March 2015 Print

Contemplating Wedlock


by Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII

Here we present extracts from papal addresses touching not only on courtship but also on the proper relations between newlywed spouses. The latter can be easily translated for behavior between fiancés.

Christian Marriage

To the proximate preparation of a good married life belongs very specially the care in choosing a partner; on that depends a great deal whether the forthcoming marriage will be happy or not, since one may be to the other either a great help in leading a Christian life or a great danger and hindrance. And so that they may not deplore for the rest of their lives the sorrows arising from an indiscreet marriage, those about to enter into wedlock should carefully deliberate in choosing the person with whom henceforward they must live continually: They should, in so deliberating, keep before their minds the thought first of God and of the true religion of Christ, then of themselves, of their partner, of the children to come, as also of human and civil society, for which wedlock is a fountainhead.

Let them diligently pray for Divine help, so that they make their choice in accordance with Christian prudence, not indeed led by the blind and unrestrained impulse of lust, nor by any desire of riches or other base influence, but by a true and noble love and by a sincere affection for the future partner; and then let them strive in their married life for those ends for which the state was constituted by God.

Lastly, let them not omit to ask the prudent advice of their parents with regard to the partner, and let them regard this advice in no light man­ner, in order that, by their mature knowledge and experience of human affairs, they may guard against a disastrous choice and, on the threshold of matrimony, may receive more abundantly the divine blessing of the Fourth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother, (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with thee and thou mayest be long-lived upon the earth. ”

Harmony of Souls (November 22, 1939)

While the ageless yet ever fresh hymn of Christian love still sings in your hearts, the Church today celebrates the feast of a young Roman, St. Cecilia, traditional patron of music. And for us it is an opportune occasion to say a few words to you on the importance of concord and constant harmony between husband and wife.

Perhaps you will think that it is useless to talk to you of harmony in these days when the perfect attunement of your hearts as yet knows no discord. But are you not aware that with use even the finest musical instrument goes out of key and must therefore be frequently tuned? This also happens to human wills whose good intentions are liable to slacken.

The first condition of harmony between husband and wife and of consequent domestic peace is a constant good will on both sides. Daily experience teaches us that in human disagreements, as the great Manzoni says, “Right and wrong are never divided by so clean a line that either side has only one or the other.” Although Sacred Scripture compares the wicked woman to a yoke of oxen that moves to and fro and by not being steady disturbs the work (Ecclus. 26:10), and likens the quarrelsome woman to a leaky roof in cold weather (Prov. 27:15), it observes as well that the wrathful man ignites quarrels (Ecclus. 28:11). Look around you and learn from the example of others that marital discord most frequently arises from failure of both parties to confide, to compromise, and to forgive.

Thus you will learn the sweetness of harmony between husband and wife. “With three things,” says the Holy Book, “my spirit is pleased, which are approved before God and men: the concord of brethren, the love of neighbors, and man and wife that agree well together” (Ecclus. 25:1-2). Surely, dear newlyweds, with every means at your disposal you will protect this precious harmony against the perils of internal and external dissension—two perils above all: suspicions too quickly aroused and resentments too slowly allayed.

From the outside, the wicked jealousy of third parties, spawners of calumny, at times introduces a disturbing note of suspicion into the peaceful harmony of married life. Listen once more to the warning of Sacred Scripture: “The tongue of a third person hath cast out valiant women and deprived them of their labors. He that harkeneth to it shall never have rest” (Ecclus. 28:19-20). Cannot one instrument off-key ruin the harmony of a performance?

But brief discordance, which in a musical performance may offend or at times surprise the ear, becomes instead an element of beauty, when by skillful variations it ends in an expected chord. So it should be with the clashes or passing disagreements to which human weakness always exposes husbands and wives. These discords must be quickly resolved and there must sound again the friendly modulations of souls ready to pardon and thus to find once more that chord of instant compromise in that tonality of peace and Christian love which today enchants your young hearts.

The great Apostle St. Paul will tell you the secret of this harmony preserved or at least each day renewed in your household. If you are moved to anger, he warns against yielding to its temptations: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

When the first shadows of evening invite you to reflection and prayer, kneel side by side before the crucifix, which will watch over your repose through the night. And together, with heartfelt sincerity, repeat: “Our Father who art in heaven—forgive us—as we forgive….” Then false notes of bad moods will be stilled, the discords will be transposed into perfect harmony, and your souls will resume together the canticle of gratitude to God who gave you to each other.

Forgetting Offenses (July 10, 1940)

[W]e wish to turn our thoughts back to you, dear newlyweds. In the journey which you have just undertaken will you not perhaps one day have to practice this forgetting of wrongs in a measure which some consider above human capacity? Such a case, although fortunately rare among husbands and wives who are truly Christian, is not impossible, since the world and the devil attack the heart whose impulses are very hasty and assail the flesh which is weak. But without going to these extremes, in ordinary daily life how many minor disagreements, how many slight clashes there are which can create a latent, sorrowful state of aversion between husbands and wives if a remedy is not found at once! Then too, between parents and children. Though authority is to be upheld and rights respected, though it is to be sustained by warnings or reprimand, or even when necessary by punishment, how deplorable it would be for a father or a mother to display even the least sign of resentment or personal revenge! Frequently this is enough to crush or destroy all confidence and filial affection in the hearts of children.

Dear sons and daughters, you should be ready every day to forgive wrongs received in family or social life, as indeed every day you will repeat on your knees before the image of the Crucified One, “Our Father…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt. 6:12). And if you do not see Christ visibly bow His head towards you with a smile, His brow crowned with thorns, you will know nevertheless, and you will believe with strong faith and absolute loyalty, that from the Divine Fountain, from the hands and feet of Jesus Our Savior, above all from His heart, always open to you, the redemptive blood will shed its forgiving stream as fully on your souls as you yourselves have generously pardoned others.