PRACTICAL VIEW OF MIXED MARRIAGES.
"With desolation is all the land made desolate, because there is none that considereth in the heart." JER. xii. 11.
WHEN Moses was about to die, and saw with prophetic eyes how the people of whom he had so long been the leader would fall away from God, he endeavored by the most touching discourses to impress upon their minds the advantages they possessed in being the chosen inheritance of the Most High. Adverting to the beauty and expressiveness of their religious ceremonies, which he had established by the divine command, he exclaimed: "What other nation is there so renowned that hath ceremonies and just judgments, and all the law, which I will set forth this day before your eyes?" (Deut. iv. 8). Man being composed not only of an immortal soul, but also of a body endowed with senses which receive impressions from external objects, the Church has taken advantage of this, and has adopted such ceremonies as are calculated both to signify the graces she imparts, and to prepare the mind and heart to receive them. Witness the ceremonies of marriage and the nuptial Mass. What could be a more fitting commencement of that holy state of life into which the couple then enter? How sadly different, how dead in comparison, are the ceremonies, or rather the absence of all ceremonies, in mixed marriage! Yet, if it is entered into without the expressive rites and celestial blessings of religion, both reason and experience teach that it cannot be expected to continue happily. Hence I shall show you that mixed marriages are condemned and declared unhappy,
I. By the marriage ceremony of the Church;
II. By reason; and
III. By experience.
I. By the marriage ceremony of the Church.
The Sacred Scripture presents us with a most simple and beautiful marriage ceremony in the union of the young Tobias and Sara. Raguel, "taking the right hand of his daughter, gave it into the right hand of Tobias, saying: The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and may He join you together, and fulfill His blessing in you" (Tob. vii. 15). But the New Law being the reality of that of which the Old was but the shadow, the marriage ceremony in it is yet more beautiful and expressive. Let us briefly consider the manner of this union in the Church. After using their own judgment, consulting their parents, and pouring forth fervent and persevering prayer to God that the light of His grace may direct them, a young man and woman agree to marry each other. It is not by stealth they proceed, as if they were ashamed of the Sacrament they are about to receive; they do not regard as unholy the state of life which God Himself has blessed, nor do they make light of the laws and usages of the Church; but being anxious to be united with the blessing of God, they willingly do all in their power to secure it. I am not ignorant that there are Catholics to be found who would willingly set aside the ceremonies and blessing of religion, and imitate those who are separated from the true Church; but I speak of those only who are desirous of receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony "as it is in Christ and in the Church." The banns are proclaimed, and when the day has arrived, having made a good confession, the couple appear in the church accompanied by their parents. The priest, vested as the Ritual prescribes, advances to the altar railing, where the couple present themselves before the altar of God, to be united in His holy presence and under His special protection. The ring, the emblem of their mutual fidelity, is blessed, the adorable Sacrifice of the Altar is celebrated for them, a special benediction is pronounced upon them, they again approach the railing, and having been united to each other, they are now united to Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion. They return to their homes, accompanied not only by their parents and friends, but, like the young Tobias and Sara, by the angel of God. Well may we exclaim with Tertullian Who can express the happiness of that marriage which the Church approves, which the Sacrifices of the Mass confirm and which blessing seals? angels announce it, and the, Father ratifies it!
How different, alas, is the marriage of a Catholic with one who is not of the fold of Christ! It is frequently brought about by stealth, and always contrary to the will of God and His Church, and of good parents. It often takes place without the requisite dispensation, sometimes before a civil magistrate, and occasionally even before an heretical minister, adding sacrilege and excommunication to rebellion. But granting that, with the exception of its being a mixed marriage, the couple wish to conform as far as possible to the requirements of religion, how sad is the ceremony! The banns are not proclaimed, from fear that it might bethought the Church countenanced such a marriage; the ceremony does not take place in the church before the altar of God, for they have disregarded His known will; nor even in the sacristy, for that too is holy ground; no light burns as an emblem of their faith and love, their faith, alas, burns too faintly and their love is sensual; and no sacred vestment is worn by the priest, but he goes to the room where the marriage is to take place as he would go to transact any secular business. He stands before the unhappy couple merely as a witness, for he says. no prayer, makes no sign of the cross, sprinkles not a drop of holy water, does nothing, in a word, for he is strictly forbidden, that would savor in the least of religion. What could make a sadder impression on the mind of a child of God? A Christian burial service is more consoling, for there the Church bids adieu to the body of one of her children, and that only for a time; here she too often bids farewell to the soul for all eternity. And happy would it be for many a Catholic if it had been his funeral instead of his wedding day; for then he would have to answer for but one soul, now many souls may rise up in judgment against him.
II. By reason.,
Unaided reason also teaches that a union entered into without the blessing of a common religion cannot prove happy. Let us suppose the case, perhaps the most common, in which the wife is the Catholic. She must tread the narrow path that leads to life everlasting, must hear Mass, receive the Sacraments, observe the days of fast and abstinence, pray daily; in a word, she must obey, under the penalty of eternal damnation, laws which she sees daily trodden under foot by him whom she has vowed to love, by him who should be one with herself. Let the husband be ever so welldisposed, he cannot enter into the feelings of his wife; he treads one path, she another; he regards as superstition what she holds dearer than life; he thinks little of eternity, in it she has placed all her hopes. Do what they will, there can be no real union of hearts, no harmony of sentiments, because there is no faith. They remain as before marriage, not one, but two.
But if the husband is an enemy of our holy faith, if he ridicules it, if he forbids his wife to go to church and practice her other religious duties at home, she will soon be a stranger to all happiness, and may well long for the day when death will set her free from that worse than Egyptian bondage. And when the dread hour of death itself draws near and all human aid and comfort are of no avail, the consolations of religion and the presence of the minister of God may be denied by the heartless husband; and he may add reflections to his refusal that will render it doubly painful. Yet he is her lord, and she has vowed to love him. Oh, that an angel would come down from heaven and warn all who contemplate a mixed marriage of the misery for time and eternity to which they expose themselves. But they have the word of God and His Church; if they will not obey them, neither would they obey the voice of an angel. Where there is such difference of sentiment and such opposition in the allimportant affair of religion, there can be no real harmony in matters of minor moment. The Catholic in such a union must necessarily lead an unhappy life, or purchase a trifling temporal happiness by the sacrifice of that which is eternal.
With the Protestant we have nothing to do; yet he cannot be happy. He cannot believe, and think, and feel, and act in harmony with his wife; and where there is no union of hearts the very foundation of all true happiness is wanting and it cannot exist.
But who can picture the evil effects produced in the minds of the children of a mixed marriage? Unfortunate as the case is with the misguided Catholic herself, it is an evil of her own choice. But with the children it is not so. Of what crime were they guilty that they should be condemned by an unnatural parent, even before their birth, to a life of almost certain infidelity, and should have even their eternal salvation endangered by one who was influenced by selfwill or sensuality rather than by the fear of God and the love of religion? The contemplation of such an injustice, such an outrage, is enough to make angels weep. Or what shall we say of the inhuman conduct, condemned alike by reason and religion, of those who agree to allow the boys to be raised in the religion of the father and the girls in that of their mother? But, granting that the children are trained as Catholics, their attachment to the faith is not, and cannot in the nature of things, be so firm as if both parents were of the true faith. If both parents are zealous for their respective systems of religion, there must frequently be disedifying contentions and disputes. If either is indifferent, the children must necessarily conclude that religion is, after all, a matter of small importance. If the Protestant favors the Catholic training of the children, they must yet conclude that religion cannot be what he would fain have them believe, else why does not he, a man of mature years and judgment, embrace it himself? If it is not worth his care and attention, why should it be worth theirs? It is utterly impossible that the children of a mixed marriage should adequately value religion and appreciate its obligations; for during the most plastic period of their lives all their associations are of such a character as to prevent these impressions from fixing themselves on their minds.
III. By experience.
It frequently happens that people become excited or permit, their judgment to be biased in the discussion of disorders for which they have a strong antipathy, and their language is apt in consequence to be exaggerated. Well would it be for the Church and the world if such were the case in regard to mixed marriages. But it is not so. The conclusions of reason are too amply borne out by the lessons of experience. What is the condition of Catholics married to nonCatholics as we see it in the world around us? Take the most favorable instance, that in which the husband favors the wife as much as possible in the practice of her religion. Not supported by his example, she either goes on without sympathy, or gradually falls away from the fulfillment of her religious duties; and it may safely be said of perhaps the greater number of mixed marriages, that, as the blame was with the Catholic in the beginning, it usually remains with her through life. She is bound by a solemn promise which was formerly required to be confirmed by an oath upon the holy Gospel to do all in her power to reclaim her husband from his errors; but instead of doing so, does she not too often rather confirm him in them by neglecting the practice of her own most sacred duties? How many Protestant husbands would, in all human probability, become Catholics if their wives were exemplary! But no lukewarm at first, such unfortunate Catholics drop every duty imposed by their religion, till in the end they become practical infidels, and we hear nothing of them until the priest is hurriedly sent for, if that last grace is vouchsafed them, to attend them in their dying hour.
But let us go a step further and take the case, by no means uncommon, in which the Protestant husband opposes the wife in the practice of her religion. What can she do? She cannot pray as she would; she cannot hear Mass except rarely and by stealth; she cannot receive her Easter Communion; she cannot assist at those special devotions from which she might draw so much grace and consolation; she cannot have her children publicly baptized; she can do nothing, in a word, to show that she is a Catholic; and if she ventures to do so by stealth, it will only be made the occasion of further persecution. The husband is obliged solemnly to promise before marriage that he will allow his wife perfect liberty in the practice of her religion, and that he will permit all the children born of the marriage to be baptized and raised in the Catholic Church. But will he keep his promises? Experience teaches that he will not, if interest, his own perverse disposition, the influence of Protestant friends, or the commands of secret societies to which he may belong, prompt or require him to break them. Listen to the following incident which to my certain knowledge took place in one of our large cities. A Protestant man and a Catholic woman came to the house of a priest one evening to be married. Both made the solemn promises required of them, the marriage ceremony was performed, and they departed,
But as they walked out arm in arm past the church the man remarked to his wife: "My dear, this is as near a Catholic church as you will be for some time." But it was too late; the knot was tied, and she must henceforth be his slave in soul and body till death, and even in death he may not relent. How many such instances might be found! And it must not be forgotten that the civil law does not recognize the binding force of promises made before marriage; it even declares, that the husband cannot bind himself by such a promise.
But what becomes of the children of such a marriage? We have seen that even under the most favorable circumstances they cannot have a firm attachment to their religion. They are commonly but indifferently instructed, they frequently associate with Protestants or infidels, are generally sent to the public schools, read unCatholic literature, and in the end lose their faith or marry out of the Church. How seldom do the children of a mixed marriage become and continue through life good practical Catholics! How often do we find them without baptism; how often do we see them raised Protestants, and taught to ridicule the religion of their Catholic parent. Well may the words of our Divine Redeemer be applied to mixed marriages: "Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation" (Luke xi. 17). The statistics of mixed marriages will show the awful responsibility of those who contract such unholy alliances. And if the consequences are so dire for the children when the mother is the Catholic, and can mold their young minds during her hours of intercourse with them in spite of the efforts of the father, what must it be when the mother is the nonCatholic, and can readily undo the good that her husband might try to effect during the short time that he is with them?
But you should also bear in mind that the evil of a mixed marriage does not end with the death of the misguided Catholic. It may go on to the end of time, and souls may be multiplied by hundreds that will never see God, but that will, trace their estrangement from Him to the disobedience of one and her disregard of the salutary restraints of religion. Before the dread tribunal of her inexorable judge she will learn, alas! too late, the force of the divine menace: "Thy own wickedness shall reprove thee and thy apostasy shall rebuke thee. Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not with thee" (Jer. ii. 19).
In conclusion, let me urge upon you by every consideration to reflect on the probable consequences of whatever you propose to yourselves before you act. And in the allimportant affairs of choosing a partner for life, do not act with precipitation. A step once taken there cannot be retraced. When you are married once you are married for life. The Protestant whom you marry only lends himself to you during his good pleasure, and may seek a divorce when he grows tired of you; and his religious principles teach him to recognize its efficacy. But it is not so with you; you have been taught that marriage is a Sacrament which binds the husband and wife to each other until death. Do not persuade yourself that you can stand amid temptations in which thousands of others have fallen. Remember the awful lesson which the example of King Solomon teaches you. But there is still another consideration. Remember that it is through marriage God, has willed that children should be born into the world, and that parents are responsible for the training of their children. If you marry out of the Church you will have to answer to God for the children He may give you, and though it will be hard to answer for your own soul, it will be tenfold harder to answer for theirs. Resolve, then, while you are yet free, not to disregard the will of God, not to violate the laws of the Church, not to act contrary to the dictates of reason and the lessons of experience, and not to destroy your own happiness here and endanger your salvation for eternity by a mixed marriage. On the contrary, in this, as in all else, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice " (Matt. vi. 33). Amen.
THE DUTIES OF YOUNG PERSONS IN RELATION TO MIXED MARRIAGES.
"It is good for a man when he hath borne the yoke from his youth." LAM. iii. 27
OUR Divine Redeemer, in order to warn His followers against undue anxiety in seeking the things of this world, and prevent them from forgetting their last end even while procuring the necessaries of life, gave them this brief but adequate rule for their guidance: "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. vi. 33). Now, if a God of infinite wisdom deemed it expedient to warn His followers against those things "which the heathens seek," in matters that were necessary for their subsistence, much more should His words be the guide for Christians in the choice of a partner for life, where passion or caprice is too apt to bias and control the judgment.
In the previous discourse we considered the evil of mixed marriages and some of the sources from which they take their rise. The necessity of discovering a remedy and applying it must be patent to every one who has the honor and glory of God, the prosperity of the Church, the happiness of the Christian family, and the salvation of souls at heart. But since God has both endowed us with reason and supplied us with supernatural grace, it becomes our duty to use both the one and the other in doing good and avoiding evil. In the present discourse I shall point out to you some of the most powerful means by which young persons may be preserved by the use of these gifts from a mixed marriage, that fatal step which draws so many evil consequences after it. And first among these must be reckoned,
I. Respect for the authority of the Church and obedience to her laws.
It is the privilege of every human society or organization to make laws for the government of its members, and to require the observance of them by all who wish to partake of its benefits; and those who do not wish to obey the laws are at liberty to withdraw and enjoy their freedom. But it is not so with the Church. It is not a human organization. Our Divine Redeemer in commissioning His Apostles to preach the Gospel and to spread the Church throughout the world, not only gave them power and authority to make laws for the government of His mystic body, but also assured them that from His high throne of glory in heaven He would sanction their legislation. To the Prince of Apostles He said: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven" (Matt. xvi. 19). All the laws of the Church impose a strict obligation binding in conscience upon all Christians to whom they are applicable. The Catholic cannot with impunity disregard the laws of the Church, nor despise the authority of Him who enacts them; for, "If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican" (Matt. xvi. 17), and "he that heareth you," says Christ to the teaching Church, "heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me" (Luke x. 17). Nor is the Catholic permitted to withdraw from the Church as he might from a human organization; for he is commanded under penalty of eternal damnation to serve God faithfully, and it is only as a loyal member of the Church that he is enabled to fulfill that divine command.
Were you, Christian youth, but filled with due respect for the laws of our holy mother the Church, and disposed to sacrifice everything rather than violate her sacred precepts; were you imbued with the real Catholic spirit, which made the saints not only obedient to the Church, but also enthusiastic in all that related to her wellbeing, who rejoiced in her triumphs and wept at her reverses, what a powerful remedy would be applied to the evil of mixed marriages! Accustomed to think and act as Catholics, to regard all things from God's point of view, to look upon the Sacrament of Matrimony "as it is in Christ and in the Church," you would never permit yourselves to be entangled in friendship that could in any way lead you to offend God, to violate the laws or disregard the wishes of His Church, or to endanger your eternal salvation or the salvation of others yet unborn, by contracting a mixed marriage.
II. The frequent reception of the Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist.
But while the laws of the Church impose obligations upon her children, the Sacraments supply them with grace to enable them to fulfill those obligations. The prophecy of Isaias is here fulfilled "You shall draw waters with joy out of the Savior's fountains" (Is. xii. 3). How admirably the Sacrament of Penance is calculated not only to free the penitent soul from the guilt of sin and impart the grace necessary to resist future temptations, but also to teach man to know himself, to know his passions and evil inclinations, the strong and the weak points in his character and the occasions of his sins, the danger he may be in of contracting sinful habits or dangerous intimacies, and all that may be useful to him to avoid sin and practice virtue. There is no teacher like a good conscience when carefully examined. The instruction and advice a young person receives in the sacred tribunal add to all this the wisdom of a learned and experienced director. Guided by these, if you submit with docility, it will be impossible for you to wander far from the path of virtue, much less to associate yourself in the intimate relationship of marriage with one not of the fold of Christ.
By means of the Holy Communion you are intimately united to Jesus Christ, the supernatural life of grace is preserved in your soul, your thoughts and desires are elevated and purified, your good resolutions receive new strength, and you are removed further and further from the danger of any false or perilous step in life. To those who receive the Sacraments frequently and worthily so hateful a deformity as a mixed marriage is morally impossible; for they live in Christ, and He in them.
III. Avoid all intimate association, especially companykeeping, with non Catholics.
While those who receive the Sacraments frequently and worthily are strengthened in their union with God and their resolution to sacrifice everything rather than forfeit His friendship, those who withdraw themselves from these fountains of grace and strength, find their passions and evil inclinations daily growing stronger and becoming more imperious. The spirit of evil, who, "as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. v. 8), and who never loses an opportunity of laboring for the ruin of souls, frequently leads those who are weak into intimate association with persons not of the true Church, and in the end induces them to keep company, which is rarely free from danger, even among good people, and which in their case sometimes leads to dishonor and often to a mixed marriage and all the evils which it entails.
Young persons should be equally on their guard against judging by appearances. The young man who dresses most fashionably, and who most willingly spends his money in taking young ladies to balls, picnics, and other places of amusement, will not for that reason make the best husband. On the contrary he shows rather a disposition to spend life in idleness and the pursuit of pleasure than in useful labor or devotion to the duties of an honorable profession. judge a young man by his careful performance of the duties of religion and his state of life, his industry, his selfrespect, his economy, his love of his parents, his avoiding evil associations, drinking and gambling; in a word, learn to esteem him for what will make him a useful man, not what will make him an ornamental fop.
And you, young men, learn to judge young ladies in the same manner. Remember that, as the Scriptures teach: "Houses and riches are given by parents; but a prudent wife is properly from the Lord" (Prov. xix. 14). It is necessary for you to think seriously before taking the irrevocable step of entering into the married state. Value persons by those qualities of soul, mind, and body which make them really worth having; for there are many in our day that are not worth having. The one who lives idly at home, or who spends all her earnings in striving to keep up with the fashions, who is most willing to help you spend your money in amusements, who will neglect her religious duties for the sake of a ball, a picnic, or an excursion, who is wanting in selfrespect, who disregards the authority of her parents, and this is a very important point, who is remiss in approaching the Sacraments, who is coquettish, and loves the praise of the giddy throng rather than the approval of a good conscience, will not make a fit wife for a sensible Christian. Nor should you be too much influenced by the attractions of personal beauty. Nothing is more fleeting, and it is never an evidence of a good heart or a sensible mind. Remember the words of the Holy Spirit: "Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain; the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised" (Prov. xxi30).
Be also on your guard against being allured and ensnared by those advantages which many Protestants seem to possess over Catholics from a worldly point of view. Let the good pleasure of God be your guide in all things, but especially in the choice of a partner for life; and do not forget the advice of the elder Tobias to his son: "Bless the Lord at all times; and desire of Him to direct thy ways, and that all thy counsels may abide in Him" (Tob. iv. 50). Do not forget that in forming intimacies the passions are strong and the will is weak, and a step once taken in marriage cannot be retraced. Beware then of forming friendships that may ripen in time into a mixed marriage, and involve you in a life of misery and an eternity of woe. There is nothing I would urge upon you more strongly when contemplating a change of life than this.
IV. Serious reflection.
The Prophet Jeremias, lamenting the evils that had come upon the city of Jerusalem on account of the sins of the people, and recognizing the true cause of them, cried out: "With desolation is all the land made desolate, because there is none that considereth in the heart" (Jer. xii. 11). Almighty God has endowed man with reason that he might act, not like inanimate nature from a law of necessity, nor like irrational animals from instinct, but that by reflection he might propose to himself ends worthy of a child of God, and might pursue them in such a manner as to please Him whose will is the supreme law, and thus secure his present and future happiness. And experience teaches that men who are not wholly the slaves of passion employ their reason even in the most trivial affairs of life; and no greater reproach can be made a man than that he acts without reason or contrary to it. If this be true, and no one will deny it, should not you, young men and young women, reflect seriously and employ that noble faculty to the limit of its power in the important affair of choosing a companion for life? You are not selecting a partner to enter into business, where the partnership may be dissolved if it does not prove lucrative or agreeable; you are not taking a person into the family, who may be discharged if he does not give satisfaction; you are not even entering into a religious order, where there is a long period of probation in which you could learn whether you were suited for the order or the order for you, and in which you would have the aid and advice of a judicious superior. In the selection of a partner for life all is different. There is no time for probation, and if persons who contemplate marriage associate together in companykeeping it is only to conceal the disagreeable traits of their characters, it is only to deceive; they study not to appear what they are, but what they are not. Yet the union of husband and wife is more intimate than any other upon earth, for Christ Himself declares, "they are not two, but one flesh" (Matt. xix. 6). Not only so, but their bond of union is for life, and no power but death can dissolve it; for the same Christ says in the same place: "What God hath joined together let no man put asunder." Should not the most serious reflection precede and direct so important, so irrevocable a choice? And if any incompatibility of temperament or disposition were discovered, would not the same reflection show how imprudent it would be for such persons to unite themselves together for life?
But it is not only for the happiness and wellbeing of themselves that persons contemplating marriage must consult; they should also remember that the rearing of a family is the main object of that holy state, and that their own happiness must be intimately connected with that of their children. If they are of such contrary dispositions as are likely to cause them to disagree on any important point, it will be impossible for them to live in peace and harmony together, and train up their children to useful and honorable lives. And if this may and frequently does occur where both are of the same faith, does not reason teach us that it must be a necessary consequence where the husband and wife differ essentially on what all thinking minds must regard as the most important affair that could engage man's attention? Hence it follows that serious reflection on things that are purely temporal must prevent mixed marriages; how much more must meditation on the great eternal truths of religion prevent them? We have then another and most powerful preventative of mixed marriages in,
V. Meditation on the four last things.
The Holy Spirit says in the Sacred Scripture: "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin" (Eccles. vii. 40). We are not the creatures of today. Our life upon earth is indeed aptly compared to a shadow that passes and is seen no more; but that is the life of the body; the soul never tastes death. It passes indeed from this world at a moment hidden from its knowledge, and goes before God, for "it is appointed unto all men once to die" (Heb. ix. 27); but it is immortal, and in the world to come will be rewarded or punished as it has done good or evil in this life, for "God will render to every man according to his works" (Matt. xvi. 27). To the Christian who firmly believes, how awful are the words, death, judgment, heaven, hell! To die, to leave the world and all we value in it, to bid it an eternal farewell, and that at a moment of which we know nothing, and go before God with all the good and evil deeds of this life upon us, what reflection could be better calculated to fill us with fear and dread? Terrible as is this thought, it is but the prelude to one, if it were possible, infinitely more terrible, for the Apostle adds: "And after this, the judgment" (Heb. ix. 27). Yes, "we must all be manifested before the judgmentseat of Christ that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil" (2 Cor. v. 10). We must all go, perhaps without a moment's warning, for Christ has expressly declared: "I will come to thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know at what hour I will come to thee" (Apoc. iii. 3). And the examination to which the soul will be subjected under the allsearching eye of God will be such that the most trivial fault will not pass unnoticed, because "every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment" (Matt. xii. 36). So much have many of the saints dreaded this final scrutiny that, after a long life spent in the practice of the most exalted virtue, they trembled at the thought of appearing before God. King David cried out in holy fear: "In Thy sight no man living shall be justified" (Ps. cxlii. 2). And St. Paul, although rapt up to the third heaven, and assured by a special revelation that an eternal crown of glory was laid up for him, dreaded the account he would have to give of his life, and said: "I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet I am not thereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord" (I Cor. iv. 4).
But however well the thought of appearing in the presence of an omniscient judge is calculated to fill us with fear, the sentence which follows is of far greater consequence. Our Divine Redeemer Himself has been pleased to tell us what the sentence of the good will be, and what that of the wicked. To the good He tells us He will say: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Then turning to the wicked, in His anger He will drive them from Him with His malediction for all eternity with the words: "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. xxv. 34 and 41). How infinitely dissimilar are these sentences! Yet one of them will be pronounced upon every one of you. Which will it be? Will God welcome you into the realms of eternal bliss, or will He condemn you forever to the fiery prison of hell? Whatever your sentence will be, it will be eternal and irrevocable. Oh, my young Christians, what a reflection! Who that meditates seriously on these eternal truths could endanger his salvation: who place a barrier between himself and heaven? And who, above all, could unite himself to an enemy of God, a slave of Satan, in the intimate union which marriage implies? Who could place his own salvation in jeopardy, and consent to become the parent of others who would probably never see God? Well may we cry out in the words of Moses to the Jews: "Oh, that they would be wise and would understand, and would provide for their last end" (Deut. xxxii. 29). No, a mixed marriage is impossible to one who seriously reflects on eternity.
I have endeavored to place before your minds some of the most weighty considerations that should withhold you from contracting a mixed marriage. Respect the authority of the Church and obey her laws. "Obey your prelates, and be subject to them; for they watch as being to render an account of your souls" (Heb. xii. 17). Receive the Sacraments frequently, for by that means you will not only be strengthened to walk in the way of God's commandments, but you will also imbibe the true Catholic spirit. Avoid too intimate an association with those not of the fold of Christ, and especially companykeeping with them, and the enemy of your souls will not be able to ensnare you. Reflect seriously on the nature of marriage and the conditions necessary to insure true and lasting happiness in it. But, above all, think on eternity. The present life is short, but eternity is without end. In a few years we shall all have passed from the busy scenes of earth, we shall all have appeared before God, and shall have received our final sentence either of eternal happiness or of endless misery. Let us then be truly wise and engrave indelibly on our minds the dread words death, judgment, heaven, hell, and in all our works let us remember our last end, and we shall never sin. Amen.
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