Preparing for Marriage

by Unknown


This is a beautifully written guide to a successful Catholic marriage. The author tells what to expect when entering into marriage, warns of different problems, which may arise, and offers suggestions on how to prevent or correct them should they occur.

Publisher & Date

Original, June 5, 2000

Mother Teresa To Young People

You are the future of family life.
You are the future of the joy of loving.
You are the future of making your life something beautiful for God . . . a pure love.
That you love a girl or that you love a boy is beautiful, but don't spoil it, don't destroy it.
Keep it pure . . . Keep your heart virgin.
Keep your love virgin, so that on the day of your marriage you can give something beautiful to each other . . . the joy of a pure love.

Table Of Contents


What To Expect
Are You Ready?
The Dating Period
Your Wedding Day
The Wedding Night

Chapter 1: The Ten Commandments Of Communication

Introduction: The Problem
The Solution

Chapter 2: Family Living: Home, Parents, And Children

Chapter 3: Spirituality: Putting A Tiger In Your Tank

Chapter 4: Catholic Sexual Ethics


Appendix A— The Case For Papal Teaching Authority

Appendix B— Biblical Quotations On Sex And Marriage

Appendix C— More On Marriage

Appendix D— Holy Communion

Appendix E— Penance Or The Sacrament Of Reconciliation

Appendix F— Bearing Witness To One’s Faith

Appendix G— Heaven And Hell Mentioned In The Bible

Appendix H— Roman And Jewish Evidence For Christ’s Existence And The Authenticity Of His Claim To Be The Messiah

Appendix I— Scriptural Basis For The Other Sacraments


What To Expect

So you are planning to get married! God bless you. At its best, marriage will help you to realize your full potential as a human being. Not only will it open the door to the kind of happiness God intended for you here on earth. It will also bring you, at the end of your life, to God’s saving mercy. It is consoling to know, too, that if we try with all our strength to live up to the solemn vows of matrimony, we can count on having a powerful ally at our side for the rest of our days, none other than the Lord Himself!

The other side of the coin is that marriage is as challenging as life itself. It demands of us that we possess the desire and the will to grow as people. Those who are looking, first and foremost, for what they can "get" out of marriage are in for a big disappointment. In the sense that true love means giving, rather than grabbing, we must be ready to sacrifice for the good of our partner instead of using him or her for our own selfish ends. Beyond this, we must view marriage as nothing less than a vocational call to greatness.

For a marriage to be ideal it must result in the fusing of two distinct lives and personalities; and for this to happen, the people involved must be compatible. A wise man once put it this way: "Getting married means giving half your soul to your spouse and receiving in return the other’s half. If both halves complement each other, what heaven it shall be! But if they do not, what hell shall be suffered! For whereas before we had two complete lives, now we have two broken and shattered halves. Let those in love, therefore, take careful stock of the soul they surrender as well as of the soul surrendered to them."

All around us, of course, we are bombarded by advice of a very different kind, and with results that are hardly surprising. Ours is an age in which the statistics on abortion, venereal disease, teenage suicide, and divorce are sky high and climbing. At least one marriage out of every two crashes, and among the rest it is safe to say that there is a high incidence of unhappiness. At the same time, this very society, which has proven itself such a failure when it comes to sexual adjustment, continues to palm off its trendy wisdom on millions of young people who crave a "modern lifestyle." Think about it. If there were a village somewhere in the world with a life expectancy of twenty-three and where four out of six infants died before reaching the age of five, would you want to adopt its diet and imitate its customs?

If you believe it makes any sense in a culture such as ours to attempt to be "one of the crowd," then this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you are open to a code of sexual behavior with a proven track record, one that is perfectly capable of serving us in the present age then read on. We cannot say that, "everyone's doing it." But then you are not "everyone." Hopefully, you will have second thoughts before setting yourself up for a life of disillusionment, which seems to be more and more the common lot.

Are You Ready?

Now is a good time to ask yourself in all seriousness whether the marriage you are contemplating is really right for you and your fiancé. Better to sever ten engagements than to rush into a marriage that would be ill advised. Doubtless you have dated a number of different individuals along the way. Although this is not absolutely necessary — those who marry the first person they meet can sometimes hit the jackpot — it serves a useful purpose because it instills a sense of values. Would you want to buy the first house you were shown by a real estate broker? A good way of becoming aware of differences is to get to know people from diverse backgrounds.

Presumably, too, you have chosen your prospective partner for the right reasons: both of you have the same goals in life and similar ideals. Infatuation based on the glamour of a few dates or on sheer physical attraction is bound to fade. If you are sensible, you are not marrying simply to please your parents either, or to gain financial security. Neither are you undertaking a life-long commitment merely to raise your social status or to satisfy some biological urge. Not that there is anything wrong with these motives as far as they go, but none of them in isolation will be sufficient to carry you through the many trials and tribulations that lie ahead. It goes without saying that you have considered the religious life as well as a chaste single life as alternatives to marriage. Only if you have decided, after prayerful reflection, that marriage is the way God is calling you and your mate to fulfill your mission in life, which is to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him, are you free in good conscience to go ahead with your marriage plans.

Finally, you should be open to the possibility of having children, barring grave difficulties. If you do not want children, if you do not regard them as a gift from God, or if you are presently unable to support a family financially, it would be wise to postpone the marriage until such time as your disposition changes and you possess the requisite means.

The Dating Period

The period preceding engagement is a time to get to know one another. This means talking quietly and at length from time to time without special entertainment. It also means introducing your date to friends and relatives to see how they interact. It is a time to test yourself and your prospective partner by going out with others and perhaps allowing some time to elapse without seeing one another. Should you, for example, decide to take a trip on your own, this will serve as an indication of how much you miss the other person. Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Or does your affection tend to wane?


Engagement, because it involves "going steady," is the first test of a fidelity that will prove vital to your marriage. He should not be eyeing other women or injecting them obtrusively into the conversation. She should not be flirting with other men. Neither one should be playing hard to get.

Engagement is most emphatically not a time to take physical liberties and assume the kind of intimacy that is reserved for marriage. Prolonged kissing, petting, hugging, and necking that deliberately arouses feelings of sexual passion should be shunned as an occasion of sin. This may sound a bit tough, but no amount of caution in this area is excessive if one wishes to obey God's law and lay the best possible foundation for marriage. It is really a test of your love. If a couple has engaged in sexual intercourse prior to marriage or if the parties are living together, they should call a halt, go to confession, and do whatever penance is prescribed by the priest. In this way, they will start off with a clean slate and be leading one another in the direction they want to go. "Fornication," the name given by the Bible to premarital sex, has always been regarded as a grievous offense against God as well as against the virtue and honor of the person to whom one may be engaged. But there is more to it than this. On the secular level, the parties are not only laying themselves open to serious disappointment — by one recent estimate, 75% of those who live together before marriage never make it to the altar and of those who do, the divorce rate is significantly higher than it is for other couples — they are also putting whatever children may be born of such a union at grave risk.{1} In other words, apart from the sanction upheld by every major religion, common sense alone would dictate the avoidance of a sin which, in the view of trained psychologists, is likely to leave deep personal scars. Once you have given yourself totally to another human being, it is doubtful that you will ever be able to do so again, certainly not in the same way or with the same integrity.

Traditionally, the color worn by the bride is white because it symbolizes virginity, just as a diamond, the symbol of eternity, is usually chosen for the engagement ring. Unfortunately, with the rate of pre-marital intercourse running as high as the divorce rate in some quarters, the white and the diamond may be inappropriate unless some kind of remedial action is taken before marriage to ensure that the man and woman are being honest with themselves, with society, and with their Maker. With a sincere desire for God's forgiveness and a firm purpose of amendment, any couple can receive the sacrament of matrimony worthily. The Lord is unfailingly kind and compassionate. However, He also expects three very definite things from us if we have sinned: contrition, confession, and penance.

Is it easy to take the high road in such a matter? Obviously not, if it were, nearly everyone would be doing it. It requires self-mastery to practice chastity, especially during one's engagement. This, in fact, is why long engagements are not usually recommended. But with God's help all things are possible, and if, for some reason, the kind of restraint to which we are referring seems beyond reach, you have reason to be concerned about the future, for if there is anything the married state requires it is a wholesome discipline. Without this, one is only leading oneself and one's fiancé down the primrose path.

Engagement is also a time to draw closer to God, the ultimate source of all our happiness and security. If possible, seek to make this a joint venture. Arrange to receive the sacraments as a couple if you can, and begin praying together. This will make it that much easier to remain blameless. It will also pave the way for the kind of relationship you hope to establish later on. Perhaps, too, one or both of you will write a wedding prayer that can be recited down through the crowded years of your life together and that will evoke fond memories of a glorious day. You might decide to attend an extra weekday Mass, particularly if you live or work in a large city with many churches and where Masses are frequent. You might also spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament. Then, too, you may want to consider reading the Bible with your fiancé or joining a group at your church. Would the daily rosary fit into your schedule as you ride the bus or cool your heels outside someone's office. Have you taken time for a weekend retreat or day of recollection? Do you regularly pray for your future spouse? Would it be too much to take on an extra bit of fasting not connected with physical health or dieting?

Naturally, engagement is also a time to make wedding plans, a time to take stock of finances and to think seriously about what will be needed to maintain a home and whatever children God may send you. Generally speaking, it is not a good thing to start life together under someone else's roof, well intentioned as that individual may be. Nor is it advisable to enter marriage under a heavy load of financial obligation. A fair number of divorce cases involve people who are head over heels in debt. When one of my wife's college friends suddenly decided to postpone her marriage, originally scheduled immediately after graduation, all of her friends were shocked, wondering if the relationship had soured. They were even more astounded when she announced that because she and her fiancé could not afford children, they were not going to marry until they could, and hence the postponement. Today this same woman is happily married!

Finally, engagement is a time to take one last look at one another and to make doubly sure that there are no impediments to the marriage (see appendix C). If, at any point up until the last moment, you sense that something may be seriously wrong, you are morally free, indeed morally bound, to terminate your relationship. A certain amount of nervousness and anxiety is normal on the eve of such a mind-boggling event. But if, five minutes before you take your vows, you have second thoughts, it is better to be safe than eternally sorry, with all the disappointment and embarrassment this may entail for you and your family. Parents, for their part, have a responsibility to make this clear to their children regardless of how many plans they may have made or how much money they may have spent. Too much is at stake here for too many people to be anything but prudent. Furthermore, if you and your partner are really right for one another, nothing in the world will ever come between you. If you have to wait, then you will wait; if you have to reconsider, then you will reconsider, for in the long run, true love will find a way of overcoming all obstacles.

Your Wedding Day

There are many ways of preparing for the big day. One of them is to be certain you are spiritually "fit." Praying for God's guidance, along with confession and frequent reception of Communion will do wonders. Needless to say, you will want to go over your wedding ceremony with the clergyman who is going to officiate, and, if at all possible, you will request a nuptial Mass as part of the ceremony so that you and your spouse can receive the Holy Eucharist in the company of any wedding guests who may be eligible. There is usually a choice of prayers for the wedding ceremony, as well as different readings that can be selected for the Mass, and you may wish to express a preference along this line when you speak with the priest. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the form of the ceremony, you will want to spend some time preparing for your role as host and hostess. Appropriately enough, bride and groom are called upon in the first act of their married life to reach out to others. Some of your guests may have come from far away at considerable expense. It is therefore incumbent upon you to do all you can to make them feel welcome. Try to find a moment or two for each one of them. Have a few special words on tap and think of a gracious way to thank them for their presence and support. Needless to say, it would be helpful to learn something in advance about the guests whom you may not know personally.

The Wedding Night

With all that it takes to carry off a wedding reception, bride and groom may wind up exhausted by the end of the day, especially the bride who normally bears the main burden of responsibility. The first night is not, for this reason, a good time to put pressure of any kind on one another. The more sensitive the groom is in this respect, the more he will merit the confidence and respect of his spouse and the greater the chance for a happy honeymoon. Not every couple can afford an exotic trip abroad, but it is highly recommended that you do get away to a place that will afford some privacy, even if only for a few days. It will allow you to relax and savor the exhilaration of your new relationship. Although most of us have heard about harrowing honeymoons, this happens only to those who are expecting too much. If you are intent upon expressing your love in the tenderest and most considerate way possible, you will never be disappointed. It is only when a couple expects the lights to start flashing and the most intimate aspects of their relationship to mesh perfectly the instant they come together that there is apt to be trouble.

One might compare the physiological side of marriage to a flower that takes time for all of its radiant petals to unfold. Certain forms of satisfaction may elude you for months, perhaps years. Worry not. Just remember that the marriage act is only one of a great many ways in which you will be able to express yourself. If you are truly in love, you will bear with any delays and setbacks confident that in the long run, the solicitude that you demonstrate for the feelings of your mate will yield rich fruit. True love seeks intimacy in countless different ways, and when this is the case, the sexual element has a way of falling into line. There is bound to be a certain amount of trial and error. But whatever you do, never lose your sense of humor. There are plenty of ridiculous aspects to the art of becoming one flesh! So enjoy a hearty laugh now and then. You will find that it does wonders to release tension and put things in proper perspective.

Chapter 1: Communication

Introduction: The Problem

Who is not familiar with the soap opera stereotype of an unhappy marriage? Hubbie hides behind his newspaper when he is not either glued to the tube or out drinking with the boys. His wife, for her part, runs a chaotic household and spends much of her time on the phone with a girlfriend or one of the relatives. At the dinner table, neither party has much to say since he takes little interest in her problems while she couldn’t care less about the things that occupy him at work. When they do converse, there is more by way of criticism than positive reinforcement. So the conversation sputters along in dribs and drabs, directed mainly at the children.

Marriage counselors will recognize instantly in the above situation many of the elements of a typical communication breakdown. Such breakdowns affect a broad cross section of society and because they are one of the main signs of marital distress, often a prelude to serious trouble, it pays to look closely at some of the reasons for them, as well as some of the remedies.

The experts tell us that a partnership normally goes through three stages: (1) romance, (2) disillusionment, and (3) either a breakthrough to true love, which comes with patience and perseverance, or loneliness, distance and pain. It is the third phase that is critical, but its outcome is apt to depend on our understanding of stage #2. A word, therefore, about the reasons for disillusionment before dealing directly with communication.

Disillusionment can occur for a variety of reasons. Husband and wife often find themselves hard pressed merely to adjust to the pressures of the real world. Their problems on the personal level may have nothing to do with the choice of a mate. Yet the mate is singled out for blame. There may also be a gap between what is expected from marriage and what marriage as an institution is capable of delivering. Although people faced with difficulties in their relationship tend to believe that the fault lies with their partner, it can be shown statistically that second marriages have less of a chance of succeeding than first marriages. Some would be less guilt-ridden and more understanding of their mates if they took to heart the simple truth that none of us is sufficiently equipped to guarantee the happiness of our partner. This is something only God Himself can do. There will be periods of estrangement in the happiest homes, times when one or both spouses may feel dejected and misunderstood. There will also be intervals when even the best husbands and wives will drive everyone, including themselves, up the wall

Still another reason for disillusionment is that bride and groom may discover, once the knot is tied, that they have little in common. Consider one possible scenario. Boy meets girl on a ski trip. The two decide to get married on the basis of some fun they had together on the slopes. But neither realizes that once they are married there may not be any more ski trips, at least not for a while. Budgets can be grimly uncompromising. Then, too, a disproportionate amount of the couple's attention during the dating phase may have been focused on how to obtain parental consent, not to mention preparations for the marriage itself. Perhaps, little time was spent discussing ideals. Then, after all has fallen into place, these same people who were kept busy with romantic plans and strategies, find themselves with few, if any, interests that can be shared, much less common goals on which to base their life together. The story is so familiar that it became an instant hit when made into an off-Broadway play, The Fantastics.

Granted, if bride and groom take their vows in good faith and with a rock-solid determination to go the distance, they will eventually build a stable relationship. But the going will be that much more difficult if they base their selection of a mate on shaky ground. Marriage is forever, and "forever" can be a long, long time. You've probably heard the story of the couple that went from showroom to showroom looking at brand-new automobiles. After inspecting all of the models with elaborate care, the husband still could not make up his mind. "My, how you've changed," exclaimed his wife, "you married me three weeks after you saw me." "Listen," he replied impatiently, "buying a car is serious business!"

A fourth factor which may help to explain why the roof often falls in once a man and woman settle down is the effect that relaxation can have on our best behavior. Where once we tried to look our most attractive, we now feel we can "let our hair down." Where, as dates, we were sensitive, courteous, and attentive, all of a sudden we find ourselves taking one another for granted. Faults, once hidden, begin to surface under the strain of budgeting and home ownership. There is the need to adjust sexually and to adapt to in-laws. There is likewise the anxiety growing out of the need to hold down a job that overnight becomes vital to one's security. Equally to the point, a couple will probably find that hard as they may try, they have less time for one another than before the wedding. Further, their salary may not allow for the kind of diversion and the type of wardrobe they took for granted. All at once they must make decisions that are potentially divisive, and if they are not careful, they gradually lose touch with the frustrations building up in one another. Fears, hopes, and desires go unexpressed amid mounting tension.

The Solution

There are a number of ways in which you can work to keep your relationship from cooling. Universally accepted as helpful by partners who have made a success of their marriage, they may be simply stated as the Ten Commandments of Communication.

Commandment #1: Make time for one another every single day. Be ruthless about finding a segment of every day when you can relax with your partner and unwind. It could be half an hour early in the morning before the children are up. It could be an hour in the evening after the kids are asleep. But it should be an interval you can count on.

Commandment #2: Make a conscious effort to communicate every day and never give up. Learn to ask questions and never take anything for granted. In business, the boss is always checking to make sure the secretary understands what needs to be done in such and such a situation. The attitude is one of "give me a buzz if there are any questions." Marriage partners should be continually saying the same thing, anxious to know "how am I doing?" There may be virtue in the "strong, silent type," but such virtue lies in the strength, not the silence. If one partner is reticent by nature, the other should not lose heart. Learn to discuss all aspects of your life as a couple, including the sexual component, for if you cannot deal with matters of delicacy, it will be hard to please your mate to the fullest extent. If you find such communication difficult, then pray about it. With genuine effort on your part, it will come.

Learn to listen so that your mate will want to confide in you, and don't get angry or upset at what you hear. Never say, "I told you so," and don't interrupt. Good listening is an art that needs to be cultivated.

Be patient in drawing the other person out. Some people may want to chat only after an interval of silence. There may be times, too, when your spouse will be talked out. Perhaps, then, you could go for a quiet walk. One thing that should never be done is to "dump" on a mate the moment he or she arrives home from a hard day's work. Give your spouse time to wash up, have a drink, and look at the mail. Later, when the time is ripe, you will want to make a definite point of catching up on the latest in your separate spheres of work (unless, of course, you are a CIA agent). But while being inquisitive, try not to overstep the boundary beyond which your questions might be interpreted as prying, and if the going gets rough, explain to your partner the importance of communication. Keep trying! If there is something about the way your spouse responds that irritates you, don't hesitate to say so. But choose a good time and soften the blow, if you can, by adding some words of loving appreciation. We all need to be encouraged. In return, learn to take criticism, even to ask for it on occasion, and don't be afraid to say, "I'm sorry." This is one phrase that can rarely be overdone.

Instead of asking directly for certain favors, you might write them down in the form of a "love note" that can be read and acted upon when convenient. It is never wise to burden one another more than you have to. Basically, this counsel, like so many others, comes down to a matter of tact and forbearance. If, for example, your mate spends time and effort planning a family excursion to the Grand Canyon, it would probably be inadvisable while the trip is in progress to confess a life-long desire to tour the Orient. Similarly, the time to say that you would like a chocolate cake is not just as your better half emerges from the kitchen with a freshly baked pie.

Finally, learn to express gratitude for the little things as well as the big ones. Chances are that if you give thanks and praise ten times for every request or criticism, the ratio will be about right. Did he do a good job on the driving? Then acknowledge it. Did she put together an especially beautiful floral arrangement? Then by all means notice it.

Commandment #3: Do whatever it takes to keep the dating spirit alive. A husband celebrating his golden wedding anniversary was asked, "Bill, just how did you two get along so well for so long?" "Well," answered Bill, "I treat her with a firm hand." "What do you mean 'firm hand'?" "Well," continued Bill, "I give her flowers with a firm right hand and box of candy with a firm left hand." Marriage, like courtship, thrives on voluntary attentions. A rose wrapped in baby's breath that the husband brings home unexpectedly with a card saying, "I love you more and more every day" is bound to mean an awful lot. Likewise a phone call from work saying "I miss you" or an affectionate love note slipped surreptitiously into the family mailbox. A special dish or, if time permits, a special meal, would make a nice surprise as well.

There is the story of a rather shy bride who whispered to her husband on entering a hotel, "Let's act as if we've been married a long time." "All right," he replied, "think you can carry both of these suitcases?" Trying to please one another in little things means courtesy and consideration. If, while dating, the man was polished enough to pause, before starting a meal so that his fiancée could be the first to raise her fork; if, in addition, he held her coat for her, helped her into automobiles, or walked on the curbside of the street when escorting her, then he should do the same as a husband. Similarly, if she deferred to him in public and took pains to look her best, she would do well to keep it up after the marriage. St. Paul said that wives should be submissive toward their husbands, and there is a kind of loving respect that is doubtless healthy, as well as natural, on the part of a wife. At the same time, Paul laid equal stress on the idea that husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies and as Christ loves His Church. Marriage thrives on husbandly, as well as wifely, deference. For the man, it might mean baby-sitting while she goes to a club meeting or drying the dishes when he would prefer to be watching a ball game on TV. Whatever the case, if each party tries as a matter of course to make things easier and more pleasant for the other, volunteering on occasion to take care of unpleasant chores (even arguing for the privilege!), there is little danger of a communication breakdown. Each should strive to give the other the better portion in life.

Bear in mind, too, that there is much to be said for planning some sort of regular "date." Stealing away for a meal together (even if only to McDonald's), going for a stroll, or taking a drive will do wonders to keep the dating spirit alive. If there are children at home and you choose not to hire a baby sitter, you might pick up some deli sandwiches so that you can curl up to watch a TV program after the kids are safely tucked away. Whatever you do, the idea is to make the moments you spend together as memorable and as pleasant as possible.

Finally, beware of pushing role-reversal too far. While it is true that husbands and wives are capable of doing many of the things traditionally reserved for the opposite sex, and doing them well, there is always the chance, in an age of accelerated social change, that one will lean too far in this direction. Don't be afraid to adopt a lifestyle different from that of your parents and grandparents. But do not hesitate to backtrack. One or the other partner, perhaps both, may begin to feel uneasy. Talk it over. She may say she does not mind going to a filling station with the car, and he may say that he does not mind cooking. Both may be sincere. Yet within a short while, both may yearn inwardly for a more conventional pattern. If you should sense this to be the case, it would be the better part of valor to yield. Tradition did not become tradition by accident.

Commandment #4: Try to cultivate leisure-time activities that bring you together. In my own case, I loved to play bridge before I was married. Since my wife, Sylvia, knew nothing about the game, she took lessons. Eventually, though, she decided that bridge was not the game for her, and so we shifted to something we could enjoy together. By the same token, we both used to enjoy a brisk game of tennis with partners of our own speed and ability. Today, we would much rather spend the time that we have away from our work rallying with one another. This eliminates the element of competition, but it affords a deeper feeling of satisfaction. Occasionally, a couple will take up an entirely new hobby in order to strengthen the marriage and keep the family together.

Commandment #5: Fights and squabbles may be a part of every marriage, but they should be kept within bounds. Frequent skirmishes are often the result of a communication breakdown, which, in turn, could signal an impending collapse of the marriage. They are apt to occur over relatively minor things, and sometimes a clearing of the air can be healthy. At the same time, loud disagreements tend to be destructive as well as exhausting. They are also likely to demoralize the children. Try, in the first place, to stay away from sensitive subjects such as in-laws. To be sure, it is better to keep the lines of communication open and to confront prickly topics than not to communicate at all. But retreat when you sense a storm brewing, and if lightning strikes, don't strike back. If a conversation reaches the boiling point, better to change the subject than go on, especially if you do not seem to be getting anywhere. Avoid bruising your partner by calling him or her names and leveling charges that you may later regret. If you wound your mate's feelings, even if unintentionally, be quick to make up. St. Paul tells us never to let the sun go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26). Never go to bed without a kiss, however perfunctory, and a sincere apology. Even if you think you are in the right, you can always say, "I'm sorry if I've hurt your feelings; I didn't mean to." This, coupled with a willingness to postpone reconciliation, could well spare you a bitter confrontation.

Another point to bear in mind: don't allow a minor tiff, or even a major one, to push you to the point of pouting or withholding affection. Be the first to say you are sorry, and if your spouse does so before you do, respond graciously. Christ was once asked how often one should forgive. "Seven times?" asked Peter. "No," said the Lord, "seventy times seven!" (Mt. 18:21-22). Once you have forgiven, do all you can to forget. There is an old story about two men who enjoyed discussing their wives. One of them remarked that he loved his wife very much, but every time they got into an argument, she became "historical." "You mean hysterical," said the other. "No, historical," insisted the first, "she keeps bringing up the past."

Commandment #6: Keep confidences confidential. The best way to shut down the communication process is to reveal family secrets. Never permit private matters to get beyond the four walls of your home. Some will say in self-defense that they are only confiding in "best friends." But once you are married, you have only one "best friend," your spouse. If you want access to your mate's deepest feelings, learn to be discrete. Do not complain, especially to relatives. There is also a simple rule for evaluating friends: true friendship will cause you to feel satisfied, rather than dissatisfied, with your home life. Never reminisce about old flames. What is past is past and it should be buried, once and for all. Authentic love is bound to be jealous, sensing correctly that there may be some competition out there. It is not a good idea, therefore, to confess temptations against the Sixth Commandment to your mate. Should such temptations arise, treat them with the contempt they deserve. If a person of the opposite sex begins to attract you in a serious sort of way, avoid that person and you'll be amazed at how quickly the temptation disappears. At the very least, do not confide in that person or even give the impression of doing do. Try, at the same time, to be conscious of who is seen with you in public. Appearances are important. You may not be doing anything technically wrong, but there are always people around who will talk, and such talk is likely to spread. It may get back to your partner in a highly embroidered form. There is a joke about a father who went away on a business trip. While he was gone, his little daughter got to sleep with her Mommy. On his return, when mother and daughter met him at the airport, the first thing the little one blurted out, in a voice that could be heard for miles around, was "Daddy, guess who slept with Mommy while you were gone?" Often, there is no way to keep neighborhood tongues from wagging. Let them wag. But be sure to keep your eyes under control and your heart under lock and key, striving at all times for a loyalty that is 100%.

Commandment #7: Use sex for the purpose intended by God. At its best, marital intercourse can be an extraordinarily beautiful way of saying; "I love you." At its worst, it will mean exactly the opposite. One hears a good deal of talk these days about "having sex." Nothing could be farther from the truth, for if the procreative act is anything, it is an act of GIVING. Indeed, because it can convey the tenderest of messages in the tenderest of ways, it is one of the most effective forms of communication. But the message will be distorted, if not lost altogether, if too much emphasis is placed on the physical.

Commandment #8:Give your mate the benefit of the doubt. Try not to be suspicious, and bend over backwards to avoid "fault-finding". In one particular home the husband had a habit of forgetting to put the cap back on his toothpaste after he brushed. Time and again, his wife would remind him; time and again, he would forget. Finally, one morning, his wife awoke to find the tube perfectly capped — he had mended his ways! But her first question was, "honey, how come you aren't brushing your teeth anymore?" None of us likes to be second-guessed. As for fault- finding, there are any number of things in the course of a marriage that might raise a person's hackles. Take, for example, a miscarriage, something that can occur under the best circumstances and in spite of every reasonable precaution. Or how would you react in the case of a failure to conceive? Often enough, this is due to some deficiency on the part of the wife, but it can also be traced to the husband in certain instances. No matter. There should never be the slightest trace of guilt or recrimination. Even in situations where someone is clearly at fault, a loving partner will respond lovingly. It is this kind of redemptive love that St. Paul had in mind when he wrote that, "love is patient and kind . . . [it] bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Commandment #9: Learn to adapt. Because marriage involves two separate personalities drawn from distinct backgrounds, you will notice shades of difference on every conceivable level. The more alike a couple is in overall values, the less room for tension and the smoother the adjustment. But even in the most ideal union, one partner or the other is going to be more gregarious, more practical, or more refined in this or that taste. One or the other will be more athletic or more artistic. This is why the motto, "bear and forebear" makes so much sense. There is a constant need in every marriage to hone the skills of conciliation, which, in turn, require communication. Take, for example, something as simple as the evening meal. Let us say that he is always watching TV or tinkering with his car when she calls him to dinner and that it takes at least five minutes for him to finally come to the table. Rather than complaining, a prudent wife will choose a good time to discuss the problem with her husband. They may then decide that she will serve her summons five minutes earlier with a "honey, dinner will be ready in five minutes" while he, for his part, will make an extra effort to pry himself loose without further ado.

Another rule of thumb is to make a practice of "giving in" or yielding in matters of personal preference, especially when your mate appears to feel more strongly than you do about some particular point. Here again, though, you won't be able to judge the relative strength of the feelings involved unless you communicate. Let us assume, for example, that after lovemaking a husband's mood tends to shift abruptly and that his wife, who is slower to disengage once engaged, feels abandoned. Optimally, she will confide in him and he will accommodate her. In another type of situation, it may be that the wife, who was schooled by her family to conduct lengthy post-mortems after every social event, discovers that her husband feels ill at ease raking his company over the coals the moment the party is over. So he broaches the subject to her when she is in a receptive mood and if she sees that her feelings run less deeply than his, she will act accordingly. In a similar scenario, the husband may be the type who was taught to verbalize disagreements and talk everything out on the spot while his wife may be accustomed to letting a good deal go and to warding off confrontation. Hopefully, Mr. "Settle it right away" will demonstrate a willingness to defer the moment of truth while Mrs. "Talk-about-it-later" will try to resolve more issues directly.

Commandment #10: Try to give yourself 100% and never give up, always bearing in mind your final destination. Chances are that if you treat your marriage as the most important thing in your life next to your relationship with God, it will not only survive, but prosper. Storms there will be, along with periods of aridity. You may be faced with a rash of catastrophes when God may seem to be looking the other way. Whatever happens, though, it is worth recalling that conjugal love is not a feeling that comes and goes depending upon one's mood but rather a life-long commitment which, like fine wine, will improve with age, given the proper care. It has been justly said that, "love is what you've been through together." In other words, perseverance is nine tenths of the battle. Remember, too, that if you and your spouse seek to be good friends, you will be good lovers as well.

Pray that each crisis and each disagreement will only serve to bring you closer to one another and that you will be that much better as a team for having braved the winds of adversity. Above all, count your blessings Make a list of them from time to time when you are tempted to look on the darker side of things. Then, too, jot down some of the things you plan to do when you get to heaven! This is one of many ways of keeping your sights fixed on the ultimate goal.

Chapter 2: Family Living

Just as every person is unique, so too is every family. The home that you make for yourselves and for your children may differ in unexpected ways from the one in which you grew up. The tendency is to want to duplicate one's childhood experience down to the last detail. A man may have had a mother who was fastidious about turning back his sheets every night and folding his bedspread. Now that he is married, he finds that his wife's strengths lie elsewhere. In the same way, the wife's father may have been diligent about keeping his car clean and fixing anything that went wrong around the house. Now she's married to a man who lets the car go for weeks without a wash; contractors must be called in for minor repairs; the bills begin to mount. Her husband has talents of his own, but she can't help missing that paternal touch. When she asks him to take out the garbage, he hesitates—his mother never put Dad to work in this way. And when he requests that dinner be served at 6 P.M., the hour to which he is accustomed, she balks. Her family never sat down until 7:30. On top of this, she is a night owl who retires at 2 A.M. while he collapses in a heap at 10 P.M. but is up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 A.M.

A thousand and one situations of this kind, all seemingly petty, are likely to crop up in the early months of marriage, and the future of the partnership often depends on how smoothly one can make the necessary adjustments. As indicated in chapter 1, the first rule is to be frank about one's feelings while at the same time trying to go the extra mile. Unless there is some moral principle at stake, which cannot be compromised, don't hesitate to be the one who does the yielding. Love makes fools of us all, and if it doesn't it should. In the event that both parties prove adamant, it may be a matter of tossing a coin or working out a special formula of some kind. Perhaps she will go to bed a couple of hours earlier and he will retire a couple of hours later. Then, if she cannot fall right to sleep, she will read a book and he will learn to sleep with the light on. Any number of solutions is possible.

In today's world, sometimes the woman is employed full-time outside the home. It is an unfortunate downfall of our society that being a full-time wife and mother is downplayed and unappreciated, but it should be the goal of all married couples to have the wife at home. But if finances are very tight, it might be necessary to work outside the home. If this situation arises, it is important to find some equitable way of sharing domestic duties. In the interest of marital harmony and efficiency, each partner should stake out specific areas of responsibility, whether it is the balancing of the checkbook or the emptying of wastebaskets. One parent might undertake to haul in so many cases of baby formula while the other agrees to assume responsibility for replenishing the stock of disposable diapers. If one vacuums and dusts the other might be willing to clean the bathroom. What matters is not so much who does what as that some kind of division is agreed upon that is mutually satisfactory.

There are certain things one should try to avoid at any cost, nagging for example. If one or two reminders do not suffice, perhaps it is time to sit down with your partner and explain the urgency of the situation in terms that are understandable. From time to time, this may not work and you may have to simply accept what you cannot change, offering it up in the form of mental prayer.

A number of other practices will serve you in good stead. No matter what kind of spouse you marry, see to it that you respect their right to privacy. Even the most gregarious member of the household needs a moment or two now and then to read, meditate, or just plain relax. Some houses and apartments are too compact to allow for a den to which the husband can retreat or a sewing room for the wife. But there should be some type of sanctuary where a spouse can go secure in the knowledge that he or she is not going to be disturbed. Perhaps it is to a desk or to the sofa. Children can be taught to respect this rule as easily as their elders.

Doubtless, you will find that your little ones are the most adaptable members of the family. Appearances notwithstanding, it seems that each of them, down deep, likes to be told what to do and how to do it. Indeed, with persistence on your part and a reasonable system of rewards and punishments, they will surprise you by the way they take to discipline. From the moment they arrive, children seem to have an innate sense of right and wrong, and if, by the age of three, they are not fairly obedient, it could well be the fault of the parents. Mom and Dad should not forget either, when they are tempted to indulge their progeny or to spend too much time with them at the expense of their partner, that marriage comes first and the children second. To be sure, youngsters are lovable and they do thrive on affection, but they must not be allowed to come between the principal parties responsible for their welfare. Whatever threatens the marriage threatens the offspring. Moreover, children who are taught to behave with restraint, courtesy, and consideration will contribute immeasurably to a pleasant home life.

It goes without saying that parents should agree privately on all matters of discipline. Because they represent the justice, as well as the mercy of God, it behooves them, in the same way, to be truthful and to avoid giving the appearance of favoring one child over another. Neither should they fight or countermand one another's orders in front of the children. Tykes, always quick to find chinks in the parental armor, can be mercilessly exploitive.

If children are to measure up to their true potential, they need one thing above all others, your time. Time, that is, to have their questions answered, time to be held, time to get tips on their homework, and time for family outings. Discipline is hard enough to bear when parents make themselves personally available. But without this mark of attention, coupled with close supervision, it is doubtful if any combination of "bribes" will ever be able to make it palatable. No governess or teacher, however effective, can uarantee to fill the void created by parents who put social life, community affairs, or business ahead of family.

One of the ways of increasing the amount of time at your disposal is to operate on a regular schedule. As long as mealtime is anyone's guess and the whereabouts of family members a constant mystery, there is likely to be a lag in morale. People need to know where they stand if chores are to be performed, studies pursued, and family spirit fostered. Family members should expect to break bread together and carry on an intelligent conversation every night. The family meal should be a priority. No harm will be done, either, by having a Webster's dictionary or a world atlas within easy reach of the dining room table. In this way, mealtime will be educationally enriching instead of a mere exercise in small talk. If a definite time is set aside each week for cleaning, laundry, and shopping, along with church-going and family outings, young and old will be able to make their plans accordingly. Children, if they are fortunate, will have strict study schedules, limited access to TV, consistent bedtimes, and sufficient exercise during the day to keep them in a prone position at night.

Personal sacrifice is the glue that holds a family together. Once you march down the aisle, consider yourself on more or less permanent duty! It may be tempting to leave family cares behind and to go off frequently on your own. But the children will be grown before you know it, and they need you most when they are young and vulnerable. Needless to say, if and when parents do take time away from their brood, it should be time spent together. Separate vacations are not very constructive. It is normal, once in a while, to feel the need to escape. One spouse or the other may be tempted to run home to mother and father, ostrich-like, when the going gets rough. But the voice that you hear in this instance is most likely that of the devil, rather than God.

If both newly-wed partners plan a career outside the home until children arrive, one of the two incomes should be set aside for something other than basic needs. Prudence in this regard will serve as a hedge against illness while leaving the door open to generosity in the matter of procreation. Those who live on one income can then accumulate surplus savings with the other and provide for retirement, not to mention unusual educational or medical expenses. The other advantage of budgeting on a single income is that it allows one partner, usually the woman, to assume primary responsibility for the children, if and when they come. That same partner's job can then be tailored to the children's needs, particularly when they are young and require maximum care. The "homemaker spouse" should never be forced to work outside the home.

If the wife plans to work outside the home until children arrive, her income should be set aside for something other than basic needs. The couple should not become dependent upon income which will cease when she is forced to stop working. This extra money can be set aside for any unusual expenses. The mother of the family should never be forced to work outside the home, the importance of her presence cannot be overemphasized.

This is not to say that there are no exceptions. Family situations being as dissimilar as they are, it is virtually impossible to lay down any hard and fast rules. The thing to bear in mind, though, is that if you put your marriage first, the welfare of your children second, and your job or professional employment third, you will be demonstrating to the world and to God an authentically Christian sense of values. It is far better to live simply, with perhaps only one new dress or suit a year, than to short-change those whose life-long welfare and happiness depend on your loving care and vigilance.

The first thing to do in working out a family budget (something absolutely essential for most couples) is to make a list of all the fixed expenses that you envision for the coming year. Such a list would normally include rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums, telephone bills, automobile depreciation, utilities, and taxes, as well as shoe repair, haircuts, cleaners, laundry, and cosmetics. Items like rent, which may be calculated on a monthly basis should be multiplied by 12 to arrive at the cost per year. There may be other regularly recurring expenses depending on your situation (visits to the dentist or eye doctor, transportation to work, and so forth). It is also useful to have a category called "miscellaneous" to cover outlays that even a financial wizard could not predict (emergency repairs, replacement of appliances, surprise gifts, and the like).

The next step would be to draw up a list of all flexible items, again figuring on a twelve-month basis: food, clothing, charities, savings, recreation, entertainment, vacations, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, gifts, and so forth. If, after adding up the expenses on both lists, you find that a single income is insufficient to carry you through the year, you should begin paring down the expenses on the second list until you arrive at a balance. Your charitable contributions should be maintained at a high level of generosity. If you can afford a pizza or a movie once in a while, you can drop at least this much into the collection basket on Sunday. Remember the parable of the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44)?

If you are the type who cannot resist bargains however unrelated to immediate family needs, you may be on the road to the poor house. The best way to save is, of course, not to spend, which means buying only what you need at prices you can afford. Beware of installment plans because one never knows what kind of demand the future may make on one's income. Many who buy on credit wind up paying exorbitant rates of interest for the privilege of deferring payments you probably should never have contracted in the first place.

One way to economize is to bring an itemized list with you to the supermarket. This will help to prevent impulse buying. And look out for "Ma Bell." She can kill you by turning 35 cents into $35 when you are not looking. Be sure, in addition, to have a checkbook and to balance it every month. If you pay by check when purchasing substantial items, you will then have a record of where your money is going when it comes time to plan next year's budget.

As regards the purse strings and who should hold them, they should be generally be held jointly in the great majority of cases, with final decisions usually made by the man, the head of the household. Congenital spendthrifts may exist, but they are rare. Likewise when it comes to the matter of how your family income is to be spent (or invested). The mere fact that you are bound by a budget will simplify your life a good deal by making certain decisions automatic. As for the ones that are optional, they will be subject to compromise based on a sense of who feels most strongly about a given issue. If each mate bends a little in order to make the other happy, there should be no problem. Most of the time, when finances become an issue, the root of the problem can be traced to a lack of love.

More could be said about finances, but in the interest of brevity, let us move on to the next topic, that of in-laws, which, next to money, constitutes the chief source of marital discord. Just the fact that two different in-law cultures are thrown together without benefit of the sacramental tie that binds husband and wife can lead to a certain amount of friction. This is true even when the families in question have an opportunity to get acquainted before the wedding. Though they may seem to be getting along nicely at first, it is only natural for each set of parents to want the best for their child, and if they are not careful to be discrete and to keep "hands off," they will begin to lobby. Sibling rivalry is often a factor and there may be pressure to associate with relatives who are a very different breed from the person you chose to marry. However much two families may have in common, they will not react to every situation in the same way any more than they will harbor the same expectations. On a purely practical level, they may have different standards when it comes to the celebration of religious feasts and holidays. Feelings can run deep as to how many presents should be given at Christmas and when they should be opened.

Some people, when they marry, develop a beautiful relationship with their adopted family. Who can forget the touching case of Ruth, an Old Testament widow, who assured her Jewish mother-in-law that "where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16). We can all learn from this. In-laws deserve our profound respect and consideration, and at the very least, we should seek to avoid criticizing them, especially to our mate, when in so doing we may be treading on a loyalty that is not only natural but also healthy. Even if the criticism strikes a sympathetic chord, we will be putting our partner in an awkward spot.

A second rule is to maintain a prudent distance from in-laws even as we do all we can to treat them politely. Familiarity breeds contempt, and parents, while not intending it, can easily drive a wedge between husband and wife. There is an old saying that "in-laws are outlaws." Like all maxims, this one may not ring entirely true. Nevertheless, scripture has it that "a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). In any dispute, therefore, pitting partner against parent (whether in-law or blood relative), the partner's mate should remain neutral or, preferably, come down on the side of his or her spouse. Likewise, if a parent must be given a gentle reprimand, the person to do it is the blood relative. We are enjoined by the Fourth Commandment to honor our father and our mother, but out first duty and allegiance is to our spouse. Couples who begin to experience friction with relatives would be wise to limit their contact. Grandparents can make good suggestions. They can render valuable service as baby-sitters. They can also be very generous. But all of this is small change by comparison with the breach in marital harmony that they can cause. If and when in-laws offer advice, a prudent response would be, "Thanks very much; I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and I'll talk it over with my better half." Never complain and do not tolerate remarks or behavior from parents, brothers, or sisters that denigrate your mate, even indirectly. As suggested in chapter 1, loyalty is vital if the lines of communication are to remain open.

To shift the focus for a moment, have you thought about the kind of home you want? See to it that it is a bright and cheerful place in which to live. Things should be clean and in reasonably good order. There is no need, in decorating your rooms, to imitate the stylish models featured in picture magazines as long as your home is comfortable and attractive to members of the family. A moment, now and then, in front of the mirror attending to your personal appearance will also be time well spent. For the wife, all that may be required is a quick touch of the comb, a dash of cold water on the face, or perhaps a fresh dress. For the man, it could mean a new tie, a shave before dinner, or an occasional trip to the cleaners. What a difference these "little" things can make!

Above all, your home should be a Christian place. We are all familiar with the three vows taken by those who enter religious life: poverty, chastity, and obedience. But have you ever stopped to think that all three apply to the married state as well? Chastity (not to be confused with virginity) is simply a matter of keeping one's sexual appetite under control and within the limits set by God. In this sense, it is just as much of a challenge for the married person as it is for the religious.

Poverty, the first of the vows, does not refer to some federally designated index, but rather to a spirit of detachment. How much in the way of worldly goods do you need to be happy? The more possessions, the more to worry about; and the more worries, the less time and money you will have to contribute to the welfare and happiness of others. Costly household appointments and automobiles require insurance, maintenance, and electronic protection devices. Are you planning to furnish a new house or apartment all at once? What's the hurry? Your tastes and needs may change. Besides, there is plenty of time. If any friend of yours thinks less of you for living simply, it may be time to find a new friend. Tolstoy once wrote a story entitled, "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" It tells of a man who spends a large portion of his life acquiring more and more property. Finally, he reaches an area of Russia where he will be allowed to keep all the land he can stake out on foot in a single day. So he starts off early in the morning, breathlessly jogging here and there to secure the choicest parcels. Soon, the sun has begun to set, but he is far afield and the finish line is still far off. After making one tremendous last effort, he reaches his goal, only to fall dead at the feet of the natives who promptly dig him a hole six feet deep by three feet wide. How much land does a man need?

Obedience, the third of the vows, does not mean lying down and playing doormat while your spouse strides about with a club barking orders. It does involve a readiness to defer. Does your mate have a better sense for where the picture belongs? If so, be glad. Does your mate feel strongly about a particularly worthwhile cause? Then go along. Perhaps this is what it takes to keep your partner happy and the dating spirit alive. Is the time that you spend with your family keeping you from an extra promotion or pay raise that might be nice for prestige but not necessary for the security of your livelihood? Then devote yourself to family. Remember: marriage comes first and your standard of living second. Conversely, if the effort to achieve excellence at work prevents you from giving your family certain forms of attention that might be appreciated but are not really necessary for its well being, then concentrate on work. Your job was given to you by the Lord. It is a means of personal sanctification, as well as the sanctification of those with whom you come into contact, and if you do not work with all your heart, mind, and soul, you are not behaving like a child of God.

One's home is supposed to be one's "castle." Yet on the spiritual plane, it should be far more than this. In addition to being a school and chapel, it is meant to be a missionary outpost in a world of non-believers. Most of us are aware of the prodigious feats of conversion accomplished in far-away places like India, Africa, China, and Latin America. What we tend to forget is the importance of the ordinary family in carrying the torch of faith. Documents recently published by the Second Vatican Council stress the importance of lay evangelization. This calls for effort on our part to offer an example of family life at its most attractive. But it also means testifying in so many words to our love for Jesus Christ, and as such it presupposes an ability on our part to discuss Catholicism and to answer any questions that may come our way. It was with this challenge in mind that the Council encouraged laypersons to educate themselves more fully in their faith. Translated into practical terms, this could be an invitation to attend Bible class or to read the scripture more systematically or to dip into devotional literature. How sad it is, and what a commentary on the values of the present-day world, that many of the people who belong to book clubs and relish biographies of Lincoln and Churchill, register little interest in reading the story of the greatest man who ever lived. How many people calling themselves Catholic spend time and money on movies and Broadway shows; yet when it comes to attendance at a retreat or an evening of recollection, we find that they are too busy!

An effective lay apostolate requires that parents study the faith with their children. Too often, religious instruction ends at the age of twelve or thirteen when, by rights, it should be a life-long pursuit. Any adult with a grade-school education in religion remains a child in the area that counts most. A lifetime of learning is not a day too much if one wishes to be effective in sharing the consolation of one's faith, for to be a missionary is to be well informed as well as knowledgeable about where to send an inquirer for the truth.

The missionary spirit also prompts us to decorate our home in a way that reflects this sense of commitment. How will someone know that yours is a family where people are trying to save souls? Will there be a crucifix or a small statue displayed? Will you keep a small library of spiritual classics side by side with the Bible? And will your children have access to religious books commensurate with their age? What kinds of magazines are going to grace your coffee table? Will you select a Playboy air freshener for your car or something more in keeping with what you profess to believe? A friend of mine used to have a tiny cactus on his desk as a reminder of the thorns Christ endured during His crucifixion. Can you hit upon something equally imaginative?

Still other questions come to mind. How are Sundays and holy days going to be celebrated? Will they be different from other days? Can shopping be postponed? And have you tried to avoid unnecessary employment on the Sabbath, recalling the movie Chariots of Fire? Is Easter a time for bunnies or for reflecting on the Resurrection?

Have you stopped to consider whether a TV set is going to stand as the high altar of your home? How do you and your fiancé plan to foster religious vocations? Will you have a way of ensuring that the atmosphere of your home is one of courtesy and refinement? Is Mass going to be something to be gotten out of the way as your troop arrives late in cutoffs and sneakers and then leaves early. Or will you be prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually for God's dinner party?

As society poses an ever greater menace to the faith we hold dear, it is more important than ever to convert one's home into a powerhouse of spirituality which, through the affection it fosters, the order it affords, and the holiness it sustains, will send its members forth rested in body, refreshed in spirit, and touched by the spark of divine life.

Chapter 3: Spirituality

When it comes to the most important things of this world, is it not true that most of us prepare a great deal? Ambitious parents aiming for a prestigious Ivy League school for their youngster may go far out of their way to enroll the child in the right nursery school and pre-school. A lengthy apprenticeship is necessary to become a full-fledged plumber or electrician; accounting and law firms require at least seven years of probation before novices can become partners. Newlyweds prepare for parenthood by attending a series of childbirth courses. Yet in one of the most vital commitments of life, marriage, the only courses seem to appear after the fact: "Parenting Without a Partner," "Handling Your Divorce," or "Making It in the Post-Marriage Singles World." Curiously enough, the Catholic Church is about the only denomination that requires some type of formal preparation before the marriage ceremony, and this is because of the sacramental and binding nature of the union.

Two facts relating to the sacrament of matrimony have always struck me as particularly sobering: first, that the marriage bond is indissoluble — marriage is forever; and second, that in its deepest sense, marriage is the Path that I have chosen to save my soul along with that of my spouse. Not that this implies an intensive effort to change one's partner. That would be presumptuous. It does mean that husband and wife must ask themselves how they will help one another to reach their final destination. When we hear the familiar words, "For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health," we usually think of material concerns, the ups and downs of the stock market, or a bad case of flu. But another, and more significant, side to these vows is their supernatural content. There will be "dark nights of the soul" as well as bright ones, and in the end, God will ask each of us if we made it easier or harder for our partner to get to heaven.

Very simply, engagement at its best is more than a time for determining the number of wedding attendants, guests, or canapés to be served. Besides thinking about housing and honeymoons, it should be a time to ponder the spiritual aspects of your forthcoming marriage.

Spirituality is a hard word to define. I remember a friend of mine who once confided to me that he would like to marry a saint. When I asked why, he said that for him a saint was a person who was not only happy but also capable of making others happy. I could see his point at the time, but today, after living with a wonderful marriage partner for nearly twenty-five years, I can appreciate it all the more. Granted, certain saints like Jerome were on the perverse and combative side. But Jerome was doubtless radiant on the inside, and through his splendid translation of the Bible he made a great many people happy by bringing them closer to heaven through the knowledge of God as revealed in his classic translation of the Bible. By the way, he was also sensible enough not to marry!

Some of you may be thinking, why worry about spirituality —either you have it or you don't? Understandably so. But there is another side to the coin. Spirituality is elusive. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. Conversely, one can decide overnight to answer God's call. Saints are not born; they are made, many of them rather late in life. All one has to do is read the story of St. Augustine or St. Ignatius of Loyola, both of whom were cavalier in their personal lives during early manhood, scraping the bottom of the barrel morally, so to speak. Once they experienced the saving grace of conversion, however, they sped upwards at a breathtaking rate to the very pinnacle of sanctity. If people aiming at physical fitness are willing to engage in aerobics, running, dieting, and body building at any hour of the day, should we not be willing to go out of our way to do the things necessary to achieve fitness of soul? St. Paul likens the quest for spirituality to the running of a race (1 Cor. 9:24 and 1 Tim. 4:7) and races are, without exception, exhausting.

Neither my wife nor I would claim to be saints. Far from it. After traveling together on life's journey for close to a quarter of a century, we can look back on our share of flat tires. Indeed, the good Lord has had to put up with an awful lot from me in particular. Still, the two of us have been on the road long enough to know that there are certain practical devices and methods, which can help a married couple stay the course.

Some of the things we are going to recommend are based on the assumption that you will have access to the special channels of grace afforded by the Catholic Church. There was a time, of course, when Catholics were far more immune than most other groups from marital breakdown. Alas, no longer. The problem today is that most American Catholics are not interested in the extraordinary sources of strength that an extraordinary faith has to offer. They may think they are serious about making their marriage work. But more often than not, they will neglect the dimension of spirituality. They are not really interested in learning more about their faith or practicing it to the point where they can sail in perfect calmness over a very troubled sea.

Exxon Oil Company used to advertise its brand of gasoline as an agent that would "put a tiger in your tank." I submit that as couples we too need a "tiger" in our tank, the tank of our marriage, and one way of putting it there is through prayer. We have all heard it said that, "the family that prays together stays together." Christ said much the same thing when He promised that "whatever you ask in My name you shall receive" and "wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in their midst" (Mt. 7:7-11; 18:19-20). With God, all things are possible provided only that they are pleasing in His sight, and one of the most pleasing is a love affair between husband and wife that never ends.

When the priest asked Johnny if he said his prayers every night before going to bed, Johnny responded, "Yes, Father." "And do you also say your prayers when you awake in the morning," continued the priest? "No, Father." "And why not, Johnny?" Came the answer: "Cause I ain't never scared during the day!" Most of us have a tendency to pray fervently only when we feel a burning need—on the death of a dear one, for example, or at the onset of terminal cancer. It is easy to forget that the quality of our everyday existence is what will make or break our marriage and that the same source of strength invoked in times of extreme difficulty can be useful during normal times as well.

Some of us have trained ourselves to pray regularly at certain set times such as early in the morning, late in the evening, or at mealtime. This is commendable. In the case of my own family, we find that the best time for the rosary is immediately after dinner before the cumulative effect of the day's activities begins to take its toll. There is much to be said, of course, for going a step farther and learning to pray at odd times on a more casual basis. Heavenly chit-chat takes the boredom out of life, whether one is doing the dishes or mowing the lawn. A typical conversation might run something like this: "Well, Lord, here I am again. I haven't forgotten who it is that put me here. I hope you are pleased with the little tasks I'm doing at your assignment and in your honor. I'm trying to be as efficient and cheerful as I can. Can you make out my smile?!" If there is a traffic jam and we find ourselves bumper to bumper, we can begin with a question instead of a curse: "Lord, why did you land me in this ridiculous mess? Have you got me crawling on the expressway to encourage me to pray more often? Is there something in my life that you want me to change? I know you're not just pulling my leg!" And so forth. St. Paul exhorts us to "pray at all times" (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17).

St. Teresa of Avila, as jolly a soul as ever lived, traveled in sixteenth century Spain on one mission after another in the service of the Lord. Transportation was primitive and once, when her carriage overturned while crossing a stream, it caused her to exclaim with a twinkle in her eye, "Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!" Like Teresa, we should go to God as we are. If we have a sense of humor, we hould use it. But above all, we should not feel the least bit stiff or uncomfortable.

As a writer, I used to be troubled by library patrons who coughed with such maddening regularity that one had to assume they wanted everyone else in the room to notice them. I was also irritated by the piercing sound of car alarms going off under my office window. The only solution that worked, I found, was to say a "Hail Mary" every time I heard a cough or an alarm. No church bell or angelus could have been more effective as a call to meditation! Not only did my prayer life improve, but my writing perked up my spirits revived, and I soon reached the point of looking forward to the next interruption! Just think how different life would be if the average supermarket clerk and toll collector began to treat the jobs that God gave them as their ticket to heaven, rather than as a form of drudgery. The moment they recognized their daily work as a heaven-sent opportunity to sanctify themselves as well as those around them, would they not exchange their cold, impersonal demeanor for a warm smile? Would they not look customers in the face and greet them with a Pleasant "good morning"?

The application to marriage should be obvious. Prayer is a form of communication, and once we learn to communicate with God, we will be that much more effective at reaching out to our spouse. In particular, the two indispensable phrases, "I love you" and "I'm sorry," will come a lot more easily because we will be saying the same thing to God on a regular basis.

Next to prayer, and just as important for keeping a "tiger" in your tank, are three very special sacraments: penance, the Eucharist, and matrimony itself. Together they open the sluice gates to a spiritual reservoir from which we can draw down an immense amount of energy and inspiration.

Marriage, the last-mentioned of the three, is more than a contract in which bride and groom pledge to accept one another for better or for worse. It is a solemn covenant between the couple and God, as well as between the couple and society, and because of its binding nature, God extends a special sacramental grace to see us through the discharge of our conjugal responsibility. Such grace, conferred during the wedding ceremony, is continuously renewed for as long as we live.

The Bible tells us vividly of the importance Christ attached to marriage. His first miracle occurred at a marriage feast (at Cana) when, responding to his mother's request, he turned water into wine and saved the day for an embarrassed bridal party. Beyond this, He made it crystal clear that "what God hath joined together" no one was to "put asunder." I say "crystal clear" because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul all indicate beyond any reasonable doubt that remarriage after divorce was something Jesus ruled out altogether (see appendix B). Is it not remarkable, too, that Almighty God chose a humble family as the vehicle by which to reveal His glory in human form? Christ could have come to us from out of the clouds. Instead, He was conceived in the womb of a woman and raised, like any other child, within a family. And an obscure family at that. Presumably, Mary did the cooking and washed diapers as was the custom of the time (if there had been disposable diapers, surely they would have come as gift from one of the wise men!).

It is encouraging to recall that the record of the Church is unique when it comes to enforcing Christ's prohibition against remarriage after divorce. History provides us with numerous examples of faithful Catholics such as Thomas More who embraced this teaching against all odds. And the Church continues to be a leader in enforcing, to the best of its ability, Christ's teaching on indissolubility. To this end, it organizes pre-Cana conferences to give engaged couples a better chance of success once they march down the aisle. At the same time, it does all it can to salvage marriages, which appear to be on shaky ground. The New York archdiocese, for example, sponsors St. Michael's Institute to help couples experiencing psychological and spiritual difficulties rehabilitate their unions and keep them intact.

Penance, the first of the three sacraments mentioned above, is, like matrimony, a broad channel of God's grace. On the face of it, it hardly seems possible that a mere mortal would have the power to pardon offenses against god. Yet Christ told Peter, as well as the apostles as a group: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John 20:23). Confession requires courage on the part of penitent, but what a marvelous feeling to know with absolute certainty that one has been made clean in the eyes of God! Non-believers have been so impressed with the sacrament of reconciliation that they have singled it out as among the features of Catholicism they find most appealing. Psychologists, too, will testify that penance satisfies a universal need by removing the burden of guilt. Every day, people go to psychiatrists and pay for the privilege of getting things off their chest, things of which they are frequently ashamed. Just as an automobile needs a periodic oil change to lubricate its moving parts and improve its performance, we as individuals benefit by having our "spiritual fluids" refreshed from time to time to avoid a build-up of the kind of moral sludge which can take away the joy of conscious integrity and hamper us in our ability to deal with others. There should be ample opportunity for weekly confession at your local parish. But in an emergency, one can walk into any Catholic rectory at any time and ask to have one's confession heard, and if there is a priest available, he will oblige.

In this connection, it is well to bear in mind that there are two kinds of sin: mortal and venial. Mortal sin, the more serious of the two, prevents us from receiving Holy Communion and consigns us to hell if we die without availing ourselves of an opportunity to go to confession. It is not fashionable in this day and age to dwell on the torment of hell, but as a place of damnation it does exist. It is mentioned dozens of times in the Bible and Christ Himself defined it as "everlasting fire" where there would be "the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (see appendix G). In order for a sin to be mortal, though, it must satisfy three criteria. First, it must be a serious matter. Second, we must be fully aware of its seriousness. And third, we must be acting with full consent of the will. That is to say, we must know exactly what we are doing and do it deliberately, with premeditation and fully aware of the consequences. If any one of these conditions is absent, the act in question would be a venial sin and we would not be obliged to confess it. However, even venial sin is an offense against God, and as such as are urged to mention it in confession.

One or two examples will serve to illustrate the crucial difference between what is venial and what is mortal. Let us say, for the purpose of argument that we are with a group of friends and the talk turns suggestive, or perhaps its veers in the direction of malicious gossip. If we are aware of our obligation to change the subject and we fail to try, we have committed a venial sin. After the off-color joke has drawn a laugh or someone's reputation has been damaged, we may fell like kicking ourselves for not having done more to prevent it. But we have not sinned mortally because our silence was not planned. If, on the other hand, we and our partner are living together as man and wife before marriage; if, in addition, we realize that the Church regards such an act as a grievous offense against God; and if finally, in spite of knowing that the Church requires that we call a halt, go to confession, and do the prescribed penance, we insist on having our way, we are living in a state of mortal sin.

It is always discouraging to find one particular sin in our life especially hard to root out. We can be told that this is human nature and not to give up. But returning time and again to the confessional with the same sorry story can seem pointless, if not self-defeating. Yet when you stop to think about it, is this not what we often have to do on the physical level to fight disease? Do we not take the same antibiotic pills over and over again? And does a cancer patient not submit to repeated radiation treatments as part of chemotherapy? Well it is the same with moral cancer. If we go after it with the same dogged persistence, we will achieve the same results. Interior change takes a long time to accomplish, but God will never deny us the grace that we need if we ask Him often enough and are willing to work hard enough on our own. Christ, who conquered sin, will give us the power to conquer ourselves if we continue to own up and do penance with a firm purpose of amendment coupled with a practical plan of reform.

Here again, there is a striking application to the married state, for to confess our shortcomings regularly is to cultivate the virtue of humility, and it is this virtue, above all others, that enables us to remain cheerful in moments of distress and to yield in matters of personal preference.

A good confession also paves the way for a worthy reception of Holy Communion, the third of the methods recommended for keeping a "tiger" in the marriage tank. We have all been taught that anyone who receives the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus exercises the greatest privilege known to man, a privilege so mysterious and awesome that it caused some of Christ's own followers to break with Him. They could not believe He was actually serious when He said that, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you shall not have life in you . . . [for] my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." Lacking in faith, they envisioned the Mass as a form of cannibalism and ceased following Jesus when He insisted that His words be taken literally (John 6:54-56, 67. See also appendix D). Anyone who has experienced the sense of spiritual invigoration that comes from frequent dining at the Lord's table will feel empty without it, for the spirit needs sustenance as much as the body does.

In more concrete terms, the Eucharist can help us to keep our passions under control. It is unrealistic to assume that marriage will automatically eliminate every temptation to impurity. If anything, such temptations may increase at certain times. Whether single or married, the fact is that we must strive whole-heartedly all of our lives to remain chaste. There is no middle ground. Evil thoughts are bound to come our way on occasion. But they must be driven out immediately. Chastity, in relation to our spouse, calls first of all for self-control when the desire for physical intimacy cannot be fully satisfied. Secondly, with regard to members of the opposite sex outside of the home, it means being continually on our guard. There are many ways of committing adultery. We can sin by what we say, by our body language, or by what we communicate through the eyes. In Tolstoy's masterpiece, Anna Karenina, the heroine is an attractive young woman married to a somewhat stuffy elder statesman. Anna decides to leave home to help her brother put his affairs in order and while at a railway station enroute, she catches sight of a dashing army officer by the name of Vronsky. It is her great undoing that she turns around on the station platform to give him a second look, for in that split second she is lost. The two become lovers, they conceive an illegitimate child, and in the end Anna throws herself in the path of an oncoming steam locomotive. One cannot help wondering how she might have acted had she been a daily communicant with added inner strength to resist the temptation of that fatal second look. Perhaps she would never have left her husband in the first place, thereby exposing them both to temptation.

Chastity means modesty in dress and behavior. For one who is married, it excludes flirting, making passes, and anything else, which might give rise to scandal or lead to an adulterous relationship. The prudent spouse will consider whether a business lunch with some member of the opposite sex has to be a private affair or whether it could be arranged as more of an official meeting in an official setting. There may also be times when one's daily routine should be altered in some way to avoid a too friendly colleague of the opposite sex. Movies, talk shows, and self-help books notwithstanding, one thing leads to another. In Shakespeare's play Othello, we naturally focus on the machinations of the wicked Iago who manages to arouse the jealousy of a gullible Othello. It is the indiscrete Desdemona, however, who, on her honeymoon no less, prods Othello into reinstating Cassio, adding fuel to her husband's mistaken belief that she has been unfaithful. It makes no difference that her solicitude for Cassio may have been inspired by unselfish motives. Imprudence and indiscretion in a marriage partner are apt to prove fatal.

Thus far, we have been speaking of the effect that a strong religious commitment can have on relations between husband and wife. True spirituality, however, will operate on an even broader front. It will discover countless ways to reach out to friends, relatives, and neighbors. Have you thought, for instance, of ways in which you may be able to offer Christian hospitality without necessarily making excessive demands on your household? You may feel that circumstances will not allow you to volunteer much of your time outside of the home. Perhaps you are too pressed to pick up a handicapped person for church or to baby-sit for someone who would like to attend Mass. You may be under too much pressure at home to involve yourself in parish life by lecturing, serving Mass, teaching catechism, or simply helping the pastor with a paint job. Will you then keep a stack of post cards handy to indicate your support for outstanding TV programs and object to shows or ads that are immoral or in bad taste? What form will your charity take?

One can go further. Are you prepared to take a stand on issues such as abortion and premarital sex? Have you studied these and other topics in the light of Church teaching? Are you ready to do what you can to reinforce other couples' marriages, telling them plainly, "I'll help you to put your marriage together but I won't help you take it apart"? What do you think you could do to sanctify your work? A lawyer I met remarked that when potential clients come to him about initiating divorce proceedings he tries to help them patch things up, believing as he does that the worst reconciliation is better than the best divorce. Like the doctor who refused to perform an abortion, he risks losing business, and we too will discover that there is a price to be paid for trying to live according to the strict dictates of our conscience. But in the end, like the character in the medieval play, Everyman, all of us will find that wealth and fame are unimportant. Only the memory of our good works will be able to comfort us in the final hour.

Doubtless, you will eventually travel as a family. How much more rewarding these trips will be if, in addition to the usual sights and sounds, you try to include at least one place of religious significance on your itinerary. If you are going to France, you will not want to miss Paris; but if you can afford it and have the time, you should also consider a visit to Lourdes for the chance to learn at first hand about its miraculous cures. Just as one would target the Holy Land on a trip to the Middle East, or Rome if the goal were Italy, one would not want to leave Portugal without a pilgrimage to Fatima, site of the greatest and most thoroughly authenticated miracle since the Resurrection. Truly mind-boggling. If one is heading south, there is the incomparable shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside Mexico City. Here, too, you will have your faith strengthened by investigating the history of a gigantic miracle. But even if you set your sights on some place closer to home, Boston or Chicago, for example, there is no reason why you cannot stop off at a Catholic Church along the way and spend a few minutes in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament just to keep that conversation with Jesus going!

I realize that some or all of the above suggestions may sound like a rather tall order. They may not be feasible for every couple. But remember that they are only suggestions. You will develop a style of your own once you begin to test the potential of your family. Suffice it to say that there is only one serious mistake one can make when it comes to spirituality and that is to underestimate its importance. It will make demands, but you will find that the burden is outweighed by the benefits. You will find your marriage more secure and your life happier in the long run. People who are happily married have testified with one voice to the fact that a joy-filled home can carry one through illness, depression, loss of friends, and loss of job — the worst that the world may hold in store. People who are unhappily married, on the other hand, will attest to the reverse: no amount of worldly success, popularity, wealth, or health can ever compensate for the bitterness and remorse that is likely to befall the individual whose home is broken. So do all you can to reinforce the spiritual, as well as the physical, side of your marriage.

One last thought. We can receive the sacraments, learn all there is to know about our faith, and talk to God all day long yet still be missing out spiritually if we are not aware of the many times that God speaks to us through the normal course of events. His message may come through some apparent coincidence or through the impulse to perform a special act of kindness. Trials and tribulations can also be the bearers of messages if we listen. It may be that we will not be able to have all the children we want. The tendency in such a situation is to have recourse to a fertility clinic and submit to a series of procedures that could prove frustrating as well as humiliating. Another response is to pray for heavenly guidance. Perhaps our inability to conceive is God's way of intimating that He has another mission in mind for us. Could it be that He wants us to spend the time we would ordinarily spend with our own children working with the children of other families? Or might it be pleasing in His sight if we adopted a child (assuming our spouse is agreeable)? The point is to look and listen before acting when we come to one of life's many roadblocks.

Often enough, God will send a couple more children than it thinks it can handle. How easy, in such a case, to fall prey to the prevalent anti-child mentality of "people as pollution." In the secular media, children are often depicted as expensive, time-consuming, a risk to the mother's figure, and an obstacle to intimacy. Only with faith will we be able to discern God's hidden agenda with the realization that He can never be outdone in generosity. Likewise, it is only in prayerful reflection that we become aware of how much the Lord loves children regardless of circumstance and that some of His greatest blessings may come to us disguised as unwanted children.

According to sociologists, large families have an excellent record of cohesion. They tend to be closely knit with parents who are confident, accomplished, and devoted to one another. Confirming the notion that the most wonderful gift a child can receive from his parents is a little brother or sister, it can also be shown that many of the offspring from large families go on to do spectacularly well in life. George Washington grew up in the company of six brothers and sisters. Charles Dickens was one of seven. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Daniel Webster all came from families of at least ten children. Harriet Beecher Stowe was one of twelve and Frances Cabrini, the first American saint, one of thirteen. Enrico Caruso, the most famous tenor of all time, came from a family of twenty-one, and Catherine of Siena, known as the leading woman in Christendom, happened to be the last of twenty-five (see appendix C).

It may be added that not all of these men and women enjoyed the benefit of having both parents at their side while they were growing up. Washington lost his father when he was eleven. Jefferson was only three years older when he suffered a similar fate, and when Robert E. Lee, the most gifted of Civil War generals, was only five, his father walked out of the house never to return. Among sports figures, one can cite Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Joe Louis, while among foreigners there is Solzhenitsyn, the prize-winning novelist, whose father passed away before he was even born. Confucius of China entered the world as an orphan.

In conclusion, marriage is not only a great vocation. It is also a personal challenge requiring powerful inner resources and total commitment. Spirituality, the name we have given to these resources joined with the sense, of dedication, does not come automatically. It involves material risk as well as sacrifice. But as scripture says, "seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you" (Mt. 6:33). If we make a concerted effort to pray and to receive the sacraments frequently, and if, in addition, we are committed to a life-long study of the faith along with an apostolic sharing of this faith with others, the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana will be reenacted. God will change the water of our humdrum everyday existence into the fine wine of life-long love and devotion.

Chapter 4: Catholic Sexual Ethics

Despite what certain critics say, the Catholic Church has never regarded sex as a necessary evil. Isolated figures within the Church may have adopted this line on occasion, but not the Church as a whole. On the contrary, it has always viewed the procreative act as something distinctly good and holy. To be sure, Rome hews to its teaching that of all our appetites the sexual appetite is unique in the degree to which it must be brought under control if it is be man's servant, rather than his master. But this is not hard to understand. Unlike eating and drinking, sexual gratification involves other people and is potentially life giving. Furthermore, the unparalleled intensity of the pleasure derived from it threatens to subjugate those who are morally weak. It is also unnecessary for the attainment of our primary goal in life, which is to know, love, and serve God. Consecrated virginity is not only a thing of beauty in God's eyes; it can bring great joy to those who choose it freely.

Owing to the nature of the marital act and the lofty purpose for which it was intended, sexual license of any kind is a form of sacrilege. Consequently the abuses, to which it leads have been condemned by the Church as heinous offenses against God. They include fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery (extra-marital affairs), masturbation (private or between spouses), incest, homosexuality, bestiality, and pornography (see appendix B). Lust, in its myriad forms, is extraordinarily destructive since it strikes at the very core of the self and, unless curbed, it will eventually throw one's entire life into disarray.

In the popular parlance, "sex is about babies." God, in the Garden of Eden, could have given Adam a male companion, and succeeding generations could have sprung from spores deposited in the ground whenever Adam or one of his descendants sneezed. Instead, God created Eve and engineered man and woman so that their interaction on the physical level would result in new life. Beyond this, they were specifically commanded to multiply (Genesis 1:28). At the same time, they were warned, after committing original sin, that childbirth would be painful and that they would have to live by the sweat of their brow. Remarkably little has changed over the years.

Ten to fifteen percent of couples will not be able to conceive just as there are intrinsic factors militating against an unlimited stream of children, one after another, every nine to twelve months. Nevertheless, judging by the nature of the sexual appetite and the length of the childbearing period in a woman's life, one can be fairly certain of a pro-life mentality in heaven.

In times past, when a family turned out to be hefty in size, it was viewed as a blessing, and if it entailed more than the usual amount of sacrifice, this too was seen as part of the Lord's plan. It is only comparatively recently, beginning with the decade of the 1960s in America, that Church leaders have come under mounting pressure to endorse artificial birth control, whether by mechanical or chemical means.

A number of factors are no doubt at work here. The rate of infant mortality continues to decline even as life expectancy for adults is on the rise. More and more people have gravitated to urban areas where family space is severely limited. Then, too, many more women are working outside the home at a time when the "pill" seems to offer a safe and reliable method of family planning. History also indicates that a nation's spiritual fiber can be eroded by prolonged intervals of prosperity. What is remarkable is that in the face of all these changes, the Church continues to stand firm. To be sure, there are those among the clergy who have joined a chorus of dissident theologians suggesting that traditional teaching must change with changing times. But they have not reckoned with the rock of St. Peter. Over a span of two thousand years, not a single pope has ever had to retract a position that he or one of his predecessors set forth positively in the realm of faith and morals. This, in itself, is something of a miracle since a handful of popes have led personal lives that were anything but exemplary (see appendix A).

Granted, the Church has altered its requirements for fasting and abstinence, not to mention mixed marriage. Meat can now be eaten on Friday if another way can be found of observing the spirit of the day on which Our Lord was crucified. And in a mixed marriage, the Catholic party is no longer required to promise in writing that he or she will do everything possible to raise the children as Catholics (the promise can now be made orally). But there is a difference between disciplinary matters, which are subject to administrative regulation and the body of doctrine known as dogma. Basically, it comes down to a question of essentials versus non-essentials. Some things will always be wrong, murder and suicide for example. Rome will never approve of adultery or lying (on an important matter to a person with a right to know).

G. K. Chesterton, the celebrated author and convert to Catholicism, once remarked that birth control (referring to contraceptive methods) meant "no birth and no control." Whether one is amused or annoyed by his witticism depends largely on one's spiritual orientation and what one thinks of the act designed by God to transmit human life. In order to grasp the Catholic position, one must first agree on the value of the thing that is being preconceptually aborted. One must then be aware that the logic behind contraception can be used to justify abortion, mercy killing, and suicide. Finally, one must respect the integrity of the marriage act itself.

All of us take it for granted that there are certain things in life that one simply does not do. If an older child sucks his thumb in public, a disapproving parent does not have to give fifty-nine reasons that will stand up in a court of law. Likewise, if a person comes to church improperly dressed, the priest may object without adducing arguments capable of overwhelming the intellect. Just as there is a social sense that one's child is expected to develop, so too there is a spiritual sense that must be inculcated, and included in this is a profound reverence for human life. Just as socially disadvantaged children are liable to grow up without a sense of propriety, children who are spiritually deprived (however affluent and well-mannered) will mature without a sense of piety. In sum, those who are refined in spirit will sense instinctively that there is "something wrong" with contraception, along with in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, because such acts are sacrilegious. Reduced to the language of an automobile bumper sticker, the message would read, "DON'T MESS WITH GOD."

Although it may be objected that the frustration of the procreative process is no different morally from the impairment of one's hearing by the use of earplugs, such a comparison leaves much to be desired. Hearing may be wonderful, but it is not sacred in the sense that procreation is. . It does not involve the conception of a human being with a soul that is destined to live forever, nor does it call for the direct intervention of God.

Is there not a certain logic in the Church's position that as products of divine engineering we should be governed by divine rules? The blueprint of the Manufacturer may not always be clear, but if we are going to err, should we not err on the side of conservatism? We may think that a fourth, fifth, or sixth child has no place in our home because it will lack material advantages or cause us to deny the same benefits to our other children. Yet is this the divine way of reasoning? From time immemorial, God has sent the tenderest of babes into war zones, droughts, floods, epidemics, and famines. And do we not believe that every child, however handicapped, is a gift from God and equal to every other child in the eyes of the Almighty? Are we not taught that all people have an identical place reserved for them in heaven along with the same chance to get there by virtue of God's grace? Would the Parent of parents play favorites?

Yes, there is an element of mystery in all of this, something we learn to accept as Christians, knowing that if one were to go by reason alone, a case could be made not only for contraception but also for sterilization and remarriage after divorce. All three involve the alleviation in some way, shape, or form of suffering on the human level. It is only when we ascend to the spiritual plane that our vision begins to sharpen and we learn to accept Christ's witness to the redemptive power of pain when embraced as part of the divine plan. If the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, as is often said, can we not argue that the suffering of a noble soul helps ennoble others who are striving to do the will of God?

Some will defend contraception on the ground that many of its practitioners have a worthy end in view. Here again, though, the argument limps because it contravenes a cardinal principle of the moral law: namely, that one' may never commit an act that is intrinsically evil in order to do good. One may not steal, for instance, in order to put a needy child through college.

The Church, as mentioned earlier, has never insisted that all persons must exercise their sexual faculties. This is a point worth repeating. Christ, who provided the perfect model for virginity, went so far as to say that a single life consecrated to God was preferable to the married state for those capable of making such a choice (Mt. 19:10-12). Even within marriage, Rome has been known on rare occasions to grant a dispensation for husband and wife to live together as brother and sister provided they agree on the desirability of such a life, provided also that the work they propose to substitute for their normal family routine is of sufficient value to warrant it (the late Jacques Maritan and his wife, Raissa, who were eminent in the field of philosophy, would be an example). If, however, the marriage act is to be performed, it must be performed in its full integrity. This has been the position of the Church ever since the time of it’s founding. Confirmed by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae and more recently in the American bishops' pastoral. To Live in Jesus Christ (1976), it was reaffirmed by a synod of bishops held in Rome in 1980 and has been enunciated many times since by Pope John Paul II, notably in his Familiaris Consortio.

It should be noted in this connection that Rome has always approved periodic abstinence from marital intercourse for "grave reasons" (Humanae Vitae, n. 10). Such reasons could be economic, social, psychological, or medical (for example a serious threat to the life of the mother or child). In years gone by, the name given to such a practice was "rhythm," but today there is a new Church-approved method called Natural Family Planning (NFP), which, as a means of postponing pregnancy or avoiding it altogether, is more scientific than rhythm. By enabling a couple to identify the fertile period of the woman's monthly cycle with a high degree of accuracy (approximately 98%), NFP has not only proven to be reliable, but owing to its elimination of hazardous side-effects, it has been adopted by non-Catholics as well as Catholics. In addition, since it involves voluntary sacrifice on the part of couples who are anxious to comply with God's law at the expense of their own personal gratification, it can bring the parties closer to one another even as it binds them more closely to the Lord.

Cynics see NFP as simply an inferior form of birth control. Because it requires abstinence for a week to ten days during the prime time of a woman's cycle, opponents argue that it involves a high degree of risk and must therefore be backed up by abortion. Such a view may be understandable, but it oversimplifies a highly complex issue. In the first place, NFP is not just another kind of birth control. If differs substantially from contraception in that it does not impair the integrity of sexual intercourse or act directly to frustrate the procreative process. To put it another way, NFP does not sever the unity between life and love that God intended for the procreative act (masturbation, one notes, is wrong for the same reason as contraception, because it separates the biological from the procreative aspect of sex). But apart from the moral issue, NFP differs from contraception in that the latter can arouse suspicions and become a bone of contention between husband and wife during the springtime of their union. The mere fact that NFP entails sacrifice on the part of both partners can lead not only to a heightening of mutual respect but also to increased satisfaction during the "safe" periods.

The only real danger in practicing NFP is that it will be perceived as a substitute for contraception, which is emphatically not the case. In the first place, NFP, to be effective, must be practiced with a fairly high degree of intelligence. It also requires a considerable measure of self-control. Thirdly, it is not permissible for most couples under most circumstances, only for those who have "grave reasons" for limiting the size of their family. On this point we must be absolutely clear. The reader may wonder what the Church has in mind when it speaks of "grave reasons," and here it is hard to speak categorically. Such matters are best resolved in conference with a spiritual adviser whose judgment can be trusted—and not because it is lenient but rather because it squares with the teaching of Rome. Although most couples could make a case on purely economic grounds for postponing childbirth, few would be able to claim "grave" reasons. The desire for a more attractive home or one situated in a better neighborhood would certainly not qualify. Neither would the desire to take a longer vacation or to own a second automobile (unless absolutely necessary) nor, for that matter, the desire to continue one's education, commendable as such a goal might be.

All of this affects the element of risk. It would be less than candid to suggest that every husband and every wife are in total possession of themselves at every stage of their relationship. Human nature being what it is, there is bound to be some uncertainty along this line. Indeed, if "grave" reasons were not mandated to justify NFP on moral grounds, they would be needed in the majority of cases simply in order to make the system work.

If a man and a woman have really serious reasons for abstinence, the requisite discipline should not be out of reach. People are not animals, and in a very real sense, the kind of self-mastery required to practice NFP is vital for the success of the marriage itself. If a husband cannot rein in his ardor on occasion or if he is unable to prevent himself from reaching a climax in advance of his wife, he leaves much to be desired. Conversely, if his wife does not strive with all her heart and soul to throw herself into the act of love-making in order to compensate for a relatively slow pace of arousal, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a mutually satisfactory result. The more one dies to self and concentrates on pleasing the other person, the greater the likelihood of personal satisfaction. Christ held that "to save one's life, one must lose it," and there is no area in the world where such teaching is more applicable than in the mystical relationship between husband and wife.

There may be times when one will not experience sexual gratification to the fullest degree. One or the other partner may be tired, nervous, or distracted, and such a condition can linger for protracted lengths of time. Nonetheless, if the aim is first and foremost to convey a sense of heartfelt tenderness and love, the pleasure and the satisfaction will follow automatically. An understanding mate will gladly make allowances for physical inadequacy as long as the spirit of self-giving is present. The prudent mate will likewise avoid becoming preoccupied with the attainment of some preconceived type of orgasm, thereby triggering a vicious circle: the more the parties worry, the worse they will perform, and the worse they perform, the more they will worry.

Love is so much more than sexual intercourse. The worst thing that can happen to sex—the surest way to ruin it—is to place too much of a premium on it. One must take care not to exaggerate its importance, remembering that the physical side of lovemaking can never stand by itself. It is unique in its absolute dependence on the proper functioning of other elements. If a man and woman are chronically at odds or lacking in mutual esteem, they are unlikely to find what they are looking for in the marriage bed, certainly not for any length of time. Intercourse is only one of many ways of expressing an underlying sentiment.

There is no rule, incidentally, about when, or how often, couples should engage in the marriage act. This is entirely dependent on the couple and its situation. Three times a day or three times a year can both be "right" depending on a wide range of circumstances. Such factors as health, pregnancy, and pressure outside the home must be taken into account. In any case, affection is shown best when it is shown spontaneously. True joy tends to catch us unawares at moments we least expect and at times when we are least self-conscious. No spouse wants to be regarded as an automaton operating on some kind of timetable.

Husbands generally take the lead since they are the first to experience feelings of sexual arousal. Again, though, there is no hard and fast rule except to say that it would normally be inconsiderate and wrong for one mate to make advances when the other is plainly dog tired or, for any other reason, seriously indisposed. It is equally wrong for a mate to discourage such advances without sufficient cause. As St. Paul put it, "let the husband render to the wife her due, and likewise the wife to the husband. The wife has not authority over her body, but the husband; the husband likewise has not authority over his body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again lest Satan tempt you because you lack self-control" (1 Cor. 7:3-6). This is not to suggest that one is ever obliged to engage in lovemaking that is indecent. Oral and anal sex are out of the question, along with anything else that might be offensive to the other person. One is never justified in treating one's mate as a mere object to be exploited for lustful ends (Gaudium et Spes, No. 51). But as long as a spirit of moderation, modesty, and refinement is present, one is free to be as passionate and uninhibited as one may wish . Both parties should feel comfortable just as they should retain their dignity as children of God (1 Thess. 4:3-5).

One or two caveats might be entered at this stage. It is always well, when giving the impression of desiring physical intimacy, to be fairly certain one is prepared for it. To lead one's mate on, so to speak, without honest intent, would be just as wrong in its own way as foisting one's passion on the other person without laying the proper groundwork. Normally, a gradual lead-up to marital intercourse is indispensable if the act itself is to be fully satisfying. Marks of affection in the hours and days preceding intercourse, as well as in the period known as "foreplay" just before union, can make a great difference. The stroking or massaging of sensitive parts in various areas of the body can be particularly gratifying to the woman who is apt to take upwards of a half an hour or more to become totally "engaged."

Each mate, in addition, should try to be as affectionate and sexually available as possible. If advances must be rebuffed, the one who is unavailable should try to reassure the other that intimacy is only a matter of time — in other words, not to give up. Needless to say, there will be times when one may have to forego union in order to attend to the duties of a well-ordered life. It would be inadvisable, for example, to put one's love life ahead of one's professional obligations, family responsibilities, or one's duty to God.

All of which brings us full circle to the need for discipline and the manifest teachings of the Church. Whenever we are tempted to doubt the authority of the Catholic Church because it asks more of us in this regard than other churches, it is important to remember that Christ Himself took a rather hard line on many questions. Time and again, He held His apostles to a standard of behavior that must have seemed well nigh impossible. It was only natural, we would say, for the twelve to be terrified when their boat was rocked by a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Yet Jesus rebuked them for their lack of trust, exclaiming "O Ye of little faith!" And when Peter suggested that the Messiah need not suffer indignity and death at the hands of His enemies, a human enough sentiment, our Lord recoiled angrily, calling him "Satan" and bidding him "get behind me!"(Mk. 8:33).

Christ's teaching on marriage was so rigid by the custom of the time that it caused his apostles to inquire, "Who, then, should get married?" Note that His reply, far from qualifying what He had to say, reinforced it by expressing a preference for the life of virginity. Then again, when one of His followers, about to join the ministry, asked if he might be excused for a few days to attend the funeral of his father, the answer was no. Another disciple wanted nothing more than permission to go home and bid farewell to his family, but he too was told no. "No one, having put his hand to the plough and looking back," said Jesus, "is worthy of the kingdom of God" (Lk. 9:59-62). The ways of God are not the ways of man. Neither are the ways of God's church the ways of man. Christ may have been gentle and compassionate in dealing with repentant sinners, but He was never easy. The adulteress who escaped death by stoning on account of His timely intervention found herself on the receiving end of His command to "Go and sin no more!" This was a man who insisted that it was sinful even to look at a woman with lust, let alone commit adultery. This was a Savior who warned that the gate to His kingdom was narrow and that there were "many" who would fail to enter (Lk. 13:24). Is it not logical to assume that if Jesus was such a stern task-master. He would want the Church that He founded to reflect this quality? Life itself is of course an endurance test. And do we not know from experience that any worthwhile undertaking here on earth requires a great deal of effort? What grounds do we have, then, for assuming that the rewards of eternal life are to be purchased on the cheap?

Those who doubt that Christ established a church with genuine authority to bind in matters of faith and morals should consult the scriptures. There were hundreds, probably thousands, of Christians who gave their lives for the privilege of testifying to the truth of what these scriptures contain, and they did so within thirty or forty years of Jesus' crucifixion. Many of these early martyrs were eye-witnesses of Christ's ministry on earth or, at the very least, acquainted with people who had walked and talked with Our Lord. None of them, as far as we know, had any difficulty accepting the fact that He founded an organization with authority. Christ Himself designated seventy-two disciples (Lk. 10:1-20), and above them in rank stood the twelve apostles. Then, to occupy the position of greatest authority, Christ chose Peter to whom he entrusted the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (see appendix A for more on Peter).

The reason it is vital for us to accept the Holy Father as head of the Church is because individual priests, and even groups of bishops, have been known to err in their teaching. One of the best-known instances of this is the English Church at the time of King Henry VIII. When Henry demanded a divorce from his first wife and permission to remarry, the Holy Father said no. But only one of the nation's bishops sided with Rome against the English court. This one bishop, along with Sir Thomas More (the king's chancellor and second most powerful man in the realm) were beheaded for their loyalty to the Pope. Henry eventually had his second wife executed and went on to marry several others in quick succession. But the point is that his defiance, linked with the defection of an overwhelming majority, of bishops, caused most of England to separate from the Catholic Church.

Some of those who sided with Henry may have done so in all sincerity and with a perfectly good conscience. Yet this does not make them any the less liable. Plenty of well-meaning individuals commit egregious acts every day out of sheer ignorance. One's conscience is never proof against error unless it is properly formed, and it must be formed in light of what the Holy Father teaches. Only when one makes a concerted effort to ascertain papal teaching does one have a conscience that can be safely relied upon.

Many continue to argue that the Church's teachings are "unrealistic," pointing out that we live in a society that militates against generosity in family life. To be sure, employees are frequently required to travel long distances away from home. Housing units tend to be small, and the only recognition given by government to the ideal of family life is a meager tax deduction for dependents. It may appear from such a perspective that we are naive to follow the Catholic way. But we should not be deterred. Christ Himself, during His public ministry, convinced relatively few of the truth of what He had to say. There were some at the time who recognized Him as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," just as there will always be some who will have the wisdom to see that truth does not necessarily correspond to what fifty-one percent of the people happen to believe at a given moment. Those who are brave enough and sufficiently confident in their faith to make the kind of sacrifice needed to live a holy life (the same kind of sacrifice demanded for the success of any great enterprise) will receive God's saving grace. To them will be granted the knowledge of what Jesus was trying to tell us when He said, "my yoke is easy, my burden light." They will be blessed with a deep and abiding joy in the state of matrimony, and it is to them that this book is dedicated.


Appendix A— The Case For Papal Teaching Authority

The case for papal infallibility when a pontiff speaks as head of the Church (ex cathedra) and addresses the Church as a whole on matters of faith and morals rests, to a large degree, on Christ's charge to Peter: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt. 16:18-19).

Although Protestant commentators maintain that Peter was simply one of twelve apostles with no special authority to hand on, this is a difficult interpretation to defend. Sacred scripture, as well as tradition, portrays Peter as unique in many ways. It was to the twelve as a group that Christ gave the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-23) but to Peter alone that He entrusted the "keys." Then, too, Peter is mentioned first in all the lists of apostles (Mt. 10:1-4; Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:14-16; Acts 1:13). He is the only one Christ is known to have singled out as a special object of prayer (Lk. 22:32) just as he is the only one whose name was changed by Jesus (from Simon to Peter meaning, in the original language, "rock"). The change itself is significant. Peter alone received Christ's commission to "feed my lambs, feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). He alone was instructed to "strengthen my brethren" (Lk. 22:31-32). He was also the first to be called to the priesthood, along with his brother Andrew (Mk. 1:16). He was the first to identify our Lord as the Messiah (Mk. 8:29) and, following the Crucifixion, he was the first of the twelve, along with John, to reach the empty tomb (John 20:3).

Jesus promised His apostles that He would send them the Paraclete, the "Spirit of Truth," and that it would teach them "all the truth" and dwell with them "forever" (John 14:16; 16:13). Later, after He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy spirit to strengthen His apostles at Pentecost, it was Peter who decided on the method of choosing a thirteenth apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1:15). Subsequently, he became the first to preach on behalf of all the apostles (Acts 2:14). He was also the first to take Christianity to the Gentiles (Acts 9) and the first to work a cure. Significantly, he was the only one of the twelve to raise a person from the dead (Acts 3:6 and 9:36-43). His power over illness and disease was such that the sick would wait patiently on their beds and pallets just in the hope of having his shadow fall upon as he passed through the neighborhood (Acts 5:12-16). One might add that Peter was the only one of the twelve of whom it is recorded that he struck a man dead on the spot for an act of immorality—actually a man and a woman (Acts 5:1-11).

Peter was consulted on every major issue that arose in the early Church and in every case it was his decision that prevailed (see, for example, Acts 1:15, 5:29, 15:6-12, and John 21). The same may be said of each of his successors, the bishops of Rome. Rome was the imperial capital in which Peter established himself after leaving Jerusalem and Antioch, and it should be noted that all the ecumenical councils ever held beginning with the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., were either convened by the bishop of "Rome or approved by him. History also records that every major nation ever converted to Christianity received the faith from missionaries commissioned by the See of Rome.

Recently, the Second Vatican Council made it clear in decrees promulgated by Pope Paul VI (21 December 1964) that "the Pope's power of primacy over all remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme, and universal power over the Church, which he is always free to exercise . . . The infallibility also resides in the body of bishops, but only "when it exercises the supreme teaching authority with the Pope" (quotations taken from an outline of council documents published by the bishop of Rockville Center, 1965, pp. 11-12, 15, 86).

It is highly significant that no pope has given a positive endorsement to heresy of any kind or proclaimed anything in the realm of faith or morals, which has had to be repudiated. Pope Liberius, whose tenure dates to the fourth century, was imprisoned for two years, threatened with death and treated cruelly by those aiming to procure a heretical statement from him. Yet such a statement never materialized. Likewise in the case of the sixth century Pope Vigilius. Vigilius was a heretic before becoming pope. Indeed, his accession to the papacy owed much to the influence of Theodora, the emperor's wife, who expected him to continue in office as a heretic. Nevertheless, once he occupied the chair of St. Peter, his views changed. "Formerly," he wrote, "I spoke wrongly and foolishly . . . Though unworthy, I am Vicar of Blessed Peter." The result for Vigilius was ten years of "white" martyrdom ending in a painful and ignominious death. Wee Warren H. Carrol, The Building of Christendom (1987), pp. 31-33, 168, 172-78.

Appendix B— Biblical Quotations On Sex And Marriage

On Purity

"Anyone who so much as looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery" (Jesus' words, Mt. 5:28).

"Do not let sin reign over your body so that you obey its lusts" (St. Paul in Romans 6:12).

"Do not even speak of immorality and uncleanness . . . Obscenity, foolish talk and scurrility is out of place" in the language of a Christian (St. Paul in Ephesians 5:3-4).

"The fruit of the spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modesty, continency" (St. Paul in Galatians 5:23).

"This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality; that you learn how to possess his vessel in holiness and honor" (God's vessel meaning the body). See St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:4.

"If thy right eye is an occasion of sin to thee, pluck it out . . . and if thy right hand is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should be lost than that thy whole body should go into hell" (Jesus' words as recorded by Matthew 5:29-30).

"Immorality, uncleanness, lust, evil desire and covetousness . . . because of these things the wrath of God comes upon unbelievers" (St. Paul in Colossians 3:5-6).

"The lips of an adulteress drip with honey and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood, as sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death" (Proverbs 5:3-5).

Of your neighbor's wife: "Let her not captivate you with her glance!" (Proverbs 6:25).

"Be not intimate with a strange woman, lest you fall into her snares" (Sirach 9:7-9).

"If you have daughters, keep them chaste" (Sirach 7:24 and 42:12).

St. John's Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) is not long, consisting of only twenty-two short chapters. Yet it denounces the sin of pre-marital sex (fornication) no less than nine times and speaks out against adultery, harlotry, and whores six times. This adds up to fifteen separate mentions of sexual abuse. For additional references, see Ecclesiastes 7:26; Sirach 7:19; 9:3, 5; 25:14; 26:9-12, 15-18; Proverbs 5:15-16; 7 (all of it); 21:9, 19; 22:14 30:20.

Regarding A Wise Choice Of Friends

"We charge you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw yourselves from every brother who lives irregularly and not according to the teaching received from us" (St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:6).

"[Do not] associate with one who is called a brother if he is immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or evil-tongued, or a drunkard, or greedy; with such a one [do not even] take food" (St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:11).

"He who touches pitch blackens his hand; he who associates with an impious man learns his ways" (Sirach 13:1).

"Bring not every man into your house . . . avoid a wicked man" (Sirach 11:29, 33).

On The Permanence Of Marriage (Indissolubility)

"Everyone who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries a woman who has been put away from her husband commits adultery" (Jesus' words, Lk. 16:18).

"A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh . . . what therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder . . . Whoever puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if the wife puts away her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Jesus' words, Mk. 10:7-12).

"Everyone who puts away his wife, save on account of immorality, causes her to commit adultery; and he who marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery" (Jesus' words, Mt. 5:32). Note that when Jesus speaks of a man putting his wife away on account of immorality, he does not speak of a man's right to remarry. See also Mt. 19:1-9.

"Not I, but the Lord commands that a wife is not to depart from her husband, and if she departs, that she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And let not a husband put away his wife" (St. Paul's words, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

On The Proper Relationship Between Husbands And Wives

"Wives be submissive to your husbands . . . husbands love your wives" (St. Paul's words, Colossians 3:18).

Husbands are enjoined to love their wives as they love "their own bodies" and as Christ loves His Church (St. Paul in Ephesians 5:22-25, 28, 33; 1 Corinthians 11:13 and 7-10; St. Peter in 1 Peter 3:1-6).

In the Garden of Eden, God said, "It is not good that the man is alone; I will make him a helper like himself . . . The Lord God cast the man into a deep sleep and, while he slept, took one of his ribs and . . . the rib which the Lord God took from the man he made into a woman, and brought her to him. Then the man said, 'She now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, from man she has been taken" (Genesis 2:18, 21-24).

Appendix C— More On Marriage

Impediments To Marriage

Impediments to marriage, which according to present church law, could render a marriage null and void in the eyes of the Church (and thus constitute grounds for annulment) include insufficient age, force, closeness of blood relationship, godparent-child relationship, pre-existing marriage, secret marriage, and a vow of virginity. There are several others as well.

Quotable Quotes

"Marriage is like a fine wine, it improves with age and appreciates in value. Torrents of worries and difficulties are incapable of drowning true love because people who sacrifice themselves generously are brought closer together in the long run" (Monsignor Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer).

"Never be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass" (Max Ehrmann).

"There is nothing in the world— no possible success, military or political, which is worth weighing in the balance for one moment against the happiness that comes to those fortunate enough to make a real love match—a match in which lover and sweetheart will never be lost in husband and wife. "I know what I am writing about, for I am just as much devoted to Mrs. Roosevelt now as ever I was" (Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States, 1901-1909, written when he was forty years old on 26 September 1899).

A Word About Large Families And Children

The following individuals were born into families of:

7 children: George Washington, greatest of all American leaders, and St. Thomas Aquinas, the most notable of all Church thinkers.

8 children: Charles Dickens (his family was so much in debt that it had to spend time in prison).

9 children: Grover Cleveland, one of the better two-term presidents.

10 children: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Polk (all three of them presidents). Also, Daniel Webster (ninth of ten children) and John C. Calhoun, two of the nation's most celebrated senators.

11 children: Washington Irving, luminary of early American literature (youngest of his family, he went to work while his older brothers enrolled in college).

12 children: Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin: and Franz Schubert, composer of "Ave Maria" and other immortal works.

13 children: Frances Cabrini, the first American saint, along with Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, who was the last of thirteen.

15 children: John Marshall, most renowned of all chief justices of the United States Supreme Court.

16 children: Henry Clay, one of the most brilliant of early American statesmen.

17 children: Benjamin Franklin, most extraordinary of American leaders, was a writer, diplomat, wit, scientific genius, and practically everything else one can think of.

21 children: Enrico Caruso, the most famous tenor of all time, was eighteenth in a family of twenty-one (and his mother died when he was in grade school).

25 children: St. Catherine of Siena, last of twenty-five, was called the greatest woman in Christendom.

The roster of individuals who lost one or both parents at an early age reads like an honor roll of American history:

Washington (age 11), Jefferson (14), Franklin (ran away from home), Alexander Hamilton (11), Calhoun (14), Jackson, Clay (4), Lincoln, Robert E. Lee (when he was five, his father left home, never to return), Cleveland (16), Theodore Roosevelt (19), Franklin D. Roosevelt (a freshman in college), Herbert Hoover (lost both of his parents by the time he was eight), Mark Twain (11), Andrew Carnegie (19). In sports one can name Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Joe Louis. Foreigners whose names come to mind would include Alexander Solzhenitsyn (lost his father before he was born), Churchill (20), Chiang Kai-shek (9), Confucius (born an orphan). Others in this category turned out to be less than admirable—e.g. Stalin (II), Hitler (13), and Genghis Khan (9)—but the exceptions do not invalidate the rule.

Daily Prayer For A Married Couple

Thank you, Lord for the graces, which You planted deep in our souls through the sacrament of matrimony. May these sources of strength and devotion remain always and grow like the mustard seed. Help us to love You by loving each other; to understand the meaning of life by understanding each other; to draw closer to You by our closer union; and to use the joys and sorrows of our life together as a means of gaining ever more faith, hope, and charity. O God, You have helped us come together; help us to stay together. With your help we have resolved our differences through ever-deeper love and mutual understanding and used each occasion to forge greater unity; with Your help, we will continue to turn weakness into strength! May our marriage be fruitful as we labor in the great vineyard of this world; and may we come to our eternal rest through each other, with each other, and in each other. Amen.

Appendix D— Holy Communion

On The Eucharist

For Bible passages which support the Catholic belief in Christ's real presence during Communion, see those relating to the Last Supper: Mt. 26:26-28; Lk. 22:19-20; and Mk. 14:22-27; also the passage in which Jesus explains what He means to scandalized followers: John 6:1-15, 51-57, 61-70. St. Paul speaks of receiving the "body of Christ" worthily (1 Cor. 10:16 and 11:24-28). We also have the testimony of St. Ignatius of Antioch (107 A.D.): "The Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ." Likewise, St. Justin, writing in 145 A.D.: "The Eucharist … is both the flesh and the blood of Jesus." Nor is this to mention the tradition of the Church.

On Daily Communion

Pope Pius X (1903-1914) was the first pontiff to recommend this practice for all the faithful, barring serious inconvenience. For his text, he chose the words of the Our Father: "Give us this day our daily bread."

Proper Dress For Church

Most of us need no reminder to put on our "Sunday best" when we attend Mass. Neatness and modesty may also be taken for granted. But there is an appropriate verse in Psalm 96 (95 in older Catholic editions): "Worship the Lord in holy attire."

Appendix E— Penance Or The Sacrament Of Reconciliation

Scriptural Basis

Christ forgave sins on His own authority (Lk. 5:17-26) and He gave this same authority to Peter, who was to act as His representative: "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Mt. 16:13-19). He also gave the power of absolution to the apostles as a group: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they shall be forgiven, and whose sins you shall bind, they shall be bound" (John 20:23). In addition, we have the testimony of St. James and St. John: "Confess your sins to one another" (James 5:16; 1 John 1:8-9).

What One Says To The Priest In Confession

To begin: "Bless me father, for I have sinned. It is three weeks (or whatever period) since my last confession. Since that time, I have . . . (list the sins you have committed and for each one of them the number of times you committed it).

To conclude: (after the priest gives you your penance), say the Act of Contrition: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I offend Thee, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen."

What Is Sin?

Very simply, sin is an offense against God. Sins may be minor (venial) or major (mortal). While we are obliged to confess all mortal sins, we are urged to confess venial sins as well insofar as we are aware of them. Three conditions must obtain for a mortal sin to be committed: (1) the offense must be serious, (2) we must be fully aware of its seriousness, and (3) there must be full consent of the will. If any one of these conditions is absent, the sin in question is venial.

Examples Of Serious Sin

Mortal sins would include serious offenses against the Ten Commandments or any of the seven capital sins:

Ten Commandments: (1) I, the Lord, am your God. I shall not have false gods before me (like money, sex, or worldly success), (2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (no swearing), (3) Keep holy the Sabbath (by going to church on Sunday or late Saturday, dressing properly, and trying as much as possible to avoid working on Sunday), (4) honor thy father and thy mother, (5) Thou shalt not kill (another human being except in self-defense or just punishment), (6) Thou shalt not commit adultery, (7) Thou shalt not steal, (8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, (9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, (10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

The Seven Capital Sins: (1) pride (2) covetousness (3) lust (4) anger (uncontrolled) (5) gluttony (6) envy (7) sloth.

Examining One’s Conscience Before Confession

It is often helpful to think in terms of what one might have done to please God but didn't. In other words, we should confess not only the things we did that were offensive to God, but also the things we did not do that we should have done had we been more thoughtful and considerate. It is not hard, usually, to think of kind and gracious things we were capable of doing but which we omitted because we were thinking of ourselves when we might have been thinking of others.

To Be Eligible To Receive Communion

In order to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily, we must have confessed any mortal sin that we may have committed since our last confession. Naturally, we will feel closer to God, and therefore make a better approach to Communion, if we confess our sins on a fairly regular basis. In the unlikely event that there is nothing to confess, one may always mention the sins of one's past life and express contrition for them even though they may have been confessed previously.

Sample Opportunities For Attending Mass And Going To Confession In Manhattan

(there are probably similar opportunities in other large cities)

St. Jean's Church (Lexington and 76th St.) has daily Mass at 6:15, 7, 7:30, 8, 9, 12:10, 1, 5:30 and 7:30 while confessions are heard every day from 11:40 to 12:10, 4 to 5:30, and 7 to 7:30. St. Agnes Church (between Lexington and Third Avenue at 43rd Street) has Masses every half hour from 7 to 9 A.M. as well as at mid-day and during the late afternoon. Confessions are heard at all of the same times. Check the schedule of the Catholic Church nearest you.

Appendix F— Bearing Witness To One’s Faith

St. Peter wrote: "Be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus told His disciples (and He was speaking to us as well): "Do not let them intimidate you . . . What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light. What you hear in private proclaim from the housetops . . . Whoever acknowledges me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me before men I will disown before my Father in heaven" (Mt. 10:26-33). The Second Vatican Council made it clear that "the laity should speak up, even in the program of their secular life. Evangelization by the laity, in word and life, has special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world . . . all must cooperate and try to understand the revealed truth better." The Council concluded that, "the laity must be specially formed to engage in conversation with others, believers and non-believers."

Appendix G— Heaven And Hell Mentioned In The Bible

Heaven: "Eye has not seen, nor ear hear, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him" (St. Paul's words, 1 Cor. 2:9). Jesus spoke of heaven as "paradise" (Luke 23:43). He also said that each child has its own angel in heaven (Mt. 18:10). Hence the beautiful children's prayer: "Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide."

Heaven Compared With Hell: Jesus said, "The just will shine like the sun, while evil doers shall be hurled into the fiery furnace to wail and grind their teeth" (Mt. 13:40-43). He also referred to heaven as eternal life and to hell as eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41-46).

Hell: Jesus described the fire of hell as "unquenchable" and "everlasting" (Mt. 3:12 and 25:41). He also spoke of hell in terms of darkness (Mt. 8:12) and said that good and evil would be separated on the day of judgment as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff (Mt. 13:30). He likewise stressed that the gate to eternal life was narrow and the road difficult (with "few" entering) whereas the gate to hell was wide and the road easy (with "many" going that way). See Mt. 7:12-14. On one occasion, Our Lord told the Pharisees that they were a "viper's nest" bound for hell: "How can you escape condemnation to Gehenna?" (Gehenna was the name of Jerusalem's garbage dump). See Mt. 23:33. On another occasion, Jesus said that on the day of judgment we would be held accountable not only for deliberate sins, but for every unguarded word (Mt. 12:36). Hence the concept of venial sin. Jesus let it be known that an entire town, Capharnaum, would be condemned to hell for its iniquity (Mt. 11:20-24). Once, after Our Lord cured a paralytic, he cautioned him, "Sin no more lest something worse befall you!" (John 5:1-15). See also Luke 16:19-20 for the parable about Lazarus and the rich man (there is a "fixed abyss" between heaven and hell). In passages relating to Christ's descent into hell (or purgatory), hell is referred to as "the bowels of the earth," the "lower regions," and the place of the "dead." See Mt. 12:40; Ephesians 4:8-10; Acts 2:24 and 31; Hebrews 13:20 and Romans 10:6-7.

Appendix H— Roman And Jewish Evidence For Christ’s Existence And The Authenticity Of His Claim To Be The Messiah

Tacitus, the greatest Roman historian of his time (writing about 116 A. D.), mentions that, "the founder of this sect, named Christ, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate." Flavius Josephus, a famous Jewish historian of the period (who died in 100 A.D.), mentions John the Baptist and "James, called the brother of Jesus."

Messianic Prophecies Of The Old Testament

Among the founders of the great religions, Jesus is the only one whose coming was foretold. An expert on Jewish history and culture has estimated that the rabbis at the time of Christ's birth had identified 456 passages in the Old Testament that set forth various details relating to the long-expected Messiah. The chance that any one of these messianic prophecies would be fulfilled in Christ—for example, that He would be a direct descendant in the male line of King David—is perhaps one in a hundred (Abraham Lincoln had four children, but there are no male descendants alive today who bear the family name). The chance that two prophesies would be fulfilled is perhaps one in a thousand. Let us add, for the sake of argument, the prophecy that the promised Messiah would be born in the inconspicuous town of Bethlehem. The chance that anyone would fulfill all of the prophecies, as Christ did, has been estimated as 1 in over 8,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000..

For some of the more striking examples of Old Testament prophecy that find their fulfillment in Jesus, see:

Psalm 22, which begins, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" and continues: "All who see me scoff at me; they mock me . . . a pack of evil doers closes in upon me; they have pierced my hands and my feet; they look on and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots" (verses 8-10, 17-19).

Isaiah, which reads, "Listen, O house of David . . . the Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child and bear a son" (7:13-14). "It is too little . . . for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth" (49:6). The fifty-third chapter describes God's "suffering servant" as one who is spurned by men and a man of suffering (verse 3); he is "pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins" (verse 5); and "a grave" is "assigned to him among the wicked" (verse 9).

Micah, which reads, "But you, Bethlehem . . . from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel . . . his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth." (5:1-4).

Zechariah, which reads, "See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass" (9:9-10).

It may be of interest to note a couple of other prophecies found in the Old Testament, which have also been proven true. At the time of the prophesies, the cites of Tyre and Babylon were as prosperous and commercially important as Chicago and New York are today. The prediction that both of them would be utterly destroyed must have been hard to believe. Yet within a relatively short space of time, Babylon was nothing but a Persian game park and Tyre had become a simple fishing village. See Isaiah 13:19-21 and Ezechiel 26:12-14.

Appendix I— Scriptural Basis For The Other Sacraments

Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction):

James 5:14-16: "Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the priests of the church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his." See also Mk. 6:13: "They expelled many demons, anointed the sick with oil, and worked many cures."


Jesus said: "Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt. 28:19-20). He also told Nicodemus, "I solemnly assure you, no one can enter into God's kingdom without being begotten of water and the Holy Spirit" (John 3:5). Jesus Himself was of course, baptized by John in the River Jordan.


See Acts 8:14-17 and other passages similar to it. On being a "soldier of Christ," see Ephesians 6:13-17.

Edited by Jennifer Gregory.

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