by Alice von Hildebrand, By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride
How grateful I was to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with you and Michael while I was traveling through St. Louis!
In the gentle and affectionate way that you and Michael looked at each other, I sensed the great reverence you have for each other and I could see how your love has blossomed despite the minor obstacles you both have encountered.
As I said to you at breakfast, even good marriages are sometimes difficult and require great patience and forbearance. Marriage thrusts spouses into such an intimate relationship twenty-four hours a day that small irritations arise in even the best of marriages.
I think, however, that one widespread modern attitude aggravates our difficulties in marriage and in all our other relationships: lack of reverence.
I don’t only mean lack of reverence for God. I also mean lack of reverence for other persons and even for things: the failure to recognize the inner nobility and worth of persons and things which leads to the failure to treat them with the deep, tender respect that is due to them.
In his writings, my husband called reverence “the mother of all virtues” and stressed that reverence is the key to a happy life and certainly the key to a happy marriage.
Only the reverent person adopts the right attitude toward his wife, his children, other people, and God. The irreverent person, on the contrary, approaches others with a basically self-centered attitude. He views the world as a means for his personal satisfaction: “How can these things satisfy my desires?”
In doing so, he deprives himself of the greatest and most beautiful things human life can offer, including friendship and love, which are destroyed by the arrogance that forms the heart of lack of reverence.
One of the most ominous symptoms of our contemporary age is its lack of reverence – for people, for sexuality, for the mystery of life, for death, and last but not least, for God.
Lack of reverence is so much a part of modern society that we must constantly be on guard lest we, too, unconsciously be infected with it. We all sin against the dignity of other persons, often in shameful ways.
I recall a wife who treated her china with amazing care, while regularly speaking harshly to her husband. There are men who address their bosses with great respect but treat their wives with no reverence at all.
“Familiarity breeds contempt,” says the proverb. Unfortunately, it contains some truth. It’s up to us to falsify it. Especially after a difficult day at work when you both return home tired and exasperated, it’s easy to be testy with your spouse.
Although it’s usually difficult in such circumstances, you both must continually remain conscious that your spouse is a person made in God’s image and likeness, a being of tremendous dignity, who is to be respected and loved.
Continue to show your reverence in the tone of your voice, in your attitudes, in your gestures, in the way you touch each other. The beauty of your marriage to Michael depends to a large extent upon your enduring reverence for each other.
The closer you are to Michael, the more you should tremble with reverence. I personally am convinced that many marriages flounder because there is no reverence between the spouses.
No marriage can survive our tempest-tossed existence without it. My visit with you last week convinces me that you already understand much of this.
If you sometimes fail in this domain, the main thing is to acknowledge your failings, ask for forgiveness, and start over again with renewed courage. To hear from you and to know you’re happy would be a joy.
“Happiness in marriage must be earned. It is something you must work out for yourself, chiefly by forgetting yourself and serving others. No marriage is a success unless less you make it so, and that takes persistent effort and, still more, a constant and humble reliance on God.” – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. The Catholic Family Handbook
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