29 January 2012

Pleasing your wife, pleasing your husband

Officiating at a wedding in the Philippines

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.

This is a sort of appendix to Sunday Reflections for today. The above verses, 1 Corinthians 7: 32-34, are from today's Second Reading. My friends in Worldwide Marriage Encounter are probably sick and tired of my emphasising that the basic vocation in marriage is to be a spouse, not a parent. The latter is a consequence of the former. In this brief passage St Paul doesn't mention parenthood at all but the priority of pleasing one's spouse. I truly believe that  a spouse who gives first priority to that will be a good parent.

I was invited to a wedding recently and the officiating priest asked me to preach. I told the couple that their wedding day didn't mean the end of dating but rather the beginning. I went on to speak of the spousal relationship as being the fundamental one.

The wedding was at 4pm. Before 9pm, the last item during the reception was a short video of the ceremony. I was delightedly surprised when it opened with my words about dating and made the spousal relationship the basic theme, rather than only showing various shots of the wedding.

I have seen marriages break up where both spouses were doing everything they could 'for the sake of the kids'. I think that break-ups are much less likely when a husband's priority is, in St Paul's words, how to please his wife, and a wife's priority how to please her husband.

I have seen in so many families how children truly feel loved when their parents' priorities are such. One adult daughter told me how her father, when he was dying, said goodbye to all his children and then asked them to leave so that he could spent his last moments with his wife.

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