[continued from yesterday]
All who look forward to marriage do so as to a state of ideal happiness. Yet how many fail to realize their ideal! It makes you jump, as Chesterton would say, when you think of what you expected, and compare it with what you have got. So we come round again to the same old theme: if you want to enjoy the Catholic ideal of a perfect marriage you must follow the Catholic rules. He who wishes for the end wishes also the means to the end.
Now one of the chief means to happiness proposed by the Church is conjugal restraint. It would be very strange if in all the other animal tendencies she counselled moderation, and in this allowed unlimited indulgence. Yes, there can be debauchery in the pleasures of married life just as in the pleasures of eating and drinking. Such excess is a violation of the law of nature, and inevitably brings on nature's punishment. In this, as in all other functions of man, virtue, happiness, and well-being are to be found in moderation, and moderation is secured by rational restraint.
The question before us is not so much as to what is sin or no sin, but rather as to what helps to a higher happiness. The Church allows a wide freedom in the enjoyment of conjugal pleasures. She never for a moment forgets that one of the ends for which marriage was instituted was that it should be a remedy for concupiscence. In order therefore that there shall be no danger of indulgence outside lawful matrimony, the widest possible exercise is permitted within matrimony. The Church goes, hand in hand with nature, to the furthermost of nature's limits before she says that such or such an act is sin. She counsels the married pair, however, not to avail themselves of the whole range of nature's freedom. She declares that rational restraint is the way to the highest and fullest happiness in married life.
The root reason of this counsel is to be found in the fact that by restraint the sexual appetite is brought under control of the will. The will is guided by reason, and reason in its turn is illumined by divine wisdom. Thus, restrained and controlled, the sexual appetite can be directed to the three great ends for which it was made, and thus can it be prevented from abuse, for which it was not made. The order and higher satisfaction thus secured constitute the essence of happiness...
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.