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Your Marriage – The Meaning of Life (Part One)

by Rev. John L. Thomas, S.J., 1955, Beginning Your Marriage

Part Two is here.

The Meaning of Life

Marriage is a way of life. It is not your final purpose in life, nor the only way to achieve this final purpose. Although it is a way of life followed by most people, marriage is only one way.

When you enter marriage, then, you freely choose the way of life you wish to follow in attaining your final purpose. Hence, to get the right view of marriage, to understand its place in your lives, you must first understand the purpose of life itself. A way of life has meaning only if it leads somewhere.

Marriage is a good way to the extent that it helps you fulfill the purpose for which you were made. It follows that to understand the meaning of marriage; we must first consider the meaning of life.

Where do I come from? What am I? Where am I supposed to be going? The answers to these questions make up what we call a “philosophy of life.”

In childhood, we were given fairly clear ideas about the meaning of life. As mature adults, let us review briefly what the Church teaches on this point.

To see the full picture, we must consider our origin, our nature, and our destiny. In the light of this knowledge, we will then be able to discuss the meaning of marriage as intelligent people.

We Come From God Our Origin

We are not our own makers. We have not come into existence through some accident of evolution.

In the beginning, God created man. Although we do not know how He did this, we are certain of the fact. We know also that at the time of conception in our mother’s womb, God created our immortal souls. We come from God.

Further, we depend on Him for our existence at every moment. Our dependence is so complete that if God did not constantly sustain us, we would simply cease to exist. It is easy to forget our dependence on God in this modern, man-made world. Yet experience tells us that whenever we come face to face with the stark realities of suffering, sorrow, and death, we quickly realize our helplessness and our weakness.

We are all in the hands of God. He has breathed an immortal soul into each of us. He has fashioned our human nature according to His divine plan. Even if we try, we cannot undo this basic dependence upon Him.

Further, the God who created us is infinitely wise and infinitely good. He must have made us for a purpose. This purpose is our happiness with Him. Because He has fashioned our hearts with a desire for infinite happiness, we can find fulfillment and peace only in Him. All other things which give us happiness are reflections of His goodness and beauty. They are meant to lead us to Him.

Our human loves, wonderful as they may seem, are short-lived and shallow unless they are rooted in Him.

We Have A Body And Soul

We are composed of body and soul.

Our body is a marvelously durable, yet delicately constructed physical system capable of life and a definite cycle of growth. Our soul is immaterial or spiritual. This means that it is intrinsically independent of matter although it is united to the body to form a unity. Hence we possess both material and spiritual elements in our being.

When we act, however, we act as a unity. This is to say, we never act as a mere animal or as a pure spirit. In our conscious activity, we always act as a human person, that is, as a being composed of body and soul. Thus, it is not our mind that thinks, it is we who think. It is not our body that feels, it is we who feel.

This fact must be emphasized b-cause there are many confused people who seem to believe that some human activities such as reprodu-tion involve merely “animal” or “carnal” acts.

We have an intellect. This means we are conscious of our ability to understand, to form judgments, and to draw conclusions. As a unity of body and soul, we are in contact with the world about us through the sense organs of touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing.

At the same time, we can communicate with others through language. In short, we know from experience that we have the power to gain knowledge, to form ideas, to make judgments about reality, and to see the connection between cause and effect, and between means and goals.

We have free will. This means that we are conscious of our ability to make free choices in our acts. For example, we can choose to act or not to act. If we choose to act, we can select different purposes and different means to achieve them.

Free will does not imply that we act without motive. It does not imply that all our acts are free. Since we are creatures of habit and impulse, there may be few acts which are fully free in our routine, daily lives. Nevertheless, we have the ability to make free choices.

Because we have an intellect and free will, we differ essentially from the highest form of brute life in the animal world. We are animals, but we are rational animals. Mere animals cannot think or will.

We are Responsible for Our Acts

Several important conclusions follow from the fact that we are composed of body and soul.

First, we are affected by what takes place in our body as well as in our soul. Both body and soul have powerful impulses and drives which affect each other and constantly seek to be satisfied. We must learn to control and direct these forces so that they serve our best interests. In themselves, these impulses and drives are not evil. They become the occasion of evil when we fail to control and regulate them.

Second, we are capable of knowing what is right and wrong. Independent of all human law, certain human acts are of their very nature good and worthy of praise, others are bad and deserving of blame. By considering our purpose in life and our nature, we can know what these actions are. At the same time, God has given us an authoritative teaching Church which infallibly defines right and wrong in the moral order.

Third, we are responsible for our actions. Because we have an intellect by which we can know what is right and a free will by which we can choose, we are accountable for our actions. Although we cannot directly suppress our basic impulses and drives, we can learn to control and regulate them.

For example, we cannot directly suppress the urge to eat steak on Friday, but we can refuse to act on this impulse. Furthermore, through experience we acquire a knowledge of what stimulates our various drives, and frequently we can avoid the stimulus.

For instance, a couple may discover that some actions or displays of affection during courtship arouse feelings and desires which are difficult to control. They can do very little about these directly, but common sense tells them that they can avoid the actions which arouse them.

We Are Men and Women

The human nature which we have just described is manifested in two sexes – male and female. We differ as men and women because we possess different, though complementary, generative systems. It follows that each has a different function in regard to the conception, birth, and rearing of children. This is the real meaning of the much abused term sex.

In other words, sex stands for the sum total of organic and functional differences which distinguish men from women. From the viewpoint of the individual, sex appears as a need for someone else, for someone else alike, that is, having the same nature, yet different, because endowed with this complementary property of the “opposite” sex.

Further, since we are a composite of body and soul, this property of sex affects our entire physical, psychic, and spiritual make-up.

In marriage, men and women are complementary, that is, they complete each other at all these levels of human activity. For this reason, marriage is unlike all other partnerships.

As men and women, you differ in many ways, but it is precisely because you are different that you will have so many opportunities to assist and complete each other. Since you are in love, you wish to be together and to offer gifts to each other.

In the lifelong companionship of marriage, you will be daily giving of your manliness and your womanliness–gifts which only you can give and receive.

We Are Equal But Different

According to the divine plan, as men and women you are absolutely equal in your personal dignity as children of God. You are absolutely equal in relation to the final purpose of life, which is everlasting union with God in the happiness of heaven.

However, you do differ in your relationship to reproduction and to all that is associated with this process. To be specific, how does this affect you as men and women?

Woman is made for motherhood. Her development is centered around this function from the moment of conception in her mother’s womb. Every organ of her body bears the stamp of her distinctive reproductive purpose. She differs from the man in the tempo of her growth and the rhythm of her life cycle.

Because she is composed of body and soul, her emotional, intellectual, and spiritual activities tend to be distinctive of her sex.

The man is made for fatherhood. He likewise develops according to his separate pattern on the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels. This development is related to the function he is to fulfill in the procreation and education of children.

He develops differently from the woman, therefore, because his reproductive role is different. It follows that although you are equal as persons, you are not identical.

Much of the modern confusion concerning the “equality” of the sexes could be avoided if this distinction were kept in mind. Further, the development of sex according to the distinctive pattern of maleness or femaleness goes on in the life cycle of each of us whether we choose to use our reproductive faculties or not.

At the same time, the sex drive will manifest itself in some form in all normal individuals. Finally, all normal adults are capable of reacting to appropriate sexual stimulation in some degree.

Let him know you appreciate all the little things he does. It is easy to just expect things from him, with nary a thanks or a smile. This is not the way to nurture a relationship. Go the extra mile….always be grateful…..and let him know that you are! 😊

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In With God in Russia, Ciszek reflects on his daily life as a prisoner, the labor he endured while working in the mines and on construction gangs, his unwavering faith in God, and his firm devotion to his vows and vocation. Enduring brutal conditions, Ciszek risked his life to offer spiritual guidance to fellow prisoners who could easily have exposed him for their own gains. He chronicles these experiences with grace, humility, and candor, from his secret work leading mass and hearing confessions within the prison grounds, to his participation in a major gulag uprising, to his own “resurrection”—his eventual release in a prisoner exchange in October 1963 which astonished all who had feared he was dead.

Powerful and inspirational, With God in Russia captures the heroic patience, endurance, and religious conviction of a man whose life embodied the Christian ideals that sustained him…..

Captured by a Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy,” Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek spent 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. Only through an utter reliance on God’s will did he manage to endure the extreme hardship. He tells of the courage he found in prayer–a courage that eased the loneliness, the pain, the frustration, the anguish, the fears, the despair. For, as Ciszek relates, the solace of spiritual contemplation gave him an inner serenity upon which he was able to draw amidst the “arrogance of evil” that surrounded him. Ciszek learns to accept the inhuman work in the infamous Siberian salt mines as a labor pleasing to God. And through that experience, he was able to turn the adverse forces of circumstance into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit.

He Leadeth Me is a book to inspire all Christians to greater faith and trust in God–even in their darkest hour. As the author asks, “What can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do his will?”

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