“No one, in the married or any other state of life, is completely happy on this earth.”
-Fr. Fulgence Meyer, OFM
The married couples who read this book are trying their best, I have reason to believe, to become true Christian parents. It will be my object, in this essay, to hearten and help them to keep on endeavoring to live up to the ideal of Catholic husbands and wives, and, respectively, of Catholic fathers and mothers. I do not intend to scold, or find fault, or embarrass anyone: but I aim to instruct, comfort, and encourage.
We all need to be periodically enlightened and animated regarding our particular life duties. The Holy Father, the cardinals, bishops, priests, friars, brothers, and nuns make a retreat or a mission once a year. They are then told very plainly what their duties are within their state of life; they are warned against certain dangers; and their defects and shortcomings are pointed out to them, without gloss or varnish.
They appreciate this much, and are sincerely grateful for it, conscious as they are of the blinding influence of self-love, and of the advantage there is in seeing ourselves as others see us. For the same reason, I feel that my married readers are going to welcome this instruction.
On the Stage of Life
Life is often compared to a stage, upon which we are all given a part to play. God Himself has assigned our individual roles to us. In calling you to the married state, He has allotted to you a distinguished and arduous part on the stage of life. And if you are a parent, your part is immensely more sublime and difficult.
It is no small task to be a Catholic husband, wife, and parent. This requires virtue and ability of the highest order. Whoever in a dramatic play must represent a difficult character is glad to have someone instruct him and provide him with helpful cautions, hints, and suggestions. I shall now attempt to do this in your behalf regarding the conduct of your married life.
God Has Chosen You
You must above all remember that God has chosen you for the part you must play on the stage of life, and since He has chosen you for it, He will supply you with the strength you need to conduct yourself with virtue. Even if you married frivolously and thoughtlessly, or through mere passion or spite, now that you are bound by your vows, you can be sure that God intended you should be bound thus, and consequently you can count on His help to achieve happiness and holiness in the marriage you have legitimately contracted, and from which you can no longer withdraw.
All regrets as to what else might have been, had you not married, are idle and futile. What matters now is that you make the most of your present situation through good sense and the grace of God.
Do not make things worse by dwelling gloomily and pessimistically on your real or imaginary mistake in marrying as you did, and by thus increasing the evil effects of it, but rather make a virtue out of necessity, and turn your mistake, whatever it was, into a stepping stone to sanctity and everlasting glory.
To those who entered the convent or the priesthood without a vocation from on high, and who realized their mistake after they had bound themselves by the holy vows for life, Saint Augustine said, “If you are not called, see to it that you be called.” Similarly, married people who, after they are married a while, find that they made a mistake in marrying at all, will apply the best remedy to their hard situation not by unavailing complaints or morbid self-pity but by doing what they can to render their actual married life their real vocation.
With the aid of God’s grace, many have done this to their great contentment and sanctification. What others have done, you can do too, with the assistance of the same grace. Spiritually and religiously, you may even thrive better for being unfortunately married. You must live your vows to the fullest and not look back on whether you should have been a priest, religious, single, or even married to someone else. Be holy now. The path to sanctity is the vocation God calls you to, not necessarily the higher calling, or even the one you imagine to be better.
A Vale of Tears
The fact alone that you are not fully happy in your married life is not by any means a sign that you were not called or destined for it. No one, in the married or any other state of life, is completely happy on this earth. God did not intend that anyone should be entirely happy. This earth will always be a vale of tears no matter how we arrange it, in marriage, in the single life in the world, in the cloister, in the priesthood, and everywhere else. Do not think you can escape the cross, for the cross will follow you. If you do not embrace it, it will crush you. Remember, the cross is only temporary.
We are merely pilgrims or tourists steering towards our eternal home, and the more we are disposed to put up with the discomforts and annoyances of tourists or travelers, the less chagrined shall we be. Even in paradise there was the forbidden tree and the insidious serpent. No home or family life can therefore be expected to be without some trouble and worry. All we can do is to achieve a relative happiness here below as a preparation for an eternal happiness beyond. Marriage offers a good opportunity for the accomplishment of both.
An Infallible Recipe
What, then, is the recipe of happiness for a married person? It is contained in the words of my text: “Blessed are all they that fear the Lord.” This is the recipe given by God Himself. If anyone knows the way to true and lasting happiness, it is the Lord Who created our heart and gave it its vehement and incessant craving for happiness. He condenses the whole manner of achieving happiness in the words I have quoted. All other recipes of happiness, divergent from this one, no matter by whom they have been or are given, are false and misleading. There is but one way for a Catholic couple to become thoroughly and permanently happy, and that one way is the fear of the Lord.
How does a Catholic couple practice and manifest the fear of the Lord? First by worshiping God faithfully. They say their prayers every morning and evening. In their home, which is duly blessed, they pray aloud with the family before and after meals; this, too, when guests are present, let them be Catholics or not. Grace at table always makes a good impression on company worth having.