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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Duties of Marriage

The Duties of Marriage
(Imprimatur: Patrick J. Hayes, D.D., 1921)

Cana was a small village about one hour's walk from Nazareth, the home of the Blessed Virgin. The couple united in wedlock at this marriage were perhaps relatives of our Lady, and this may account, at least in part, for her presence there, and that of our Lord and the Apostles. We can easily picture to ourselves the dignity and loveliness which must have graced this occasion. What virtue and modesty must have characterized that wedding company! Surely the blessings of that day, and the faithful promises then made in the presence of our Lord Himself, must have endured throughout the lives of that bridal pair, making their home the abode of happiness and a model of domestic piety. Married people today, if they would be happy and peaceful, must imitate the spirit of this feast of Cana, starting with the blessing of Christ upon them, and living their lives in accordance with the teachings of Christ's Church.

I. Mutual duties of husband and wife. 1. The husband and wife owe each other love, since marriage is principally a union of heart and affection. The qualities of this love are: (a) it must be genuine, i.e., expressed not merely in word, but in deed; (b) it must be constant, i.e., it must not be diminished by time or circumstances, since they take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, etc.; (c) It must be supernatural and spiritual, i.e., it must have the eternal salvation of both parties as its purpose, and must permit of nothing that would be a hindrance to their sanctification. 2. The husband and wife must be faithful in their love and devotion to each other, and must avoid everything that can cause reasonable suspicion or jealousy. This duty obliges one as much as the other (l Cor. vii. 4). 3. The husband and wife should never forget that the primary object of marriage is to have children. 4. The married couple should live together in peace and harmony, for every house divided against itself must fall (Luke xi. 17).

II. Duties of the husband, 1. The husband should love his wife as a partner (Coloss. iii. 18), and remember that he holds in her regard the place of a father and a brother. 2. The husband should honor his wife, trusting her, treating her as a helpmate and not a slave (i Peter iii. 7). 3. The husband must provide for the decent support and protection of his wife and family, according to their state. 4. The husband must bear with the defects of his wife and charitably correct her when necessary. 5. The husband, by word and example, is bound to promote the moral and spiritual welfare of his wife and family.

III. Duties of the wife. 1. St. Paul reduces the wife's duties to three, which are to take care of the house, and to be gentle and obedient to her husband (Titus ii. 5). 2. The primary duty of the wife is to obey her husband in all that is reasonable and not contrary to the law of God (Gen. iii. 16; Eph. v. 22). 3. The wife should, by her diligence and cleanliness, by her cheerfulness and amiability, strive to make her husband happy at home and in her company; she should find her pleasure in her home and not in going about. 4. By her prudent and economical management the wife should endeavor to make the best use of her husband's earnings. 5. It is the wife's duty to train the children in piety and religion.

CONCLUSION. 1. Married people should remember that their personal sanctification and the happiness of their family depends on the faithful discharge of the respective duties of husband and wife. 2. These duties cannot be discharged (a) unless the parties try to overcome, or hold in check, their own faults and failings, while exercising forbearance toward each other; (b) unless their love for each other be supernatural and spiritual rather than sensual. 3. The better to fulfill their duties married people should be devoted to prayer and go regularly to the Sacraments.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II


The more easily to preserve the holy state of marriage from dissensions, the pastor will instruct the faithful in the duties of husband and wife, as inculcated by St. Paul and by the prince of the Apostles.(1)


It is the duty of the husband to treat his wife generously and honorably. It should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam "his companion." "The woman," he says, "whom thou gavest me as a companion." Hence, it was, according to the opinion of some of the holy Fathers, that she was formed not from the feet but from the side of man; as, on the other hand, she was not formed from his head, in order to give her to understand that it was not hers to command but to obey her husband.

The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit, with a view to provide necessaries for the support of his family and to avoid idleness, the root of almost every vice.

He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, and see that they discharge their duties with fidelity.


On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the prince of the Apostles: "Let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Let not their adorning be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel; but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord" (i Peter iii. 1-6).

To train up their children in the practice of virtue, and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns, should also be especial objects of their attention. The wife should love her home and should not spend her time elsewhere, unless duty requires this and she has her husband's consent.

Again, and in this the conjugal union chiefly consists, let wives never forget that next to God they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing obedience.



And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Calilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage.--JOHN ii. I, 2.
Matrimony, more perhaps than any other ordinary state of life, offers abundant opportunities to faith of developing and of bringing forth fruit, and it is most important that this should be accomplished, for where marriage is respected, society prospers; and where marriage is dishonored, all social prosperity is undermined, for marriage is the foundation of social life. In the Gospel we read that our Lord was present at a wedding, and He intended thus to sanctify the marriage bond. Nevertheless there are unsanctified marriages even among Christians, and we sometimes meet with pagan ideas on the subject.


It behooves us clearly to distinguish between these pagan views and those which Christians ought to hold, and therefore we will proceed to compare them.

Paganism regards woman as a slave, and this is the result of failure to appreciate every human being as a distinct, living personality. When personality is overlooked, a slave ceases to be an intelligent being, and becomes merely a thing, or at best a domestic animal. Where woman is regarded as the slave of her husband, polygamy results, for he may have several slaves and consequently several wives. The number of his wives and slaves is as unimportant as the number of his domestic animals and of the utensils employed in his business. A further result of this theory is that marriage ceases to be permanent. A worn-out utensil is thrown away, a worthless slave is got rid of in one way or another, and so is an animal which is no longer required. If the wife is nothing but a chattel belonging to the husband, he can keep her or dispose of her as he chooses.


Someone may feel inclined to exclaim that all this has nothing to do with us; no wife is now her husband's slave. Of course she is not legally, but is she not sometimes practically a slave? Do not men allow their wives to toil in order to support the family? Do none amongst us heap upon women cares and burdens such as the men alone are qualified to bear? Men are very apt to relieve themselves of their troubles; and women are by nature inclined to take anxieties upon themselves.

At the wedding feast in Cana a difficulty presented itself-- the wine ran short, and our Lady became aware of the fact. She, being a woman, sympathized at once with the embarrassment felt by the host, and was impelled to do her best to remove it. She revealed a truly feminine trait, one that God's hand seems to have impressed upon woman at her creation, but the more a man may admire it, the more careful should he be not to abuse his wife's emotional and sympathetic disposition by casting upon her burdens that she is unfit to bear.


We have already referred to the dissolubility of marriage among pagans. Unhappily there is great need nowadays to protest against the revival of this pagan theory. It ought not to be necessary for me to remind you of all the misery to society and to individuals that results from facilities for divorce. It is quite certain that, where the State is ready to declare marriages annulled, they are contracted recklessly. People are careless enough where the outward bond is inviolable, but when it is weakened, separation becomes a matter of everyday occurrence. Need I dwell upon the unhappy position of those who have separated? Need I point out what terrible consequences would ensue if still more children were to grow up without the discipline and ties of family life? History records plainly enough the disastrous results of weakening the marriage bond, but, as the saying goes, history teaches us that men refuse to learn from history.


In the Catholic Church we are taught: "What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." But the world says: "What men have united, they may separate again." The Church regards marriage as a Sacrament instituted by God; the world looks upon it as a purely civil contract. The former is the Christian, the latter the pagan view of matrimony. The Church can never sanction the dissolution of a lawful marriage, so as to leave either party free to marry again. Separation is possible, when for some special reasons husband and wife cannot live together; but separation is not divorce, arid neither party can marry again during the lifetime of the other.


Amongst Christians a wife is not a slave, and one of the greatest benefits conferred by the Church upon mankind is that she has raised woman from her former position of degradation. Christianity teaches that the whole female sex was degraded by the sin of Eve, but it teaches also that the whole sex was raised and ennobled in the person of Mary, the Mother of our Lord and Saviour; she was full of grace, blessed among women, and all generations shall call her blessed.


Man knows that his wife is "flesh of his flesh," and "bone of his bone," and St. Peter bids him give her honor. He is the head and master of the family, but, if he be a Christian, he will not ruthlessly assert his supremacy. It is his business to provide for the support of wife and children, but he will not despise his wife's advice and disregard her wishes. He knows that husband and wife alike have mutual rights and duties; she, no less than himself, is an intelligent being, and, in the eyes of a Christian husband, her personality is sacred because God desires her salvation equally with his own. Both are sinners, in need of God's grace; for both did Jesus Christ come into the world, that with His precious Blood He might deliver them from sin, death and the dominion of Satan. God wishes the wife to be the husband's co-heiress to eternal life, and the Christian husband cannot work out his own salvation without contributing also to his wife's. Thus the crown, of which paganism robbed woman, is restored to her by Christianity; and there is no happier place on earth than a home where man and wife labor together with the one aim of securing life everlasting.

Some men, however, though they profess to be Christians, do not appreciate domestic happiness, and seek their pleasure away from their own homes. Their amusements may be innocent, but it is always a misfortune when a man does not prefer his home to any other place, though this does not mean that he ought never to go out into society. Both husband and wife are sometimes obliged to do so.


Every married couple should mutually respect each other. A wife is not her husband's slave, but St. Paul writes: "Let the women learn in silence, with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed; then Eve. And Adam was not seduced, but the woman, being seduced, was in the transgression" (i Tim. ii. 11-14). "Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife" (Ephes. v. 22, 23). "As the Church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things" (ibid. v. 24). And St. Peter says: "In like manner also let wives be subject to their husbands, that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel, but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord" (l Peter iii. 1-6).

In our Lady we have the most perfect instance of a woman adorned with a quiet and meek spirit. At the marriage-feast she showed her interest in a matter which her Divine Son had reserved for Himself; so He said: "Woman, what is it to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come." Without any further question or explanation she turned to the servants, saying: "Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye." Could she have set us a better example of womanly humility, gentleness and submission?

We may believe that she treated her husband, in their quiet home, just as she treated her Divine Son at the feast, and that her meek and gentle spirit was precious in God's sight. Holy Scripture tells us that every wife should be adorned with this spirit, whereas women who love to command do not imitate the models held up to us in the Bible. As St. Peter says, a good woman's adornment consists not in anything external, but in her quiet spirit. Her true sphere of action is her home; and every woman able to work for the welfare of her household is bound to do so; this is her chief business in life, especially if she be married. In her spare time she may care for the sick and poor, and still be occupied in work befitting her and precious in the sight of God, provided that it does not cause her to neglect her own home, and that she displays charity and humility in all that she does. Work for others is peculiarly suited to women who have not a household of their own demanding their attention. A Christian home is a sanctuary which the wife should do her best to adorn; and her efforts may render it the happiest place on earth. Its true value is. seen most plainly in times of misfortune. As long as all is well with a man, he may scarcely appreciate his wife and home, but let some disaster overwhelm him and the world leave him in the lurch, his wife does not forsake him, but loves him and stands up for him, so that he finds peace at home, in spite of the storms outside. Many a man has learned in times of sorrow to thank God for blessings hitherto not valued at their true worth, perceiving that the world can offer him nothing comparable with the joy of possessing a home where a Christian wife reigns supreme.

Christianity has raised woman from a degraded position, but it has not imposed upon her the duty of attracting attention by her activity. Quite apart from Christianity, the world has attempted to improve the status of woman, but in so doing it has overlooked humility, and has taken her away from the work assigned to her by God, and given her aims and occupations identical with those of man. It is characteristic of the spirit of the age that thus no attention is paid to the plain indications of God's design. We hear much of the emancipation of women, and perhaps those who demand it have some justification for their claims. Woman is certainly entitled to receive adequate education, and to be permitted to enter careers for which her physical and intellectual powers may fit her. But one who "emancipates" herself from all laws and comes forward as man's rival in every department of public life is unworthy of the sacred position and duties of womanhood.


For married life to be what God intended, it is absolutely necessary that the marriage should be truly Christian, and this brings us to the central point of today's Gospel, and we see what is its chief lesson. When we read that Jesus Christ was a guest at a wedding feast, we realize that He would fain be present whenever a marriage takes place, and take up His abode in every home, so as to sanctify the union and the household with His presence. "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts xvi. 31). Reserve for Christ a dwelling place in thy heart; let His spirit rule in thy home, and thou wilt indeed be happy. Every Christian knows by experience that happiness is to be found nowhere but with Christ, and when He reigns supreme in a household, the spirit of charity influences all its members. Follow, therefore, the example of the people in Cana, and invite Jesus Christ to your house.

Where faith is living, there is a good and happy family life, impossible under other conditions. If a worldly spirit predominates in your home, you must be worldly yourself, and in need of true conversion. Do not suppose that it is more important to practice Christian charity and forbearance anywhere else rather than at home, in your daily intercourse with your family and at your daily occupations. Invite Jesus to take up His abode with you. It was at Cana that He worked His first miracle, and His disciples believed in Him. He will work miracles in your house, too, and accomplish marvelous things, so that you will believe in Him still more firmly, the more He manifests His glory in the sanctuary of your own home.


When we look for a model family we must turn our gaze towards distant Nazareth, to the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

For your own family life you cannot find a more saintly or perfect model than that family. The zealous Christian mother finds her ideal in the life of the holiest of mothers, Mary. Children find in the Christ Child the model of perfect obedience. Fathers find their most beautiful model in the life of St. Joseph. If you. Catholic men, can come close to this perfect model, St. Joseph, you may well be satisfied.

When you Catholic men knelt at the foot of the altar, holding in your hand the hand of her you love, what thoughts and hopes, what fears and doubts crossed your mind! A young woman leaves her home, her people, her comforts and her girlhood friends, to put herself completely at your mercy. Your bride knew well what she left behind, but had no idea what she was to receive in exchange. She made a step into the dark for your sake, because she loved you. There, at the foot of the altar, you heard her promise that she would be ever true to you, in sickness and in health, in riches or poverty, in prosperity and in misfortune, till death would part you.

What duties do you owe to your wife?


In the first place you owe it to her to remain ever faithful to her.

When a home is broken up the reason is often that the man has given his affection to another woman. The world excuses the man's adultery by calling the second woman the "affinity," and forgives the man. If the same man should have the slightest suspicion that his wife is guilty with another man the outraged husband would often take the law into his hands by committing one or two murders. And again the world forgives the man. The man may deceive his wife ever so often, it matters little in the eyes of the world as long as he keeps his wife in clothes and spending money. Indeed, we cannot expect much better from the world, outside of the Catholic Church, because matrimony is merely a matter of convenience in the eyes of the worldly. A faithless husband is looked upon as a sport, a faithful wife as a good-enough household drudge.

It is not for us to pattern our conduct according to the dictates of the children of the world, because we are children of God. It is to be considered a matter of course that a Catholic husband will never be guilty of the sin of adultery. I might, then, dismiss this topic with that remark. Yet, I feel in duty bound to continue on this subject, asking your patience for a few minutes longer, in order to point out to you the dangers of worldly ways, because sometimes you may be in danger of looking at things in the way a careless world looks at them.

Whatever the world may say to the contrary, impurity in all its various forms is at all times forbidden. Whether people be married or single, they are never allowed to sin against purity. The most abominable, and most inexcusable impurity of all, is for a married man to be guilty of adultery, wronging his wife by giving his affection to a strange woman.

Alas, many pure married women become the pitiable victims of filthy disease because their husbands contracted the disease in unlawful intercourse. Many babies are born with syphilitic sores because their fathers were not true to their wives. Again, many children are brought into this world who, in later years, when they learn the truth, must hate and curse their unknown fathers. What widespread and untold misery the crime of adultery can bring upon an innocent wife, upon innocent children! Nor is this all.

Even many murders are traceable to adultery. In order to hide disgrace the guilty parties will often decide to kill the child before its birth. These little ones are excluded from the kingdom of heaven because they were killed pitilessly before they can be baptized. Will they not on judgment day make themselves heard before the whole world? Then they will expose their vicious fathers and mothers to the reprehension of all mankind. Crime may be added to crime to cover up the sin of adultery, but the reckoning will come as surely as. night follows day.

I know that none of you men would want to entertain even an evil thought freely and knowingly. Yet, you are not certain that you will not fall a victim to this dreadful vice of adultery if you expose yourselves to temptation. Strong and good men have fallen because they yielded to temptation. For that reason avoid the company of men who consider matrimony in the light of a joke. Avoid drinking to excess and also the kind of company that induces drunkenness. Drunkenness is the straight road to impurity. A man who is a drunkard will hardly ever be a pure man. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule; but they are the exceptions--not the rule.


You, Catholic men, should take pride in being faithful to your wives. Your wives go to the very door of death each time they present you with a son or daughter, and certainly they deserve from you faithfulness. Reserve whatever affection you are capable of for your wives alone. They have placed all their hopes and ambitions, all their thoughts, their heart, their very life into your strong hands and they deserve from you that you give them what they have given to you. They have given you their body and soul, their heart and mind. You owe them in justice your body and soul, your heart and your mind. Be faithful to them, for they deserve this, nay, they have the right to demand it from you.

When you see an old father and mother surrounded by a circle of grown up sons and daughters, who already have established their own families, and see them looking up to their aged parents with love and reverence, what is your first thought? There is an old happy couple who have ever been true to each other. You see the old mother giving her life partner a loving look as though she wished to say: "Look how God rewards a faithful husband and wife. We have loved each other and have loved you, children, next to God. You, too, be true and faithful to one another and in your old days you, too, will, with the blessing of God, see happy and good children around you as now I see you."

You, Catholic men, are the builders of your families. It is within your power to build up a home that will be the pride and consolation of your declining years.

If you. Catholic fathers, intend to do your duty, bear in mind your own future and the future of your children. When your own sons and daughters have grown up so that they understand what it means to be faithful and true, you will want them to look up to you with love and reverence, and you yourselves will want to be able to look them in the face. You will desire your sons and daughters to feel proud of you. All this is within your power if you remain true to your wives. Your grownup sons and daughters will rather than money have an honorable name. They will gladly share your poverty, sickness and trials; but they will not be willing to forgive you when they learn that you have been brutal to their mother, and faithless to your wife.

Remain ever true, loyal and faithful to your wives, so that from your sons and daughters you may receive gratitude for a name that has been kept clean and honorable by you.