20 thoughts on marriage


Repost from summer of 2015, slightly edited

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. — Tertullian, +240

I wrote my thoughts on marriage/family for some wonderful friends, Jordan and Shannon Haddad, who got married on June 13. With their permission I share them here. Above is a photo of their Nuptial Mass (which was truly a mystical experience for many of us there). Say a prayer for them, if you would, that God will bring to completion the good work He has begun in them.

  1. Remember every day that marriage is a gift from God placed like the Blessed Sacrament in your hands, which God has joined. You are Christophers, Christ-carriers. Every dimension of your life is now to become a grace-giving Sacrament, a lived Liturgy, a total Offering, a holy Mystery of divine and human love. Your every gesture, lived in fidelity to your promises, saves the world. Rejoice that you have become God-with-us, embodying His faithful love to us all in a way absolutely and uniquely yours.
  2. Love is the bond that seals you as one and the gift that is poured out for many.
  3. Honor is the guardian of love, so you must show honor to each other and guard each other’s honor, especially teaching your children to honor each of you, their mother and father.
  4. Today you have embraced a vocation to love God in a very specific way: by loving your beloved. Always remember you will love God best by loving your spouse first, and placing all other loves in service to this first.
  5. Today you are surrounded by family and friends, mentors and the whole communion of saints. Remember that your marriage will flourish only in this web of support.
  6. Let prayer be your daily bread. Mutual forgiveness a healing balm. Let laughter give you wings. Allow tears to wash away past sadnesses and open the gates of joy. Make common labor a bond of unity. Keep hope as an anchor. May kindness be always your gentle embrace.
  7. Speak the truth in love with prudence. Keep confidences, but have no secrets from one another.
  8. Multiply small signs of your love. Offer impractical gestures of affection to reveal the sheer giftedness of your marital bond and sprinkle impractical beauties on the practicalities of daily life.
  9. Never let your love grow old, but permit it to mature, deepen, broaden and soar, every day begging the Spirit to stir into flame again the tongues of fire entrusted to you from Heaven. Your marriage is the sacramental fire Jesus came to cast on earth (Luke 12:49).
  10. Your marriage is a garden of virtue and in it you are afforded the opportunity to become great and noble. It is in the protection and cultivation of this garden that your children will come into existence, sprout, grow, bloom and bear fruit.
  11. Bless each other every night. Never go to bed estranged, harboring hurt or anger or resentment.
  12. Protect your face-to-face time. When you have children, create a “bubble” of time and space every day just for each other. Guard it with your lives!
  13. Before you turn outward in self-gift toward others, turn upward toward God in petition and inward toward each other in love. Your God-centered marriage is the axis around which your whole world must turn. Always return to each other after you have given yourselves for others.
  14. Strive for a well ordered love, because disordered love is no love. Disordered love is a seedbed for conflict and stress. Plan your lives, your priorities, your time together. Don’t let your calendar dictate to you but you dictate to your calendar. Reverence each other’s unique gifts in this work of planning and build on them.
  15. Know each other’s weaknesses and help each other to grow. But never use one’s weakness or failure against the other. That’s a betrayal of trust. We are made in weakness that we might supply for each other. Each of your weaknesses should be an opportunity to encounter the grace of Christ (1 Cor. 12:9). Learn to laugh at your own folly and to laugh with the other over your follies and their. But never laugh at the other.
  16. Choose your battles wisely. Some things must be endured in patience, other things require change. Allow the other to retain their uniqueness and rightful differences. St. Augustine helps us here: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Discern together and, when necessary, seek counsel from others to help each of you have the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
  17. Know that some of the sweetest joys in life are found in your life’s trials and hardships, when they are faced together in trust and love. Cling together to Jesus in your Sacrament and He will make them fruitful. Don’t be afraid of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” God orders all things for good in your marriage because you love him (Rom 8:28).
  18. Be unrelentingly faithful to each other in body and mind. Fidelity is the bedrock of trust. Everything rides on fidelity.
  19. Remember God, forget yourself.
  20. Know you are daily gathering materials for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and nothing you do, consecrated to Him, will be lost in that “eternal and universal kingdom; a kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” May we all one day join again there to forever rejoice in the beauty of your life together, begun today. May it be so. Amen.

13 comments on “20 thoughts on marriage

  1. Stephen Fischer says:

    Each of these is exceedingly beautiful. It truly reflects the divine presence and holy struggles within a marriage and fills me with such hope. Thank you for your post!

  2. Sherri Paris says:

    You hit another home run, Tom. Those were beautiful and so memorable. Oh that everyone both engaged and those married could read them! Well done. Thanks! Blessings…

  3. nos. says:

    Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful

    To borrow a baseball phrase from ms Paris you hit for the cycle dear fifths. P.B.W.Y.

  4. nos. says:

    Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful

    To borrow a baseball phrase from ms Paris you hit for the cycle dear doctah. P.B.W.Y.

  5. Dismas Dancing says:

    My dear Professor, these are so, so powerful! With your permission I would like to forward this post to my four kids, all married for 20+ years, with the exception of the youngest, married for 12. They, like us, have managed to weather some difficult times, scarred but still together, made better, as you have eloquently noted, by the trials.

    We’ve had a number of our friends’ kids marry over the past 20 years. About ten years ago, a particularly good friend’s daughter was getting married. Since my own bride and I have been married 47 years (37 at the time) we were asked by the prospective young bride, “What are your secrets for a long marriage?” Thinking about that question and taking her request seriously, I cobbled together a bit more secular “7 rules” that my bride and I agreed saved us in difficult times. They are a much weaker version than yours, a copy of which will be seen on our “We love us!” wall at home (with attribution –and thanks–of course). Thought I would share them with you as a testament to our absolute belief in and acknowledgement of the truth and power of your “20 Thoughts on Marriage.”

    Seven Critical Rules For A Successful, Life-long Marriage

    1. You must devote 100% to it! If one commits to only 50/50:
    –you vow to love each other only half the time
    — you promise to be faithful only half the time
    –you vow to share only half the responsibilities
    –you vow to be trusted only half the time
    –you promise only half of a life-time commitment
    –you accept that children are only half yours
    –you accept only the better halves of “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, until death”!
    2. Never go to sleep (or leave for work) before settling an argument. Open wounds fester, leaving permanent scars!
    3. Forgive, forgive, & forgive again—even the most egregious of sins (MT 18:21-22)
    4. Love DOES mean having to say “I’m Sorry!”—all the time! (ref the 60s movie “Love Story” from which came the infamous quote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”)
    5. For women: Tell your man that you’re soooooo happy that he’s your man! See rule #6.
    6. For men: flowers, perfume, romance—keeping her THE woman in your life does not stop at the altar! See rule #5.
    7. For both: whether offered to God, your spouse, or your children, it is impossible to say “I love you!” too much! God gave you a “history”; never render it ugly with anything other than that burning love that began your “history”.

    As always, many thanks for your beautiful thoughts on marriage and your frequent posts re your bride and your children. It really does our hearts well to know that there are, indeed, folks who value in great measure the divine institution we call matrimony. Perhaps if greater and greater numbers of young folks like our own kids and your beautiful daughters grow up as proud, publicly-practicing Catholic families serving as a bulwark against The Enemy’s eternal assault against every moral value we know, there might yet be hope for mankind. A fictional “Don Quixote” you are not, good sir. In the struggle against evil, however, it is easy for me to picture you as his alter-ego in real life. Herein, the windmills are very real demons, the “Quest” (to provide ‘truth’) is indeed “glorious” and filled with divine purpose. Thank you for ALL you do for us in the trenches with you. The Peace of Christ be with you always, my dear friend.


    • Dismas Dancing says:

      Peace and thanks to you as well. What a great Quixote quote! Thanks for reminding me of that one that contains so hard a truth.

  6. nos. says:

    Dearest Dismas, I thank GOD for wordsmiths such as you that so eloquently say what I and many feel but don’t have you’re gift with words. May you and M enjoy another 47 P.B.W.Y. and yours .

    • Dismas Dancing says:

      nos, I am sincerely humbled by your gracious comments. Thanks, too, for the good wishes. We both (M and I) are sure, however, that when the time comes to leave this orb, we will be happy to depart and enjoy what the Good Lord is preparing for us. Please pray that, at the very least, His humble stable will be my eternal shelter, for my wretched soul sometimes seems hell-bent on squandering His multitude of blessings. I so enjoy your comments and look forward to them when I open Brother Tom’s notes. And so I wish you a sincere A.W.Y.S. Peace and blessings, my friend.

  7. Anthony says:

    Beautiful truth. Thanks for sharing, Tom!

  8. Joanna Brady says:

    Dear Dr Tom, thank you for reposting this post,it inspired me again to keep working for that beautiful ideal …..a Christian marriage….30 years in and still very much a work in progress..
    by Gods great provident love it was really helpful for me to read it today,along side the post on struggling with narcissism ,really bringing some clarity,
    so I Pray that all our mistakes and mistimings can be caught up by Gods merciful love and be a blessing to others,and that when we are all called again,as we always are to make a new start ,to begin again that walk towards the future with hope our Merciful father will bind up every broken bit of past ,given over to him and use it to redeem the world.
    May God bless you abundantly………..

    • I had to take your words and put them into stanzas, as what you say is magnificent as a poetry turning into prayer. Thank you for this fruit of your 30+ years of striving. I am deeply humbled.

      May all our mistakes and mistimings
      be caught up by God’s merciful love
      and be a blessing to others,
      and that when we are all called again,
      as we always are to make a new start,
      to begin again that walk towards the future
      with hope our Merciful father
      will bind up every broken bit of past,
      given over to him
      and use it to redeem the world.

      God has blessed us abundantly through you,

  9. Joanna Brady says:

    Thankyou so much,Dr Tom ! Tears streaming down my face,you will never know how healing your acknowledgement of…well really my heart….how helpful that is to me…..we serve a great and mighty God ,Our great and good Father in heaven .

    • Joanna, thank you for allowing me to simply be a mirror for you:
      “…I tell you, this woman went down to her house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts herself will be humbled, but she who humbles herself will be exalted…” — Luke 18:14

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