Duties of Married Life

from Fr. Arthur Tonne's 1950's sermon
22nd Sunday After Pentacost

“Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”
Matthew 22:21

Sacrament of MatrimonyIn May of 1946 the newspapers brought us the touching and uplifting story of a woman who had the dread disease of LEPROSY. That meant she would be sent to the leper asylum at Carville, Louisiana. Her husband, a Major in World War Two, insisted on going there with her, and his reason was: "I want just one thing in the world -- to be with my wife."

Major Hornbostel, the heroic husband, had been a heroic leader in the army of the Pacific.  He and his wife had been captured and imprisoned. She had a chance to be set free, but she turned it down, preferring to stay in prison with her husband. It was there she contracted leprosy.  Accompanying the news article was a picture of the major kissing his wife on the forehead.

This refreshing and inspiring story highlights one of the duties of husband and wife, the duty of devotion until death.  Married people have four duties which stem from the FOUR PURPOSES OF MARRIAGE, namely:

  1. The procreation or begetting of children.
  2. The training and education of those children.
  3. Mutual harmony and helpfulness between husband and wife.
  4. Lawful satisfaction of the sexual appetite.

The first purpose of marriage, the first duty of married people is the procreation or begetting of children.  God could have arranged to bring children into the world in some other way.  But He arranged it as it is.  And it is a beautiful arrangement.  From the expressed love of husband and wife a new life begins. Just as this marriage act is beautiful and sacred, so any interference with it is sinful and ugly.  Birth control is against the law of God and against the law of nature.  It brings countless evils upon those who practice it and upon society.

The second purpose of marriage is the training and education of the children. This assumes the physical care of a child which includes feeding, clothing, medical attention and recreation. Parents must provide an education for their children, not only in school but also in that more important university, the home.  Above all, parents have the responsibility of teaching their children about God and the things of God.  This teaching should begin as soon as the child is able to talk and understand.  In this matter, and in all child training, the best method is the good example by the parents.  With your children and teenagers, insist upon what right, despite tears and protests. Be understanding, be kind, but in every case be firm.

The third purpose of married people is to love and help each other.  Men and women are different, not only physically and sexually, but also mentally and emotionally.  A wife may be artistic; her husband may be athletic.  These differences should dovetail in marriage.  Be intelligent, be unselfish, be truly loving about your differences.  At this very altar you swore a deathless love.  Revive it.  Awaken it.  Prove it.  Show it.

The fourth purpose of marriage is the lawful satisfaction of the sexual appetite, a desire planted in man by God Himself, a desire that is to be satisfied only in marriage.  For no good reason to deny the marriage act to one's partner is a serious sin.  Tender love should be your guide in this matter. It is a mistake to say that only Catholics are forbidden to practice birth control.  All people are forbidden to practice it, just as all people are forbidden to murder or to steal or to violate any law of God and of nature.

In all four purposes of marriage, keep in mind the words of Christ: "Render, therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

We priests realize the difficulties, but we also know that if we do what God wants, we will have God's blessing.

The deathless devotion of Major Hombostel and his wife should inspire every wife and husband.  Observe the devotion of the many good couples and fine families.  That is the stuff which makes happy marriages.  That is the love which builds happy homes. That is the love which protects your precious children.  That is the love which God rewards in His generous way.   May that deep, deathless, devoted love be yours.  Amen.