by Fr. Franz Hunolt, 1740
Subject: If the marriage is to be a happy one, Jesus must be invited to the wedding.Introduction.
Text: Vocatus est autem et Jesus, et discipuli ejus ad naptias.--John ii. 2. "And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage."
Happy people, who had the great honor of having Jesus at their marriage feast! What a blessing must follow the presence of such a Guest! My dear brethren, all married people can have the same honor and happiness, morally speaking, in our days, if they only invite Jesus. He is willing to be present at every marriage, but He will not come uninvited. That invitation is absolutely necessary for the happiness of the married state; but, alas, the majority neglect it, to their own great loss. To remedy this neglect, is the object of my present sermon, since the greater number of marriages take place at this time. If the marriage is to be a happy one, Jesus must be invited to the wedding. If the marriage is to be happy, Jesus must be really present at it. If the marriage is to be happy, Jesus must remain with the married couple during their lives. Such is the division of my subject. It is a very important one, which will serve for the instruction of the single as well as the married, and will be of use to all. But it cannot be all treated of in one hour, so that I will now consider only the first point, and I repeat--http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/
Plan of Discourse: If the marriage is to be a happy one, Jesus must be invited to the wedding. That is the whole subject.
Christ Jesus, the true Lover and Bridegroom of souls, Thou didst not refuse the invitation to the wedding of old, but went thereto with Thy Mother and Thy disciples; do not refuse to listen to our prayers today, but come into our midst by Thy help and grace, with Thy Mother and Thy holy angels, so that all here present may, according to their different states in life, derive fruit from what I am about to say to them in Thy name.
When one is invited by a stranger to dine, the invitation is not generally given on the day of the banquet, and much less when the meal is on the point of commencing. No; for such an invitation would cause the guest annoyance, instead of honoring him. For he would think: My meal is already prepared for me; I see clearly that this invitation is not for my sake; it seems that one of the invited guests did not come and that I am expected to fill the empty chair. That will not do; if this invitation was honorably meant, I should have got it yesterday. This is especially the case when some great man is invited. Intimate friends do not stand so much on ceremony; if they meet each other in the street, the invitation is given and accepted without more ado. But that is not the proper way to act with a great man: he must be invited with becoming politeness, one, two, and even several days beforehand. Christian sons and daughters, if any of you here present intend entering the holy state of matrimony, is it not your wish to have a marriage feast? And you hope also to have blessings and happiness in your marriage? Without doubt you do. But from whom do you expect it? Certainly from Him who alone can give it. And who is that? Is it not Jesus, your God, from whom all blessings must come? You do not wish, then, to exclude Him from your wedding? I am quite sure you do not. Very well, so far, but you must invite Him. And when? When the bridal dress is ready, when you are about to go to church, or when the marriage feast is already prepared? Oh, no, that would be too late altogether; it would be very impolite conduct toward such a great Lord, and a Guest who is so necessary, so gracious, and so good. He must be invited long beforehand.
Now what do I mean by this? As soon as the first thought of marriage comes, Jesus must be invited first of all, before any one else; that is, by frequent, constant, humble, and fervent prayer, and by the practise of virtue. He must be asked for light and grace to know if that is the state in which God wishes you to be ; whether it is the state in which, according to His will, you can best serve Him, and save your souls, which, as we have often heard, is our greatest, most weighty and only business in this world. Jesus must be consulted to know whether the partner you have chosen is the one that He, in His inscrutable decrees, has determined for you from all eternity.
This prayer and deliberation with God is most necessary for all, in the choice of a state of life, no matter what it may be; because, generally speaking, our eternal happiness or misery depends thereon. It is true that one may save his soul in any state; but it is not true that each one may save his soul in every state; and it is an undoubted fact that one cannot save his soul in a state to which he is not called by God, unless with great difficulty. God and God alone knows what our state must be. He has reserved to Himself, as the only Father of our souls, the right of determining what state is the best for the spiritual welfare of each one of us. It is to God, and God alone that men ought to appeal for guidance in this matter, and therefore, His advice must be asked first of all. And how could any one reasonably hope for or expect the assistance of special helps and graces in a state to which God has not called him, and which he embraced of his own accord against the divine will; even if that state were the holiest in the world? Would a prince continue his favor and give a yearly salary to a servant of his, who would undertake all kinds of business without the prince's knowledge and consent? Would he not rather punish that man for his presumption? Therefore, the will of our Lord is that we consult Him first, and ask His advice by prayer; as I have more fully proved in another sermon, when speaking of the choice of a state of life in general.
Now all agree without difficulty that this is necessary in the choice of more perfect states, or of the higher offices and dignities of Church or State. It certainly would be presumption to engage in any of these without asking counsel from God. But there are few who say the same of the married state. Most people think their own will is a sufficiently good counsellor in that matter. But I maintain the direct contrary, and I say, that if there is any state in the world in which the divine inspiration and vocation are necessary, in order to obtain the divine blessing and to save one's soul therein, it is the married state. Why do I say so?
On account of the many obligations imposed on married people by their state, which cannot be fulfilled without a special assistance from God; on account of the many difficulties of this state, which cannot be borne without a special grace from God; and on account of the many dangers of this state, which cannot be overcome without the special help of God. I shall speak now only of the difiiculties. Generally speaking, young people think that when their wedding day comes, they are about to enter into a paradise of joy and pleasure. No doubt it is so too, for the first day; but there are many other days to come, when you will both be old together; wait a few years, and you will feel what the Apostle, St. Paul, says to you: "If thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned; nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh (I. Cor. vii. 28)." Oh, holy Apostle, if there were only married people present, thou needest not tell them that twice; for most of them, convinced by their own experience, must agree that it is true, and with bitter sorrow they must acknowledge that the roses which seemed so beautiful at first, are full of sharp thorns, and that the few pleasures which their state allows are embittered by countless difficulties and annoyances that they have to contend with every hour and minute of the day. Nor can it well be otherwise.
For the married state, which is, in the Christian law, the indissoluble union of husband and wife, what is it but a servitude, in which one party deliberately gives up all personal freedom for life to the other! And that servitude must last as long as both parties live, no matter how anxious they may be for it to come to an end, nor can it be dissolved except by the death of either. Once the word is spoken, you have given yourself over to another till death, without knowing how he will behave to you in the future, or how things will be with yourself; you give yourself to one who, before, had no right whatever over you, and who will now have an incontestable right over your person forever. It is a servitude that one selects freely, but which, I think, although I have not experienced it, must very often, in the long run, become galling. Certainly, by my ordination and priesthood, I have partially given up my freedom and placed myself in servitude, but only to God and to myself; to God my Supreme Lord, to whom I must belong altogether in any case; and to myself, whom I must in any case command; to God, whose yoke is sweet, and whose burden light, from whom I have nothing to fear like anger, ill-will, or bitterness, unless I first commence to quarrel with Him; for I know that He is always the same,--infinite, unchanging, most beautiful and most amiable.
You, on the contrary. by the marriage tie, have, in addition to the service you owe to God, given up the right and authority you had over yourself to another person, to a stranger, who is in one mood to-day and in another to-morrow, and is as changeable as the moon in disposition, humor, inclination, and bodily health. Him you are now bound to obey in many things, not always as you will, but as he wills, and you are bound to do many things or to omit them, according to his wishes. By the vows of religion that I made in my profession, I have bound myself to obey another man; but at the same time I gave up all the burden and care of looking after my food, clothing, and support; for those things do not concern me. Your subjection in the married state does not free you from this care; but rather makes it greater for you than it was when you were living with your parents. My obedience does not place me irrevocably under a certain Superior, whom alone I have to obey. Sometimes I have one Superior, sometimes another; at one time I am living here, at another, elsewhere; and these changes certainly make the yoke of obedience very light, if there is any difficulty in it; you, on the contrary, by the sacramental contract, are always bound to obey the same person, as long as both of you live. If that person is exactly suited to your disposition, temperament, and inclination, and always remains so, that is indeed a great happiness; but it is a rare happiness. You must certainly have taken counsel from God. But if, as more frequently happens, the husband, after a time, begins to dislike his wife, or the wife her husband, what is then to be done? Ah, poor souls! there is no help for you; you are not less bound to each other on that account.
If you had only known that beforehand! But that could not be. And here again there is a remarkable difference between my servitude and yours; for, when I made choice of the religious state, I had to go through my novitiate and years of probation, in which I could examine all the rules, have some experience of the difficulties of the state, and think long and leisurely over the whole matter, to see whether that state would not be too difficult for me, and whether it was suited to me, and I had the power of remaining in it, or of leaving it. What a great thing it would be, if there was a novitiate for the married life! There are many who would not wait to finish the year, but would leave at the expiration of a few months. But there can be no such thing; the final step must be taken at once; if things go well, so much the better; if not, it cannot be helped. Once the marriage knot is tied you belong to another with whom you must live always ; and no matter how bitterly you may afterwards repent the step you have taken, you cannot recall your words or free yourself. You have given yourself over to another, without knowing much about him, or his disposition. At first, when he was seeking your hand, he was all amiability, good-humor, and friendliness; nothing was to be seen but gifts and presents and most respectful bows; nothing to be heard but sweet words and flatteries. You thought, no doubt, what an easy time you would have after your marriage. At first, your blind love would not let you see anything but what was good and amiable in the person of your future partner, and you thought that you were about to wed an angel of modesty, mildness, and love. But afterwards, when the first love was somewhat cooled down, and you learned to know each other better in the daily intimacy of your lives, you may have found an obstinate, passionate, and jealous man, in him whom you first looked upon as so amiable; or a peevish, disagreeable, and headstrong woman in her whom you used to consider an angel of modesty and amiability. If that is the case, what are you to do? You did not think of that before, and now you must remain as you are, whether you like or not. There is no novitiate for you.
What a trial, what a martyrdom it is for married people to have to live together, when their dispositions, opinions, and habits are not suited to each other! When an intelligent, prudent, and quiet man has to live with a vain, conceited, and frivolous woman; or a moral, modest, pious, and virtuous wife, with a wicked, unruly, and quarrelsome husband; or a sparing, industrious, and diligent husband, who works day and night for his family, with a sensual, luxurious, indolent, and spendthrift wife, who makes away with her husband's hard-earned money, in idleness, frivolity, visits, gaming, amusements, tea parties, and unnecessary luxury in dress; or a careful and prudent wife, who often takes the bread out of her own mouth for her children's sake, that she may support and bring them up decently, with a foolish husband who spends everything in useless entertainments, and in eating and drinking, and if his poor wife dares to utter a word of complaint, he storms at and abuses, or even beats her!
What a hell it is, when the two are like furies with each other, so that what the one desires, the other hates; one says yes, and the other no; while both are constantly quarrelling and finding fault with each other, and spend their time in cursing and fighting, and instead of one giving way to the other, and bearing each other's faults patiently, as St. Bernard says, they nourish bitter hatred against each other, so that they go from their hell in this life to the eternal hell in the next. Would to God that such unhappy marriages were rare in the world! And if a marriage turns out that way, what is to be done, I ask? Ah, poor souls, I repeat again that you must bear your burden; the knot is tied, and cannot be loosed. Any vow made to God, even the vows of religion, may be dispensed with by the Catholic Church, where circumstances require; but not even the Church can interfere with the bond of marriage; there is no dispensation from that. Such is the command of Christ regarding marriage a "What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder (Matt. xix. 6)," even if the prosperity or ruin of the whole Roman empire depended on it. This bond seemed such a hard thing to the Apostles, that they all determined it was better for a man to remain unmarried. Then His disciples said to Him: "If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry (Matth. xix. 10)." Certainly, answered Christ, foreseeing that the burden would be too great for the majority of them: "All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given (Matth. xix. 11)."
Here I do not intend to allude to different troubles and difiiculties which the married state brings with it, though not always, yet so generally, that even kings and princes are not free from them. If husband and wife love each other as they should, if their dispositions and inclinations are always in accord, certainly that is a rare happiness, and they who enjoy it should daily thank God in deep humility. But what anxiety, sorrow, and trouble it is for the other, if one should fall sick, or die! If the married couple have enough to live on, what constant trouble they have to preserve a decent competence or to increase their wealth! If they are poor, what trials they must undergo to earn their bread honestly! If they have nothing else to annoy them, what trouble they have with servants, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances; and especially in the rearing of their children, which is the chief end of marriage! How many difficulties they have, with their own likes and dislikes, with bodily sufferings, headaches, heartaches, weakness, and all the pains attendant on and consequent to childbirth. If the new-born infant is strong and healthy, what trouble the parents have with it! They must make themselves children again, they must laugh when their child laughs, cry when it cries, often lose their night's rest, etc. If there are four or five children in the family, they make such noise and trouble that the house seems too small for them; they are like a swarm of bees, perpetually buzzing around everywhere. One shouts out here, another there; one falls into the fire, another out of the open window; the third gets into danger on the staircase, the fourth runs the risk of wounding himself with a knife; one breaks a glass, another tears a book, the rest set to fighting with each other; the one wants something to eat, the other to drink; there is such a constant shouting and clamor going on, that the father and mother would require a hundred eyes and hands to attend sufficiently to everything. Even mothers who can afford to keep a nurse-maid to help them, are not free from such troubles. How must it then be for a poor woman who has to attend to everything herself, and who must trust to her own eyes and hands for everything? What must it be, when she sometimes has not bread for her children to eat, nor clothes to cover them? When her husband gets sick, or dies, and she thus loses the only support of herself and her children? Oh, misery and wretchedness!
If the sons and daughters are grown up, what happens then? The Wise Man says: A wise, good, and obedient son, is the joy of his father; but a wilful, stupid, and disobedient son grieves his mother (Prov. x. 1). I say besides, that no matter of what kind children are, they are a trouble to their parents. For if they grow up to be all that can be desired, so also does their parents' care to keep them so increase, so that they may be happily settled in life. If the means of securing this latter object are wanting, what trouble the parents must undergo to find patrons and helpers! What a sorrow it is for them, if their beloved son or daughter, in whom they have centered all their hopes, dies in the bloom of youth! And how many other troubles parents have, that they can best speak of themselves. If the children are, on the other hand, so stupid as not to be able to learn anything, or so frail and delicate that they can do nothing for themselves, or so abandoned and vicious that they cannot be governed nor induced to amend; if they are obstinate, disobedient, ungrateful, and insolent to their parents, so that the latter have only trouble and sorrow with them, what a trial, what grief, what desperation is theirs!
How many such unhappy parents do we not hear crying out with Rebecca, the mother of Jacob and Esau: "If it were to be so with me, what need was there to conceive (Gen. xxv. 22)?" If these are the bitter fruits of marriage, it would have been better for me not to have thought of it, and to have remained as I was! I should then have no care nor trouble but for myself and my God. In a word, wherever we turn, we see troubles and difficulties, which it requires an iron patience, a special grace and help of God to overcome. When I think of all this, I am inclined to believe what Theophilus Rainaudus says in his Book of the Martyrs: "I look upon it as certain, and my own experience induces me to believe that most of the martyrs of Christ suffered fewer torments and had less pain than most married people." Would to God that the latter bore their trials with patience and a right intention, as the martyrs suffered for Jesus Christ; then, indeed, would the angels hardly find palms enough to give them! Why have I given such along description of these trials, my dear brethren? Is it to make married people sorry for having chosen that state; or to make single people loathe it? God forbid that such should be my intention! The state is a holy one, and when one lives therein as becomes a Christian, it is a meritorious one and conducive to salvation, as I shall show afterwards; therefore I say with the Apostle: "Let her marry to whom she will, only in the Lord." I wish every one of you happiness in that state. My only object in speaking to you of the difficulties of the married life, of which reason alone has sufficed to teach me a little, was to show you how necessary it is to have the grace of a special vocation to this state, and to be helped by God to surmount its difficulties; hence, too, I conclude, that it is necessary to invite Jesus to the marriage feast a long time beforehand, to pray to Him and seek counsel from Him. Is it Jesus who advised you to marry? Is it Jesus who called you to that state of life? Is it after long and earnest prayer, and through divine inspiration, that you have chosen that person as your companion through life? Oh, if that is the case, be comforted! No matter how things may go with you, your marriage will be a happy one as far as your salvation is concerned. Divine providence will always accompany you and arrange everything for the best, as long as you are not unfaithful to God. The grace of vocation will influence your words and actions and your whole conduct, so that you can, little by little, overcome the bad temper of your husband or wife, and win his or her afiections! The grace of vocation will lighten your burden, so that you can bear it; it will give you strength to overcome difficulties, and to bear patiently with crosses and trials, no matter how numerous they may be, and it will teach you to be resigned to the will of God, to heap up merits for your soul, and to gain a great reward in Heaven. The grace of vocation will replace earthly consolation and happiness, if those are wanting to you, by the inward peace of the soul; and there are many married people who hardly feel the difficulties of their state, and who live in continual contentment, on account of the grace of vocation. In a word, it is a happy and blessed marriage which results from the call of God.
But, alas! how few there are who look at the matter in this light! How few Christians, even, who invite Jesus a long time before hand to their wedding! How few who first ask advice from God by prayer! They ask for advice, as we have seen already, but from what? Their own animal appetites: Can I satisfy my inclinations in a lawful manner by marriage? Very well, then, I will marry; I need not deliberate any longer about it. They ask for advice; but from what? Their eyes and outward senses: Is that young man or that young woman beautiful enough? If so I require no more; I will marry. They ask advice, too, from the covetous and transitory world: Is that young man or woman rich and well off? Has he or she any hopes of inheriting property? Is that person of a high family? Can I, by such a marriage, obtain a high office or a good appointment? Such are the things people seek after. They ask advice, but from whom? From their parents, and quite right too: but they must not ask their parents alone, nor first of all: "House and riches are given by parents," says the Wise Man, "but a prudent wife is properly from the Lord (Prov. xix. 14)." And meanwhile, Whatever their thoughts, desires, or deliberations may be, they seldom or never think of God beforehand; they concern themselves little about His will or vocation. Sometimes, indeed, they practise certain devotions to obtain happiness in the married state, but when? When the matter is already settled, and the engagement entered on.
What wonder is it, then, that continual happiness in the married state is such a rare thing in the world? What wonder is it that unhappy marriages are the rule? Listen to that man or that woman wailing and lamenting like a poor soul in purgatory, if not cursing and raving like a lost soul in hell; or if they do not show their grief outwardly, meaning and sighing in their hearts: God help me, what a miserable state I am in! Would that I had never seen that person! Unhappy day on which we first became acquainted! How much better it would be for me to have remained as I was! At least I may complain to God, who gave me that husband, or that wife! But what are you saying? How can you complain to God? He can say to you: Have I given you your husband, or your wife? You never consulted Me, nor spoke to Me, and how can you now expect consolation and help from Me? "What have I to do with you?" The state you are in is your own work; you selected it blindly, without waiting for a vocation from Me. Unhappy is the marriage to which Jesus is not invited beforehand!
Unmarried sons and daughters, to you especially do I address these words of warning, for you can still prevent future misery unmarried, and a useless repentance; think, and think well, before you undertake a matter on which principally depend your whole future life, your temporal happiness, the salvation of your soul and your eternity in Heaven or in hell. Remember, as I have often told you, that your only business in this world is to serve God and to save your souls, and that you must therefore choose that state of life in which you think that you will best be able, according to the divine will, to accomplish this one important business. But first of all, invite Jesus to assist you in your deliberation; think of the matter before God; ask Him for advice, since He knows best what is most suited for your temporal and eternal welfare. Pray, and pray daily to the Most High to show you in what state He wishes you to serve Him and save your souls. If then you are happy in the state you choose, you have a two-fold happiness; if not, you can at least have the consolation and comfort of knowing that you did not act through self-will, but in obedience to the divine vocation, and you have only to bear the trials and contradictions that God wishes you to bear. And that is consolation enough for a soul that seeks to please God.
Ah, some will perhaps say--who are in the married state, and who groan under its yoke, because they heeded not the divine vocation, nor asked advice from Jesus--what have you to say to me? Have I no consolation to hope for, either from God, or from the world, so that I must despair? No; hear what you have to do: you must act as Esau did when Jacob deprived him of his father's blessing; he cried out with tears in his eyes and trouble in his heart: "Hast thou only one blessing, father? I beseech thee, bless me also (Gen. xxvii. 38)." Hast thou only one blessing, so that because I come too late, thou canst not bless me? I beseech thee, bless me also." In the same way you, too, Christian married people, can and must ask your heavenly Father for a second blessing, with all the greater humility, repentance, and patience in hearing your trials, since you have neglected the first grace. Heavenly Father, hast Thou, then, no blessing left for me? The treasures of Thy grace are inexhaustible; no one comes too late, who appeals to Thy generosity and mercy; I acknowledge that I have done wrong, Oh, Lord, in thinking so little of Thee, and neglecting Thee in the choice of a state that now presses heavily on me! I am sorry for it from my heart! Do not turn away Thy merciful eyes from me; abandon me not to my own weakness and frailty! I do not refuse to suffer, for I know that I deserve it, and therefore I willingly resign myself to Thy fatherly decrees. One only request I make of Thee: give me, too, Thy divine blessing; that is, strength to bear the difficulties and trials of my state with Christian patience, through love of Thee, so that I may not lose my soul, and that by temporal sufferings I may gain eternal joys. Pray thus with childlike confidence, and you will move the God of mercy to bless you, as Isaac blessed the weeping Esau: "And when he wept with a loud cry, Isaac, being moved, said to him: In the fat of the earth and in the dew of Heaven from above, shall thy blessing be (Gen. xxvii. 38-40)." The same I wish to you, from my heart: the fat of the earth, that is, inward consolation in your difficulties on this earth; the dew of heaven, that is, when those difficulties are passed, an eternal reward in the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.