02. A Sacred Twosome
The song of the universe was about to be sung. The spring of springs was about to bloom. For this was a memorable day, the day when God created 'the world. The universe did not evolve from motionless icy cold, but came from nothingness, that is, from the warm, all embracing hand of God. Light and darkness, day and night, the green grass, the singing birds, the secret purling of the streams, the supple twisting of the eels in the ocean tides, are not all these God's morning song at the creation of heaven and earth?
The Morning Of Creation
And when His heart was about to burst with joy, in the glory of the spring of springs, He created Adam, the first man, to reign after creation's work was done, a picture of the eternal God.
So Adam begins his life in the bliss of Paradise. The pulsing rhythm of human life begins for the first man upon the earth. However, Eden was not complete; the deepest happiness was wanting. An uncomfortable feeling possessed Adam and his countenance was disturbed. It was the feeling of a child who cannot tell what he wants because he does not yet know it himself. Adam was a lonesome man walking about in the garden. "Let us make him a help-like unto himself."
"Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam. He took one of his ribs and built the rib into a woman, and brought her to Adam. And Adam said: 'This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.' And they became two in one flesh."
In the spring of life God instituted His most magnificent gift, the sacred twosomeness of marriage. The first thought of God's creative will was home and family. To make this plan come true, God gave the first man a wife to be at his side as a helpmate: "Man and woman he created them." "Increase and multiply and fill the earth and make it subject to you."
What a lovely and happy marriage, the fairest ever enjoyed by the children of men! No dark clouds obscured the first spring of their love. They saw no imperfections in one another. In the union of their hearts there was nothing that opposed either the commandments or the precepts of God. For it was God who had brought them together in Paradise. In them He had cradled the peoples of the world. Millions and millions of young men and women down the ages were to experience a similar spring of life, when they would find and give themselves to each other in the intimate union of matrimony. All children of Eve, born of the mother of all the living, they are also all created in the image and likeness of God. The face of God is indelibly impressed upon them.
The Lord Jesus And The Broken Glass
But in the first bloom of life, sin entered the world. The first man and woman were obliged to leave Paradise as a punishment for sin; yet as a precious remembrance of their past happiness they took away with them their conjugal two-someness. Though soiled by sin, like a crystal glass stained with mud, it was to be restored by Christ. This conjugal twosome He was to incorporate in the golden chalice of one of His seven treasures—the sacraments.
When Napoleon III was married to Eugenia, Paris was in festal array. The national guard and the military men formed two lines from the Tuileries to Notre Dame. Every house was adorned with banners. From early morning the great city was awake and moving about in preparation. Over 200,000 people had come to Paris from the surrounding country. When the moment came, with all the bells of the city ringing out joyously, fanfares announced the procession. The canon fired a salute of a hundred and one guns. And as the princely couple entered Notre Dame, twenty thousand candles lighted up the cathedral. The dress of the bride was of the finest white silk embroidered with violets. At the altar the Archbishop of Paris joined their hands. The city council presented the queen-bride with a necklace of many sparkling jewels valued at 600,000 francs.
Marriage may be celebrated with even greater pomp, perhaps as Tiepolo portrayed the colorful marriage of the emperor Barbarossa. But independently of all this outward ostentation, marriage has its own inexpressible glory, whether it be celebrated in some poor forsaken church or whether it be two poor laboring people who are being joined together. Though white dresses, veil, flowers, bells, rings, canons and jewels be lacking, marriage, being more than any outward trapping, is still something exceedingly sublime.
Marriage is the greatest adventure any young couple can undertake. To conquer life by the power of love, and in the fire of love to fuse two hearts into one. Marriage is the greatest "Yes" of life.
The saintly Minorite, Brother Clement Didacus (1683-1744) advised Count Karoly Sandor to marry for the purpose of raising a family of children who would support and comfort him; at the same time, marriage would remove temptations to which he might be exposed. His wife could watch over the conduct and morals of the servants. She could be his confidante, listening to his troubles and aiding him by her advice and saving him from the solitary life he was then living alone with his troubles and worries.
A fairly early marriage is not only beneficial for the morals of the young couple, but also carries its advantages for the children they hope to have. For when the parents are young at the time of marriage, they have, humanly speaking, a greater assurance of living to raise their children than they would have if they married late in life. Besides in an early marriage the expectancy of the children is greater than in marriage contracted later in life.
When we ponder deeply upon the question "Wilt thou take?" which is put to bride and groom, it gives us occasion to pause and our heart might be fearful. With these two short words "I will," two human lives are united until death, yes, even unto eternity. It is a great sacrifice, this giving of themselves to one another. Their two hearts, each with its attributes and peculiarities, they cast into the furnace of mutual love, and from this fire a new metal comes forth, fashioned by their sacrifice into the form of a crown—namely, conjugal love.
The foundation and elevation of marriage is not the work of man, but of God. Marriage among all peoples is blessed and sanctified by a higher, divine power. Historians of all peoples record that marriage is the work of the gods. Not man, but God Himself, the Creator of nature, and Christ, the Redeemer of the world, have fortified marriage by laws, strengthened and raised it up, and made it an impregnable fortress.
When the important "I will" has been spoken, two souls are truly made one. Their souls are united more surely and more strongly than their bodies, as the old adage says: "Two souls with a single thought; two hearts with a single beat."
There are three blessings, according to St. Augustine, which make marriage essentially good—fidelity, the child, and the sacrament. Fidelity erects a sacred hedge, which keeps the eyes and desire of the heart from wandering to other men or women. The child demands that it be accepted with love, carefully nurtured and reared in faith. The sacrament is the guardian of indissolubility. For this bond of marriage was forged in the sight of God.
Beauty and wealth are not absolute requirements for marriage. Beauty is fleeting and the romantic side of love is passing. "Houses and riches are given by parents; but a prudent wife is properly from the Lord." When Isaac the patriarch was seeking a wife, he did not concern himself, in the first instance, about her beauty and riches, but rather sought to learn whether she had a believing heart and a virtuous mind. For the first requisite in marriage is faith. An old experienced pastor once said: "So long as the young lads are looking for a girl, they are taken up entirely with her disposition and her heart. It is only when they feel that her heart is theirs that their greed awakens and they ask about her money. At the start they want a girl with a good disposition. Only later do they look to her money."
Marriage, like the world, was being drawn down to perdition by sin. There was no longer a bond of two hearts until death. The greed and infidelity of men had broken the precious chalice of God. Then Christ the Lord came and restored marriage to its pristine beauty. He not only restored it but as Savior He took it and pressed it to His heart by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. Since then marriage has been immersed in the mystery of Christ. In itself it is a great sacred mystery. For the spouses must love one another as Christ loved His Church, even to the sacrifice of the last drop of blood. The wife shall obey and be subject to the husband as the Church obeys and is subject to Christ.
Besides this sacred marriage in the one true Church, there are also mixed and civil and common law marriages. Since a Christian must be a man who judges the things of life with a mature knowledge, it is well to say a word on this subject.
A mixed marriage, that is, a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, is forbidden by the Church because of her motherly love and deep anxiety. It is also forbidden by the Divine Law, when there is danger to the soul of husband or wife, or the child. When Holy Mother Church grants a dispensation in certain cases, she does it with a sorrowing heart, and she cannot be happy about it, for souls are in danger. If Rousseau could not imagine a happy marriage if husband and wife did not have the same faith, how much more evident should not this appear to the faithful.
Where there is no religious unity in marriage, the peace of the family is jeopardized and happiness leaves the home. On the other hand, because of a false love for one another, both husband and wife will neglect their religious duties and act against their inner convictions. A mixed marriage is more liable to produce pagan than Christian children. This does not prove that certain mixed marriages cannot turn out well. But if so, it is the exception, not the rule.
One such among mixed marriages was the case of the parents of the celebrated poet, Frederick William Weber (1813-1894). The father was not a Catholic but he had a high regard for the religion of his wife. The poet relates with deep feeling how his father knelt down to learn the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Angelus. The oldest of the four children became a priest. Such a case, however, is an infrequent exception.
Alban Stolz relates that he had noticed a girl waiting on the guests in a hotel, with such amiability and modesty that all were impressed. Among them was a millionaire. The oftener he saw her, the greater grew his esteem for her. He had no desire to choose a wife for his son among the fashionably dressed and vain girls he met. The one he wanted to be the woman presiding over his home was this poor modest waitress. His oldest son was well satisfied with the choice of his father and urged his suit upon the girl. But she refused him, she actually preferred to remain a poor simple servant than to become the wife of a millionaire. Yes, such things do happen, even in our own times, someone is actually able to refuse money. It happens, yes, but about as rarely as one sees a white crow. Yet this girl was positive; she could not marry him— because he was a Protestant. And that was the end of that. She had the courage of her convictions, even to the point of sacrificing a brilliant marriage—a courage that certainly deserves our highest praise.
But someone will interject: "Protestants are not cannibals; I have found that they are sometimes far better than Catholics." That, however, is not the question. What concerns us here is not the human side of this matter, but the divine. God and His revelation must be taken seriously. But right here we have a source of discord to which we dare not blind ourselves. And then what about matters like the holy sacraments, the veneration of Mary. . . . Consider all the arguments that may arise!
When there is a disagreement in these deep and sacred matters, then there can be no peace, no tranquility of soul. Two can never be one. Saintly and ingenious men have tried for hundreds of years, to raise the rainbow of peace over such a union but without success. The bride and bridegroom may achieve some sort of peace for a time, but in the course of their married life the ghosts that were once laid aside will rise again.
With the solemn promise of the free exercise of religion and the Catholic education of the children the Church grants permission for a mixed marriage, but she is not happy about it. She grants it with a bleeding heart. The severity of the Church in olden times about mixed marriages, can be seen from the decisions of the Council of Elvira in the year 305, whereby parents, who had given their daughters in marriage to non-Christians, were condemned to do public penance for five years. Nor is the experience of centuries favorable to mixed marriages. Should anyone, however, be contemplating such a step, he should keep in mind that: 1. All the children must be raised Catholics. 2. The Catholic party must be an apostle to the non-Catholic; i. e., he must strive by his life to convince the other party of the truth of the Catholic religion, and bring about the other's conversion. 3. The non-Catholic must promise not to interfere in the free exercise of the Catholic's religion and to respect it.
Even when they try to live up sincerely to these promises, the daily grind weakens their resolutions; besides, everyone wants to have peace. The sign of the cross is omitted, holy water is used surreptitiously, shame prevents the saying of the Rosary. Finally Mass is neglected, and there is no question of confession.
Very few have recognized the difficulties and problems of a mixed marriage as did Martin Biro, Bishop of Vesprim (1696-1762) who came from a Calvinistic family. He writes: "The husband goes to one church with the boys, the wife with the girls to another. What she hears here only strengthens her inner opposition. The presence of Christ in Holy Communion is interpreted in different ways. Veneration of Mary and the saints, fasting and Friday abstinence, are points of controversy. On Fridays some of the family eat meat, some do not. There is a conflict at the birth of every child whether it is to be baptized Catholic or non-Catholic. A miserable life. Many have cursed it. I have seen the cedars of Lebanon fall and crash, will you be stronger than they?"
The famous convert Count Leopold Stolberg (1750-1819) said: "There are two kinds of people who do not wish to understand the dangers of a mixed marriage. The first has no religion, it regards one religion as good as another; and the other is the lover, who, blinded by passion, cannot and will not recognize any dangers to his soul. But to get the truth about a situation, cold reason is what is needed and not a passionate heart. And cold reason tells you that in mixed marriage, even faith will be sacrificed for the loved one. Marriage is the most important step in life; happiness and unhappiness, salvation and damnation are dependent upon it. A Christian does not take a decisive step without praying to God for light and guidance. Have you done this? In the case of a mixed marriage can you receive the sacraments—together? Can you rejoice together over the words: "Behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world?" When your beloved falls ill, will Christ remember him? How can Extreme Unction and Viaticum strengthen him? What will be the condition of his soul in that hour? Suppose you have a child at your breast, or that your boys and girls are growing up about you. Before you give them to God, will you have to argue about their souls with your husband? Will you be able to exclude your children from the Church with a quiet conscience? Can you bear to have a two-fold education in your home? Can • you teach your children to have a proper esteem and love for their Catholic faith, when you have frivolously bound yourself to a non-Catholic, who in regard to marriage holds a dangerous opinion? Suppose that according to non-Catholic belief he asks for a divorce? Then you stand alone without protection, without rights! According to the opinion of Non-Catholics, you have no right to prevent a divorce. The day may even come when he will deprive you of your children."
A Desecrated Sanctuary
The secular civil marriage is a serious and burning violation of the sacred mystery of wedlock. Civil marriage is deprived of the inexpressibly high values which an enduring and sacred marriage cannot do without: God's grace, the blessings of the Church, the thought of eternity, the strength of the sacrament, the dignity of the bride, and peace of soul. But you object that even civil marriages can be happy. Experience teaches the contrary. A woman once told a girlhood friend that she could be unspeakably happy with her husband even without the blessing of the Church. Their honeymoon would last ten years. And everybody thought this was the case, for they seemed to be congenial and get on well with each other. After a few years the two women met. The married woman threw her arms about her friend's neck and sobbed: "I have come to tell you that now at last I am unspeakably happy." She was surprised, for she had thought this to be true all along. Then came the reason: "I have been married to my husband in the Church, that is why I am so happy." When her friend reminded her that she had said she could be happy without all that magic, she answered: "If a Catholic woman, even if she has only a semblance of Catholicity left, tells you that she can be happy without confession and Communion, do not believe her. I was neither happy nor at peace for one moment. So I had to try to convince my friends to the contrary. But now I am happy."
Where the state considers something as non-existent which the Church holds as a sacred reality, there is bound to be a festering wound. Marriage cannot be regulated by state laws alone. It is more than a mere "civil affair," it is in reality an entirely sacred matter. Still, the Church makes concessions. But in so far as it is a sacrament of Christ, it may not and cannot be delivered into secular hands. When this does happen, the results are unutterably sad. The family can be happy and healthy only as long as matrimony is considered as something sacred. Civil marriage is the spawning place of divorces and childlessness.
The Torn Garment Of The Lord
The worst threat to matrimony is undoubtedly divorce. According to St. Augustine, matrimony took its origin from God; hence divorce must have come from the devil. This must be the reason why divorce always brings a host of miseries in its train. It is probably also why it was the first result of the French Revolution. The grounds for divorce vary everywhere and often it depends upon the pleasure and whim of the court, In England, adultery is the only admitted ground for divorce. In other places the grounds are many and varied. In some places, mutual consent is required; in others only one of the parties need file the suit. It is terrible in America, where a person can be a married man, a divorced man, and a murderer, all in twenty minutes time. On one occasion in France before the war, it happened that at one session of the court 294 divorces were granted.
There can be no doubt that in this matter the sense of duty and responsibility has broken down under the onrush of animal instinct, and that the law, instead of upholding justice, has disgraced itself in the role of executioner. Personal rights are wantonly sacrificed to the lower passions of the masses.
Wherever divorce is made easy, there it begins to spread. And this is to be expected. People will take more care in entering an indissoluble than a temporary marriage. There is hardly a better cement than the words: "Until death do us part,"
A divorce seriously injures the rights of the weaker parties, the wife and children.
In some circles divorce is held up as woman's door to freedom. But actually divorce makes the husband the absolute, irresponsible lord and tyrant. Man soon finds himself a place in social life, but the fate of the woman is often loneliness, abandonment, and not infrequently physical and moral ruin. Husband and wife are not to be considered equal in matrimony, nor in the matter of divorce. The man leaves the conflict free and unharmed. He can knock at the door of a new paradise, but the woman? Her fate is that of a house, an automobile, or a game of which one has grown tired. Like a plucked rose she is cast aside. Of all that she has brought into marriage, she can take away only her possessions, but her beauty, her purity, her honor are irremediably lost. A rational woman can uphold only an indissoluble marriage. It is the strong fortress for the weak, it is the impregnable bulwark of woman's dignity.
But suppose the woman is at fault? Strindberg rather bitterly says: "A disloyal adulteress is far worse than a lewd woman, for she kills her husband and undermines the future of her children. An adulterous woman is no longer wife, for she has lost all sense of noble womanliness, there is in her no longer any sign of godliness. She is merely a creature of instinct."
And the child? The natural law demands that father and mother remain together in the interest of the child, to give it a good education. Only spiritual accord and undisturbed harmony between the parents can be a blessing for the child. But when the disturbing sparks of wrangling and altercation disturb their lives and the child takes notice, then all parental authority is gone. And if, in such a case the child is shown extreme tenderness by one, then the other parent's authority must suffer in consequence. The child learns things that it should never have known. It becomes the sad messenger between disgruntled parents. How can such a child grow up in obedience, in faith and reverence? If Baudelaire considers it treachery toward the child when a widow marries again, what then shall we say about divorce! Precisely when it is most needed, the love for the child grows cold. Nothing but a half portion of love is given the child who is yearning for more and more love. An animal is incapable of relinquishing its offspring. It is related that when Torquato Tasso was an infant, he was torn from his mother's arms; as a result, the mother died. But to our modern divorcees, a child means nothing.
But the juvenile courts cry out against such inhumanity. They tell us that seventy-five per cent of all juvenile delinquents come from divorced homes. It is quite plain why Pope Pius XI, after enumerating all the arguments of the world in favor of divorce, brands them as folly. With prophetic insight he denounces the false oaths made before the altar by those seeking divorce. The matrimonial contract, at the very moment of its ratification, produces an eternal, divine, indissoluble bond which no power on earth can dissolve. He before Whom every knee must bend in heaven, on earth and under the earth, has said: "What God hath joined together, let no man tear asunder." If rulers actually had the welfare of the state in mind, they could learn from the Church how to safeguard matrimony. For instance, in the year 1932, seventy-six divorce cases came before the diocesan matrimonial court of Gran, a small city in Hungary. Seven of these were thrown out at once as unfounded. Of thirty-two cases involving invalidity, twenty-two were declared valid, and nine invalid, because it was clear they had been entered under grave fear. Sixteen cases were appealed to the Primate, and seven of these were rejected as valid.
The Church ignores the selfish passions of man and holds fast to the words of the Gospel. She stands steadfast in defence of the inalienable rights of a marriage validly entered. Without fear or favor Nicholas I resisted the Emperor Lothar, Urban II and Pascal II opposed King Philip I of France, Clement VII and Paul IV withstood the desires of the English King, Henry VIII, and finally we find Pius VII bravely facing the world conqueror Napoleon. The Church has rendered an inestimable service to mankind by upholding the indissolubility of marriage.
But the State has brought mankind to the very edge of ruin by its practice of granting divorces right and left. This relaxing of the marriage bond has thrown wide the doors to immorality in other fields. Unselfish service to others has become a thing of the past. The accepted principle now seems to be: every man for himself, take anything you can lay your hands on. Covetousness, greed and lust now form the background of a world gone faithless. Life proves Prohaszka to be right when he says: "Divorce leads nations to spiritual tuberculosis and finally death." Bangha expresses it in even stronger terms: "He who attacks the indissolubility of marriage and subordinates it to a frivolous, adulterous, 'free' love or even to financial consideration, and so relaxes the family ties, is a traitor to the nation." When civil marriage was introduced into Hungary, Count Ferdinand Zichy said: "This is poor statesmanship indeed." The wife, the child and the real welfare of the nation can never countenance divorce.
The homely, incorruptible sentiment of the people is also opposed to divorce. Even in our times there are thousands of unspoiled people who still believe the words of the Book of Ruth: "Whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go." Many, many families enjoyed peace and happiness until the time when they lost their faith and matrimony was no longer sacred to them.
Divorce is therefore the great enemy of the family and of the nation. It brings about a revolution which stifles everything sacred. Thoughtful men can only judge the matter as did a certain Dr. Romm. One day a woman entered his office. She complained that her husband was a confirmed drunkard, and she asked for a divorce. He answered her: "If your sister came to you with such a complaint you would probably say to her: 'You belong with your husband and child.' "
Even the pagan pygmies practice monogamy in spite of their primitive culture. For only he has truly loved who has loved but once. The heroic courage and readiness of man to make sacrifices, and the silent loyalty and humble service of woman have their source in monogamy. In an indissoluble, sacred marriage, the mother is the heart of the family; she is queen in the realm of love. Her love of family is comparable to the all-embracing love of Holy Mother the Church. The life of the family consists in its oneness: one in hope and fear, one in laughter and weeping, one in honor and disgrace, one in riches and poverty, one in blessings and misfortunes, one single heart and one single happiness. What a sacred twosomeness of love!
Till Death Do Us Part
Death alone can break the bond of matrimony. The children should never be obliged to witness their own mother rejected and a "substitute mother" put in her place. The renowned cavalry general, De Sonis, thanked God as the One Who had linked him and his family together, for they were one heart and one soul, inexpressibly happy. The Honved General, Mikios Perczel, had these words inscribed on the tombstone of his wife: "You have kept your word. You were true to me until death. You have stood at my side during a life full of adversities." She had followed her husband into exile to Turkey, to France, to the Isle of Jersey, to America. Galsworthy became a writer only for the love of his wife. The Emperor Ferdinand I had fifteen children by his wife Anna. After her death he permitted his beard to grow as a sign of his great grief. Count Karoly Sandor refused to marry again after his wife's death, because he did not believe he could find another equal to her. The wife of Mr. Strauss gave a remarkable proof of her love and fidelity at the sinking of the Titanic. The boats had been prepared for women and children, the men were to fare for themselves. But Mrs. Strauss exclaimed: "We have had a long life of trouble and adversity, fighting side by side; we suffered together in need, we enjoyed happiness with one another, so we must die together." The husband embraced and thanked his brave wife. Such must true love be, one and eternal.
The wife of a banker wrote to me about her husband and children in 1939: "I thank God every day for the great happiness and undeserved grace which He has granted me in my husband and children."
Everyone who is the offspring of a Christian marriage should kneel down in gratitude to God; he should kneel in perpetual thanks for the happiness of soul granted him by God. When the root is sacred, so too will be the branches. The soundness of the whole tree, branches and fruit, is dependent on the root. As the marriage is, so will be the family, the state and the whole people. The love we bear our country and its people should teach us to appreciate and defend the ideal of a holy marriage contracted at the altar in the presence of God. He who truly loves his country will rise up against every separation and rending apart of that sacred tie which God has made indissoluble. Husband and wife are bound together indissolubly in a sacred twosome by the words "I will." It is their task to make this union a sacred twosome in the sight of God.
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