Cana is Forever: Counsels for Before and After Marriage — A Catholic Guide to Dating, Courtship, and Marriage

by Charles Hugo Doyle, 1958

Lord Bacon, one of the great English philosophers and essayists, tells us: “He was reputed one of the wise men that made answer to the question–when a man should fall in love and marry–‘a young man not yet, and an older man not at all.'”

I, for one, cannot dismiss the feeling that the formulator of that answer was either once in love and was jilted, or he was married and his wife beat him.

Love is the wine of existence and marriage is an honorable estate, or, should I say, for some it is an imperative one, and go along with Saint Paul, who fiercely puts it:
“For it is better to marry than to be burnt.”? (I Cor. 7:9.)

In the second chapter of the Book of Genesis we are told that when the world was in its freshness of new beauty and Adam was master of it all, God saw the need of making a companion for him. One thing was lacking: “for Adam there was not found a helper like himself” and “it was not good for man to be alone”; and so God made Eve.

Strange as it may seem, falling in love means searching and finding in another, the partner who will make it easier for you to fulfill your destiny and realize God’s plan for yourself. At least, that is one conception of love.

A clear-cut definition of love is not as easy to find as one might imagine. Few encyclopedias even carry the word. They devote pages to economics, art, and music, but ignore love.

The writers of books on marriage either avoid giving a definition of it or frankly admit that it is indefinable.

Cole Porter went so far as to set the question “What Is This Thing Called Love?” to music, yet he gave no satisfying answer. The inimitable George Bernard Shaw, when invited to contribute to a book on marriage replied: “No man dare write the truth about marriage while his wife lives.”

Perhaps that answer may supply a key to the problem of why so few have dared to define love. There may be as much “dare not” as “cannot” involved in this complex matter.

The gifted St. Thomas Aquinas had no inhibitions on the subject and boldly declared that “to love a person is to wish him well.” .

Sir Walter Scott says:

True love’s the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven.
It is not fantasy’s hot fire
Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly;
It liveth not in fierce desire–
With dead desire, it doth not die.

It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie
Which heart to heart and mind to mind
In body and in soul can find.

To Scott, then, love is a composite thing which, laying hold upon one’s nature, binds it with another in secret sympathy. Like grace, the effects of love are easier to treat than its nature.

Love, like death, is the universal leveler of mankind. It is nature’s motive and reward. “We are all born of love,” said Disraeli, “and it is the principle of existence and its only end.”

It is only natural that since love was to be the mainspring of man’s existence it would be the very thing Satan would endeavor to counterfeit.

Thus true love, like every genuine thing of value, has numerous imitations. The cruel task for many is to sift the wheat from the chaff, to distinguish the true from the false, the precious metal from the slag.

There is but one thing against which genuine love is helpless and that is time. Love is like wine in that age improves the good and sours the bad.

If we are to accept modern songs, novels, the radio, and movies as our criteria, we shall believe that love comes at first sight and with such a crushing force that one is powerless to resist.

Such, however, is not the case. If love were always to strike like lightning, then no one would be safe. Your mother might be smitten by the paper boy and your father by John’s Other Wife.

Momentary attraction must not be confused with love, for love needs time.

Love at first is fancy, then there follows admiration, joined with respect and devotion. In this mélange of emotions there occurs, sometimes, violent agitation, but more often there is a gentle simmering, a confused but agreeable mingling, until gradually all becomes transfused into a vital feeling called love.

“The introduction to this felicity,” says Emerson, “is a private and tender relation of one to one, which is the enchantment of human life; which, like a certain divine rage and enthusiasm, seizes a man at one period and works a revolution in his mind and body; unites him to his race, pledges him to the domestic and civic relations, carries him with new sympathy into nature, enhances the power of his senses, opens the imagination, adds to his character heroic and sacred attributes, establishes marriage and gives permanence to human society.”


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