Beautiful and important insight from Fr. Plus….
Marriage is not an easy vocation. It requires great virtue of husbands and wives.
Personal experience reveals how true that is; those who cannot claim this personal experience can, in any case, accept the statement of psychologists who observe, “Marriage is the most difficult of all human relations, because it is the most intimate and the most constant. To live so close to another person–who in spite of everything remains another person–to be thus drawn together, to associate so intimately with another personality without a wound or without any shock to one’s feelings is a difficult thing.”
According to an old saying, “There are two moments in life when a man discovers that his wife is his dearest possession in the world–when he carries her across the threshold of his home, and when he accompanies her body to the cemetery.”
But in the interval between these two moments, they must live together, dwell together, persevere together. “To die for the woman one loves is easier than to live with her” claim those who ought to know. And how many women could claim similarly, “To die for the man one loves is easier than to live with him.”
They must bear with each other.
A French journalist while visiting Canada stopped for a time at Quebec. “You have no law permitting a divorce in the case of husbands and wives who do not understand each other?” he questioned.
“But what do those married persons do whose discontent is continual and whose characters are in no way compatible?”
“They endure each other.”
How expressive an answer! How rich in meaning! How expressive of virtue which is perhaps heroic! They endure each other.
This is not an attempt to deny the delights of married life, but to show that more than a little generosity is required to bear its difficulties.
In “The New Jerusalem” by Chesterton, a young girl is sought in marriage. She opposes the proposal in view of differences in temperament between herself and the young man. The marriage would certainly be a risk; it would be imprudent.
Michel, the suitor, retorted to this objection in his own style: “Imprudent! Do you mean to tell me that there are any prudent marriages? You might just as well speak of prudent suicides . . . A young girl never knows her husband before marrying him.
Unhappy? Of course, you will be unhappy. Who are you anyway to escape being unhappy, just as well as the mother who brought you into the world! Deceived? Of course you shall be deceived!”
Who proves too much, proves very little. We can, however, through the exaggeration find the strain of truth. “Michel” is a little too pessimistic. He makes a good counterpart to those who enter into marriage as if in a dream.
“Marriage,” wisely wrote Paul Claudel–and he gives the true idea–“is not pleasure; it is the sacrifice of pleasure; it is the study of two souls who throughout their future, for an end outside of themselves, shall have to be satisfied with each other always.”
LOVING EACH OTHER IN GOD
We have already seen that it is essential to advance as quickly as possible from a purely natural love to a supernatural love, from a passionate love to a virtuous love.
That is clear. No matter how perfect the partners in marriage may be, each has limitations; we can foresee immediately that at the point where the limitations of the one contact the limitations of the other, sparks will easily fly; misunderstandings, oppositions, and disagreements will arise.
No matter how much effort one puts forth to manifest only virtues, one does not have only virtues. And when one lives in constant contact with another, his faults appear quickly; “No man is great to his valet,” says the proverb.
Sometimes it is the very virtue of an individual which seems to annoy another. One would have liked more discretion; one is, as it were, eclipsed. Two find their self-love irritated, in conflict.
Or perhaps virtues no longer appear as virtues by reason of being so constantly manifested. Others become accustomed to seeing them and look upon them as merely natural traits.
“There is nothing more than that missing for him or her to be different.” It is like the sun or the light; people no longer notice them. Bread by reason of its being daily bread loses its character of “good bread.”
Daily intercourse which was a joy in the beginning no longer seems such a special delight; it becomes monotonous.
Husband and wife remain together by habit, common interests, honor, even a certain attachment of will, but do they continue to be bound together by love in the deepest sense of the word?
If things go on in this way, they will soon cease to be much concerned about each other; they may preserve a mutual dry esteem which habit will render still drier. Where formerly there existed a mutual ardor, nothing more remains than proper form; where formerly there was never anything more than a delicate remonstrance, there now exists depressing wrangling or a still more depressing coldness.
Married persons must come to the help of weak human nature and try to understand what supernatural love is in order to infuse it into their lives as soon as possible.
Is not the doctrine of the Church on marriage too often forgotten? How many ever reread the epistle of the Nuptial Mass? Meditate on it?
In any case, how many husbands and wives read it together? Meditate on it together? That would forearm them against the invasion of worrisome misunderstandings.
Why not have recourse to the well-springs of wisdom? There are not only the epistles. There is the whole gospel.
The example of Joseph and Mary at Nazareth is enlightening.
What obedience and cordial simplicity in Mary! What deference and exquisite charity in Saint Joseph! And between the two what openness of heart, what elevated dealings! Jesus was the bond between Mary, the Mother, and Joseph, the foster-father.
In Christian marriage, Jesus is still the unbreakable bond–prayer together, Holy Mass and Holy Communion together.
Not only should there be prayer with each other, beside each other, but prayer for each other.
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“We live in an age characterized by agitation and lack of peace. This tendency manifests itself in our spiritual as well as our secular life. In our search for God and holiness, in our service to our neighbor, a kind of restlessness and anxiety take the place of the confidence and peace which ought to be ours. What must we do to overcome the moments of fear and distress which assail us? How can we learn to place all our confidence in God and abandon ourselves into his loving care? This is what is taught in this simple, yet profound little treatise on peace of head. Taking concrete examples from our everyday life, the author invites us to respond in a Gospel fashion to the upsetting situations we must all confront. Since peace of heart is a pure gift of God, it is something we should seek, pursue and ask him for without cease. This book is here to help us in that pursuit.”
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