Since so much depends on love for abiding happiness in marriage, it stands to reason that a comprehensive understanding of what real love is takes on paramount importance.
There is nothing so misunderstood and no word so abused as the word “love”. Little boys and girls “love” candy; women “love” mink coats; trees in every village and in every lane have “love” carved in their bark, and fences on every back street proclaim that A.B. “loves” C.D., while recapped Romeos whisper it gently and its magic is supposed to make liberties righteous.
Ignorance of the development of love, as well as the multitudinous forms love takes, makes for the misunderstanding of it.
A great many people imagine that all children are born with an innate love for their parents and their immediate family; that, later, puppy love develops; and finally that they will quite naturally go through the process of dating, courting, and then marry.
Would that it were quite so simple!
Under the most favorable conditions everyone’s love life develops through five stages.
The first stage comes in infancy when, as Dr. Vladimir G. Eliasberg, a psychology professor at Rutgers University, says, we begin by being narcissistic–that is, lovers of ourselves.
Next comes our love for our Parents–then a love for our playmates–then a crush on a companion of the same sex (for example, a girl’s crush on her teacher)–finally, as teen-agers, we show the usual interest in the opposite sex, with thoughts of finding a life mate and marriage.
During any one or all of these stages, external forces may hinder or help the growth of love. Let us examine some of these hindrances or helps in detail.
For instance, in the first stage of narcissism, a child in the normal home learns to depend upon its parents and finds it easy to transfer some of its love from itself to its parents.
In those homes, on the other hand, where the child is definitely not wanted and lacks love, that child is a cheated individual and because he is not loved he refuses to love in return.
In order to acquire a fine personality, a child must feel himself a worthy and wanted member of the family. A child needs to feel secure. Without security he is cheated, and a cheated child is a future delinquent.
Parents who really love one another and who are considerate of one another and avoid harshness naturally provide the best background for the child’s security.
The shrewish, nagging, domineering mother will stunt the growth of a child’s life.
The proud, arrogant, sawdust-Caesar-like father, who rules his home with dictatorial edicts, will set a pattern for his child’s later love life.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we become like those with whom we live and associate.
Another extremely important matter in the growing love life of a child is the proper attitude toward sex. The vast majority of children will grow up, choose a mate, and find in marriage the fulfillment of a real vocation.
How successful this venture will be will depend upon a sensible sex education in the home.
Growing up in a home where there are condemnation and embarrassed looks when the child asks the normal questions about sex and questions concerning life’s beginnings, as if it were something terribly unclean and sinful, tends to make of it a personality problem.
Curiosity is merely whetted by such mid-Victorian attitudes and the child will seek information elsewhere.
Parents actually warp a child’s sex life by their attitude of evasion or embarrassment when sex is mentioned.
It suffices to say here that the best Catholic authorities assert that parents should avoid the extremes of prudishness on one hand and vulgarity of detail on the other.
Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical letter “On Christian Education of Youth,” pointed out the duty of parents to instruct their sons and daughters in sex matters when they are requested to do so by their offspring.
Sex questions should then be answered directly and reverently.
The way in which parents handle this problem may affect their children and their children’s children for generations.
Still another way the love life of a child or teen-ager may be permanently affected is that by which a selfish mother or father resents sharing the child’s affection with friends and playmates.
A mother who emotionally ties a child to her apron strings does that individual a great injury. Obstacles placed in the way of a child’s development in normal friendships can later turn out to be a real booby trap.
Parents should endeavor to develop in their children, from early years, a wide range of friendships with other children of both sexes.
The mother who boasts that she is her “son’s best girl” and who is eternally berating all girls as flirts, and who, to her daughter, pictures all men as “wolves,” does her offspring a disservice.
The teen-ager’s normal adjustment may be impaired or irreparably damaged by such conduct.
Let us now consider some of the different manifestations of love.
There is, as we all know, such a thing as a deep love of country; there is the love in friendship such as that which existed between Jonathan and David and between Our Lord and Saint John; there is filial love such as exists between a child and its parents; there is romantic love such as exists between two lovers; and nuptial love–that which exists between a man and his wife.
Common sense tells us that in each of the above cited examples, the love is different.
For instance, the simpler love in friendship is more or less restricted in external expression, for while there is genuine esteem and deep regard, we do not kiss or fondle all our friends.
Again, the love that exists between members of the family, while much more demonstrative, has definite natural limits.
A mother will have as deep and abiding a love for her child as she has for her husband, but the difference lies in the fact that her love for her husband is flavored by sexual attraction.
The romantic lovers will love their parents, brothers, and sisters, but the love between themselves is the sexually flavored variety. And sexual attraction is a normal, natural, healthy desire, created by God Himself, without which few men and women would desire to marry and have children. Frankly, without sex attraction the human race would soon die out.
A deep understanding of the different kinds of love will keep parents from making the mistake of resenting the romantic love of sons and daughters. The new love will not extinguish filial love, it will strengthen it.
“Our words do more than just make our children feel good. Our words can make them feel like somebody who can accomplish great dreams or like a nobody who is destined to be a loser.”
“Affirming words from Moms and Dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child’s life, and it’s like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities.” – The Power of a Woman’s Words
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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from Cana is Forever by Charles Hugo Doyle
Having once established the fact that marriage is a topflight
career, it naturally follows that the same rules govern its success
as govern those of other careers. Every successful career demands
adequate preparation, intelligent earnestness, persistent industry,
and the will-to-win, but marriage demands all these, plus the
anointed strength of love.
As a youth, Edison spent long dreary hours practicing on the tiny
telegrapher’s key, learning the code and manner of sending and
receiving messages. There was a four-day walk from Port Huron to
Boston in search of work. There was the penniless arrival in New
York and a chance job repairing a telegraphic communication
system in a stock exchange on Wall Street that led to financial
betterment, but it was dogged determination to succeed that made
him so outstanding as a scientist.
Take, for instance, Edison’s work on the carbon filament. In
October, 1879, he determined to make his experiment work if it
was the last thing he ever did. So convinced was he that the carbon
filament was utilizable that he refused to leave his laboratory until
he completed his work. On the second night he said to his
associate, Charles Batchelor, “We will make a lamp before we sleep
or die in the attempt,” and make it he did, though it took four
sleepless days and nights before the now famous Edison
incandescent light was invented and the whole lighting system
revolutionized in the world.
Edison’s career was successful solely because he brought to it a
determination to succeed no matter what the cost. Success in any
field rarely comes without great sacrifices. One has only to read
about the life of Madame Curie and her devoted husband and
follow the discovery of radium to evaluate the cost of success in a
Madame Curie’s sufferings as she worked in the smoke-filled shed,
cold in the winter and stifling hot in the summer, defy description.
The work of days became months and years, and failure dogged
her every minute of the time, but Marie Curie, with terrible
patience, continued to treat kilogram by kilogram the tons of
pitchblende residue. Poverty hampered her in the acquisition of
adequate equipment. The obstacles seemed insurmountable in the
forty-five months of experimentation, but in the end the Curie
work produced radium.
Who could look at the great Marie Curie as she lay on her
deathbed, after thirty-five years’ work with radium, and see her
tired, burned, scarred hands without realizing the awful cost of
success in a career?
Success in marriage depends upon acceptance of the fact that it is
a career and upon the readiness and willingness to bring to it all
the determination possible to overcome every difficulty and
obstacle on the road to success. If a marriage breaks up, it is not
because a man or woman must accept defeat but because the
defeat is willed.
A kite cannot be made to fly unless it goes against the wind and
has a weight to keep it from overturning. No marriage will succeed
unless there is readiness to face and overcome difficulties and a
willingness to accept the responsibilities of a parent, for
parenthood is the weight that keeps most marriages from
When Divine Love Incarnate came to Cana of Galilee to sanctify
forever pure conjugal love, He came to that marriage fresh from
His terrible bout with Satan.
Since the first man and his wife had succumbed to temptation in
the Garden of Eden, it was divinely planned that Christ, the New
Adam, should permit the same tempter to attack Him and be
ignominiously defeated and thus set a pattern for all to follow in
the resistance of temptation. His sacred presence at the wedding
was ever to be an earnest of the help and special graces He would
grant those called to the marriage career who would likewise resist
the onslaughts of Satan. Yea, more, Our Lord would elevate
matrimony to the dignity of a Sacrament and make of it a veritable
channel of special graces.
It is worthy of note, however, that while en route to Cana, the
Master called His first five apostles, one of them being Nathanael
(St. Bartholomew), a native of Cana of Galilee. The timing of
Nathanael’s call to the apostolate was, doubtless, to indicate the
primacy of dignity and honor of the priesthood and religious life
over marriage, and that, in that very order, they would form a
trinity of top-flight careers.
It was only after choosing a nucleus for His priesthood that Christ
went down to the marriage at Cana of Galilee.
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My children are not afraid of marriage. They know that is a profession that it is most worthy of praise. They know that the marriage vocation is of the loftiest value and if that is what is God’s will for them, they are very blessed.
Our girls understand that the “M.R.S. Degree” is the highest degree they can attain, besides the religious life. They understand the dignity, the beauty, the distinct and splendid nobility of being a wife and mother.
This article touches on the beauty and importance of the marriage “career”.
by Charles Hugo Doyle
There is something formally prohibitive about a sign on a door
reading “No Admittance Except on Business,” and it usually gets
results. There would be fewer disappointing marriages if none
entered the sacred relationship but those bent on serious business.
Believe me, marriage is serious business.
It is no lark, no adventure in the vacuous emotion
of youth; it is a decision that will affect for
life, and perhaps for eternity, not only oneself but one’s partner
and any children God may send.
Marriage is a career, one so vital and so splendid that it ranks next
to the priesthood and religious life in the trinity of top-flight
careers in the world. All other careers are incidental to them. The
fact that marriage was the first career ever to be embraced by man
is most significant.
And our common Father, Adam, when his pure
gaze fell upon the first incarnation of unalloyed womanhood, Eve,
proclaimed the inviolable law that was to bind all his descendants
until the end of time: “Wherefore a man shall leave father and
mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one
flesh.” (Gen. 2:24.)
The etymological meaning of the word “career” is interesting. It
comes from the Latin word carrus–“wagon”–and means literally
something that carries one along a road. In this sense, marriage is
truly a career–one instituted by God Himself to carry a man and
his wife and their children along life’s highway to heaven.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “career”: “As a course of
professional life or employment which affords opportunity for
progress or advancement in the world.” According to this
definition marriage certainly qualifies as a career. History bears
There was hardly ever a great deed done by man that did
not somewhere bear the fingerprint, no matter how faint, of a fond
mother or a loving wife. How often have we not heard successful
men humbly proclaim that the Herculean feats they have
accomplished they owe to a devoted, saintly wife.
Indeed, not only is marriage a career that affords opportunity for
spiritual and temporal progress and advancement in this life, but it
reaches far into the next. “Marriage,” said Taylor, “is the mother of
the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities and churches,
and heaven itself.
The state of marriage fills up the number of the
elect and hath in it the labor of love and the delicacies of
friendship, the blessing of society and the union of hands and
hearts. It is indeed the very nursery of heaven.”
The nature of man’s career in marriage consists primarily in a
permanent union for the procreation and education of children,
the provision of a home, support of his wife and his offspring,
constant vigilant care for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his
The nature of a woman’s career in marriage consists in
the bearing and education of children, insoluble union, home-
making and housekeeping. These are not matters of choice but of
A married man may give proof of power to rule an empire, master
abstruse sciences, write immortal tomes–yet if he fulfills not the
primary ends of the marriage career he is a failure.
A married woman may win by her particular capabilities and
capacities the plaudits of the world for her contribution to medical
and scientific research, or for works of art that grace the greatest
museums and art galleries in the world; yet if she fulfills not the
primary ends of her marriage career she is indeed a failure. Her
first duty is to be a wife and mother and homemaker.
Failure to realize that marriage is a career is one of the tragedies
of our day and the chief cause of the countless broken homes.
People readily accept law, teaching, medicine, nursing, singing
and advertising as careers, but neglect to include matrimony
among the top-flight careers.
Important as all careers may appear
to be, only two were elevated to the dignity of sacraments–the
priesthood and marriage. That consideration above all else should
merit for the matrimonial state special veneration.
No one would deny that for Gainsborough painting was a career,
after feasting one’s eyes on his famous Blue Boy. But what
comparison is there between the colored oils skillfully blended on
canvas by the hand of the artist and a tiny, lovely infant born to an
adoring mother and father whose union had been sanctified in
marriage? If painting the picture of a child is a career, dare we
deny that parenthood is a career?
What artist could reproduce the faint azure blue of a baby’s eyes
or gather rays of pale dawn and distill therefrom the delicate pink
that graces a baby’s dimpled cheek? Who but God, in using human
agencies, could put such innocence and trust into a baby’s smile
or bless such frail little hands with enough terrible strength to
help weld two hearts into one until death do them part?
No one would think of denying that teaching is a high career, but,
by far and large, the first and most important school is the home,
and the most influential teachers, all mothers and fathers.
Nursing is a career, but a mother’s untaught hands can often heal
and nurse with such latent skill that they can coax a waning life
back to strength when it has slipped beyond the reach of a
registered nurse and even the physician.
If entertaining an audience from the stage, screen, or over the
radio is a career, creating joy and happiness in a home is also a
Diplomacy is a career, but where is diplomacy so necessary and so
frequently required as in marriage? Indeed, the keeping of a
husband or a wife for life demands more consummate diplomacy
than that ever exercised by Richelieu and Churchill together.
The author of the “Lady of the Lake,” Sir Walter Scott, sums up for
husbands the most contradictory and salient characteristics of all
wives in a single verse thus:
“Oh woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou.”
Some careerists are successful though they may only practice the
virtues requisite to their own particular vocations. Thus, it is quite
possible for a doctor to be successful in medicine or surgery
without having to practice the subtle arts of the diplomat.
When a traffic officer stops your car and roars at you that highly original
greeting, “Pull over, Buddy. Where’s de fire?”, it is evident that his
career as such does not require the sympathy and gentleness of
Marriage as a career differs from all others inasmuch as it
demands for its success a great combination of many virtues and
qualities peculiar to many particular careers.
Marriage demands the patience of the teacher, the training
of the psychologist, the diplomacy of the statesman,
the justice of a Supreme Court judge,
the sense of humor of a good comedian, the self-sacrifice of a
good doctor, “the-customer-is-always-right” attitude of the
successful department store salesman, the mercy of the confessor,
and so on, ad infinitum.