In part I of this series, I wrote about two fractured marriages as well as some thoughts to consider from the mind of Archbishop Fulton Sheen on matters of love, sex, and marriage. For years I ignorantly thought Bishop Sheen was a dinosaur in today’s world on such matters. Anyone who has read or listened to anything the good Bishop has said is no doubt violently shaking their head. I am forever grateful to God, who I have learned is particularly patient with the unenlightened.
My purpose for spending some time on this subject is two-fold. I am trying to better understand, that I may grow in my own marriage, but also that I may help others. While I am enthusiastically in the business of preparing couples for marriage in the Catholic Church, I also, at times, have to deal with marriages that are in deep trouble. It is here where I feel sorely ill prepared and unqualified.
Divorce is not part of God’s plan for men and women, yet there are times, it seems, when this cannot be avoided. Betrayal, infidelity, abuse, and violence are a reality of some marriages. What can the Church do to better understand the nature of man and woman, of their relationships, and do a better job of preparing them for marriage, potentially saving them from the pain and heartbreak of divorce?
I believe with all my heart that God has not abandoned us to figure it out by trial and error, and at the expense of countless broken marriages. No one deserves that. God has equipped us and given us what we need, if we would but listen, learn, and apply.
As I continue to read and discover the likes of Archbishop Sheen, St. John Paul II, Christopher West, Jason and Crystalina Evert and many more too numerous to name, I am encouraged and amazed at the gift God has given us through these instruments at this time in history. God has furnished us with answers to the questions and the antidote to the disease.
Happy, fulfilling, faithful and beautiful marriages are possible. I have been blessed to be part of one for almost thirty-five years now. Was it anything I did in particular? Was I just one of the “lucky ones” who happened to get the right guy at the right time? I think it is bigger than all that, and begins with the beginning.
Bishop Sheen spoke in an overview talk on Christian Marriage about some of the tensions to be expected in married life which “can be easily resolved.” He said that there are spiritual and psychological differences between a man and woman:
“Man generally marries to have a woman, and woman generally marries to have a child.”
“Man looks to the pleasure in marriage and woman looks to the fruition and the purpose of that pleasure.”
“Man gives reasons for loving a woman…a woman never gives reasons, she gives herself- surrender is its own reason for love.”
“Man is afraid of dying before he has lived, woman is afraid of dying before she has begotten life.”
Hearing just these, I was struck by the accuracy of his statements. While he spoke generally, there is truth that resonates through them in varying degrees. As woman and man, we can and do approach the same goal from radically different points. This is worth pondering. One is not better than the other, but simply different.
Facilitating further discussions on this and other differences with our engaged couples will help them dive deeper into the discovery of the other. Oftentimes there are many areas that have never been mined and explored, especially if the couple is already sexually active (a communication blocker extraordinaire).
These are not discussions solely limited to priests and marriage ministers. Anyone who wants to see the marriage succeed should be talking and, more importantly, modeling a good, healthy marriage. Too often we keep our distance, don’t want to get involved; this is a disservice to the couple.
Is it possible to speak the truth in love? Yes, if you have shown them time and again that you really love them and desire their life-long happiness together in sacramental marriage. The best wisdom comes from being a living witness to a happy, faithful, honest, lifelong marriage.
They are watching us, you know. What are our marriages teaching them?
I hope you will continue reading and enter into dialogue as I share more insights and wisdom from Bishop Sheen. As always, keep praying through the intercession of Bishop Sheen for your own marriage or future marriage, and those marriages in trouble.