Love, Family, and Discerning Marriage
25 min • December 26, 2021
There are 3 possible vocations: single life, consecrated life, and married life. But you have to understand these three well in order to know whether you’re called to one of them! To undertand the other two vocation types, I think you first have to understand marriage, what it is, and what it’s not.
First of all, marriage is not a human institution. It’s not invented by society. It’s not a contract, it’s not some deal, agreement, or pact, where two or more people of any gender share some finances, some chores, and some “fun”.
Marriage came from God. He created it in order to help the human family to grow, and to reflect his own infinite love.
At its basics, it involves 3 people: one man, one woman, and their child. This reflects the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now, since God is love, this must mean that the fullest and truest love needs 3 people, where each one can love the two others, each in a unique way.
(Maybe this means that there’s 7 loves, with each 1 loving 2 others, so that 2 + 2 + 2 = 6, and the 7th love is when they all love all. Maybe that’s why God likes 7 so much, because it comes from the fullness of love?)
So God created Man and Woman and created Marriage, so that their love (in cooperation with God) can create a new life. So that the two become one flesh, and the one flesh joins the first two, so that now there are three.
I will mention only briefly that God has blessed this union of man and woman in a special way, so that there is pleasure involved.
But I will add that, if the union is not done in a Catholic marriage, open to new life, and with the idea of being a permanent union of self-sacrifice, the pleasure will quickly be replaced with greater pain. This happens 100% of the time.
Now, look at the youth of today. Young people today very often misuse the gifts God has given them for marriage, using them outside of marriage, or the wrong way within it. They very often ruin their own souls, and the souls of any partners in these sins they may have found.
What are they looking for?
First of all, there’s the simple fact that they’re looking for pleasure. But I will warn you of this: any and every pleasure gotten through sin will always always always turn into a greater pain.
When you eat when you’re not hungry, you get sick, you get tired, and you’re unable to move as freely. When you commit acts of marriage in any way other than what God has blessed, then your soul gets sick, your soul gets tired, and your soul is unable to move as freely towards God and virtue, and away from sin.
This is why God has given us our guardian angels and consciences as faithful helpers to protect us from falling into this shame and confusion. For St. Paul says, “what profit did you get from those things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death!” And these sins do lead to a spiritual death. And very often, people never recover from that death and are lost forever.
Now, besides pleasure, there’s another deeper thing that people are looking for. What is it?
Remember what I said earlier? Marriage is a reflection of God’s love! And God is love! But people do not so quickly, easily and clearly see God, as they see each other and the things of this life. So God has allowed this world to be a “training ground” of sorts, a ladder that we can climb to gradually see him clearer and clearer. This is one reason he created marriage, to help people learn about God’s love through personal experience.
Now, normally the pleasure you get from the act that belongs only to marriage, is a sign of the happiness of that union of love between the two. It’s a sign that the two have truly become one, exchanging parts of their hearts and souls with one another, so to speak.
But, receiving this pleasure is not a proof that someone loves you! In fact, very often people have used this as a means to hurt someone that they hate.
For example, women have committed adultery in order to get revenge against their husbands. That’s not love, their union is coming from her hatred for the first, not any love for the second.
And some people have passed on deadly diseases, which you can only pass on through the marriage act, to people they wanted revenge on. Is that love? No! It’s murder. Yet it had the appearance of love, because it was a giving of pleasure.
So you see, giving pleasure is not the highest proof of love. In fact, it’s barely proof of love, since it might actually be done out of hatred.
Besides this, from the opposite perspective, when you commit a mortal sin, you are offending God, who is Love! And he has said through the Catholic Church that fornication, adultery, and so on other sins of immorality and impurity, are always mortal sins.
So if you do these things, you are offending Love itself! How then can they be done out of love?
And if they’re done to you, how can you deceive yourself into thinking they’re done out of love, since the person is both offending God, and encouraging you to also commit a mortal sin? By this one act, you both take your own souls and each other’s souls away from God! This is not Love!
But even so, you must not say, “In that case, I will get married so I can have the marriage pleasures lawfully.” That is absolutely the wrong motive for marriage, and will end in disaster.
You might say to yourself, “well, St. Paul says that in this case, we should get married because it’s better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”
To some extent, you’re right. But along with St. Paul, I warn you that, you are setting yourselves up for very much pain, much more pain in the long run! For he says “when you marry, you will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.”
Now, clearly he doesn’t mean that all marriage is filled with worldly troubles. For the marriage of Mary and Joseph was peaceful, holy, true, good, happy, and had every other blessing imaginable.
So to me, it seems he must be talking about marriages that are rushed into because we want pleasure, and can’t stand the suffering that comes with abstaining from these pleasures.
But, I admit, that God does allow those who do not have a very perfect and selfless love, to find each other and marry, in order to teach them slowly over time about the more perfect love. This less perfect love is not very bad, but the more selfish it is, the more trouble it will produce for yourselves, each other, and your children.
But let’s suppose it’s not pleasure, but love that you are looking for. That you really are looking to marry because you are looking for love, someone to love you, and to be loved by someone.
Where do you find it, if not in someone else’s willingness to give you pleasure? How do you know if someone loves you, or if you love them?
The Cross is the ultimate example of Love. “No greater love has a man than this: to lay down his life for his friends.”
In other words: true love is when we sacrifice what we want, and even what we need, in order that the other gets what is truly good for them, what they truly need.
So if you want to know whether someone loves you, look at their actions: are they willing to sacrifice anything for your good, and for your happiness? This is an indication that maybe they love you. (But not a proof!)
This is a good thing to test thoroughly while dating, and one reason why it’s good to date for a good long time before jumping into marriage. If either of you are entering into marriage without the ability to sacrifice, you’re going to have a lot of problems. So you both must test this.
But, so far we’ve only been talking about the love you might both have for each other, and whether it’s real, and whether it’s your true motive for seeking marriage.
That’s only two people! The Trinity is Three in One, so there must be a third who can love and be loved. Then the love in one family will be complete.
Now, consider that the one good thing we can do in this life, that we can’t do in the next life, is bear children to eternal life.
There are two ways of doing this: by having children the natural way, or by having children the supernatural way.
When a marriage results in a new child, that child is not automatically going to Heaven. It must be baptized! And then brought up in holy instruction, holy discipline, and holy example!
This is why there’s also the supernatural parenthood. When a child is not raised in a holy life, or grows up and falls away from a holy life, who will bring him or her back to God?
So what’s the point of marriage then? To populate Heaven!
And remember, Heaven starts in this life, for those who are virtuous and holy, and love God. Which means, a holy family is a glimpse of heaven. (And the Holy Family is a glimpse of the Highest Heavens.)
But this involves great sacrifice from both parents. The Father and Mother must give their absolute all to their children, and to each other, so that both will work together to get themselves, each other, and their children, all to Heaven.
And why? Why all this sacrifice? Because sacrifice is the strongest proof of love. And how do you get to Heaven? By loving God. And how can you love God? By knowing that he loved us first. And how can we ever learn that God loves us? By seeing others love us with the love of God. Or rather, seeing God love us through others.
This means, the primary purpose of marriage and family is really just to share God’s love with one another. Spouses must share God’s love with each other, and then raise their children to truly know and understand that God loves them.
Does this seem appealing to you? Do you feel called by God to this great sacrifice of love and unity? Because, remember, vocation means “a calling from God.” Do you feel a call towards being a mother or a father?
Yes, it’s a sacrifice. But it’s a very happy and pleasant one. Because all sacrifices that come from love, come from God, and God blesses them, and transforms their pain into happiness.
This is why a mother who wakes up in the middle of the night to take care of her child who’s throwing up, doesn’t for one minute take any notice of the difficulty of cleaning a gross mess while sleep deprived, and can rock her sick daughter back to sleep, humming to sooth and console her.
This is why a father has no problem exhausting himself with work to provide a home for his wife and children, only to come home and exhaust himself even more on fixing up the house, to make sure that home is both safe and comfortable.
Are you willing to make these kinds of sacrifices for the sake of a child, who is the visible, tangible result of the love that you and your future spouse have for God and for each other?
Remember that if you have children, they will be more God’s children than yours. So that, you may have to present them to the Father in the Temple with Mary and Joseph. That is, in order to bring Jesus out from within them, you might have to sometimes allow them to suffer things that are necessary.
You must not misunderstand me. All suffering is bad, and parents must absolutely protect their children from certain kinds of suffering. For example, they must not be abusive, and they must always protect them from every abusive environment.
But what I mean is: if some bad thing is happening that will cause them pain, and the only way you can prevent it or take away the pain is through some sin, then you must absolutely not do it, you must not sin. This is very painful for good parents with loving hearts, who love both their children and God. But true love does not shy away from pain, and it does not abandon love to escape pain.
I’m not going to go into all the kinds of sacrifices God might ask of you. That’s not important, because whatever problems God lets fall upon your family, he will also give you every means to be safe from it spiritually, so that you can at least fulfill your primary mission: to get yourself, your spouse, and your children to heaven.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what marriage is all about: helping to populate Heaven in the natural way, through this great Sacrament. And since Marriage is a real Sacrament, it means that God will also give you all the grace to fulfill all that your marriage and family needs you to do. And Mary and Joseph will help you in all your needs as parents and spouses. All of them, as long as you ask.
You must not enter into marriage while in a habit of any mortal sin. And don’t lie to yourself about it, and say it’s not a habit because you’ve been free from it for two weeks or a month! Give it time. God is patient, you must also be.
Pray to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament daily while discerning your vocation. You will hear God’s voice best when you are physically in his presence. You don’t need much time, I would suppose 15-20 minutes is enough, as long as you avoid distractions.
Another thing to avoid is obeying others in this matter. When you are at the age to discern a vocation, you and God are the only ones who will decide!
St. Teresa of Avila literally had to run away to join a monastery, because her father did not give his blessing, since their natural love for each other was so great. But she followed God’s call.
I met a man once, who was discerning his vocation in Adoration, and met a woman there. I’m not sure if he saw her many times or just that once. But the man said to the woman, that God had called him to discern a relationship with her. She responded that she felt the same calling! So they began dating. It was meant to be! But the woman’s father did not approve of this man, so out of “obedience” to him, he did not marry her. He married another woman, and told me this story many years later. He missed his true calling, and deep down I think he knows it.
This leads to the final word of advice I have, which is about dating. What the secular world calls dating is not dating, it’s immorality and sin, plain and simple. Absolutely avoid dating apps and the secular dating scene.
They will try to convince you to sin, and try to convince you it’s not a sin at all. Just like the pagan women did with the Israelites, so that 23,000 fell in a single day. The best defense against this is to not even talk with such people!
If you do feel called to marry, first and foremost you should know that the Catholic Church has a rule that you must marry a Catholic, and you must marry them in the Catholic Church. If you read this whole blog post, and think carefully about it, I think you will understand why this is a very good and important rule.
Technically you might be able to get a “dispensation” allowing you to marry a non-Catholic, but absolutely avoid this. For others who know less, this might be allowable, though it will not save them from the lifetime of trouble they’re setting themselves up for. But you know better! So just put the idea out of your mind. You’ll be far happier if you marry a devout, practicing Catholic, I promise you.
If you’re looking to find someone, I recommend praying in Adoration that God lead you to someone. Then, just keep your eyes open as you go about your daily life. Because, where would you find a good person? The same places you would be.
But what are you looking for? We do not look by appearances! No! Appearances can be deceiving! The most beautiful or handsome person can be the most sinful and vicious. And worse, they can hide their hatred and malice under a false exterior of virtue!
So look for virtue. Look for little glimpses of a habit of virtue.
A good sign is if someone else has a habit of going to daily Mass or daily Adoration! This is one reason I strongly recommend you do these practices yourself.
But besides this, when you meet someone, I don’t say judge them, but I do say judge their actions. Remember, you’re trying to judge their character.
Are they speaking badly about someone? Are they complaining? Are they entirely focused on themselves? Do they give you false and vain compliments, either to flatter you for gain, or even if genuine, showing that their focus is on the things of this earth? These are not good signs.
On the other hand, do they praise people’s virtues? Do they look at life in a spiritual way? This is especially a sign of purity, to see the spiritual realities beneath the visible aspects of this material world. And marrying an impure man or impure woman will be a terrible, terrible devastation on you and your children.
Look for little signs of virtue. Are they gentle, or rough? Are they boastful, or quiet and reserved? There is a difference between being timid and reserved, for timidity comes from cowardice and a lack of knowledge of our gifts, and being boastful comes from thinking we have more gifts than we do have, but being reserved comes from being aware of our gifts, and knowing just how powerful and fruitful they are, what they’re for, and that God entrusted them to us.
When dating, a proof that you both are willing to sacrifice for each other, is that you are willing to wait for months, even a year, before finally getting married. This is a proof that you can manage your passions and that you’re able to endure the pain that will inevitably come with marriage, without abandoning one another.
But what do you do on your dates? The Saints strongly recommended going on dates with mutual friends, and I strongly agree. The first weapon in the spiritual warfare against temptation is not entering the battlefield. It’s only when God brings us to it, that we are guaranteed victory. So do not be alone with one another! The most holy and saintly souls will even fall into ruin in that case!
Whatever you do, wherever you go, make sure they are innocent pleasures. Avoid anything that seems sinful.
If you are ashamed that you don’t want to go see such-and-such movie because you think it’s sinful or at least close to it, then Jesus says he will be ashamed of you before the Angels in Heaven. Fear of what other people think about is is a powerful weapon the devil uses to lead us away from God and into sin. Don’t fall for it.
You’ll have to make time for conversations. Because one conversation you’ll need to have at some point, is for you both to figure out what each other thinks of marriage and love. Yes, actions speak louder than words, but if a person can’t even give you the right answers, it’s not worth wasting more of your time discerning if their actions align with the words that they didn’t even say!
Remember, when you choose a spouse, you’re basically saying: I want to unite my essence—my virtues and qualities and even flaws—with this person’s essence, in order to create new lives, new human beings, who will have both our qualities, our virtues, our flaws, a little of each of our characters.
So discuss your values, with cautious reserve, opening up over time as your prudence and discretion allow, and discover their values, having the same patience with them opening up as you want from them.
St. Paul says, would you unite the members of Christ to a prostitute? I add: would you want to bring a new child into the world who is half Catholic, and half pagan? Will that child have a good chance of going to Heaven?
So first of all make sure that you’re not secretly a pagan, and only a Catholic exteriorly. For St. Paul twice says that covetousness is idolatry.
For why would you give a spouse the same difficulty you’re trying to avoid? And then, after you’re sure of yourself, look for the same thing as you date someone.
If anyone’s heart is divided, between love of God and love of something else, then they will have two masters. And whenever one master commands them to do something contrary to a command of the other master, they will be in anguish and torment, divided and ripped apart! So look for signs that there is trouble under the hood of the car, so to speak.
This is not the time to give too much benefit of the doubt to another person’s character! When you have discerned that another person’s heart is not sufficiently safe for you to unite yours to, move on! Don’t put yourself and your future children in a position to so easily be led away from God.
Most of all, avoid all impure persons and their conversation. You may be made to feel like you’re doing wrong by walking away from an impure or sinful conversation. But this is false guilt, a trick by the devil meant to lure you back into temptation. The same thing is true about friendships with impure people: there’s no shame in keeping a civil distance from them, only greeting them as you pass them, as custom requires, and saying or hearing nothing more.
I cannot emphasize this enough: if you spend time around impure persons, for any purpose, it will give you extreme amounts of trouble, and can very possibly ruin your soul.
Even if there’s a hint of impurity, even after one or two hints of such, avoid them absolutely!
I met a retired man once who spoke multiple languages, played multiple instruments, had just finished a respectable and long career as a teacher, and wrote down reflections on the Bible early every morning. But his conversations were always kind of superficial (although very “intellectual”). That should have been my first clue. Then, after a few conversations, he began to use very impure words, and not just a little! I do not talk to this man at all anymore. Follow this example always but especially when dating!
Trust your intuition on this, which your Guardian Angel will help guide, by the grace of God, delivered through the hands of the Immaculate Conception and her Most Chaste Spouse.
Have a strong devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph, and the Holiness of Jesus “without which no one will see the Lord.” They are The Holy Family. They will help you to know how and when to start a family, if that is what God calls you to.
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