by Fr. Martin J. Scott, S.J., 1950’s
Marriage means a good deal to a man, but more to a woman. When a marriage turns out badly, the man has any number of diversions and business interests to occupy his time and thought.
The woman, whose duty is mainly in the domestic circle, has little opportunity of distraction, as our ethical code permits her almost no social life independent of her husband.
It is safe to say that for determining her natural happiness, and comfort, marriage is the most important step in a woman’s life. The most important person in her world is the man she marries: he is part of her life – and a very considerable part.
Suppose you could choose your own father or mother! How careful you would be to select the best possible. A husband is more in a girl’s life than father or mother have been. Yet some girls accept a man’s attentions without knowing anything more about him than he shows when on exhibition.
Every man courting a girl is on exhibition: He is at his best. If she accepts him at face value, basing her estimate on appearances only, she will believe that he is one of the finest men that ever lived. It is easy for a man to be nice to a girl when he is attracted by her. He can hardly help it.
Some men are angels in love and brutes in marriage. After the spell of love-making is over, the man returns to normal. It is his normal self that will eventually be in the home.
Commonsense therefore tells the girl to try to know what kind of normal man he is who courts her. For the sake of a little vanity or brief enjoyment, she should not give herself to a man whom she does not know thoroughly.
Why are there so many unsatisfactory marriages nowadays? The man does not know the girl and the girl does not know the man. They think they do. But it is harder to know a man or a woman than to know anything else. Yet young people often fancy that they know each other after a very short association.
They forget that there is more camouflage in courtship than in anything else, except war. Indeed, we may leave out war, and put marriage first. A man presents his best, and only his best, to the girl he courts. Of course, that is right – for him. But the girl should realize that he will not always be at his best, and that she must discount a good deal if she wants to know what he is normally.
How often have I heard married women say: “Oh, if I had only known him, I never would have married him!” Perhaps he says the same of her. At all events, it brings home the point I wish to make. A young woman should study the man who offers her attentions, more carefully than any other matter in life.
And yet, see how many fine girls rush to the first plausible man who holds out a hand to them! It happens, too, that a girl, after she has found that the man is undesirable, will sometimes continue to accept his attentions. She fears talk. What will people say? Her vanity or pride or weakness make her give her hand, if not her heart, in marriage. And then she wonders that her married life is a nightmare.
The beginning of courtship should be so slow and reserved that the girl may withdraw at any time without attracting comment. Before accepting constant attention from a man she should observe him seriously, and thus be in a position to prevent the full development of a courtship which cannot ripen into a happy marriage. A girl should not accept the marked admiration and favors of a man until she knows him well enough and favorably enough to accept his proposal.
In Catholic countries, where a marriage is always a careful procedure, unhappy unions are the exception. Here (America) nobody knows anybody any too well, and there is so much mingling of the sexes, and so little of home life and neighborly acquaintance, that the whole problem is different and difficult. A girl frequently permits a chance meeting to develop into courtship. What is the result? Too often a broken life.
A man should not be taken at his face value. Let him visit the girl in her home, and let her see him at his home, before she allows him to go out with her regularly. And when she finds him repeating his attentions, let her ask the opinion of her parents about him, and, better still, find out, if she can, the real opinion of his own parents about him.
I know that some girls consider themselves the sole and capable judges in such matters. Very well. They will not be the first to find out, too late, that two heads are better than one.
If the young fellow is suitable, a girl’s father and mother will be more glad to say so than she will be to hear it. That is certain. And if he is not suitable, it will be as hard for them to say it, as for her to hear it.
It can be taken for granted that a girl’s parents love her and want her to be happy. But they love her sensibly. A girl in love loves foolishly, too often. She closes her eyes to the future to indulge a pleasant prospect for the moment. There are few regrettable marriages where girls are guided by their parents.
The first direction I give, therefore, to a girl contemplating marriage is to go slowly and carefully. If a man really loves her, he will love her all the more for her reserve.
This leads me to the second point. It may sound contradictory, but it is nevertheless a fact that men, or at least many men, will take all the liberties a girl will allow, and yet the more she allows the less they will think of her. Is that not strange? A man never loves a girl so much as when she keeps him at a proper distance and makes him respect and reverence her.
Moreover, the willingness to take liberties with a girl, and true love for her rarely go together. The man may think he loves her, but it is his animal nature that asserts itself. A man who, out of regard for the woman who is to be his wife, does not master his passions and respect her modesty, will not respect her as his wife and the mother of his children. It is common to hear men say that they would never marry a girl who would allow familiarities.
A man can recognize a girl’s love for him without her relinquishing anything of maidenly propriety On his very first attempt at being unmindful of her womanly dignity, she should put her foot down hard. If she does not, he may take it as an indication that she wants him to go further. Then the barrier of decency and reserve is down, calamity follows, and eventually sin, which is worst of all.
A man loves a woman in proportion as she shows maidenly reserve. If he does not respect her modesty, she may know that he will not make her a true husband.
Now I come to the third point, which will make many scowl, I fear. And yet more depends on it, almost, than on other one thing. In courtship, of course, the girl will be at her best. But she should not pretend to be what she is not. Deception during courtship is accountable for more unhappy marriages than anyone could believe.
Some girls do not care for consequences. They are satisfied to make an impression, regardless of whether or not it is genuine. What is the result? A dreadful disillusionment comes at a time when it is too late to offset it. Love turns into indifference or disgust, and the married life becomes a prolonged misfortune. It is very well for a girl to be at her best, but let it be her true best – with a resolution to maintain it all her life. I have heard girls say that they would use any means to win a man. Such girls usually come to grief – and they deserve it.
Another point I wish to insist on is that a girl should regard not so much a man’s looks as his character. If his disposition does not fit in with hers, if there is not a sympathy of feeling between them, if their natures are not congenial, it is a sign that they are not intended for each other. Better no marriage than an uncongenial marriage. The trials of married life are many under the best circumstances, but under bad conditions they are innumerable and unbearable.
I now come to my last observation. Even with the blessing of religion on married life, we find a great deal to make us realize that our heaven is not here below. But without religion, we are deprived of the very best means given by God, for marriage welfare.
True, some mixed marriages turn out well. But even these would be doubly blessed if both persons were Catholics. Many mixed marriages are tragedies. Nothing is so near to the heart of a true Catholic girl as her religion.
Some men will respect the Faith and practice of a Catholic wife, but many more, notwithstanding their pre-marriage promises, will not. Every priest has a sad record of broken families due to a difference of religion between man and wife.
When a man is in love he is under a spell. It is easy for him to rise to wonderful heights of magnanimity. But that spell does not last. The points of difference about religion which seemed little or nothing previously may rise up and form a wall of ice between husband and wife. What is deepest in her life, she finds, has no meaning for him.
But that is not all. When the children see the father practice one religion or none at all, and the mother another, they conclude in many cases that religion does not matter much. The number of children of mixed marriages who have lost the Faith is legion.
A Catholic young woman should hesitate to assume the responsibility of such an outcome.
“A young woman who prevails on her fiancé to approach the Sacraments with her at regular intervals builds up a strong bulwark against improper advances and obtains the best guarantee for a happy future.True love gives strength of character and assists in the acquisition of self-control. It never takes advantage of another for the sake of personal gratification. Good and pure-minded women inspire respect and make the task of a young man easy, for he will have no difficulty in keeping the right distance.” – Fr. Lovasik, Clean Love in Courtship http://amzn.to/2tcBqSC (afflink)
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This booklet contains practical advice on the subjects of dating and choosing a spouse from the Catholic theological viewpoint. Father Lovasik points out clearly what one’s moral obligations are in this area, providing an invaluable aid to youthful readers. Additionally, he demonstrates that Catholic marriage is different from secular marriage and why it is important to choose a partner who is of the Catholic Faith if one would insure his or her personal happiness in marriage. With the rampant dangers to impurity today, with the lax moral standards of a large segment of our society, with divorce at epidemic levels, Clean Love in Courtship will be a welcome source of light and guidance to Catholics serious about their faith…
This is every young Catholic girl’s best guidance, next to her own parents. Father Lasance provides instructions and devotions for young ladies on acquiring Catholic virtues. In this book Fr. Lasance counsels young ladies on choosing one’s state in life, provides prayers, novenas, a discussion on sodalities, and a devotion for everyday in the month of May…
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