The Well-Ordered Marriage: Society Depends on It

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"The well-ordered marriage" by Birgit Jones (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2011), CC0/PD

The very definition of marriage is a hot-button topic these days. While marriage is challenged, the nuclear family is attacked by the secularized world as well. The Humanae Vitae 2018 Symposium, held at the Catholic University of America, confirmed the nuclear family is in danger. Yet the family’s vital importance to the common good of society cannot be denied.

Marriage, Abortion, and Contraception

The prevalent use of contraception contributes to the disastrous downfall of families and society as a whole. Instead of reducing the number of abortions, which was the stated intent, abortions have actually increased during the upswing of contraception. The cheapening of sex, and the decline of respect for the procreative aspect of the marriage bed, has much to do with this. God’s His command to ‘go forth and multiply’, largely abandoned, leaves many with upside-down values.

“Fertility is not a disease to be treated but a blessing to cherish.” Deacon William Williams, M.D. of the Catholic Medical Association

Improvement and Priorities

With God-given instructions in mind, we find a need of improvement in areas of conviction. Scrutinizing our priorities facilitates a turnaround in popular thinking. If we are to succeed in being a part of the reestablishment of society, it is imperative to look toward what it is that needs changing.

Any good Catholic can tell you that our priority lies in living the kind of life leading to the path toward Heaven. If Heaven is our ultimate goal, then God must be our first priority, for it is through Him that we have the opportunity of spending Eternity in His Presence. Yet, in a worldly sense, moral priorities often take a back seat. In order to prepare immortal souls for their true purpose, we must reset our priorities and acknowledge that God comes first.

Priorities in Marriage

In a past post, I examined what 44 years of marriage taught my husband and me about the Sacrament of Matrimony. Yet, to my surprise,  the order of priorities was met with resistance from some readers.

God’s nature definitely created an unbreakable bond when it came to offspring. The instinct of protection and nurture is a formidable force. This ensures the safety of the little ones and the furthering of the human race. As strong as these impulses are, a worthy spouse will never let children displace the primary earthly spot given to spouse.

According to the instructions my husband and I received before our wedding, and other sources, this should be obvious. Imagine my surprise when I received quite a bit of push-back on this order of priorities. After a few spirited exchanges, I further elaborated on my reasoning.

Where Spouse Fits In

Although the Bible doesn’t specifically lay out an order of relationship priorities, there do appear to be some general principles. These might be helpful in understanding the proper priorities and the reasons behind them. Obviously, there should be no disagreement with the fact that God comes first. A quick look at the Ten Commandments confirms this – the first 3 are related to Him.

In direct relationship to this, however, comes scriptural instruction for a married man. He is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Similarly, the wife is to submit to her husband ‘as to the Lord’. (Ephesians 5:22). This appears to support the perspective that spouses are second only to God. Since they are ‘one flesh’, this should be a two-way street of respect and mutual love.

Further, under the heading “The marriage bond” the CCC states:

1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself.[141] From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law, … even in the eyes of society.”[142] The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”[143]

How About The Children?

As a logical conclusion, this places the fruits of this divine love (the children) as the next natural priority – at third. In this context we find the institution of the Domestic Church.

1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church”. Ideally it a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.

Well-Adjusted Children

What makes for well-adjusted children is that their parents take seriously, the covenant to which they have sworn — to place it high on their priority list. Further, while Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments, having children is not — it is gift of that sacramental covenant. Marriage is the institution that brings godly children, children aren’t the institution that bring a godly marriage.

What to Consider

I must admit that some may be thinking of this in different terms. Naturally, the physical needs of children (whether infant or disabled) must be dealt with on a practical, earthly priority scale. A grown man or woman can certainly deal with their own physical needs – food, shelter, and so on. That really isn’t the point I am attempting to make.

But even with this in mind, the soundness of the marriage needs consideration. After all, the natural product of a good marriage is healthy, happy children who are given all they need whether it be spiritual, mental, or physical. Further, when the children mature and go their own way, the covenant that was first established between husband and wife remains.

God bless all marriages and families. As the family goes, so goes society. May we ever preserve our godly relationships!


Copyright 2019 Birgit Jones

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About Author

Birgit finds herself immersed in writing on her blog, Catholic Life In Our Times, where she reflects on current events with a Catholic, pro-life perspective. She also serves as Graphic Editor and Contributing Columnist at Catholic Stand as well as writing for other online Catholic publications.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this!!! I have heard and seen so many people promote “putting the kids first,” before their marriage, before their spousal relationship, and that does not sit well with me at all. At times, I try to graciously remind people that marriage is one of the big Vocations-not parenting. Plus, kids are so deeply affected by their parents’ relationship with each other, it’s not as if focusing on your marriage will result in no benefits for your kids! When I was in college, I took a psychology class where the professor made an off-the-cuff remark that has stuck with me all these years later: “You want to help your kids? Work on your marriage.”

    • It’s nice to hear from someone who ‘gets it’ when it comes to the marriage bond. Like you, I have seen many cite the children as the first priority. Your professor had it right. The priest who instructed us before our wedding said something that I have tried to apply, “If you each give 100%, no one will be keeping count”.

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