Lying in hospital after undergoing a spine operation, I realized that the events of the last several weeks had given me a good reason to share my thoughts on marital love.
I was born and raised in an exemplary Catholic family. It was your typical family model – mom, dad and two children. I lacked for nothing as a child, although by the age of 12, I began to sense that something was missing, something I couldn’t at first put my finger on. Only later did I realize what it was – love. My search for it took a while, and in the process I committed my share of youthful follies; but in the end I found what I was looking for. Today, after 17 years of marriage, I am a happy husband and a father of ten children, four of which are adopted.
A month ago I was lying in the surgery ward. “Raise your right arm, would you? You’re going to feel a little jab…” That was my last contact with reality before the anaesthetic took effect. What was I thinking? Was I afraid? Not at all. What I felt instead was a sense of deep joy and peace. After all, if I failed to wake up, or rather, if I did wake up, but “on other side of life”, then I was ready for it. Lord, from you I came, and to you I will one day return. Whether this is the moment is up to You…
My first moments upon regaining consciousness. I was still alive…. “Would you please try to move your legs…” I could feel them. Before the operation I had to sign a waiver in case “paresis of the lower limbs” resulted from the operation. Thank you, Jesus, for sparing me that eventuality.
My wife and eldest son arrived for a visit. My loved ones were beside me. I couldn’t be happier.
For the next four days they were constantly at my side. It mattered little that the hospital was 300 km. from home, and that this was the week that two of our children were having their First Holy Communion. No problem. They visited me in shifts.
At last, after Magda’s and Martha’s Communion, my wife left the ten children under the care of their grandparents, and moved to a hotel not far from the hospital. Marvellous people, grandma and grandpa! Until my return, they became our children’s mom and dad. Even though they did not live with us, they settled in with the children, to allow my wife to provide me with post-operative care. Day after day, she sat by my hospital bed, held my hand, and sang out her great love for me, her husband. The effect was astounding: “Wound healed by the first intention” – the doctor recorded on my discharge form.
What I have described is merely an episode in a 20-year-old love story (we were engaged for three years). As far as I am concerned, our love is “not of this world”. My wife is a gift of God. When I was estranged from Him, I would sometimes catch glimpses of it, and I would ask for this love. Our Lady of Fatima! Before your statue in the cathedral I begged you to find me a woman I could love. You heard my prayer! You could not have found me a better wife.
No, marriage is not a dying institution! Could God have made a mistake in creating man and woman? In commanding them to leave their parents and join with one another so completely that they were no longer two bodies but one, could he possibly envision this body separated, allow for a divorce? Never. Not for a moment.
It is only people who send others up blind alleys – pornography, “sensational and harmless” contraceptive devices, etc., etc. Let us not be misled by such seductive offers.
What about marital frustration, discouragement and boredom? I recently came across a perfect answer to these things in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 and Proverbs 5:15-20 provide married couples with two invaluable pieces of wisdom – wisdom which our personal experience fully bears out.
God gave us (man and wife) to one another so that we could be joined together in one body. He knew what He was doing. He knew our life would not be an easy one. That is why He gave us, among other things, our physical bodies, so that we might feel a need for each other, and give ourselves to one another in conjugal love. Joined by such a marvellous bond, we are better able to endure all kinds of stress and frustration, find repose in every weariness, acquire a new zest for life in moments of doubt, and generally survive life’s storms and upheavals.
As for boredom and tedium, if we (husband and wife) really want to give ourselves to each other, and have as our primary goal the happiness of our partner, and only secondarily that of our ourselves, believe me, there is no chance of our tiring of each other. It would be like saying, “I’ve eaten so much that I won’t need to eat any more”. Just as in the case of overeating, it is well at times to abstain from food, so in the area of conjugal relations, God has planned it in such a way that we might from time to time grow to miss each other. The wife’s menstrual period is a perfect occasion for this. From my own experience I know that abstinence in this area is very demanding, but how rewarding the fruits: every month it allows us to enjoy a new honeymoon.
To those who might be inclined to read a certain idolatry of sex and carnal pleasure into these words, I would simply observe that our carnality is not a god but a marvellous strength which binds us together, allowing us to derive joy from life, even in the face of very difficult trials and misfortunes.
In the Sacrament of Matrimony Jesus promises us that he will always remain with us, provided that we do not drive him away. That is why we hold to the following principles of married life:
Always to remain together in a state of sanctifying grace. Since Jesus joined us, we want Him to be with us every day. Life is more easily lived when we keep our hearts pure and stay close to Him.
To be always together, and to pray together; to be apart only when it is absolutely necessary. Never to consider long separations even at the cost of financial gain, professional success, and other benefits. Two persons in one body, together for better or for worse. Is this possible when time and space separates us?
Never let the sun set on your anger… In our 17 years of marriage, only once did we fail to heed Saint Paul’s warning – and this we instantly regretted. Thanks to God, we vowed never to let this happen again. During our first years of marriage, years of “adjusting to” one another, we decided not to erect walls between us, and to base our relationship on total honesty. It was then that we began our tradition of daily evening talks.
In our conjugal relations – for us it is the seal of our great love – we hold fast to the principle of never acting against the will of God. We regard contraception as a threat to our love, and we avoid it like the plague. We know it is a tool in Satan’s hand.
Despite what our culture tells us, happiness is possible in marriage and a family. I am an example of it!
I am convinced that a happy family is first and foremost a happy marriage. God allowed us to share our happiness with five of our own children; and then, after we had built our own house, with four more adopted children. Most recently, as a “reward” he has given us our youngest – our wonderful little Mary. Our children are our greatest treasure and joy. We trust that with God’s help we will raise them to be happy adults.
There is no need to look far for happiness – in success, wealth, consumption. It is within us, if only we will see it.