Category Archives: Marriage

Marriage – heroic virtue

“I could not have imagined the effect that Catholic faith would have on my marriage. I could not have imagined how I would come to regard my wife with so much more dignity.”

…Catholicism might look good on paper, [my wife, a Catholic revert] thought, but it never worked out in real life. And there is real truth in this criticism. There are many Catholics who do not cooperate with grace, who do not have faith, and who make little attempt to follow Church teaching. I have had fellow Catholics who advised me to avoid confession, to disbelieve Church teaching about marriage and sex, and even to divorce my wife.

There were many times in my marriage when what sustained me most of all was the example of my parents. Though my parents were not Catholic, they lived the most important Catholic truth about marriage better than many Catholics do: They were dead set against divorce, no matter what. Burn your parachute; hang on like mad; and do whatever it takes to stick in there. Without that example, I do not know if I would have made it.

Inspired by my parents, I had to look deeper and deeper to find the grace necessary to live that demand. Ultimately, that search led me and my wife to the Catholic Church. It is no credit to me; I really credit my wife with having the courage and conviction to take up the Faith with both hands, to plunge into the depth of the sacraments, to embrace the Cross, and to strive for a life of contemplative prayer. She cooperated with grace, and the result was the transformation of everything.

There has been a lot of conversation recently about the Catholic doctrine on marriage, including about how strictly pastors should insist on the Church’s “hard teachings.” But let me tell you this: The hard teachings saved me. I did not know about nuance or mitigating circumstances. I did know that I had a moral obligation to save my marriage or die trying. Had I really believed there was any other permissible option, my marriage would not have survived — and I am so glad that my marriage survived.

Why does Christ call Christian couples to such a high standard of fidelity, even to the point of embracing the cross of suffering? The reason is that Christian marriage is no mere human contract. It is a mystical participation in the sacrificial, self-giving love of Christ for His Church (Eph. 5). It is a special vocation to holiness, an ecclesial state in the same way that priesthood or religious life is an ecclesial state. Christian marriage participates in the sacramental mission of the Church to bring Christ to the world.

Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.41

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (p. 162-163). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

41 Familiaris Consortio, no. 13.

Grace & marriage

“In 1930, the Anglican Church’s Lambeth Conference resulted in a statement that made a seismic shift in Christian thinking and practice by opening the door to allowing contraception and allowing remarriage after divorce. Pope Pius XII knew this required a response to let the world know that the Catholic Church had not and would not follow suit. The result was Casti Connubii, a wise and beautiful encyclical letter about Christian marriage.

The pope reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to divorce and to birth control, but he also acknowledged that these standards are difficult. The Holy Father did not offer an easy solution; on the contrary, he freely admitted that many Catholics find them impossible. The fault, however, does not lie with God but with us. Pius cited the Council of Trent, which teaches that God never demands the impossible of us: He always supplies the necessary grace.

If God supplies the grace, then why do some Catholics find the moral demands of marriage to be impossible? The pope’s answer is astonishing for its realism and honesty. They find it impossible, he says, because they do not cooperate with grace. They do not live the faith generously. They are unwilling to sacrifice. If they do not do everything in their power — if they select only those parts of the Faith they like, or if they do not give themselves to prayer and the sacraments — then the grace of matrimony will be an unused talent hidden in the field (see Matt. 25:14–30). The pope explains:

Nevertheless, since it is a law of divine Providence in the supernatural order that men do not reap the full fruit of the Sacraments which they receive after acquiring the use of reason unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field unless the parties exercise these supernatural powers and cultivate and develop the seeds of grace they have received. If, however, doing all that lies with their power, they cooperate diligently, they will be able with ease to bear the burdens of their state and to fulfill their duties. By such a sacrament they will be strengthened, sanctified and in a manner consecrated.39

Catholics who reject Church teaching and do not vigorously practice their Faith simply should not expect grace from the sacrament. It may sound harsh, but they should not be surprised if their marriages fail. On the other hand, Catholics who believe the Church and practice their Faith can be confident that God will supply the necessary grace.

What is necessary in order to cooperate with the grace offered in the sacrament of matrimony? This is something that Pope John Paul II wrote about extensively. In his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, he explains that couples must accept and follow Church teaching on human sexuality, prayer, and the sacraments. He writes:

There is no doubt that these conditions [for receiving the grace] must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in His grace, and frequent recourse to prayer and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. Thus strengthened, Christian husbands and wives will be able to keep alive their awareness of the unique influence that the grace of the sacrament of marriage has on every aspect of married life, including therefore their sexuality: the gift of the Spirit, accepted and responded to by husband and wife, helps them to live their human sexuality in accordance with God’s plan and as a sign of the unitive and fruitful love of Christ for His Church. (33)

…Married love does not exist for the purpose of romantic gratification. Married love exists “to lead the spouses to God” and to strengthen them in the “sublime office of being a mother or a father.”40

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (p. 160-161). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

33 Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, trans. D. W. Robertson (New York: Macmillan, 1958), 65.
39 Casti Connubii, no. 41.
40 Gaudium et Spes, no. 48.

Suffering in Marriage

Catholic humor: “What are the seven Sacraments? Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, Holy orders and….(wait for it) martyrdom (Marriage) 🙂 LOL.”

“Marriage is an adventure. Like going to war.” -GK Chesterton

Francis de Sales is another saint and Doctor of the Church who warned against the danger of Catholic superstition. His great book Introduction to the Devout Life begins by dismissing superstitious forms of religious life. True devotion, he teaches, is not found specifically in the multiplication of prayers, fasting, self-denial, or gifts to the poor. True devotion, rather, is founded in love toward God and neighbor:

All true and living devotion presupposes the love of God; — and indeed it is neither more nor less than a very real love of God, though not always of the same kind; for that Love, one while shining on the soul, we call grace, which makes us acceptable to His Divine Majesty; — when it strengthens us to do well, it is called Charity; — but when it attains its fullest perfection, in which it not only leads us to do well, but to act carefully, diligently, and promptly, then it is called Devotion.34

…The Catholic Church saved my marriage by teaching us how to think about marriage, parenthood, and the moral life. The Church saved us by offering us grace in the sacraments. She saved us by proposing the saints as models of holiness. She saved us by sending wonderful priests to accompany us in our struggles, religious who served our family, and friends in the Faith who loved us. But none of that would have worked if the Church had not also taught us how to pray.

…The point of life is ennobling spiritual friendship with God and neighbor. We cannot possibly achieve that goal without a willingness to embrace suffering — even the suffering of an unhappy marriage.

…the Catholic Faith asks something of us that is far more mysterious and more difficult: The Church asks us willingly to endure some suffering even when there is no promise of tangible benefit. But what She does promise is that this suffering can be redeemed beyond time and space and in ways we cannot presently understand.

…I mentioned that some parts of Catholic tradition are applicable to anyone, but other parts cannot be accepted without embracing the whole Catholic worldview. The Catholic teaching on suffering is one of those parts that does not make sense without belief in God, the Church, the sacraments, and the Catholic plan of salvation. It lies right at the mysterious heart of Catholic spirituality. But it is also the Catholic teaching that is most sublime and elevating, and that has the greatest capacity to transform our lives.

How can willingly endured suffering radically transform our lives? Answering this question takes us into the core of the Catholic Faith — into the Eucharist, the communion of saints, penance, purgatory, indulgences, and all those beliefs and practices that non-Catholics find so difficult. It also carries us straight to Christ and to salvation.

Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). To appreciate fully the Catholic teaching on suffering, we must understand why Jesus died on the Cross and how the benefits of His death and Resurrection are communicated to us. We must understand how our suffering, willingly and faithfully endured, connects us to Christ. In so doing, we will also better understand our connection to Our Lady of Sorrows, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who also willingly endured suffering. She is the model Christian, who prayed, “Be it done to me according to Thy word” (see Luke 1:38).

Why did Christ die? We need to understand the depth of Catholic doctrine on this subject to appreciate the Church’s teaching on suffering. One of the most common questions I have gotten in my work in Catholic radio is this: “Since Jesus paid the penalty for my sins on the Cross, why should I have to do anything to be saved? Why should I have to suffer?”

Protestants and Catholics have very different ideas about the death of Christ, and the problem is that many, and perhaps most, people know only the Protestant doctrine. Growing up Protestant, I learned that my sin moved God to anger and that His wrath had to be appeased by blood sacrifice. My church taught that the Crucifixion was a vicarious punishment: God agreed to punish an innocent victim, treating Him as if He were guilty of my offense. In exchange, if I had faith, I would get off scot-free. All my sins are “paid for,” and there is nothing left for me to do.

Protestants use the theological term “imputation” to describe this exchange: God “imputes” my sin to Christ, treating Him as if He were guilty, and He in turn “imputes” Christ’s righteousness to the believer, treating him as if he were innocent. This is the core theological difference between Protestants and Catholics, and it is what grounds the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. It is also what makes it very difficult for Protestants to appreciate the Catholic understanding of suffering.

If this is what Christ’s death means, then the Catholic teaching on suffering really does seem absurd. Even if I suffer for righteousness’ sake, the Protestant thinks, I can’t add anything to the death of Christ. Faith alone connects me to Jesus, and Jesus has already “paid it all.” Why should I bother? It is true that many Protestants have suffered heroically for their beliefs, but the theological dilemma remains. What can suffering do for me if I am connected to Christ by faith alone?

The Catholic Church understands the death of Christ differently. The Bible simply does not describe this ultimate moment as a vicarious punishment imposed by God. Scripture refers to the death of Christ instead as a sacrifice and a ransom, modeled after and in fulfillment of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

…The heart of sacrifice is not vicarious punishment, but willingly giving up something of value. It was costly for the Jews to give up goats and bulls. It is even more costly to give up my pride, my lusts, or even my own self-determination. Mary gave up the right to direct her own life when she gave her fiat to the angel of the Lord. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I have come . . . not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). [Ed. so are we!]

…The death of Christ was not a vicarious punishment that satisfied the wrath of an angry God, but the ultimate act of self-giving, of martyrdom, and of testimony to the truth for love of God and neighbor. And therefore, it was infinitely meritorious.

How does the death of Christ benefit us? If it was not a vicarious punishment imposed by God, then what does it do for me? Let’s focus on three things that Scripture teaches on this subject: First, Christ’s death is an example to us; second, Christ’s death merits for us the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit; and third, we die with Christ in baptism and are born again with Him to new life.

…The Catholic Church sees the death of Christ as a mystical sacrifice that pleases God and transforms us. When we are joined to Christ through faith and baptism, we die and rise with Him; our hearts are changed; we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; our sins are forgiven; and we receive power to live a holy life in imitation of His. We receive salvation because we can now say, along with Jesus and His Mother, “Be it done to Me/me according to Thy word. I have come not to do My/my will, but the will of Him who sent Me/me(Ed. capitalization for the Lord).”

God redeems suffering that is willingly endured for righteousness’ sake. That is the message of the gospel and that is what the death of Christ means. The power of salvation that flows into us in the sacraments is the power to embrace noble suffering for the love of God.

How do we embrace that power and make it our own? Now we are coming to the real heart of Catholic prayer and the sacramental life — and the profound difference between Catholicism and other forms of Christianity. The message of the gospel is that we “become Christ” (Ed. metaphor, not literally Jesus, but in imitation of Jesus). His life is not merely imputed to us; rather, it becomes ours, inwardly transforming us. And this can happen only through prayer. (Ed. cf Rm 8:26)”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (p. 148-154). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

34 Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, ed. W. H. Hutchings (London: Rivingtons, 1882), 2–3.

Marriage & Theology 4

“…Christian marriage is an ecclesial state, like being a monk, a nun, or a priest (CCC 1631). It exists not only for the good of the spouses, but for the good of the whole Christian community.

Christian marriage is also different because it is a sacrament — a symbol of a supernatural reality, a symbol through which God promises to bestow His grace on us. What is being symbolized in the Christian sacrament of marriage is not romantic love or even the perfect love of the Blessed Trinity, but the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death for the sake of His bride, the Church. Christ gave His life to bring His spouse to God.

Furthermore, the effect of the grace that is given through the sacrament of marriage is not to enable or to facilitate romantic love. God gives grace in the sacrament of marriage to enable the spouses to love sacrificially, to bear wrongs, to forgive offenses, to be chaste, to welcome and educate children, and perhaps even to die in the service of one’s family…

What does it even mean to say that a marriage is not “valid”? What on earth is “validity”? In a broad sense, something is valid if it works, if it brings about its intended effect. Philosophers speak of an argument being valid if its conclusion follows logically from its premises. In law, a valid contract is one that is legally binding. The celebration of a sacrament can also be understood as valid or invalid. In Catholic theology, a valid sacrament brings about its intended effect. An invalid sacrament (which is really no sacrament at all) does not.

Marriages, therefore, can be valid or invalid. In a valid marriage, the parties really do incur the duties and obligations of marriage and accrue its benefits, privileges, and rights. An invalid marriage is not really a marriage at all. The moral rights, duties, and benefits of marriage do not flow from it, and civil law, if it is to be just, ought not say otherwise.

The idea of validity is implicit in contemporary debates about so-called gay marriage. One side imagines that marriage is simply a right extended by the state that can be applied to any two (three? four?) people who want social privileges attached to their romantic relationships. By contrast, the defenders of tradition hold that marriage is something intrinsically and necessarily connected to our nature created as male and female. The state can no more convey the right to marry to same-sex couples than it can square the circle. Marriage is not just any kind of union. It is the kind of union naturally fulfilled in the procreation of children.26…

…New Catholics are often surprised to learn that the Church does not see it this way (Ed. that nothing else matters but their own will, their choice to get married civilly, at least, outside the Church]. Marriage is not simply a cultural construct that means whatever we want it to mean. It is not simply the desire for children or for intimacy that creates the conditions for marriage. Rather, marriage is something that derives from the natural law. When it comes to marriage, the Church does not arbitrarily create the conditions for validity. The conditions for a true and valid marriage flow from our nature created as male and female.27

The Church does not invent or impose those conditions. She merely recognizes them. It is not only to Catholics that She speaks, and it is not only about Christian marriage that She teaches. The Church has authority from Christ to judge all moral questions, including the validity of natural marriage.28 The Church discerns and teaches those moral norms that emerge not only from revelation but also from natural law.29

The case is a bit different with respect to Christian marriage. Christian marriage presupposes the conditions for a valid, natural marriage, i.e., one man and one woman united indissolubly for life for the good of the spouses and the bearing and raising of offspring. But Christian marriage is also an ecclesial state. It grants certain rights and privileges within the Church…

…It is important to be precise: To say that a sacrament is invalid does not mean that the persons involved have been denied all grace. God can always extend grace if He chooses. In fact, the prompting and nudging toward faith or holiness that Catholics call actual grace routinely occurs outside the sacraments, as Christ draws people to receive the grace of baptism. (Baptized people also receive actual graces.) But the habitual grace made available through the Christian sacrament of marriage cannot be presumed apart from a valid sacrament. An invalid marriage cannot give rise to sacramental grace.

-Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (p. 120-123). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

26 Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 47.

27 “The personal bond of marriage is established precisely at the natural level of the male or female mode of being a human person.” Pope St. John Paul II, “God Himself Is the Author of Marriage,” L’Osservatore Romano, English ed., February 7, 2001, 3, posted at EWTN, https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2MATR.HTM.

28 See Code of Canon Law 747.2; Veritatis Splendor, no. 110.

29 Humanae Vitae, no. 4.

Sacramental Grace & Marriage

-cf Sanctity and Success in Marriage, DeBlanc, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Irving A. And Schavilla, Norma L., ~pp 88 – 94, National Catholic Conference on Family Life, Washington, D.C., (c)1956

by Henry V. Sattler, C.SS.R.

Effects of Sacramental Grace

The question that now faces us is what are the proper effects of this sacramental grace? What precisely does it do? Sacramental grace, first, “makes the receiver of the sacramental grace a habitual connatural agent, so that he can place acts in keeping with the end of the sacrament at will and ex officio.”9 What does this mean? Take an example. Suppose I could talk through a dog as a ventriloquist. The action of the animal would not be changed. Suppose I could talk through that dog, using its voice. The dog would then be an instrument. Suppose I could raise the dog above its nature so that it could talk at will. The dog would then become a habitual agent of speaking, something not natural (super-natural to a dog) to it but made as though natural by my gift. Since there are many strictly human actions that might become supernatural to a dog — so there might be many different “graces” given to it. So in a similar fashion, but in an inexpressibly superior way, man is raised to perform different “divine” actions through the various sacramental graces. When a confirmed person, for example, bravely confesses Christ, or a priest consecrates at Mass, each one acts officially and as the agent of a special supernatural act. And that act flows from them “connaturally,” as the ordinary human act of speaking flows naturally from a human being. Tremendous thought, this! By sacramental grace, truly do actions flowing from divine life come from us effectively as our thinking, and loving come from our ordinary human nature!

Secondly, sacramental grace remedies in us the defects which remain in us from past sin, both original and personal (actual).10 Original sin has destroyed the integrity of the human person, has made it difficult for all the human powers to work together for good. Though original sin has been wiped out by Baptism, its effects will remain with us. This is true of our own personal sins. Even after they have been wiped out in the confessional and by Penance; indeed, even after a life of virtue, sin leaves in us marks or wounds, weaknesses, that remain….

…Thirdly, sacramental grace brings with it the right to those actual graces necessary to stimulate us to perform supernatural acts in accordance with our needs. If you remember, “actual grace is a supernatural help of God which enlightens our mind and strengthens our will to do good and to avoid evil.”12  Actual grace is a kind of needle which pushes us towards good and away from evil wherever needed to further the end of the respective Sacraments.13   This means that not only does sacramental grace officially constitute a person as supernatural action, not only does it bring remedies to the weakness incurred by sin, but it also gives to the receiver of a Sacrament a right (a right freely conferred by God) to actual pushes from God in the proper direction!

Sacramental Grace in Marriage

This lengthy theological discussion on the nature of sacramental grace is necessary if we are to draw any practical fruits from the awareness of the sacramental graces of matrimony.

“The sacrament of marriage is the imprint of God on the souls of the married couple, not merely in order to deify their life in general, but in order to deify their union . . . The sacrament of marriage is thus not merely a religious act sanctifying a human one, it is a seed sown in the soul and bearing fruit through the whole of married life, giving life to all its acts and sentiments . . . it is a predisposition to holiness placed in their souls by God on the day of their wedding.”

Man and wife are united in God: this last expression can be interpreted in a very strict sense, for the action of the sacrament being a unique divine action in the souls of each of them, and sacramental grace being a reality in their souls, one can truly state that they have something in their souls which really unites them, which constitutes a principle of unity, and that this unifying action is a divine action. The sacrament of marriage is thus in a sense a deifying of the conjugal union . . . “14

The sacramental grace of Matrimony then takes a Christian marriage out of the realm of the natural and makes the married couple connatural principles of supernatural action. In Casti Connubii Pius XI says, quoting the Council of Trent:

“. . . By raising the Matrimony of His faithful to the dignity of a true sacrament, [Christ] made it a sign and source of that peculiar internal grace by which ‘it perfects natural love, confirms an indissoluble union, and sanctifies both man and wife.'”

And in the same encyclical:

“. . . As Saint Augustine teaches, just as by Baptism and Holy Orders a man is set aside and assisted either for the duties of Christian life or for the priestly office and is never deprived of their sacramental aid, almost in the same way (although not by a sacramental character) the faithful once joined by marriage ties can never be deprived of the help and binding force of the sacrament.”

Not only does Matrimony make the married pair officially supernatural in action, but it provides them with the remedies against the wounds of personality caused by sin. The “cussedness of human nature” left by original sin, the pettiness, the angers and tensions found in marriage have an inherent remedy in sacramental grace. Even the weaknesses incurred by personal sin, the hungers created by unchastity both in and out of marriage, the infidelities to parental obligation which leave marks of desire and parental sloth are met by the repentant husband or wife with special helps to overcome them.

“Thus if they should have been unfaithful to each other or to their duties, no matter for how long, through penance they can always have recourse to this inexhaustible source of sacramental grace, to find in it the means of regaining sanctification through renewed love and appreciation of the ideal to which they are called.”15

Lastly, “the sacrament of marriage confers a strict right to all the actual graces necessary to lead a Christian conjugal life. It also confers the right to all the material and spiritual helps required for the establishment of a home.”16

Since actual grace “enlightens the mind and moves the will,” a married couple can expect God to inspire them to know what they should understand and do in a given case and to strengthen their will to carry it out. This means that in the questions asked by the couple of themselves, in the questions asked by the children, a married pair who stir up the grace of God in them can await with certainty the right answers. It means also when they feel inadequate to the task of the moment they can expect new courage to be available to them.

“By these gifts the parties are assisted not only in understanding, but in knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully putting into practice, those things which pertain to the marriage state, giving them in fine right to the actual assistance of grace, whensoever they need it for fulfilling the duties of their state.” (Casti Connubii)

This, then is the meaning of sacramental grace in marriage. It is the special mode of Sanctifying Grace which makes the receiver a habitual connatural principle of supernatural action in Marriage — which means that the love, and love-making, and housekeeping and work and worry of marriage are all deified. Further, sacramental grace in marriage brings with it remedies for the weakness of human nature, even for those weaknesses suffered as a result of the infidelities of the married couple. Lastly, it brings a right to the stimulus of God toward knowing the right answers and acting according to them.

Cooperation with Grace

Why, then, with all the tremendous beauty and power of Matrimony’s sacramental grace, do so many Christian marriages fade so far from the ideal?

Because “fruitful reception of a sacrament does not conclude the Christian’s duty — it is still up to him to cooperate with the power the sacrament gives . . .”17

Pius XI notes very strongly: “Since men do not reap the full fruit of the sacraments . . . unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field unless both parties exercise these supernatural powers . . .”

Husbands and wives must carefully cooperate with sacramental grace by prayer, by frequenting the other Sacraments, by meditating on the nobility of their state, by constantly reminding themselves and each other to depend upon this supernatural reality in their lives. It is imperative, also, that they strive earnestly to preserve Sanctifying Grace within their souls, since sacramental grace is but a mode of Sanctifying Grace.

“Another thing worth impressing on the faithful is the importance of conserving or regaining the state of grace, not only for its own sake, but also in order to be assured of sacramental grace. For, according to the more probable opinion, upheld by the majority of theologians, sacramental grace is contingent upon the possession of sanctifying grace.”18

Yet, despite the need of preserving Sanctifying Grace, it should be a consoling thing to a married person to realize that, though grace may be lost when mortal sin is committed, it all returns, with all the special helps of sacramental grace, when Penance returns the Prodigal home.

Let me conclude this entire presentation with the stirring appeal of Pius XI to married people:

“Let not, then, those who are joined in matrimony neglect the grace of the sacrament which is in them; for, in applying themselves to the careful observance, however laborious, of their duties they will find the power of that grace becoming more effectual as time goes on. And if ever they should feel themselves to be overburdened by the hardships of their condition of life, let them not lose courage, but rather let them regard in some measure as addressed to them that which Saint Paul the Apostle wrote to his beloved disciple Timothy regarding the sacrament of Holy Orders when the disciple was dejected through hardship and insults: ‘I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sobriety.'”

Love,
Matthew

Notes

9 Everett, op. cit. p. 118. John of Saint Thomas, Cursus Theologicus, IX, d. 24, a. 2, n. 13.

10 Saint Thomas, Comm. in Sent. IV, d. 7, q. 2, a. 2, q. 2, ad. 2., XXVII de Veritate, a. 5, ad. 12., Summa Theol. III, q 62, a 2, ad. 2.

12 Baltimore Catechism No. 3, q. 113.

13 Shea, op. cit. pp. 119, ff.

14 Jacques Leclercq, Marriage A Great Sacrament, (Dublin; Clonmore & Reynolds, 1951), pp. 29-30.

15 M. M. Philipon, The Sacraments in the Christian Life, (Westminster; Newman Press, 1955), p. 220.

16 Ibid.

17 Shea, op. cit., p. 125.

18 Shea, op. cit., p. 126.

Marriage & Theology 3

Dr. David Anders, PhD

“Catholics understand faith differently. In Catholic doctrine, faith is a human act — a decision we make to believe what God has revealed about Himself. Now, God certainly helps the soul to believe. I don’t believe without God’s help, but believing remains something that I do. Faith is not a “blind impulse of the mind,” but a considered judgment that Christ and the Church are credible and trustworthy.

The Bible compares our relationship to God to human marriage, an analogy that helps us understand something about the relationship between faith and reason. Marriage can be a very rational decision, but it still takes trust. If a man decides that his fiancée is trustworthy, then getting married is very reasonable. But how can I find out if my fiancée is trustworthy? I can find reasons to trust my fiancée, but in the end, it’s not the sort of thing I can demonstrate with a mathematical proof. In the end, I must decide whether to trust her and get married based on the available evidence. The Catholic Church says faith is like that. There are good reasons for faith, but in the end, you must still decide.

Why does this difference matter? As a Presbyterian, it was very important for me to say that “I knew for sure” about everything: “Are you sure you are going to Heaven? Are you sure that you are saved? Are you sure the Bible is God’s word? Are you sure there is a God?” In all these cases, the Calvinist might consult rational arguments, but ultimately, he trusts the “witness of the Spirit.” In the end, his certainty comes from subjective religious experience.

In my formation as a Calvinist, I had developed the habit of identifying my emotional life with the activity of the Holy Spirit. But I was growing to doubt this idea of the “witness of the Spirit.” I didn’t know if I could be “sure” ever again. Without that certainty, I did not see how I could ever commit myself to a religious tradition. This is where St Thomas Aquinas helped me the most.

Thomas helped me see that the content of Christian faith can really be divided into two categories: There are things that we can know with certainty from reason and argument, and there are things that we believe simply on the authority of Christ and the Church. Furthermore — and this is important — there are good reasons to trust Christ and the Church. We do not just believe. These distinctions are very important to understanding what faith should feel like, or whether it should feel like anything at all.

Authentic Catholic philosophers such as St. Thomas work very hard to prove parts of the Christian faith, but they also admit freely that we can accept other parts only on authority. The Calvinists I studied with did not divide the content of the faith in this way. They considered the faith as a whole, and they dismissed purely philosophical accounts of God, the soul, or the moral life. They were not just uninterested in proving the content of even one part of Christian faith but were skeptical that setting out to do so could be valuable at all.

I recall the very text that changed my mind about becoming Catholic. Here is the essential passage from Thomas’s De veritate (On Truth):

“We are moved to believe what God says because we are promised eternal life as a reward if we believe. And this reward moves the will to assent to what is said, although the intellect is not moved by anything which it understands. Therefore, Augustine says: “Man can do other things unwillingly, but he can believe only if he wills it.”” (14.1)

In one sense, I felt a tremendous disappointment when I read this text. I saw in a flash what St. Thomas was challenging me to do: take responsibility for my belief or unbelief. I could wait a lifetime for God to compel me to believe — and I would likely die without faith. Or I could also respond freely to His invitation to believe. It was disappointing because I realized that I could never achieve the kind of certainty that comes from an immediate and intuitive experience. But it was also liberating, because I finally saw clearly that this is not a bad thing. When I read this passage, I had an epiphany more powerful than the loss I felt on the day my faith first slipped away. I saw clearly how faith could be a rational possibility without being rationally compelled.

Again, it was rather like marriage. It is not irrational to marry a woman, especially one who has demonstrated her trustworthiness. Does my wife really love me? Will she be faithful forever? Can we get over our conflicts and make a life together? What will happen if I apologize? Will she forgive me? Can I ever be happy with this woman? These questions all have answers, but they are not the sort of thing that admit of mathematical certainty.

Catholicism is similarly an invitation to a kind of relationship and a way of being in the world. Above all, I think Catholicism is an invitation to believe that our moral convictions and our desire for meaning correspond to something real — something, or rather Someone, so real that He became incarnate in the world, taking on flesh in the womb of a virgin. You can’t get more real than that.

There are good reasons to believe in the Incarnation; Catholic theology calls them the “motives of credibility.” The fulfillment of prophecy, the miracles of Christ, His Resurrection, and the profound moral influence of Catholicism on world history all testify to the truth of Christian claims. Do these reasons compel me to believe? Obviously they do not; there are many people who consider these reasons and still do not have faith. I must choose what position I will take on life, and whether to accept or to resist the arguments in favor of Christ.

The great existential challenge in the world today is whether there is any meaning at all. Childlessness, suicide, and euthanasia are depopulating whole societies that have given up on life and prefer to die quietly in bed. Japan now sells more adult diapers than baby diapers. Russia has more abortions than live births. Where would I stand? Is there any truth? Is there any love that endures? Every fiber of my being said yes. Yes, to reason; yes, to love; yes, to hope; yes, even to suffering.

I knew I had to become a Catholic.”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (pp. 100-103). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Theology & Marriage 2

Dr. David Anders, PhD

“The Catholic ideal of married life is rigorous and difficult. Catholic spouses are to surrender their own selfish interests in service to a transcendent goal — to bring one’s spouse and one’s children to God. Sometimes that self-surrender calls for enormous and painful sacrifice, just as Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross for the sake of the Church. Most importantly, the Catholic Church recognizes Christian marriage as a sacrament, which means that God promises us the grace to meet those difficult demands.

Early Protestants, on the other hand, simply denied that marriage is a sacrament. Instead, they threw up their hands and asserted that the demands of Catholic marriage were too difficult. Therefore, they called for a relaxation of those demands and an end to the Church’s control over marriage. Protestant thought went on to emphasize more strongly the sexual dimension of married life, and eventually the romantic element as well, while deemphasizing the role that suffering plays in union with God.

My Protestantism offered me little solace in the face of a hopeless marriage, but Catholicism seemed to offer me a way to reconceive my suffering. Suffering willingly embraced becomes sacrifice, and sacrifice can bring a deeper experience of God’s grace….

I started thinking about the differences between Protestant and Catholic notions of sex and marriage. I discerned four major differences between the two traditions:

1. The Catholic tradition opposes both contraception and sodomy in marriage. Most Protestants allow them.
2. The Catholic Church exalts virginity, celibacy, and perfect continence over marriage. The Protestant tradition has always rejected this.
3. The Catholic Church does not allow Christian divorce and remarriage. Although Protestantism values lifelong fidelity in a broad sense, Protestant tradition has always allowed divorce in at least a few circumstances, such as adultery.
4. The Catholic Church regards Christian marriage as a sacrament that conveys grace. As a sacrament, Christian marriage (not all marriage) ought to be governed by Church law.

Protestant tradition, rather, has always asserted that God ordains marriage, but not as a sacrament. For Protestants, marriage is a civil institution rightly governed by civil law. Protestants and Catholics have different views of marriage, I came to understand, because they have different views about the foundational concepts of morality, spirituality, salvation, and human happiness. Catholics believe that the ultimate end of human life is loving union with God and neighbor. Aided by grace, we ought to bend every fiber of our being toward that end. Catholic ideas about marriage and contemplative life reflect that lofty calling.

The Protestant tradition also extols loving union with God but has always been more skeptical about the Christian’s moral potential. Catholics take quite seriously Christ’s command to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Relying on God’s grace through prayer and the sacraments, and through diligent cooperation with grace, Catholics believe that all God’s commands can be obeyed. By contrast, the Protestant tradition teaches that sin always remains and that perfect holiness in this life is impossible. Early Protestants argued, therefore, that we ought to relax the discipline of Christian life (including marriage) to accommodate human weakness…

Catholic marriage: “It is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.” –Pope Paul VI, encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968), no. 9.

If you approach married life in that way, it becomes impossible to objectify your spouse for your own gratification. Instead, you beg for God’s grace and bend every fiber to order your life toward this transcendent goal. You would be willing to bear suffering, abstinence, and abnegation if they serve that great good. You would, in fact, learn to imitate Christ…

The ideal of celibacy reminds all Christians that the goal of life is spiritual friendship, not personal aggrandizement or pleasure seeking. A few Christians can take up that life in radical detachment from the world, but many more Christians live spiritual friendship through marriage.

The Christian ideal of marriage was very different from the ancient Roman practice. Pagan society expected chastity of women, but not of men. Roman men were allowed prostitutes and concubines, and then to avoid the unwanted consequences of such promiscuity they resorted to forced abortions, infanticide, and rudimentary and extremely harmful contraceptives. Women suffered disproportionately from these practices, which became one of the reasons Roman women were more likely than men to become Christian. The Catholic doctrine on chastity was liberating.

The Catholic Church advocated personal commitment to God over all other social commitments, even for women. This was a particularly radical idea in patriarchal Rome, where women were expected as a matter of course to acquiesce to the will of men. The Church, however, venerated virgin martyrs, such as St. Lucy, who went to their deaths for refusing to marry against their will. Unlike many other cultures of the era, canon law has refused from the very beginning to recognize the validity of forced marriage.

“How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.” –Tertullian, “To His Wife,” in Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage, Ancient Christian Writers Series, no. 13, trans. William P. LeSaint, S.J. (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1951), 35–36.

…The differences between Protestant and Catholic teaching on marriage have their roots in two fundamental issues. First, the Protestant Reformers thought that Catholic teaching on human sexuality was just too difficult. Second, the Reformers resented the authority that the Catholic Church exercised over Christian marriage. The way they tried to solve these “problems” theologically was to naturalize Christian marriage, removing it from the realm of the supernatural. A major part of the Reformation, therefore, was an attack on the sacramentality of Christian marriage.

The Reformers never denied that God instituted marriage at the creation of Adam and Eve. They simply denied that Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament. “Marriage is a good and holy ordinance of God,” Calvin wrote, “and farming, building, cobbling, and barbering are lawful ordinances of God, and yet are not sacraments.” –Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.34.

…In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul teaches that Christians must not engage in sexually immoral behavior. That is not terribly surprising. What is surprising is the reason he gives. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Paul writes, “Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor. 6:15).

In this text, Paul teaches that a Christian’s very body has been permanently changed in a way that identifies him with Christ and thereby affects his sexuality. The Christian literally carries the body of Christ with him into the marriage bed. While I found the idea to be somewhat arresting, I quickly saw that it had profound implications for the doctrine of marriage. If two baptized people got married, then Christ would necessarily be implicated in a very profound, very intimate way in their union.”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (pp. 53-56, 58-59, 63-64, 67-68). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

Theology & Marriage

Dr. David Anders, PhD

“I hoped one of us would get hit by a bus. (I didn’t care which one.)…Murder, maybe. Divorce, never.”

“Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ, once wrote that it is pointless to debate brilliantly about the Trinity if, by being an arrogant ass, you are displeasing to the Trinity[, and] that is [also] the Catholic point of view.”

“I once asked an attorney who handled both criminal defense and divorce cases if he was ever afraid to defend murderers, rapists, and other serious offenders. “Oh, no,” he said. “Often, you are the only person supporting the accused and they are genuinely grateful. What really scares me are the divorces. You wouldn’t believe how vicious these people can get.””

“With God’s help, prayer is a battle against ourselves. Prayer is where we cast off self-deception, artifice, pride, and egotism. Prayer is where we learn to stand naked before God and transparent to ourselves. Prayer is where we take up the Cross of Christ, allow ourselves to be slain, and entrust our resurrection to God alone.”

“The Church, for a Catholic, is a divine reality, the presence of Christ in the world…The Catholic Church sees Herself as the living embodiment of Jesus, as Christ’s real presence in the world. “Whoever beholds the Church,” said St. Gregory of Nyssa, “beholds Christ.”

…How could something so human — so full of incompetence and flesh and pride and ambition — be the living presence of God in the world?…

I caught a glimpse of something I had never seen before. Salvation isn’t just about going to Heaven when you die, escaping the world, or simply having a personal relationship with Jesus. It’s about being Christ in the world, embracing life with both hands, and raising it all up with as many people as possible in transcendent joy. “Whoever beholds the Church beholds Christ.” That mediocre priest, that baby, that grandmother, that college student, and even that corrupt medieval pope: Could God be present in that? Could a man love that?…

Being Catholic — being Christ in the world — doesn’t exempt you from flesh and blood, even from ambition, pride, and sin…It is a life visibly marked out by and for transcendence.”

“In Catholic thought, contemplation means having a deep, intuitive, almost experiential awareness of God through the life of prayer…the Church teaches that marriage is also a kind of full-time Christian spirituality, and one that offers a deep, interior experience of God.

Keeping this mystical dimension of marriage in view is absolutely necessary if we are to understand how to approach suffering in marriage. For many people today, the fact of personal pain would seem to justify almost any decision meant to relieve that pain. Are you in a difficult marriage? Then why not leave and try something else? Have you discovered that your sexual urges don’t line up with the demands of heterosexual or monogamous marriage? Why deny yourself satisfaction? But the Catholic Faith teaches that such suffering can be supremely meaningful, leading even to a mystical union with God.

One of my major concerns in writing this book is to urge suffering couples to a vigorous practice of the Catholic Faith. My hope is that Catholic couples will discover new strength for their marriages and that non-Catholic couples will consider what the Catholic Faith has to offer…my aim is to point married couples beyond the tools of psychology or natural marriage and to help them embrace a transcendent vision of Christian conjugal life….

I saw our lives potentially bound together through the mystery of suffering, and reshaped through the mystery of redemption. I felt that the universe was giving me a choice: Will you embrace suffering and redemption, or will you shelter yourself through the pursuit of pleasure?…

But I was coming to realize how the Protestant understanding of grace, assurance, faith, and salvation obscured my awareness of myself. Protestant teaching asserts that everything we do is sinful, but everything is forgiven — if we are “saved.” This is not a doctrine that encouraged me in critical self-examination or growth in virtue. By focusing so heavily on my general depravity, sinfulness, and inability to save myself, I felt strangely freed from responsibility to root out individual faults.

In studying Luther and Calvin, I found, however, that my experience was not unique. John Calvin was a man who confessed the sinfulness of humanity but was incapable of confessing his own personal fault. In tens of thousands of pages of material by and about him, I do not recall Calvin ever admitting wrong, apologizing, or taking responsibility for failure. Calvin divided the world into the elect and the reprobate, the pious and the impious — and he was always on the right side while his enemies were always on the wrong side.

Unlike Calvin, Luther had a tormented conscience; he felt he could never do anything right, and it was this profound guilt that drove him to concoct his new theology. Luther was so convinced of his ineradicable corruption, guilt, and sinfulness that he despaired even of God’s grace to change him. Even to try could lead only to frustration. The solution for Luther was not to focus on ethical behavior toward others but on absolving one’s own conscience.

It really is an extraordinary position. “Whoever wants to be saved,” Luther said, “should act as though no other human being except him existed on earth.” In an important sense, the Reformation doctrine of grace flows from this one man’s attempt to assuage his conscience. Luther articulated a brand-new theology, one that simply denied human freedom and insisted that man plays no role in his own salvation.

Now, to say that Luther and Calvin were flawed men is not surprising or informative. We could say that about anyone. Far more important to me was what I learned about how their flaws worked their way into Protestant theology, and ultimately into my life. There were cracks in the foundation of my religious tradition and those cracks found their way into my heart.

What does all this have to do with my marriage? I was discovering that my Protestant theology did not provide an adequate moral compass, sense of hope, or spiritual inspiration to meet the challenges of marriage. My historical studies further shook the foundations of my worldview, challenged me to deeper self-examination, and forced me to explore new answers to my moral malaise.

I became convinced that Reformation theology advanced neither Luther nor Calvin, as human beings, toward holiness. I began to see their theology, rather, as a highly sophisticated form of self-justification. In one sense this was an easy conclusion to reach, since I found in Luther and Calvin the very same flaws I found in myself. Therefore, if I was going to advance out of my morass, I was going to need different guides. Eventually, these concerns pushed me to seek holiness in the Catholic tradition and in the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

The intellectual history of Protestantism became for me a mirror in which to contemplate my own moral and spiritual dilemma. My tradition formed me to expect absolute assurance about salvation, regardless of my own behavior. Revealed in the lives of my Protestant mentors, though, I began to see how this attitude could have harmful effects not only on marriage, but on all manner of social relations.

I came to believe that my mentors and heroes in the faith had been worse than socially awkward: They had been dangerous ideologues, immune to criticism, utterly cocksure, and willing to impose their views with deadly force. This discovery was disquieting, to say the least. I always thought Catholics were the tyrants and ideologues, leading crusades and inquisitions and so forth, but now I was seeing the seed of interpersonal tyranny in my own tradition…

The Puritans of New England attempted to build an entire civilization on the distinction between the elect and the reprobate. Around the same time, the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which was composed in England to provide an authoritative guide for building such a Protestant civilization, promised that the elect can have an “infallible assurance” of their election.

In Protestant thinking, “elect and reprobate” is not the same thing as “good and bad.” Instead, it is having “true faith” that distinguishes the elect from the reprobate. The elect, by virtue of having accepted that faith, can be infallibly certain that they are elect, even when their lives are morally disordered in other ways. Put crudely, you can meet an arrogant, self-righteous, lecherous egotist who knows for sure that he is one of God’s elect, destined for Heaven.

I was that egotist.”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (pp. 8, 11, 13, 29-30, 34-35, 44, 49-51). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Feb 14 – St Valentine & Catholic marriage – for pleasure?



-skull of St. Valentine (226-14 Feb 269 AD), Bishop/Priest & Martyr, in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, please click on the image for greater detail. He was martyred and his body buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome, on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine’s Day) since 496 AD.  “Love is stronger than death.”

Relics of him were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which “remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV”. His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome; other relics of him were taken to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, where they remain; this house of worship continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, for those seeking love.



Tees to the Kingdom, St Valentine shirts, please click on the images for greater detail

CCC 1602-1666


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“I like Saint Valentine. I am also a big fan of Christian marriage, and he was martyred for illegally presiding over Christian marriages. Through some bizarre accident of history, his feast-day is observed by the secular world, but the Church has taken him off the General Calendar. Unfortunately, I think very few people who mark this day on their personal calendars ever consider the life of the saint or the reason he died. This is but a reflection of a deeper problem: just as the world celebrates the feast of the patron of love without actually celebrating the patron himself, so also the world celebrates romantic love without actually thinking much about what love is in the first place.

In his book Love and Responsibility (written before he became Pope), Saint John Paul II impugns the idea that the point of a relationship is for both members to derive pleasure from it. The problem with this idea is that pleasure is not really a goal; there is no pleasure except pleasure in something. We eat cake for pleasure. We do not eat pleasure directly. No cake, no pleasure. Somehow, the world is trying to eat for pleasure without thinking too much about the step where you actually put food in the mouth. Such is a relationship of pure pleasure, nonsensical.

Any relationship, not just marriage, needs to be based on a common goal. For example, people who cooperate for an end in itself (hobby, being in a band – the goal is music, art/musical appreciation, volunteering, etc). These sorts of relationships (friendships, partnerships, mutual interests, fellow aficionados, etc.) often lead to the pleasure of relationship, but a relationship that is only founded upon mutual pleasure is actually the most unstable, because pleasure is so ephemeral. This can be said of emotional as well as physical pleasures. The deep feeling of contentment that arises when silently beholding a sunset with a lover is certainly a high pleasure, even the stuff of poetry, but that delight must give way to a chilly night. When night falls, something more than the sunset must remain to keep the relationship together.

Marriage is the most profound of human relationships, and so it must be based on the highest goal. That goal is nothing but the giving of one’s entire self. Saint John Paul II teaches that such giving is perfected only in procreation. It is in the bearing and raising of children that man and woman give themselves so fully that they make more of each other. Only by pursuing together the good of children can the couple really be united, even if the hope for children never comes to fruition. If either withholds this gift, the relationship becomes one of mere pleasure or convenience or some other friendly pursuit.

Children can make life difficult. They demand self-sacrifice, especially when they present particular difficulties. It is not easy. Sleeplessness is not fun. No engaged couple dreams of interminable appointments with doctors and therapists of various stripes.

At the same time, the gift of existence is one of the greatest gifts, despite the price. God, the giver of all existence, allows a man and a woman to share in His goodness by transmitting this most precious gift to their child. They can do this only with and through each other. The giving of this gift is fulfilling, because it is the gift that we were made to give. Giving this gift gives real joy.

This goal of procreation does not replace all the other goods of marriage. Instead, it makes them possible. A marriage can only be more than a house-sharing agreement if it aspires to a higher goal. Sexual union can only be more than an ‘arrangement’ if it aspires to something more than physical pleasure. The joy of self-giving can only be felt in the actual giving of oneself. The work of arranging one’s life around these different goods can, of course, be difficult, but the order of goods that the Church provides allows marriage to be structured firmly and stably. Only then can the desire to love be fulfilled. The passing on of existence is the only sufficient basis for marital love.”

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord ” (CCC No. 1601)…

“So, if one of these conditions is intentionally left out, then no marriage takes place,” Father Thomas Urban, who is a judge at the Metropolitan Tribunal in Detroit, Michigan said. “I’ll marry you but not for the rest of our lives — no marriage. Or, I’ll marry you only if I can continue my bachelor lifestyle — no marriage. Or, I’ll marry you but I will not have any children — no marriage.” – Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing, Oct 11 2017, https://www.osvnews.com/2017/10/11/can-catholic-couples-choose-childlessness/

“Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is ‘the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There each one is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart’ (Gaudium et Spes, 16). The more the couple tries to listen in conscience to God and His commandments (cf. Rom 2:15), and is accompanied spiritually, the more their decision will be profoundly free of subjective caprice and accommodation to prevailing social mores.” The clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council still holds: ‘[The couple] will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.’
— Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia No. 222 (first quoted passage taken from the final document of the 2015 Synod of Bishops)

Sex is both unitive and procreative, and the two cannot be separated.  Each is the point of the other.

I love you, Kelly & Mara.  Thanks, Mom & Dad,
Matthew

sacrifice & sensuality

It is important to recall, in comparison, in terms of vocabulary, English is like a pint glass, Hebrew is like a shot glass, a more ancient language logically more limited, and Greek is like a pitcher, or so I have been told.

“Sacrifice and sensuality are both expressions of spousal love.

John Paul pointed out that for Plato, eros “represents the inner power that draws man toward all that is good, true, and beautiful.” 128 Therefore, eros is not the problem…In the relationship between men and women, true eros draws one to the value of the other in the fullness of his or her masculinity and femininity as a person, not just to the sexual value of the body. This balanced idea of eros leaves room for ethos (the innermost values of the person). John Paul explained, “In the erotic sphere, ‘eros’ and ‘ethos’ do not diverge, are not opposed to each other, but are called to meet in the human heart and to bear fruit in this meeting.” 129 Not only is it possible to unite what is erotic to what is ethical, it is necessary. Within marriage, ethos and eros meet. 130

Although people tend to view ethics as prohibitions and commandments, it is important to unveil the deeper values that these norms protect and assure. 131 The Pope explained: “It is necessary continually to rediscover the spousal meaning of the body and the true dignity of the gift in what is “erotic.” This is the task of the human spirit, and it is by its nature an ethical task. If one does not assume this task, the very attraction of the senses and the passion of the body can stop at mere concupiscence, deprived of all ethical value, and man, male and female, does not experience that fullness of “eros,” which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful, so that what is “erotic” also becomes true, good, and beautiful.” 132

Jesus did not come merely to redeem the souls of the lost, but to reclaim our humanity— body and soul— with all that makes us human, including our sexual desires. Therefore, the transformation of eros is an integral part of Christian life. 133 Again, this is not about dampening desire. Rather, John Paul explained that putting these principles into practice makes expressions of affection “spiritually more intense and thus enriches them.” 134

Therefore, not only are eros and agape not rivals, they rely upon each other to reach their perfection. In the words of John Paul, “Agape brings eros to fulfillment while purifying it.” 135 Or, as one Orthodox theologian explained, “Without agape, eros remains stunted, partial— finally it collapses and isn’t even eros; the fire goes out and all that remains is the original concern with the self. Such eros has never risen above self-love.” 136 Because it is rooted in self-love, unchastity is “the total defeat of eros.” 137 It is a weak and incomplete form of desire. On the other hand, “Chastity is eros in its holy form.” 138

The Catechism echoes this, saying that purity “lets us perceive the human body— ours and our neighbor’s— as a . . . manifestation of divine beauty.” 139

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 712-714,716-750). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love (Only one word in English, but you know what I mean.),
Matthew

128 TOB 47: 2.
129 TOB 47: 5.
130 Cf. TOB 101: 3.
131 Cf. TOB 47: 6.
132 TOB 48: 1.
133 Cf. TOB 47: 5.
134 TOB 128: 3.
135 TOB 113: 5.
136 Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy,” 10.
137 Ibid., 42.
138 Ibid., 7.
139 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2519.