(For Better or Worse)
Peace be to you.
Trials and difficulties- “what-to-do” kit
It is very often assumed that life should be without trials and difficulties. Our Blessed Lord did not predict it so. He said, “In this world you shall have tribulation.”
Even when one enters into a realm of love such as marriage, there are trials and difficulties, and it is those that we would consider in this particular lesson.
**This is what might be called a “what-to-do” kit when there are difficulties in marriage. **
We shall consider two:
- First, when marriage dulls;
- Second, when the other partner becomes what is sometimes said impossible.
First, when marriage dulls.
Now this it does, simply because everything in life dulls after a time. Love does not continue to be one abiding ecstasy. Simply because flesh is the medium of married love, it suffers the penalty of the flesh. It becomes used to affection.
As life goes on, a greater stimulus is required to produce an equal reaction to sensation.
The eye can soon become used to beauty, the fingers used to the touch of a friend. The intimacy which first was so desirable could become at times a burden. There is such a thing as “I want to be alone” feeling or, “I think that I will go home to Mother” feeling. And these strip the eye of rose colored glasses. Bills begin to come into the kitchen and love is in danger of walking out of the parlor.
The very habit of love becomes boring because it is a habit and not an adventure.
It is conceivable that there might be even a yearning for a new partner, then there comes with children multiplied accidents and diseases. And all of this tends to bring down the vision from the clouds, the very realistic visitations to the nursery, and sooner or later, the affective, emotional life is brought face to face with this question:
Is love a snare, a delusion, does it promise what it cannot give?
I thought this would be complete happiness, and yet it has settled down to a routine.
Now at this point, those who think that love is an evolution from the beasts, not a gift of God, falsely believe that if they had another partner that other partner could supply what is presently lacking.
No, that is a fallacy, because it forgets that the emptiness does not come from the other partner but from the very nature of life itself.
Now here’s the reason for that feeling.
- The heart was made for the infinite. Only the infinite can satisfy it.
This first ecstasy of love that was given to a couple was to remind them that love is a gift which came from heaven and that only by working toward heaven would they ever really discover it to be infinite.
Remember when our Lord gave bread at Capernaum, and then later on He spoke to those who received the bread about the Eucharist, the bread of everlasting life, His very self? He was using the bread that He gave to their stomachs as a kind of bait to make them become interested in the bread of life, the Eucharist. (John 6:27-58)
And so, too, the human love that God gives us is a bait, it is a kind of a divine come-on in order that we might seek the flame, which is God.
When married life becomes dull, one has not hit the bottom of life.
One has only hit the bottom of one’s ego. There is a world of difference between the two.
- One has not hit the bottom of his soul but
- only the bottom of his instinct.
- Not the bottom of his mind, but
- only the bottom of his emotional life.
The aforementioned trials are merely so many contacts with reality, which God sends into every life.
- If life went on as a dream without any shock of disillusionment, who would ever attain perfect happiness? Who would ever want God?
The majority of men would rest in mediocrity, if there were not this push on for the perfect love.
Acorns are not content to be saplings. Children have to grow up and our love has to grow up.
Therefore, God keeps something back, namely Himself in eternity. If He did not, we would never push forward. Therefore, He makes us, every now and then, run up against a brick wall. In such a crisis, we begin to feel our non-entity. We’ve got an overwhelming sense of nothingness, loneliness. Then if we look at it rightly, we see that this life is only a bridge to eternity.
The Crisis of Nothingness:
The crisis of nothingness is caused by the meeting of a fancied ideal and reality, of love as the ego sees it and love as it really is. No, love is not a snare; God is not mocking us, and it must not be thought either that this sense of nothingness that comes over marriage, dullness, is peculiar to marriage itself.
It happens in the spiritual life, too.
We who are dedicated to God as priests, others, brothers and nuns and contemplatives, they all reach this crisis.
- Prayers become dry and formal.
- There is danger that we may become used to touching the bread of life.
- There is not the same emotional thrill in reading mass when one is ordained 40 years as there is at the first mass.
- There may not be that same ecstasy in visiting the sick when one is ordained 50 years as there was a thrill on the first sick call.
And the nun who has been teaching children for 30 or 40 years has to bring herself with extra prayer to realize that all those youngsters there have been put before her as charges from almighty God.
It becomes difficult for all of us to meditate. Thanksgivings are apt to become shorter after mass. So, we have our problems, too.
It is a problem of love. How can I love better? How can I pray better? How can I establish greater union with God?
The answer is, by sacrifices.
Now inasmuch as we are not here concerned with the development of the spiritual life, but only with the development of love, life and marriage, we return again to marriage.
- And we say that, just as there is such a thing in the spiritual life as the dark night of the soul, so too in marriage there is such a thing as the dark night of the body.
- And just as the dark night of the soul in the spiritual life needs considerable purification through self denial in order to reach deeper insights of love, so too in marriage.
Whenever there is discontent, God is stirring the waters of the soul.
Really, He is reminding us that the perfect love for which we crave is not here.
We are on the road to it, just as for example a mother eagle will throw its young out of the nest so they may learn to fly, and so, too, God in these moments of trial gives wings to our clay feet.
And this dryness, either in the spiritual life or married life, can be either for salvation or damnation, depending upon how it is used.
There are two kinds of dryness.
This dryness, in either the spiritual or the married life, can be used either for salvation or damnation
It all depends upon how it is used.
There are two kinds of dryness.
- There is the one, which rots, which is the dryness of love without God.
- Then there is the dryness, which ripens, and that is one, when one goes through the fire and the heat of sacrifice.
In, therefore, these moments of dullness, in this crisis of nothingness, the idea of eternity has to be reintroduced. But there is this difference:
- In the days of romance, the eternal emphasis was on the ego’s durability in love – the ego’s durability in love.
- In the crisis of nothingness and dullness, the eternal element is God, not the ego.
Love now says, “I will love you always, for you are lovable through eternity for God’s sake.”
You see, that love which began with pleasure and self-satisfaction changes into love for God’s sake. The other person becomes less the necessary condition of passion and more the partner of the soul.
Our Blessed Lord said that unless the seed fall to the ground and die, it will not spring forth into life. Nothing is reborn to a higher life without a death to a lower one. The heart has its cycles as well as the planets and the movement of the heart is an upward spiral and not a circle, which turns in upon itself.
*The crisis of nothingness which follows a dream come true, needs its purification and its cross and the cross is not a roadblock on the way to happiness, it is a ladder up which one climbs to the very heaven of Love itself.*
**Therefore, there is no need of running off to someone to analyze your mental state simply because you find life dull. Intensity your love of God and begin to look upon the other partner as a gift of God, and then love will not be dull. **
***And we will see every human creature bathed in that beauty of God’s love.***
That brings us to this other problem of marriage and trial, namely, when marriage becomes a cross and when, as some say, it is impossible.
Well, in marriage there is “for better or for worse”.
Sometimes it turns out worse and that is the problem that we are discussing now. Suppose the husband or the wife becomes a chronic invalid or develops anti-social characteristics, becomes a drunkard, cruel, unfaithful, tyrant, bossy, what are we to do?
- Well, we said we have to regard ALWAYS the other person as a gift of God. Now sometimes God’s gifts are sweet and sometimes God’s gifts are bitter. And whether the other person be sweet or bitter, sick or well, young or old, that other person is still a gift of God.
- If we are selfish, we have to get rid of the other partner. Why? Because the other partner is a burden.
- If we are Christian, then we take on the burden as something coming from the hand of God Himself.
St. Paul said, “Bear the burden of one another’s failings, then you will be fulfilling the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-9)
Now if you object and say, “Well, God never intended that anyone should live under such difficulties.” The answer is flatly, “Oh yes, He does!”
Did not our Blessed Lord say, “If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me. The man who tries to save his life shall lose it. It is the man who loses his life for my sake that will secure it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
We would all like to have tailor-made crosses. In other words, we are very willing to take on some mortification and self denial if we can choose it. But when God chooses it, like a bad husband or a bad wife, then we say, “Oh, no. I cannot take that cross.”
Why cannot we realize that what sickness is to an individual, an unhappy marriage may be to a couple – a trial sent by God in order to perfect them spiritually? After all, without certain bitter gifts of God, many of our spiritual capacities would be undeveloped.
- Now such a marriage may indeed be a martyrdom, but at any rate he is not robbing his own life of honor, nor robbing his soul of peace. The acceptance of such trials of marriage is not a sentence to death, as some believe.
The soldier is not sentenced to death because he takes the oath to his country, but he admits that he is ready to face death rather than lose honor. An unhappy marriage is not a condemnation to unhappiness. It is a noble tragedy in which one bears the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune rather than deny a vow that was made to the living God.
***If it be noble to be wounded for the country we love, then is it not nobler still to be wounded for God?***
Then here is this verse of scripture which very few people think about, but which is so important. It is in St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians:
“The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:14)
- In other words, the merits, the prayers, the suffering, the patience, the meekness of one, passes into the other.
If, for example, the other partner, who was an alcoholic, if that partner was sick, would you not take care of him? Suppose he had tuberculosis or a heart attack, would you leave him? Now if he has a moral heart attack, is he to be abandoned? And by a moral heart attack I mean guilty of any one of the sins that make marriage so very difficult.
If there is such a thing as the transfusion of blood from a healthy member of society to a weak member of society, why can there not be and why is there not the transfer of sanctification?
- A wife can redeem her husband and a husband can redeem the wife.
- There is a spiritual communication.
It does not have, indeed, much romantic satisfaction in it, but its returns are eternal.
***And many a husband and wife after infidelities and excesses will find themselves saved on Judgement Day as the faithful partner never ceased to pour out prayers for his or her salvation. ***
Let me tell you this story, to indicate how the merits of one will pass into the merits of another. At the turn of this century there was married in Paris just an ordinarily good Catholic girl and an unbelieving medical doctor with the name of LeSeur. He promised to respect the faith of his marriage but immediately after marriage tried to break it down. In addition to practicing medicine, he became the editor of an anti-clerical, atheistic newspaper in Paris. His wife reacted and decided she would study her faith. So, she built a library of apologetics and he built up an atheistic library in the same house.
In May 1905 as she was dying, she said to her husband, “Felix, when I am dead, you will become a Catholic and a Dominican priest.” He said, “Elizabeth, you know my sentiments. I have sworn hatred of the Church and sworn hatred of God and I shall live in that hatred and I shall die in it.” She repeated her words and passed away.
Fumbling amidst her papers, he discovered her will, and the will stated that in 1905 she asked almighty God to send her sufficient suffering to purchase his soul. Then she added, “On the day that I die, I shall have paid the price, you will have been bought and paid for. Greater love than this no woman hath, that she should lay down her life for her husband.”
He dismissed this as the fancies of a pious woman. Though he loved his wife, in order to forget his grief, he took a trip in the southern part of France. He stopped in front of a church into which his wife, during their honeymoon, had gone for a visit. She seemed to be speaking to him, saying, “Go to Lourdes.” He went to Lourdes, but he went there as a rank unbeliever. He had written a book against Lourdes, proving that miracles were a fraud and a superstition, but as he was standing before the grotto of Our Lady, he received the gift of faith, so complete and so total that he never had to go through that process of juxtaposition and say, “Well, now that I believe, how will I answer this difficulty, or how will I answer that difficulty?” He saw all that he had believed in its utter error and stupidity.
Well, the conversion of Dr. LeSeur was about as exciting as the news of the bombardment of Rheims. Then time past. In 1924, I made my retreat in a Dominican monastery in Belgium. And there, four times a day and forty-five minutes each day, I made my retreat under and received the spiritual direction of Fr. LeSeur, Dominican Catholic and Priest, who told me this story. I tell you, it is not often you can make a retreat under a priest who every now and then will say, “As my dear wife, Elizabeth, said….”
But the moral of the story is:
Love is not here completely and totally;
It is in God, and by loving God here, we save the other partner, whether it be a bad wife or a bad husband; for once married, they are two in one.
God Love You
1. In today’s lesson on – Marriage Problems
what stood out the most to you?
2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “For Better or Worse ” to this lesson?
3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of Marriage – Till death do you part?
4. Now that you have learned more about – Marriage Problems- For Better or Worse
– what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
To view the context, please visit https://www.kofc.org/en/catechism/index.html or
ARTICLE 7 – THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY – (Continuation)
VI. THE DOMESTIC CHURCH
1655. “Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than ‘the family of God.’ From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers ‘together with all (their) household.’[Cf. Acts 18:8 .] When they were converted, they desired that ‘their whole household’ should also be saved.[Cf. Acts 16:31 ; Acts 11:14 .] These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.”
1656. “In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica.[LG 11; cf. FC 21.] It is in the bosom of the family that parents are ‘by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.’[LG 11.]“
1657. “It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way ‘by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.’[LG 10.] Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’[GS 52 # 1.] Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.”
1658. “We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus’ heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. The doors of homes, the ‘domestic churches,’ and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. ‘No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavy laden.”[FC 85; cf. Mt 11:28 .]“
1659. “St. Paul said: ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church…. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church’ [Eph 5:25, 32 .].”
1660. “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament [cf. CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1.].”
1661. “The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799). “
1662. “Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love. “
1663. “Since marriage establishes the couple in a public state of life in the Church, it is fitting that its celebration be public, in the framework of a liturgical celebration, before the priest (or a witness authorized by the Church), the witnesses, and the assembly of the faithful. “
1664. “Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its ‘supreme gift,’ the child [GS 50 # 1.].”
1665. “The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith. “
1666. “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.”
ARTICLE 6 –
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not commit adultery.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”
But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
I. “MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM . . .” (Continuation)
IV. OFFENSES AGAINST THE DIGNITY OF MARRIAGE
2380. “Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones – they commit adultery. Christ condemns even adultery of mere desire.[Cf. Mt 5:27-28 .] The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely.[Cf. Mt 5:32 ; Mt 19:6 ; Mk 10:11 ; 1 Cor 6:9-10 .] The prophets denounce the gravity of adultery; they see it as an image of the sin of idolatry.[Cf. Hos 2:7 ; Jer 5:7 ; Jer 13:27 .] “
2381. “Adultery is an injustice. He who commits adultery fails in his commitment. He does injury to the sign of the covenant which the marriage bond is, transgresses the rights of the other spouse, and undermines the institution of marriage by breaking the contract on which it is based. He compromises the good of human generation and the welfare of children who need their parents’ stable union. “
2382. “The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.[Cf. Mt 5:31-32 ; Mt 19:3-9 ; Mk 10 9 ; Lk 16:18 ; 1 Cor 7:10-ll .] He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.[Cf. Mt 19:7-9 .]
Between the baptized, ‘a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.’[CIC, can. 1141.]“
2383. “The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.[Cf. CIC, cann. 1151-1155.]
If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense. “
2384. “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:
If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.[St. Basil, Moralia 73, 1: PG 31, 849-852.] “
2385. “Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society. “
2386. “It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.[Cf. FC 84.] “
2392. “‘Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being’ (FC 11).”
2393. “By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. “
2394. “Christ is the model of chastity. Every baptized person is called to lead a chaste life, each according to his particular state of life. “
2395. “Chastity means the integration of sexuality within the person. It includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery. “
2396. “Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices. “
2397. “The covenant which spouses have freely entered into entails faithful love. It imposes on them the obligation to keep their marriage indissoluble. “
2398. “Fecundity is a good, a gift and an end of marriage. By giving life, spouses participate in God’s fatherhood. “
2399. “The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception). “
2400. “Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage. “