by Rev. John L. Thomas, S.J., 1955, Beginning Your Marriage
Part One is here.
We Attach Meanings To Things
Because we are rational beings, we interpret and read “meanings” into things. In a sense, nothing that intimately affects us is viewed “neutrally” or with cold objectivity. We attach meanings to things, and this changes the way we look at them.
For example, male and female differences, together with the various expressions of the sexual drive, are never viewed indifferently by us as they apparently are among animals. Rather, we attach significance to them, and they will be regulated and controlled according to the meaning which they have for us.
Our ability to read meanings into things and thus to change our relationship to them merits attention because it shows how and to what extent we can regulate our sexual impulses.
Many modern writers imply that sexual control is unnatural or unhealthy. This is utter nonsense. People have always exercised control over sex, but the nature and extent of this regulation and control has depended upon the meaning which they gave to the function of sex itself.
Since Catholics maintain that the primary purpose of the generative faculties is reproduction, they have always prohibited the deliberate exercise of this drive outside of marriage. Twenty centuries of experience demonstrate that this form of control is possible, “natural,” and healthy.
It is primarily because many moderns look upon man as merely a highly developed animal that they can consider this control to be impossible or “unnatural.” In other words, they give a different meaning to sex than we do.
We Are Social Beings
Another characteristic of our nature is its social quality. We are social beings by nature. This means that our capacity for love, sympathy, understanding, the communication of ideas, and so on, can be developed and used in a satisfactory manner only through cooperation with others.
In short, we are so constituted that we need society and association with others in order to lead a full life. Further, as rational creatures, we are capable of love and of communicating goodness to others.
It should be obvious how perfectly this social aspect of your nature will find expression in marriage. Here your capacity for love, sympathy, understanding, and communication, together with your mutual reproductive incompleteness, will find fulfillment in a .unique union which makes you “two in one flesh.”
We Are Elevated By Grace
Finally, our nature is capable of being elevated to a supernatural state. When God created man, He endowed human nature with a higher kind of life, a supernature. This was a sharing of God’s own life. Through it, man was destined to union with God throughout eternity.
Although this sanctifying grace, this sharing in God’s life, was something distinct from human nature, it permeated and elevated it in a supernatural manner. However, because it was added as a special gift, distinct from human nature, it could be lost.
This happened at the Fall when our first parents disobeyed God in the Garden. Since the Fall, we are born without the gift of sanctifying grace, but our nature is still capable of receiving this gift.
As the Church teaches, the Sacrament of Baptism restores sanctifying grace to us, and this grace can be lost only by committing mortal sin. Hence, the noblest aspect of our nature is its capacity to be elevated by grace, to share in God’s own life. Once we have received the life of grace through Baptism, it is our supreme privilege and duty to protect, foster, and develop this spiritual life within us by avoiding evil and doing good.
Through the Sacrament of Marriage you will receive the special spiritual helps and graces which you need to reach perfection as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.
Our Goal Is Heaven Our Destiny
We have considered where we came from and what we are; now we want to know where we are supposed to be going.
Briefly, we are created for eventual union with God in heaven. The purpose of our earthly life is to love, honor, and serve God in this world so as to be happy forever with Him in the next.
How do we serve God? By fulfilling our role or vocation in life to the best of our ability and in accordance with the divine plan made known to us through the teaching Church.
In his encyclical on Christian Marriage, Pius XI clearly summarized the purpose and manner of Christian life. “For all men, of every condition and in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness, placed before man by God, namely Christ our Lord, and by God’s grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is proved by the example of many saints.”
What, then, are the essential points of our “philosophy of life”?
First, we see ourselves as dependent upon God for our origin and continued existence in life.
Second, we understand that we are a unity composed of body and soul. We are neither pure spirits nor pure animals. As rational creatures, we possess an intellect and will, memory and imagination, and bodily senses which place us in contact with the world about us.
Through our intellect, we can distinguish good from evil. Through our will, we can choose to perform good actions or bad. We clearly recognize that we are responsible for our conscious activities.
As men and women, we possess different generative systems. Since these are reproductive faculties through which we are privileged to cooperate with God in the production of life, we know that they are not intended primarily for our selfish pleasure. We must use them according to the purpose for which they were created by God.
Because we are capable of love, sympathy, understanding, and the communication of good, we need the cooperation of others for our full self-development and perfection. Thus, we look upon marriage as one of the normal means for the expression of this sociability and for the fulfillment of our sexual complementarity.
Further, we believe that we have been redeemed by Christ and now possess sanctifying grace, the grace which permeates and elevates our nature, making us children of God and heirs of heaven.
We know that this supernatural life can be lost only by mortal sin, which is the deliberate, conscious violation of God’s law in a serious matter. Because sanctifying grace unites us with God, it is the most precious possession that we have. As long as we are in our right senses, we would never perform an act which would deprive us of our share in the divine life.
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his immortal soul?”
Third, we see our destiny as eternal union with God. The purpose of life, therefore, is to achieve this union. All other life purposes are secondary. God has made us for Himself. He has placed a desire within us which can be satisfied only by Himself.
The enduring happiness which we all seek can be found only in Him. It follows that we look upon this present life as a preparation, a way leading to eternal fulfillment and happiness in heaven. This view enables us to put order in our lives. It gives us a yardstick by which to measure the temporal, passing things of this world.
One thing is necessary – to strive for perfection. One way is open – to imitate Christ in every condition and walk of life. We are called to the same destiny. To all of us is given the help needed to achieve this purpose.
Yes, these are sobering thoughts. They present the long range, over-all view of life. They offer the frame-work within which you must view your love and happiness in marriage.
Marriage is a life partnership. Your love must be such that it fits into the meaning of life or it cannot last. Marriage is a life companionship. The happiness which you seek from your togetherness can be satisfying and enduring only to the extent that you are really “good” for each other, that is, only to the extent that you support and help each other in attaining that happiness for which you were created.
It is easy in your new-found love to separate marriage from the purpose of life. But marriage is only a way of life. As a way, it has meaning only in terms of its destination. Either it will offer you an opportunity for the growth and development of yourselves as followers of Christ, or it will prove an empty, frustrating experience.
There are many types of “love” and “happiness” between the sexes. Some are shallow, some are counterfeit, and some are little more than thinly disguised selfishness.
True love and happiness are rooted in life. They are developmental. They are aids to personal perfection, not distractions or positive hindrances.
We are called to be great Apostles of Love in our ordinary, daily life. We are Christ’s Hands and Feet as we wipe noses, feed hungry little ones and change diapers with an attitude of service and love. When we are cheerful to those we rub shoulders with each day, when we kindly open our door to those who enter into our home, we are taking part in Christ’s Apostolic Work. “Jesus was an Apostle in the stable of Bethlehem, in the shop of St. Joseph, in His anguish in Gethsemane and on Calvary no less than when He was going through Palestine, teaching the multitudes or disputing with the doctors of the law.” – Divine Intimacy, Painting by Morgan Weistling http://amzn.to/2p0dxg8 (afflink)
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