BY Abbé Michel Poinsinet de Sivry, FSSPX
Marriage is a contract. This contract defines the clauses which unite the spouses in order to found a family. The origin of marriage dates back to Genesis. God created Adam but, he said, “it is not good for man to be alone”. So he took a rib from Adam with which he formed the body of Eve. Contemplating the first woman, Adam writes to himself: “Here is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (…). Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they will be one flesh. Thus was marriage instituted. In the New Testament, Our Lord Jesus Christ elevates it to the rank of sacrament. Henceforth, the spouses find in this institution the sufficient means of holiness. Through sacramental grace, they indeed have all the graces to fulfill the duties of the marriage contract in a holy way: procreation, education and mutual support. It is from this sacramental grace that they draw their strength, their hope and their fidelity. Marriage is not an institution like any other. Indeed, marriage is ordered to the common good of civil and ecclesiastical society in such a way that the stability and peace of these societies depend in large part on those of marriage. This shows how important it is to enter into a good marriage and therefore to choose the right spouse.
It is most fitting to consider the sanctity of marriage and to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit for the important choice before us. It is then necessary to consider the judgment of our parents who know us and want our good. As well as that of our brothers and our sisters or that of our friends. In general, these people are rather very spontaneous and simple in their opinion. Finally, our spiritual director also has an enlightened judgment since he relies on the experience of the Church and the confessional. Let us consider the concrete questions to be asked in this matter, which is both so important and so delicate.
The essential questions
Let’s start at the beginning. We must ask ourselves if it seems reasonable to consider, in the person frequented, the future father or the future mother of my children. This perspective helps to mature our judgment and supports the virtue of prudence which is a happy medium between haste and indecision.
Then, we must tell ourselves that the home will be all the holier if it is stable and orderly. This stability is a principle of peace because it is the result of the habitual exercise of charity. This is the secret of marital holiness. To achieve this stability, there must therefore be a deep unity between the spouses. How do we know if we will be able to build it together? spiritual and sacramental life?
It is first of all a question of discussing the spiritual and sacramental life. Where does my spouse want to go to Mass on Sunday? Which community does he want to frequent regularly? It is indeed obvious that this question has an impact on the preaching and the catechism that the children will receive. It is imperative that this subject be settled (at least to avoid weekly disputes!). In the context of the crisis of the Church, it happens that this very sensitive discussion is quite heated because of a disagreement. The future spouse then needs a lot of patience, delicacy and clarity to succeed in enlightening the other on his position. The truth is indeed transmitted with gentleness, humility and perseverance. If this point is not settled before the wedding, it will not be after. It is an illusion to think otherwise. And many are those who fall into it… and who regret it afterwards! We imagine that the future spouse will necessarily change, when in reality he will not, or rarely. We sometimes notice that this illusion is deliberately maintained to avoid facing the problem. Be careful, we must not forget that marriage being a sacrament ordained for the common good, a voluntary error will have an impact on society and, more specifically, on children! It is therefore always necessary to think about the consequences of the choices made.
In the area of spiritual life, without becoming a confessor, one must observe the religious life of the person visited: is he faithful to his daily prayer, to the rosary, to communion and to frequent confession? Has she ever done a retreat (do one before the wedding!)? Does she know the main notions of Catholic doctrine? Let’s not forget that tomorrow we will be educators and that we will have to transmit in our turn. We know the adage: you only give what you have. It may happen that the spouse is in the process of conversion: you have to be very careful because it is often a long and laborious journey as it requires a total change of life in accordance with the Gospel. To find out if the future spouse is not feigning conversion, let us observe if he goes to mass on Sunday on his own, if he continues to study the catechism, if he asks questions about faith and morals, if he even has objections, signs of reflection on the subject .
The personality of the future spouse
Let us now look at the personality of our future spouse. It is difficult to live only on appearances. Drive out the natural and it comes back at a gallop. To observe the future spouse in the reality of what he is, it is necessary to visit the future in-laws several times. We then glimpse the future spouse in his natural element in which, inevitably, he will be true. It is then easier to answer these questions which shed additional light on his personality: do I know him well? Since when ? What are its qualities ? Her downsides ? What are my qualities? My flaws ? What are the character differences between him and me? Do these differences scare me? Are they important? Do I think I can bear them and above all help my spouse to overcome them? Have I thought about the right ways that will allow me to help him in this direction? For that is what conjugal love is: wanting the good of the other. “I urge the newlyweds above all to the mutual love that the Holy Spirit recommends to them so much in Scripture,” said Pius XII in a speech to the newlyweds. But what is this love instilled in you by the pious master of the Christian life? Is it perhaps the simple natural and instinctive love, like that of a pair of doves, writes Saint Francis de Sales, or the purely human love known and practiced by pagans? No, such is not the love that the Holy Spirit recommends to spouses. He recommends to them more than that: a love which, without denying the holy human affections, rises higher, to be in its origin, in its advantages, in its form and in its manner “all holy, all sacred, all divine”, similar to the love that unites Christ and his Church”.
All questions must be asked: what education did he receive? Where did he go to school? Will the conversation topics be interesting overall? Do his ways of life suit me? Is my future spouse polite? Does he know how to behave in society? Let’s not forget, we will always live with him. The difference in the education received can be an obstacle to marital stability. Also, it is necessary to check if my family and that of my future spouse have approximately the same social rank and the same way of educating.
Knowing the future in-laws is necessary because not only is it an additional clue to the personality of the future spouse but, in addition, it will be the second family that I will regularly visit. So, did you spend a few days with your future in-laws? Did the stays go well? What do you think of your future in-laws? Do you like them? Why ? Are your future in-laws happy with the marriage? If the answer is negative, – why? You should never ignore the advice of the in-laws who know your spouse more than you know yourself. Do you know his siblings? Do you like them? Do you have good relations with them? What did they tell you about your future? Are you ready to spend holidays with them?
Remember that you will necessarily entrust your children to your in-laws. Are you ready to do this? If not why ? In-laws, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and future cousins will have an influence on your children. Do you therefore share the same convictions in the essential areas: religion, education, culture, politics? Unity in beliefs?
Marital stability is also based on unity in beliefs that affect important areas. First of all, how to approach married life: where do you want to live? Have you spoken seriously about the problem of the work of the wife and her presence at home ? Will your spouse be away often? Because of his work or his associative occupations? Other ? We have to be careful of associative movements that encroach on family life. Commitment is commendable only insofar as it does not prevent me from performing marital duties. Married life sometimes forces you to stop certain activities.
Any subject must be addressed, including certain delicate subjects such as the morality surrounding marital relations: with generosity, am I ready to welcome all the children that God will give us? Is your future in the same mood? Do you have any apprehension? Do you think marital chastity will be difficult to maintain? Marriage is certainly a remedy for concupiscence, however it does not extinguish all temptations against the flesh. This is why the virtue of purity should be perfected before as during the wedding.
May the engaged couple entrust themselves with confidence to the Holy Family. Let them know that their marriage will be worth what their engagement will have been worth.
Original Article, which was translated from French, found at this link:
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