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Marriage is a sacrament

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In every walk of life there are men who know everything apparently. Usually they come to grief. Successful men are successful because they have profited by the wisdom and experience of others. Having shared for years the confidences of men and women seeking help in marriage problems, and having employed sincere effort in helping those unfortunate in marriage, I may truly say that courtship is the period in a man's life when he can least afford to be unmindful of the future.

We hear a good deal nowadays about incompatibility. . A young man and woman stand before the priest to be married ; he thinks that she is the most wonderful woman in the world, and she considers him the finest man that ever lived. If the priest should say to either that something might one day estrange them, they would not believe it possible.

And yet how often these two, after a few years, sometimes after a few months, barely tolerate each other! It hardly seems possible. During courtship they seemed angels to each other. After marriage association, they appear as ordinary mortals. During courtship each saw the other under only the most favourable conditions. Instead of employing that period to get acquainted, it was used for amusement, regardless of what the outcome might be.

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The Dispositions for receiving the Sacraments-duties and obligations of married people. Abridged from Perry's Full Course of Instruction.
What is Matrimony? -Matrimony is a Sacrament which gives grace to those who contract Marriage with due dispositions to enable them to bear the difficulties of their state, to love and be faithful to one another, and to bring up their children in the fear of God.

DISPOSITIONS AND PREPARATION NECESSARY FOR RECEIVING THIS SACRAMENT WORTHILY I. You should endeavour to procure the favour and direction of Heaven, by fervent prayer, by being attentive to all the duties of a good Catholic, and by avoiding sin.'A good wife is a good portion: she shall be given to a man for his good deeds (Eccl. xxvi, 3). Nothing is of greater importance in entering into the married state than to obtain the divine blessing; and yet nothing is sometimes less attended to!

2. They who are about to get married should consult their parents (see page 6) and not allow themselves to be hurried away by passion.'My son, do nothing without counsel, and thou shalt not repent when thou hast done (Eccli. xxxii, 24)

3. They should have a right intention such as God had in the institution of Marriage: namely, to be a mutual help to each other; to have children who may serve God; and to prevent incontinence. Their intention, then, should not be to gratify ambition, or avarice, or carnal desires.

4. They should be careful to choose a proper person. This is of very great importance; yet, to be of a high family, rich and beautiful, seem oftentimes to be made the chief considerations by many of those who marry. These may be very well as secondary, but should not be the chief determining motives.
The choice should fall on one of the true Faith and a good Christian: your own peace and happiness, your salvation and that of your children depend greatly upon it. Family, riches and beauty, are but poor helpers to happiness, if the temper be bad, the humour extravagant, or the passion violent.'Happy is the husband of a good wife, for the number of his years shall be doubled.' (Eccli. xxvi, 1).

What is the more immediate Preparation?

I. To be instructed in the nature of this Sacrament, and in the conditions necessary for receiving it; also in the duties and obligations of married life-and to resolve to comply with them.

2. To be in the state of grace: otherwise the marriage would be sacrilegious; and would tend to draw down the curse of God, instead of His blessing.

3. To receive the Sacrament of Penance, if in the state of sin.
The duties of married people are most serious and important, because their own and their children's happiness, both here and hereafter, depend very much upon them. For the fulfilling of these duties special graces are necessary; and Faith teaches the graces this Sacrament gives them.
What, then, are the Duties and Obligations of the Married State?

I. The husband and wife must have a mutual love for each other. 'Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church . . . So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself' (Ephes. V, 25, 28). Without this there will be no happiness. The only limitation in this mutual love is-husband and wife must love God more than they love each other.

2. They must give each other good example and pray for one another, and preserve inviolably the sanctity of marriage (cf. Heb. xiii, 4). Infidelity is a most grevious crime, being: 1st, the violation of a sacramental contract; 2nd, the breach of a vow made before God and the Church; 3rd, a great injustice to the innocent party. If it should be discovered (or suspected, which is often the case), it then sows the seeds of perpetual discord.

3. The husband should exercise his authority with prudence, meekness and charity.'The husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the Church' (Ephes. v, 23). Therefore, as Christ is solicitous for the good of His Church, so the husband should be solicitous for his wife.

4. The wife should behave towards her husband with due respect, obedience and submission.'Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord . . . As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their husbands in all things (Ephes. v, 22, 34 .
If both parties would observe these duties, how happily they would live together!
5. There is another very important duty of married people, namely, to bring up their children religiously. They must instruct their children; instil into them religious habits; see to their prayers, confessions and Holy Communions; watch over them; keep them from bad companions and from the occasions of sin; set them good example; and pray for them. These duties towards children lay parents under a heavy responsibility, and yet how often they are neglected!
These are the duties and obligations of the married state. They are important and difficult, and cannot be fulfilled religiously, without particular graces. These graces the Sacrament of Matrimony gives to such as receive it with proper dispositions. How important, then, it is to make a good preparation for it, how great the advantages of receiving it with proper dispositions, and how careful husband and wife should be afterwards not to lose, by sin, those special graces which it gives to those who receive it worthily!

Nihil Obstat:
CAROLUS DOYLE, S.J., Censor Theol;. Deput.
Imprimi Potest:
@ EDUARDUS, Archiep. Dublinen., Hiberniae Primas.
Dublini, die 18 Julii, 1934. ******


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Moreover, as marriage is so important an event, everything should be done to have it as God wishes it to be. Without every possible safeguard, marriage with a non-Catholic is a losing venture, and even with every precaution, it risks true welfare. A girl should prepare for marriage by being true to her religion. Marriage deserves every effort to draw God's special blessings on it by prayer and frequent Holy Communion.

If my advice and counsels have helped one young woman to recognise and accept the right man, a man of her own religion, who will find in her a God-given wife, I shall be recompensed for my efforts. My words may perhaps, in some respects, seem to restrict inclinations, but I can affirm from experience that they point the way to permanent peace and welfare.

In conclusion, I say: Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. God's way is always the best way, here and hereafter. The longest life comes to an end. May the marriage of the Catholic girl be the means of making that end the beginning of everlasting life and blessedness for herself and the man to whom she gave her heart in wedlock.

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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 practise 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.

Before a girl permits courtship to begin, she should ascertain whether the man is a Catholic and a good Catholic. The single state in life is a thousand times preferable, in most cases, to a mixed marriage. When husband and wife are of the same faith, there is a bond uniting their very souls. In joy they will rejoice more abundantly, and in sorrow they will have an unfailing support.
To sum up, therefore, let me say again that choosing a husband is, humanly speaking, the most consequential thing in a girl's life. In regard to it, there should be exercised more deliberation than on anything else.
In courtship, maidenly reserve should never be compromised. Modesty should be sacred. It is the guardian of purity. It is a maiden's most beautiful adornment. Even the men who will do their utmost to rob a maiden of that adornment will despise her when they have succeeded.

A Catholic girl should not be guided by the loose moral code of those who have no religion. Courtship has degenerated among certain classes into downright sin.

Some young folks think that courtship entitles them to free love. The law of God holds for young people during courtship just as strictly as it does for everyone else.

The young lady who joins maidenly reserve to her other actions inspires love far more than does a girl who makes concessions to her lover. And when I speak of concessions, I mean anything and everything which a girl would hesitate to do in the presence of her sister or mother. Courtship is preparation for marriage. If she expects God's blessing on married life, she must respect His law during courtship. I say it is only right and proper that a girl should be at her best during courtship-but let me remind her that it should be her genuine best.

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A good girl who is a non-Catholic will thus be at variance with her husband in a matter which plays a big part in life.

If it should happen that the wife's religion is not a serious matter, another great difficulty arises. Children will be under the influence of a mother to whom religion means little or nothing. In spite of all their father may do, the chances are that they will grow up indifferent Catholics, or lose the Faith entirely.
The religion of a non-Catholic wife either means a good deal to her, or it does not. If it does, there is created by that very fact a serious difference between husband and wife. If it does not, the Catholic husband is consigning his children to irreligious influence. Children will not make religion a serious matter ordinarily if their mother does not. A mixed marriage is a great responsibility for any young man.

As a matter of fact, difference of religion does ordinarily cause more or less estrangement between man and wife, introducing an element of discord. It does not show itself in courtship, when both are so wonderfully absorbed in each other and other things are in the background. But when everyday life begins, differences in religion assert themselves. A young man should not wait until he is deeply in love with a girl before knowing what her religion is. It may be too 1ate then. Before he begins to court her, he should find out her faith. Even with similarity of religious belief, there are apt to be many differences between man and wife. If difference of faith is added, other differences will be multiplied in number and intensity.

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Common sense 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 realise 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 sometime's 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 favours of a man until she knows him well enough and favourably 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 neighbourly 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.

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Business men, before they sign a contract of importance, reflect a good deal on the issue. Yet a business contract may turn out badly without destroying a man's happiness. He may try again. He can start anew even if the contract has ruined him. But marriage is for better or worse until God parts man and wife by death.
Therefore the young man who is keeping company is at the most consequential period of his life. The result of his courtship may make him a happy husband and father, or a miserable and disheartened partner for life.

The girl has it in her power to make him happy or wretched for life. There is no middle road in matrimony. A wife is to her husband either a solace or a sorrow. His children will be, to a great extent, what his wife makes them. A good marriage means more to a man than a fortune. A bad marriage is little short of a catastrophe. On no one thing of life does so much depend as on marriage.
This means that a young man's most important decision is made when he says:'This is the girl I am going to marry.' For she is going to make his marriage a boon or a bane. All depends on whether or not she is the right girl for him. A girl who would make one man's life agreeable might make another's wretched. The thing each man must be sure of, as far as possible, is whether he has chosen exactly the girl for his happiness.

Marriage is a lottery, it is said. That, is because so many young men make it a lottery. They marry a pretty face rather than a girl of suitable disposition. A pretty face is all very well, but frequently it is misleading. There are certain persons who are satisfied with what is superficial. Some people buy a book for its cover. A pretty face is not to be scorned, but it is not enough.


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Is the girl with the pretty face also a girl with sensible ways? Is she the right girl for you? If not, she will be your undoing. Is her character suitable to yours? And how are you going to know? Ah, there's the rub! If a man could only know! However, just because it is so uncertain, a man should take all the measures possible to know what he is doing. That is the object of courtship. But if he turn courtship into'spooning,' everything conspires to make him marry the wrong girl. If he employs the opportunities of courtship as an occasion of dissipation, of course he will regret it later.

Many of the unhappy marriages nowadays, and there are not a few, are made so because the young man is out for a good time during courtship rather than to consult his future welfare. A good time, certainly, is not taboo-courtship is an oasis, one of the few in the desert of life. But why forget the journey ahead, in the short rest and refreshment possible on that tiny spot? A man and a maid can have a very good time during courtship without losing sight of its main object, and without doing anything that will make them repent afterwards.

For a Christian man will regret it if, in any way, he treats the girl who is to be his wife and the mother of his children with less respect and propriety than he would manifest toward sister or mother. The girl who is the right girl for a young man will inspire him with reverence for her. Unless she makes him feel that he is in the presence of something almost sacred when in her company, he does not truly love her, no matter what attraction she may have for him.

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For she will be your closest companion all the days of your life, closer to you than father or mother, without displacing father or mother in your affection. She is destined to be your helpmate. Your sorrows-and you will have them-will be hers, your joys also. If she is the right girl for you, she will enable you to face any difficulty and to bear any reverse. She will be your inspiration. It will be a pleasure for you to work for her and your home. No matter how good or great a man may be, he is better and greater if the girl he marries is the right girl for him. On the other hand, if she is not, she becomes a dead weight on her husband's aspirations and achievements.

Am I not right, then; young men, in saying that the time before marriage is the most important period of life?

In important matters, wise people consult wiser heads. No matter how well educated you may be, even if you have had advantages greater than your parents, it will do you no harm to consult with them about your marriage. I realise that young men at present consider themselves well able to take care of themselves. But it is only necessary to look about you to find that in many cases they have made sad work of their boasted self-sufficiency.
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