Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Three To Get Married

There are two reasons for the primacy of sex over love in a decadent civilization. One is the decline of reason. As humans give up reason, they resort to their imaginations. That is why movies and picture magazines enjoy such popularity. As thinking fades, unrestrained desires come to the fore. Since physical and erotic desires are among the easiest to dwell upon, because they require no effort and because they are powerfully aided by bodily passions, sex begins to be all-important. It is by no historical accident that an age of anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, such as our own, is also an age of carnal license.
The second factor is egoism. As belief in a Divine Judgment, a future life, heaven and hell, a moral order, is increasingly rejected, the ego becomes more and more firmly enthroned as the source of its morality. Each person becomes a judge in his own case. With this increase of selfishness, the demands for self-satisfaction become more and more imperious, and the interests of the community and the rights of others have less and less appeal.

Page 1, Three To Get Married, by Fulton J. Sheen (copyright 1951)

I became interested in this book rather quickly, both for the common sense written, and the fact that it was written over 60 years ago. Nothing changes under the sun when it comes to sin. Bishop Sheen has much to say in this book and says it well. I think it would be a fine read for any marriage preparation classes, or even for some newlyweds, to learn what their vows REALLY mean. It is steeped in much of what was written in The Theology of the Body, but many years before the great JPII lectures.

The book is broken into 21 chapters, the first being The Differences between Sex and Love. Some chapter titles are obvious, like What Love Is or Love Is Triune, but some are more sublime, like Purity: Reverence for Mystery. There is much in these chapters, which applies equally to married and unmarried people; there is much about what love and respect for another really requires. The book goes on to talk about the greatness and the sorrows of marriage. It has chapters on Paternity, Motherhood, The Role of Children, and perhaps one of the more important ones: For Better or for Worse. Marriage is looked at from beginning, to middle to end, with Love Endureth Forever. Here are a few more of the many lines I enjoyed in this book:

There are four stages the soul passes through in its love of God: (a)The soul, which starts with loving self soon sees that loving self without God is like loving the ray of sunlight without the sun. (b)God is loved not for His own sake but for the sake of the self. At this stage, there are prayers of petition, because God is loved because of the favors He gives. (c)God is loved for His sake, not ours. The soul cares more for the Beloved than for what the Beloved gives. It is like the love of a mother for a child who seeks no favor in return. (d) The final stage is one of those rare moments when the love of self is completely abandoned and emptied and surrendered for the sake of God. This would correspond to a moment in a mother’s life when she ceases to think of her own life in order to save her child from death.

To the Christian, a person is one for whom I must sacrifice myself, not one who must exist for my sake.

Educators who hope to make sex “nice and natural” will end in confusion worse confounded because, while sex is natural, it is yet a mystery. Educators who assume that purity is ignorance of life are like those who think that temperance is ignorance of drunkenness.

Man and woman marry to make one another happy, but they never can do this until they have agreed on what is happiness.

The fewer sacrifices a man is required to make, the more loath he will be to make those few. His luxuries soon become necessities, children a burden, and the ego a god. Whence will come our heroes in a crisis, if we no longer have heroes in the home? If a man will not put up with the trials of a household, will he put up with the trials of a national emergency? The decline in the permanence of family life is, therefore, intrinsically bound up with the decline in democracy.

The more a marriage union is based on the Divine, the more the husband and wife are in harmony with God, the more they find in each other that eternal fascination and satisfaction that transcend earthly frailties and disappointments.

Love is not an ascent from the beast, but a descent from divinity … a reflection of the Fatherhood that is eternally in God.

One of the greatest mistakes the human heart can make is to seek pleasure as a goal of life. Pleasure is a by-product of the fulfillment of duty; it is a bridesmaid, not a bride; it is something that attends and waits on man when he does that which he ought. To go through life with the idea of always having a good time is not to have a good time.

The greatest joys of life are purchased at the cost of some sacrifice.

In erotic or selfish love, the burdens of others are regarded as impeding one’s own happiness. But in Christian love, burdens become opportunities to serve. That is why the symbol of Christian love is not the circle, circumscribed by self, but the cross, with its arms outstretched to infinity to embrace all humanity within its grasp.

The important question is: “How (do we) interpret and accept these trials in a truly Christian spirit?” No human being has a choice of whether he will go through life with or without suffering, because this is to a great extent beyond his control. But each one has this choice: Will the suffering open on a Cross and therefore see the joy beyond, or will it be closed to the Cross and therefore be the beginning of hell on earth?
The great difference between a Christian and a pagan in suffering is that for the Christian all suffering is from the outside; that is, it is a trial permitted by God for self-purification and sanctification. For the pagan, suffering is on the inside; it is in his soul, in his mind, in his consciousness, in his unconsciousness; it is so much a part of him that it is a hell, though that hell often goes by the name of “anxiety” or “frustration.” The Christian receives suffering, he even speaks of it as coming from the hands of the Crucified; the pagan creates suffering. Because he cannot see its place in the universe, because it negates his egotism, and because it cancels his love of pleasure, he begets an inferno within himself. The crosses from the outside are bearable; the double-crosses inside are insoluble. In the latter case, even where there is a nominal belief in God, the sufferer will unconsciously betray his egotism with the query: “Why does God do this to me?”

What makes life tragic is not so much what happens, but rather how we react to what happens. No one can prevent suffering and infidelity, but he can prevent himself from being soured by them. Love of Christ will not kill pain, but it will diminish it. All suffering becomes bearable if there is someone we love.

These words are just some of the ones I judged worth sharing. There are many others worth keeping in your soul.

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