by Fr. Franz Hunolt, 1740
Subject: If the marriage is to be a happy one, Jesus must come to it. 1st. In purity of conscience. 2d. In purity of intention. 3d. In the pure love that the new-married couple must have.Introduction.
Text: Ait illi Jesus: Ego veniam.--Matth. viii. 7. "Jesus saith to him: I will come."
What goodness and benevolence on the part of our loving Saviour! He promised to be present even when He was not asked to come. For, as we read in to-day's Gospel, the Centurion did not ask Christ to come to his house, since he thought himself unworthy of that honor; he said, with the greatest reverence: "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof (Matth. viii. 8)." He merely represented briefly to our Lord the illness of his servant: "Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented (Ibid 6.)." And Jesus was ready at once: I will come (Ibid 7). How much more ready, my dear brethren, will He not be to go where He is invited and pressed to go, by humble and fervent prayer? Those who heard the sermon of last Sunday will understand what I mean, although I did not then treat of all the subject matter. My subject then was, that if a marriage is to be happy, Jesus must be invited to it beforehand. That is to say: long before any one intends embracing the married state, he must pray to God for light, and take counsel from Him, to know if that is the state in which, according to the divine vocation, he can best attain his last end; and that, especially, on account of the many difficulties of this state, which cannot be overcome without special grace and help from God. Christians who are about to get married, if you invite Jesus in that way, I can assure you that He will say to you: "I will come." And this is very necessary, too, for a marriage to be happy. It is not enough to invite Jesus beforehand, because--Plan of Discourse:
Jesus Himself must come to the marriage. This is the matter of to-day's instruction for those who intend entering on the married state, as well as for married people who had Jesus present at their wedding, to their consolation, and for those who erred in this point, that they may profit by salutary advice. And how is Jesus to come to your marriage? He must come to you in a pure conscienee. The first point. In a pure intention. The second point. In a pure love. The third point.Second Part
Oh, Lord, come in that way to all marriages; or rather, Christians who are about to marry, bring Jesus with you, and your marriage will be full of happiness and blessings. Help us herein, with thy powerful intercession, oh, Mary Immaculate, Spouse of the Holy Ghost; and you, holy angels guardian, prepare the hearts of your charges for this.
Heretics, who at different times have attacked almost all the articles of faith, the sacraments and ceremonies of the Church, with their poisoned weapons, have not spared the holy sacrament of matrimony nor the married state, but have tried to degrade it as much as possible. The Manichaeans and Simon the Magician called matrimony an invention of the devil, by which he hopes to fill hell with souls, and to make a new hell on earth by jealousy, quarrelling, cursing, adultery, and other vices. Martin Luther and Bucer say that it is a mere worldly contract, which one can make and dissolve at will, just as one can buy a house, and keep it if he chooses, and if not, sell it; so that the wife is free to leave her husband, and the husband his wife, and to marry again at pleasure. But these people do not deserve to have their names mentioned here, and it is as little to their honor as if I said that a robber steals and murders.
SS. Epiphanius, Jerome, and Augustine say, against the first mentioned heretics: How can matrimony be an invention of the devil? Did not God Himself first appoint it in Paradise, and establish it as the means of propagating the human race? Did not Mary, the Mother of God, enter that state, since she was the true and holy spouse of St. Joseph? Did not Christ Himself approve of and honor it, when He went with His disciples to the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee! The Catholic Church condemns the teaching of the other heretics, since, acting on the command of Christ, she looks upon the marriage-tie, when once fully contracted, as utterly indissoluble in any and every circumstance, even though the happiness of the whole world depended on its dissolution. In a word, and that we may not have to dispute long with heretics, matrimony is a sacred and holy bond, raised by Christ above nature : " Remember," says the Apostle St. Paul, "that marriage is honorable in all (Heb. xiii. 4)." Look at it as you will, you will find it holy and sacred in all circumstances. Holy and sacred in its Founder, who is the Almighty God, the Holy of Holies, Jesus Christ. Holy and sacred in its signification, as being a figure of the union and espousals of the divine Word with human nature, and of Christ with His Church, and of the Holy Ghost with the souls of the just. Holy and sacred in its matter, which consists of human bodies that are called, by the same Apostle, temples of the Holy Ghost: "The temple of God is holy, which you are (1. Cor. iii. 17)." And again: "Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you (Ibid. vi. 19)" Holy and sacred in its effects, which are sanctifying grace, that is thereby increased in the soul, and actual grace, by which married people are strengthened and helped to fulfil the duties of their state. Holy and sacred in its end, which is to multiply the children of God, and to bring them to eternal salvation. Holy and sacred as a sacrament instituted by Christ, and indeed, as St. Paul says in praise of it, a great sacrament: "This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church (Ephex. v. 32)." All infallible truths, my dear brethren.
And what follows from them? That, as the first part of my subject says, Jesus must come to the marriage 1n the pure consciences of those who are about to get married. Holy things must be treated holily. You would not take a precious diamond and throw it to the fowl on the dung-hill, nor a pearl and cast it before swine. Matrimony is a great and holy sacrament, and therefore it must be received in the state of sanctifying grace; hence it would be a grievous sacrilege and a new sin to receive it with a conscience burdened by mortal sin. All Catholics know that it is a great crime to confess one's sins and receive absolution without sufiicient sorrow and purpose of amendment, or having deliberately concealed a grievous sin. And why? Because Penance is a sacrament that gives grace. To approach the table of the Lord, and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the state of mortal sin, without first going to confession--that is such a grievous sin that the bare idea of it fills even the tepid Catholic with horror and dread. Yet, alas, that crime is committed often by those who remain in the proximate occasion of sin, or who retain the property of others unjustly, or who nourish hatred against their neighbor, without any sign of amendment.
It is related of Judas, the traitor, that while still bent on his impious purpose, he dared to receive Holy Communion from the Hands of our Lord. Wicked wretch that he was! thinks every good Christian. In the same way we may speak of all the other sacraments. But is matrimony worthy of less respect and honor than the others? Is it not also instituted by Christ, the Saviour of the world? Has it not the same power, through the merits of His bitter passion and death, to confer sanctifying grace, like the others? May not all that can be said in praise of the other sacraments, also be said of matrimony ? Therefore, due proportion being observed, this latter requires the same dispositions of the heart, the same purity of conscience, the same devotion and humility, the same inward and outward modesty and reverence.
But if I could see into the hearts and consciences of those who are preparing for this sacrament, should I always find Jesus there? How many should I not see who are far away from Jesus, and who have invited the devil to occupy the principal place at their marriage feast? For, how is this holy sacrament generally treated? How great the difference that we make in our imagination and judgment between this and the other sacraments!
For the latter, people prepare more or less carefully, as for a supernatural work, while the former is looked upon as a more natural and worldly business, the only sanctity of which consists in the ceremonies of the Church, the prayers that are read by the priest, and the blessing given by him. The conditions that are to be observed by both parties in the contract, what property each one possesses, how the wedding garments, the festivities, and the other things of that nature are to be arranged, these are the first things that are looked after, and that form the subject of many meetings and consultations; if they are satisfactorily arranged, then there is no further anxiety. Thus, there is very little devotion, or reverence, or preparation of the soul for such a great sacrament. Few think of the state of justification to which God calls them; few consider the necessity of grace and special helps to be able to live according to their state; and according to the teaching of theologians, this sacrament gives grace in a greater or lesser degree, according to the degree of preparation and disposition in the soul.
And how is that day sanctified, on which such a great, holy, and sacramental mystery is accomplished? Is Jesus present at every wedding? Can He be found in the midst of abuses and licentiousness that so often take place? Can He he in the midst of impure pastimes and discourses; amid dancing and revelry; amid immoderate eating and drinking? Is there any real difference between such marriage feasts and the license of the carnival, which has come down to us from pagan times, and in which people of both sexes spend the night? Oh, just God, what canst Thou think of us in these troublous times, when we ought to be trying to avert Thy just anger, by humiliation and penance! But enough of this for the present, my dear brethren. I am filled with confusion when I think that the Jews in the Old Testament, when matrimony was not a sacrament, as it is now, put to shame the majority of Christians in this respect. We read in the eighth Chapter of the Book of Tobias, that the younger Tobias, on the day of his marriage, said to Sara his bride: "Arise, and let us pray to God to-day, and to-morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God . . . . For we are children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God. So they both arose, and prayed earnestly both together (Tob. viii. 4 - 6)." It is not forbidden to be merry and rejoice, but Jesus must be present in the pure consciences of the merry-makers. The Scripture says of the marriage of Tobias: " They Went to the feast ;"--but in what manner--" but the marriage feast they celebrated also with the fear of the Lord (Ibid. ix. 12)."
Ah, fear of the Lord, how art thou absent from the marriages of many Christians! Would that thou wert present in their hearts, even when they actually receive that holy sacrament! Yet I doubt very much if that is often the case. Generally speaking, people go to confession beforehand, but what sort of a confession is made, especially by those who have already sinned with each other by impure desires, words, and actions; of whom we shall speak more fully in the last point? And, humanly speaking, what sort of repentance and sorrow can they have for sins that they would be inclined to repeat as before, by impure desires? And thus, having added an additional stain to their souls in confession, they receive the sacrament of matrimony, and commit thereby a twofold sin, as Navarrus and other theologians teach. And how is that? If I, in the state of mortal sin, receive Confirmation, Holy Orders, or Extreme Unction; or if I confess without sorrow and purpose of amendment, in order to get absolution, or even to receive Holy Communion, I commit a grievous sin, but it is only one sin, because I alone receive the sacrament. On the other hand. when a person gets married, he is not only the recipient of the sacrament, but its minister also, who perfects the sacrament and confers its effects. At the moment when both express their consent, in presence of the parish-priest and the witnesses, if they are not laboring under any impediment, the bridegroom effects the grace of God, not only in his own soul, but also in that of his bride, just as the priest confers sanctifying grace to the penitent in the sacred tribunal. The parish-priest, although he is present, and blesses the newly married couple, does as little towards the sacrament of matrimony as the two witnesses. He is there only as the representative of the Church; the contracting parties alone administer the sacrament to each other. Consequently, if they do so in the state of mortal sin, they are guilty of a twofold irreverence: one, because they administer the sacrament unworthily, and another, because they receive it unworthily.
How can there be any blessing or happiness in such a marriage, from which Jesus is, so to say, driven away with contempt, although He may have been invited to come and His advice asked about it beforehand; in which the first step in the married life renews and increases enmity with God; in which the married couple, instead of receiving the sacramental grace that is so necessary for the fulfilment of the duties of their state, bring down upon themselves the curse of God? No, there can be no blessing nor happiness in such a marriage; so that Jesus must come to the marriage in purity of conscience. Yet this is not enough, for He must also be there in purity of intention, as we shall see in the
The younger Tobias in his marriage tells me what I have to say on this head (Alas, I am again forced to ask Christians to take pattern by a Jew! ): "And now, Lord, Thou knowest"--such are the words of his prayer--"that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which Thy name may be blessed forever and ever (Tob. viii. 9)." So also prayed Sara, his wife: "Thou knowest, oh, Lord, that I never coveted a husband, and have kept my soul clean from all lust. . . . But a husband I consented to take, with Thy fear, not with my lust (Ibid. iii. 16, 18)." Christians who are about to get married, there you see the end and object of the married life, and the pure intention you must have in entering on it. There are, indeed, other motives which are lawful and even meritorious, such as the desire of being helped in housekeeping, of having good advice in business matters, of being censoled in trials and of being looked after in sickness and old age. These motives are good and praiseworthy, and they who have them can marry, although they intend, by mutual consent, to preserve their virginity in the married state. Again, there are many who fear that, on account of their frailty, they will not be able to preserve holy purity amidst so many dangers, and who get married in order to avoid offending God. This end, too, is not a bad one in itself, and St. Paul permits it, although he does not expressly command it. He writes to the Corinthians: "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: it is good for them if they so continue, even as I. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt (1. Cor. vii. 8, 9)."Third Part
But the true end and object of the married state, which ought to be first in the intention of all Christians who are called to that state by God, must be the bringing up of children, and that, too, through a supernatural motive, that they may multiply souls who can know, love, and praise God; according to the intention of Tobias: " In which Thy name may be blessed forever and ever."' Therefore, the Christian bride and bridegroom must thus resolve within themselves: I will serve my God as long as I live; to this end I am in the world; but I will not do that alone, I must have others with me to help me in the praise and service of my God, namely, my children, whom I will train and educate for that purpose, and thus by my zeal and diligence increase the glory and honor of God here on earth, even in the souls of others; my children, who, if they die in their infancy, after having received a new birth in God, by baptism, will be made friends and co-heirs of Jesus Christ in the eternal joys of Heaven, where they will bless God and pray for me; or if they live a long life, they will, after my death, serve God on earth. As David consoled himself by the hopes he had centered in his children: "My seed shall serve Him (Ps. xxi. 31)," he said. In a short time I must die, and I shall not be able to praise God in this body of mine, which must rot in the earth; therefore, I wish to leave my children after me, that they may continue the work of praising God. I hope to have sons who in the ecclesiastical or in the religious state, will sing the praises of God day and night, and labor for His honor and glory. I hope to have daughters who will preserve their virginity, and thus attain a perfection that has been denied to me. Other children, too, I hope to leave behind, who by their learning and skill in public offices and appointments, or by their talents and labor, will contribute to the general well-being, and thus fulfil the will of God. "My seed shall serve Him." This is the proper end and object of the married state, says St. Augustine: "This should be the intention of all pious married people," if they expect happiness and blessings. Oh, what a meritorious state you have entered, Christian married people! What good may you not do! What great things may you not effect for your own salvation and that of others, and for the honor and glory of God, if this pure intention is always uppermost in your minds!
But it is easy talking of a pure intention! Who ever thinks of it, when the thought of marriage comes into his head? How many are there who can truly say with Tobias: Lord, Thou knowest, for Thou canst see my heart, that I am not looking for any sensual gratification, but for the accomplishment of Thy will according to my vocation, and for Thy greater honor and glory? Alas, what else, except this sensual pleasure, have some, not to say the majority, in their minds, when they are about to marry? But it is not right to speak too much of this matter, for fear of offending chaste ears and hearts. If What the Angel Raphael said is true, what sort of happiness or grace can such people expect, who receive the holy sacrament of Matrimony with an impure intention? "Hear me," said the angel to Tobias, when the latter was afraid to take Sara to wife, as the devil had already killed seven men whom she had married, "and I will show thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves; and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust as the horse and mule, which have not understanding. over them the devil hath power (Tob. vi. 16, 17)." But do thou "Take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children (Ibid. 22)."
Over no state of life, my dear brethren, as a general rule, does God give the devil and wicked people more power, than over the married state, to do harm by witchcraft and sorcery, as Father Martin Delrio, who has written a book on the subject, testifies to from his own experience: "Infinite almost in number "--such are his words--"are the means used by the devil for this purpose?" Sometimes he makes use of secret and unusual weaknesses and ailments, so that married people, or their children, gradually lose all strength and die out like a shadow. People think it consumption, but in reality it is witchcraft. Sometimes he interferes with childbirth, and causes premature birth, or makes the child deformed, and even kills it before it is born. In the same book, Delrio mentions the case of a woman who, being pregnant, could not be delivered for eight whole years, until the witchcraft which caused her sufferings was discovered and defeated. Sometimes he changes the dispositions of married people, so that they are either filled with an impure love for strangers, and have no rest night or day, or they both begin to hate each other and live in strife and enmity. Father Candidus says that he knew a couple who, before their marriage, loved each other so dearly, that they could not suffer to be an hour out of each other's sight, but as soon as they were married they commenced to hate each other, when together, to such an extent that they fought tooth and nail; but when they were separated, their former mutual love returned, to be changed again into hatred at their first meeting. A fearful torment, certainly, to hate, when present, one who is loved when absent! How is it, my dear brethren, that witchcraft of this kind, and of other kinds of which we do not always hear, is of such common occurrence in the married state, although that state is strengthened by the powerful prayers, blessings, and ceremonies of the Church? "They who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust," over these the devil has great power, through a just judgment of God. Therefore, all who are about to get married, should follow the beautiful advice of the Angel Raphael to Tobias: "Take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children," and with the intention of bringing them up for God and for Heaven, "than for lust." And then Jesus will be present at the marriage, by purity of intention. Again, if the marriage is to be happy, Jesus must be present at it by a pure love. Such is briefly the subject of the
Oh, my dear Redeemer--I must here cry out--how few marriages there are, at which Thou art thus present! When Thou first camest into the world there was no place for Thee in the inn (Luke ii. 7). Alas, I am afraid, that if Thou Wert to go about seeking admittance to marriages, Thou wouldst find no room in very many of them! For what a multitude of sins often accompany the bride and bridegroom to church, who thus enter the holy state of matrimony after having stained their virginal purity! How many marriages are not the actual result of unchastity? How often is it not the case that lost honor compels consent to marriage?http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/
Many go even so far as to think that a mere engagement is enough to make all things lawful to them. They keep company with each other, away from the eyes of their parents; they correspond, laugh and joke together, as if they were already married. But I do not wish even to think of this any longer. Oh, terrible day of divine justice, what a mass of sins thou wilt disclose, which have been committed by thought, desire, and deed, and of which they who commit them take no account, because, they say, we are married in the sight of God. You will see that ; and many parents, too, will learn what a fearful responsibility they incur, by leaving their children alone with those whom they are about to marry, and by not preventing secret meetings and company keeping! They will learn, too, What a strict account they must render for having too long deferred without cause the marriage of their engaged children, and for having thus left the latter in the proximate occasion of sin. In a word, as far as impure love and pleasure is concerned, not a whit more is allowed to those who are merely engaged, than to other unmarried persons.
You wonder sometimes, my dear brethren, why there are so many unhappy marriages. To tell the truth, I wonder that there are not more of them, which end most miserably in continual quarrelling and fighting, in jealousy and suspicions, excited by the infidelity of one or other of the parties, so that there is no rest day or night; in frequent losses sustained in business, and in losses caused by the death, sickness, infirmities, disobedience, and ill-conduct of children; in continual impatience, discontent, trouble, and despair at the trials incidental to the state; and that they thus end miserably in time and in eternity. Then the unfortunate people sigh and moan and bewail their lot, without help, or advice, or consolation, or hope. But let them think for a moment how they entered on the married state, and how they lived before their marriage. Perhaps not very well. If so, they are the cause of their own misfortunes. They have made rods to scourge themselves by their frivolity and licentiousness, and by offending and neglecting God when preparing for their marriage; their sins are, in the hidden decrees of the Almighty, the torturers who now punish them. The Lord is indeed patient and long-suffering, He does not punish a crime at once; but He knows how to mete out a just chastisement for it, when the time comes! Formerly, when the sins were committed, He allowed them to remain unpunished for a time, but now the sinners must bear the heavy weight of their wickedness. Yet they may be happy in their apparent misfortune, if they only bear the burden as they ought.
The only consolation and advice that I can now give to you who have sinned in this way, is to make a virtue of necessity, to convert your present sufferings into eternal joys, and even to lighten your burden, if not to remove it altogether when you have sufiiciently atoned for your fault, by thinking and saying, with the penitent David, humbly confessing your sins and resigning yourselves to the will of God: "Thou art just, oh, Lord, and Thy judgment is right (Ps. cxviii. 137)." It is just that I should now have so much to suffer every day, and that I must often bear my hard trials in silence. I can say nothing against Thee; the punishment Thou hast inflicted on me is just, and I have well deserved it by the sins that I committed in choosing and entering on my state of life so imprudently. I should have remembered beforehand that it is not thus that Thy blessing and my happiness are to be gained! But what I have done I cannot now undo. I confess my fault. Oh, Almighty Lord, I kiss the rod that I myself have placed in Thy hands, and which Thou now usest with fatherly kindness to chastise me, that I may avoid the rigors of Thy justice hereafter! May Thy Name be always blessed!
In the same manner may all pray, who in any way have offended God by mortal sin, and who now have to suffer trials and crosses. Christians, if you are sincere in this, you may be certain that He, of whom the Prophet David says: "A contrite and humbled heart Thou wilt not despise (Ps. 1. 19)," although you have sinned against Him, will not allow you to remain in your misery and suffering without consolation. If there are any who, having prepared the way for their marriage by sin, yet find things prospering with them, I cannot prophesy much good for them, unless they truly repent, live more carefully, and fulfil the duties of their state exactly; as I shall explain more fully hereafter.
For you, single people, who think of getting married, the conclusion to be drawn from this instruction, as far as my duty is concerned, is evident enough. It rests with you now to profit by it. Bring Jesus to your wedding by purity of conscience and by preparing properly for such a holy sacrament. Bring Him with you by a pure intention, suited to the holy state of matrimony, and to ensure His presence, bring with you a pure and virginal love. Whenever you are assailed by an impure temptation, think to yourselves: must I then give up all the happiness and blessings of my future state, for a momentary pleasure? If you find yourselves in danger of sin, get married at once, so as to cut off the danger: "Jesus saith to him: I will come." If you are in those dispositions, I can assure you that Jesus will also say to you: "I will come." That is to say, the happiness and blessing which I wish you from my heart, will not be wanting to you.
And now that we, who are not called to the married state, may not go away from the sermon without profiting by it, let us renew every day our resolution and our fervor that we may adorn our souls with merits and good works, and thus prepare for that marriage feast, of which St. John says in the Apocalypse : "Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Apoc. xix. 9)." Blessed and more than blessed shall we be, if we can all meet there! That such may be the case, let us all now serve God constantly, with a pure conscience, with a pure intention of directing all our works to God, and with a pure love, free from all stain and suited to our state of life. Amen.