural love, distinct in all its manifestations from masculine supernatural love. This difference between the sexes will be discussed in more detail in Lesson 5 (Masculine and Feminine Psycho¬logy) and in Lessons Hand 12 (Anatomy and Physiology, etc.).
It has been necessary, at this point, to draw your attention to these differences in order to prepare you for following lessons. It has been necessary also in order to help you realize the beauty of human nature by noting the richness and difference of each nature created by God and sanctified by Him (and one by the other).
Here we repeat the words of Holy Scripture which show us the Creator looking at His work and recognizing "that it was very good". Between the manifestation of the three elements of conjugal love there exists a difference based on sex. There is also another very real difference based on differences of temperament. Feminine love will differ from masculine love; but this love will also have various steps or stages in man and woman according to the individual temperament of' each. This is a point to be seriously considered in the choice made of the future husband or wife. Courtship was instituted with this aim in view. A careful study should be made so as to know the real character and temperament of the future partner. This is imperative in order to be sure each loves the other to the extent of "finding my happiness in making him or her happy, and to know also if he or she will find happiness in making me happy".
4-.FALSE CONJUGAL LOVE
ENTIRELY SEXUAL LOVE
DISINCARNATE (ANGELIC) LOVE
5. PURIFICATION OF CONJUGAL LOVE The title of this paragraph may perhaps surprise you, you particularly who are on the eve of your wedding day, when you will seal by means of an irrevocable sacrament the gift of your entire life to another. What ! This love that you feel so strong, so sincere, so pure, can it contain a mixture of impurity, a selfish reservation that prevents its being what you truly wish it to be! the total giving of self to the other for life, and the receiving of a similar giving from the other? Must your conjugal love, sealed on your wedding day, go through a more or less protracted period of purification?
The first love, love at its beginning, promises everything : total, definite, and absolute happiness. "The presence, the mere image of the beloved are considered as something inexhaustibly new, mysterious and satisfying. A sudden magic transforms us and fills the soul with a rapturous happiness. A delicate being has crossed our path, and everything is changed. This person becomes the centre of our life, of our world. She is inexpressibly unique, nowhere in all the world is there another like her. More than anything else on earth, this delirium of young love gives the' illusion that an earthly paradise has been found". (Gustave Thibon). This budding love which seems to spring from the highest summits of the soul is nevertheless not a pure spiritual love. Without seeming to be so in the eyes of the lovers, it is much more carnal than a first glance would reveal.
Furthermore, after its first ecstasies, after filling the heart to overflowing, giving the impression that there can be nothing more abundant, nothing more pure, nothing more nearly perfect, this love gradually begins to diminish. After the first bloom of love has passed, when you no longer thrill to the mysteries and discoveries over which you once sighed, something happens - a crisis arises ! Emotional relationships are seldom stable and, in this crisis, this tran¬sition from the emotional level to a higher, more enduring level, there is a period of aridity. Emotional satisfaction is gone and seemingly nothing has come to replace it.
At this stage, it is most important for the soul to know how to die to one level in order to be reborn on another. It is essential that we do hot resist the transformations caused by trials. True fidelity (to the one you have loved and would love again to the same degree as before) consists first in recognizing this change as something actually necessary and beneficial, and then directing it and blending it into our lives. True fidelity does not consist in attempting to suppress this change. We must recognize that a change is taking place, without letting ourselves become downcast about an emotion that we have seemingly lost. Rather, we should strive to realize that this period of aridity is a time when we are preparing, and are being prepared, for a fuller love that will show us by contrast how superficial was our former emotional love.
It is the greatest temptation for those in love to recall, during the time of aridity, the enchanting early days of their new born love. "Remember when you first fell in love with me . . ." But, love is not a melody than can be played over and over. The spiritual seasons do not consist of a .simple repetition of the past. They open instead, in each phase on new vistas. Trials never give birth to the same joy: they give birth to a new joy. This idolatrous regret for the lost rapture of early love falsifies and sterilizes the purifying rhythm of the arid period ... Our tomorrows should not be re-plated duplicates of yesterdays ; they should be yesterdays transfigured. We must not cling to by-gone dreams but should let them die, one by one. Unhappy is he who has never dreamed ... It is even more correct to say: Unhappy is he who feeds his soul on past dreams! The death of one's illusions does not mean a burial and deterior¬ation towards mediocrity . . ." (Gustave Thibon) On the contrary, clearly understood, it can be the beginning of life, of a love far surpassing that of the flesh.
During the, darkness of night, we do not look back with futile regret for the light of the day that has ended. Rather, do we look ahead to the dawn of a new day. And so, with this dark period of groping in the purification of our love, we must not look back and seek to recover that which is gone. Rather, we should look ahead to the dawn of a new era in the growth of love - an era brighter, more radiant, more resplendent and glorious than all that has gone before."Let the dead Past bury its dead ! Act - act in the living Present ! Heart within, and God o'erhead!"
Lovers in the first blush of their love sincerely gave to each their entire love. But what they did not know was that this love, so generously given, was far from possessing the beauty and richness to which it should have developed. They did not know that it was but the beginning of a love in need of being perfected. They had no idea of all they would have to go through to attain the serenity of a love that neither the wearing out of the body, nor the disappearance of its fleeting charms can quench, the true love by which a man and woman, life-partners, serve each other as a means of reaching the heights of eternal life. "The final essence of the great love of man and woman consists in the confidences and divine graces transmitted from one soul (the soul of one spouse) through the chosen channel of another soul (the soul of the other partner)." (Gustave Thibon) It must be added that, although perfected, man's love nonetheless remains masculine; while woman's love remains feminine.
We have cited at length the magnificent passages describing the most beautiful feature of marriage : the elevation of two souls to God. As a result of this elevation of their souls to Him, they bear to this same God the fruits of their mutual love : their children.
Such is Christian conjugal love in all its glory, in all its splendour. Who can but see it as one of God's most magni¬ficent creations ! How far-removed it is from the sordid romantic story, the more than average Hollywood movie, and the sex-ridden magazines ! What self-respecting person, understanding the true meaning and purpose of marriage, would dare permit himself to indulge in coarse thoughts or dirty jokes, or language regarding this sublime Sacra¬ment. Rasher, should not we who plan to enter upon this vocation, be anxious to prepare ourselves with all the care and attention possible ! Such is your case who are follow¬ing this course in Preparation for Marriage. You will never regret the hours devoted to this work ! You will discover what will be for you, the best investment that you can make - an investment in true love for your partner, for your home, for the children God will grant you. Your good¬will in seriously preparing for this "Great Sacrament" will assuredly gain for you and yours choice blessings from the God of Love.
II CONJUGAL LOVE AND HAPPINESS
Everybody seeks happiness. The entire world pursues it. It is what the young man and woman about to be united in Matrimony hope for and seek. "How happy we will be . . ." Almost inaudibly but unceasingly their hearts sing at the thought of the home, the little nook of happiness that the future holds in reserve for them. It is therefore necessary and useful to understand a) what is true happiness, (b) what is its source, and (c) how the moral laws, far from being obstacles, guarantee its permanency.
l. WHAT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE TRUE HAPPINESS Within comparatively recent years, great strides have been taken on the material side of civilization. New inventions have piled up, one upon another, in the fields of electricity, automobiles, airplanes, photography, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc. These innovations have been the result of a greater devotion of time and effort to material things but it has resulted also in an inclination to seek our happiness in these material things.
Happiness is not to be found outside ourselves, in complicated things. We look for it in movement, in speed, in emotions repeated and intensified. What do so many mean, particularly our young people, when they say "We are having lots of fun," or "We had a gay old time" except that their senses have registered the maximum of violent and fatiguing emotions : unreasonably late hours, songs and conversations of a more or less indecent nature, intoxicating drinks, provocative dancing and dangerous flirtations, etc. Are not these the violent passions that are sought by night club goers, movie fans, dance hall frequenters, and shamelessly depicted by the loose and obscene ma¬gazines that contaminate the racks and stands of book stores.
We seek happiness outside ourselves. We are afraid to be alone with our thoughts because we are afraid to examine our soul, to contemplate our eternal destiny. To dispel this fear, we make a lot of noise, sing, whistle, turn the radio on louder. We seek thus in externals an escape from ourselves ; we drown all thought with outside noises and seek appeasement in complicated and expensive inventions.
Without a doubt, there are plenty of honest amusements which, if taken in moderation, are innocent ; they may be considered as an added "seasoning" to living. They are necessary, even indispensable, but only as seasoning. What must never be overlooked is that the seasoning is not the entire dish. Before adding a seasoning to our life to make it good, it must first have . . . life, real life the life of a reasoning, Christian human being - not merely the life of a refined animal which torments itself continuously in the search for new thrills.
Applied to the young couple who plan to be united for life, this means that their desire for happiness should not be based on what exterior things can accord them in the way of sensations, amusements and diversions bought with money and fatigue : trips, parties, theatres, sumptuous furnishings, costly styles, etc. Savored within reason and within your means, these things will serve to season your life and add to its happiness; real happiness is not expensive nor complicated, it is interior and simple, and each is his own artisan.
2. WHAT CONSTITUTES TRUE HAPPINESS Real happiness is the feeling of peace and plenitude permanently established in the depths of the soul. It is the feeling that results from the knowledge that we possess, without fear of loss, the object of our love and the fulfilment of all our desires. Once in the assured and permanent possession of this beloved object, the heart desires nothing more : it is content in the complete, permanent possession of the object that it loves, and seeks nothing further outside this object.
Any happiness which does not fulfil these qualifications does not deserve the beautiful name of happiness. Such, for example, is the temporary possession of an object or a person that is not totally ours, or of a person that we do not have the right to possess because he already belongs to another, or because his love is forbidden us. Let us remark in passing that that is why adultery and forbidden pleasures can never result in lasting happiness. Nor, for the same reason, can matrimony based on riches or on the beauty of the body, procure enduring happiness. These are goods with no solid foundation and often vanish seemingly overnight. In the question of love, we must always be on guard because wealth and beauty have a mysterious fascination that is hard to resist.
To sum up: True happiness is something that is personal, calm and serene, emanating from the interior of the soul, and springing forth from it permanently. Contrast the young dance-mad "jive" addict mimicking some suggestive or at least meaningless song heard at the movies or night club, with the young wife humming softly as she goes about setting the table in anticipation of her husband's arrival.
As we have already seen, man is a being of flesh, soul, and sanctifying grace united in one person. All these elements are essential to real happiness. But, even as the body should be submissive to the soul, and the soul submissive to God, - therefore, the satisfactions of the soul must not be obtained at the cost of detriment to grace. Neither should gratifications of the flesh be obtained at the cost of the detriment of the soul and of God. It is only by establishing these relations according to their true order that all joy will be true joy, an entrancing, satisfying joy, an element of real happiness, without trace of anxiety or grief.
3. SOURCES OF HAPPINESS FOR HUSBAND AND WIFE We are all familiar with St. Augustine's exclamation. "Lord, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts will never rest until they rest in Thee." In effect, man's heart was made for God. The possession of no object, no human being can give him complete and perfect happiness. That is why our Saviour could say to Mary Magdalen, enraptured with God and with the things of eternal life: "She has chosen the better part which shall not be taken away from her". That explains why so many men and women quit the world with its riches, its loves, to consecrate themselves to the service and love of God, and have found in this vocation a happiness that is deep and satisfying. That is why husbands and wives, regardless of the happiness they experience in the possession of the loved one, cannot escape this law : The human heart is made for God, and it will not find lasting happiness unless their love for each other does not only prevent their withdrawal from God, but urges them to seek, both here and in eternity, to possess God. It is because too many homes have lost this view of marriage that happiness and peace have deserted them, or at least have not filled them as they had hoped.
These principles being admitted, let us see what it is and also, how the human happiness that marriage should bring is to be established. This happiness will be assured for the husband and wife by the gift of self and the legitimate, complete and definite possession of the other spouse. This possession of the other, and the reciprocal gift of self will be repaid in full by the complete accomplishment of their conjugal duty, and all the other obligations of family life. Conjugal duty, in the strict sense of the word, is the act proper to married life and consists in normal sexual copulation to procreate the life of a child. The fulfilment of this act is a duty imposed on both parties. Hence, the duty of one to perform this act simultaneously requires of the partner a duty to perform it. This study will be more precise in following lessons. Apart from the marital duty we have just explained, there are other marital obligations which we are too apt to forget. These also we shall study more profoundly at a later date.
We have already explained true Christian marital love. By this love, particularly when it has been purified, each partner possesses the other to the completest and greatest degree possible on earth; and this possession is the possession of a marvellous being; a reasoning creature created by God and possessed of all the richness of its nature: physical beauty, reasoning soul, intelligence, free will, talents, goodness of heart and a nature endowed with all the rich¬ness of grace ; an adopted son or daughter of God, a brother or sister of Christ, a co-heir, a co-heiress of this same Jesus Christ, - called also to follow the Master and enjoy the same eternal life in the "Kingdom of the Father". All this, on the wedding morning, the young groom acquires in his bride, and the bride in her husband. All this they will possess in the fulfilling of their marital duty and all the obligations resulting from family life. All this they will possess in order to achieve, as a result, perfect conjugal love to which normally is added : family love, and love of children, the personified living fruit of the love of the husband and wife for each other.
This possession of another creature by perfect love will necessarily lead them to God, because any creature, known and possessed thus according to God's plan, is drawn to Him, whereas any creature known and possessed outside His plan is eventually completely estranged from Him. It is thus that sexual gratification sought even in marriage but contrary to God's plan (Birth "control" - which is really lack of self-control) estranges one from God. On the other hand, the marriage-act accomplished according to God's plan and with pure purpose is not only honest but supernaturalized and meritorious; it contains, therefore, much more than a simple carnal gratification and an appeasement of the passions ; it contains the expression, the mark of a legitimate and complete human love. It is the source of a new human being, the child, called like its parents, not only to a temporal, but to an eternal life.
4. THE MORAL LAWS AND HAPPINESS Many people are inclined to judge as severe, even very severe, the moral laws governing marriage and the enjoyment of sexual pleasures. These laws were founded by nature itself of which God is the author and God sanctifies these laws anew in His Commandments. The Church, guardian of eternal life, remains steadfast on this subject. She has never consented to their modification or their easing and she cannot so consent without making them false.
But we must, once for all, understand that these sacred laws, far from being an obstacle to true happiness, are the conditions and guarantees of true happiness. Happiness can only exist where there is peace, and peace supposes respect for the order established by God. It is useless to seek elsewhere, to try to find other formulas for happiness.
There is only one formula : the exact observance of the laws established by God. Seek the pleasures of the flesh outside this law and they are not to be found, and in exchange for some fleeting delights, what remorse, bitterness, disgust !
We cannot violate with impunity the laws of nature. Nor can we violate with impunity the laws that govern sex. We might even say, that it is more dangerous to violate these sexual laws than it is to violate the others, because these laws governing sex touch the very sources of life, the deep, basic forces placed in man and woman by God to continue the work of creation. The use of these powers according to the desires of God and of nature frees in man and woman the constructive force of the family; it engenders the deep-rooted tastes for work, order, ambition to succeed in life. Contempt of these same laws results in individual evils (remorse, neuroses, unbalance, unease, instability), and in social evils (discontent, egoism, need of diversion, economic disorder) of which we have so much to complain today and of which we shall find more reason to complain as, due to insidious propaganda, these laws are more and more violated. Governments are alarmed at the sight of increasing immorality and the spread of venereal disease which damages the very source of life. They organize anti-venereal disease campaigns, a vast but necessary task; and yet, none of these governments seems to realize or have the courage to state that the first, the great remedy, the preventative par excellence, is respect for morals. They refuse to condemn the violation of morals; they recommend "prophylactic precautions" (methods of preventing contamination of the body - but encouraging contamination of the soul !)
We hardly seem to be coming, in our day, to any realization of the disastrous effects of violating the laws of sex. For twenty centuries, the Church has striven to maintain in the world a respect for these laws not only in extra-marital but in marital relations : those peoples, families and individuals who have heeded the Church as they would a loving mother, have found fidelity to her commandments an inexhaustible source of joy, light and virility which has given them the strength to brave the wildest storms. Those others : peoples, families, individuals, who, under a million and one pretexts, have refused or have not had the courage to heed the Church by the faithful observance of these laws, have been tainted or become miserably exhausted, worn-out and sterile by excesses.
To you who are urged by love to follow this course of study faithfully and with serious application in view of building a home where you desire permanent happiness, make the firm, definite resolution for your entire life to STUDIOUSLY RESPECT, AND IN THEIR MOST MINUTE DETAILS, THE SACRED LAWS OF MATRIMONY.
On this condition, and on this condition alone, will you find in this holy state real, profound happiness, the only possible happiness that is satisfying and lasting ; you will find its realization much greater than you may have dreamed possible.
Let us conclude this lesson by the magnificent lines of Dr. Leon Gredseels, General Secretary of the Belgian Medical Society of St. Luc, in his book "Intelligence and Conduct of Love" (Paris 1936, page 40): "Notice those two beings who met in the spring of their life and at its eventide walk always side by side. Their hearts are peaceful from a love that has never weakened, a love hallowed by a past full of work, devotion, abnegation and sacrifice. When at a turn in the road they cast a glance over their shoulders, they see climbing in their steps, generations, bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh, who assure them that the wealth they have sown will never be lost."
May the holy family of Nazareth, the God-child Jesus, Mary and Joseph, be ever your guide in the glorious vocation of Christian family life ! May the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, grant you His precious gifts, and lead you to sanctity in the holy state of Matrimony !