[continued from yesterday]
...This restraint is not accomplished by unaided nature. It is the result of a special grace of God which is conferred through the matrimonial Sacrament.
The woman is the minister of grace to the man, and the man to the woman. Grace is given to accomplish all the ends of matrimony.
But this restraint is needed for these ends. Therefore it will be supported by grace. Thus the Catholic ideal is again seen to be the power making for family happiness. It tends to keep the parents in good health and consequendy tends to produce a healthy offspring. In preventing excess it prevents the married pair from becoming mere instruments of pleasure for each other, and consequently promotes a reverence and love which debauchery would destroy.
Now, although this abstention during ecclesiastical seasons is not of obligation, yet there are occasions when it is of obligation; and it will then be difficult to observe unless the non-obligatory restraint has been practiced.
Common decency demands that abstinence should be observed during the whole period of menstruation. The same must be said of the time immediately following childbirth. There is an idea prevalent, especially amongst the poorer classes, that it is bad luck to return to the married life until the woman has been churched. There is no rule of the Church to this effect. But it is a good custom provided it is regarded merely as a custom, and not adorned with the sanction of magic, of good luck, or bad luck.
Then comes the question of times of illness. For one partner there is danger of grave illness, whilst for the other there is danger of incontinency. Rather than expose a partner to the danger of sin the other partner is bound to suffer grave inconvenience, but is not bound to go so far as to incur dangerous illness. It is difficult sometimes to draw the line, and wherever the line is drawn it means dissatisfaction for one or other of the parties concerned.
How much better it would be, then, if both had practiced restraint when it was not of obligation! It would have produced a habit of mind and heart, by which the stronger partner would show a tender regard for the weaker. It would have become an effective expression of love, powerful to create a return love and thus to weld anew the marriage bond.
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.