Questions Young People Ask Before Marriageby Fr. Donald Miller, C.SS.R.

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Is Plastic Surgery Lawful?

Problem:

Is it wrong for a girl in her middle twenties to try to have her facial appearance improved by plastic surgery? Is it a sin against humility or the fifth commandment or any other law of God? I am not an introvert, I like people, and I would like to get married. But I have had no prospects of marriage, and I feel that the correction of certain defects in my appearance would give me more confidence and even perhaps an opportunity of marriage. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Solution:

In itself, and if it is advised and executed by a reputable and experienced surgeon, the improving of one’s appearance through plastic surgery would not be wrong. If men may shave to improve their appearance, and women may use cosmetics and wrinkle-removing massages, etc. to improve their appearance, so one whose features are somewhat defective or irregular may have them corrected by means of an operation for the sake of appearance.

It must be assumed, of course, that the operation is not a dangerous one, nor one that might do greater harm than good. Reputable surgeons are the ones to decide that.

However, one who is interested in the spiritual aspect of things should be reminded of the danger of unworthy motives in trying to acquire a more attractive appearance. There is, first of all, the danger of being motivated only by vanity, which is an inordinate desire to be admired, to be praised, to be considered beautiful. An ordinate or praiseworthy care of one’s appearance is motivated by charity, i.e., by the desire to be pleasing to others, not to bring honor to oneself.

Thus a person should dress neatly, and take proper care of the hair and even have defective features improved, primarily to make others happy.

It is an old saying that our appearance belongs to others, not ourselves, and we should be concerned with making it a source of joy to them.

A second danger to be avoided is that of undergoing plastic surgery with the idea that this will be an infallible means of insuring a happy marriage. God’s will must be taken into account here, and it may be His will that a certain individual will not be directed into the state of marriage.

To pin all one’s hopes in life on marriage is to render oneself an easy victim of the wrong kind of marriage; it has led too many girls into marriage with a divorced man, or a man without character. Having her features improved by plastic surgery should make a girl determined more strongly than ever that she will never sacrifice God’s love and friendship for a bad marriage, no matter how many opportunities of so doing may arise.

How to Judge a Boyfriend’s Conversion

Problem:

How is it possible to be sure that a boyfriend, in becoming a convert to the Catholic Church, is truly sincere in his conversion and not merely “going through the motions” for the sake of marriage?

I went out with this boy for a while, liked him quite a lot, but finally told him I would have to stop seeing him because I was determined never to marry anyone but a Catholic. Almost at once he said: “Then I’ll become a Catholic.”

I have seen similar cases in which the converted person turned out to be anything but a decent Catholic after marriage. I don’t want that to happen in my case. My boyfriend is taking instructions, but how can I be sure he is sincere?

Solution:

This is a very practical and important problem because there have indeed been many cases in which a boy went through all the requirements for becoming a Catholic, but turned out later to have done so only for the sake of “getting the girl.”

On the other hand it must be remembered that sincere converts make the best Catholics of all, and a Catholic girl should be very happy over the prospect of marrying such a man.

There are certain signs of sincerity in one who is taking instructions to become a Catholic that the girl should look for. She should, if at all possible, accompany him to the instructions he receives from the priest, both to give him confidence and to watch their effect on him.

If he is sincere in his study of the faith, he will show it in three ways:

1) By asking questions both of the priest who instructs him and of his girlfriend. A man who goes through a whole course of instructions without ever asking a question or raising a doubt, is probably not really interested in the faith at all.

2) By commenting to his girlfriend on the new things he is learning and on their wonderful appeal to his mind. If a man takes instructions to become a Catholic and never has a word to say about their effect on him, he cannot be very sincere.

3) By showing a new interest in prayer and church services within a short time after beginning to take instructions. True conversions are always marked by sincere prayers and a quickening desire to enter into the life of the Church. A man who would go through an entire course of instructions and never of his own accord go to Mass or any other Catholic church service until after his reception into the church, would offer evidence of indifference to the whole thing.

One final thing that a girl should do: she should bring up moral problems that being a Catholic raises in one’s life and see how her boyfriend would solve them. If he balks, for instance, at the Catholic principle concerning birth-control, and holds out against it, he is not sincerely converted.

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