The order of marriage. (part I)

Listening to some of the homseschool workshops and to a recent Catholic Answers program I am interested by the reminders given out about the order of marriage.

The order of love in a healthy marriage, we are told, needs to be God first, spouse second and children third – anything else after that. The warning that is put out to us mums is to beware of putting the children first. This is a particular temptation to those of us who home educate- because we are with the children so much more than anyone else (including God).  The warning to fathers was to never put work first- which is a very common dad temptation.

Something not mentioned, but which does come up on a pretty regular basis on Catholic phone ins, is the business of putting the in-laws first. I think anecdotally this tends to be a problem with husbands and their mothers, although husbands with their fathers can also be a huge stumbling block. Less often, but often enough that I think it merits notice is a wife putting her mother or father above her husband and children. This often leads to terrible friction over how the children should be treated. All of these problems get mentioned often in Catholic discussions (Dr Ray Guarendi deals with a lot of this).

The order of marriage as God first, spouse second and children third is something I have heard from many Christian homeschooling mothers. However when the question of the order of marriage came up on Catholic Answers recently, it became apparent that the Church has not put this order in place in her teaching.

Certainly God must come first. Putting other people or things over God breaks the first commandment and will inevitably lead to the other nine getting compromised in some way.

But what about the order of spouse and children? The Church teaches that they come together. This interested me because I have to admit the “rule” that the spouse must come before the children worried me. Like many mothers I have had to deal with a very sick child on more than one occasion.  There was no other option, that I can see, than to put the needs of that child above the needs of everyone else in the family (including, in fact especially my own). The idea that on top of my own really bad health at the time I was supposed to take care of a dangerously sick little child and STILL put my husband’s needs above that strikes me as asking for more than is reasonable.

So I am relieved to see that the Church does not teach this order of marriage. But we must remember always to put God first. Only in this way can we hope to know how to live as a family. We have to know what He says and how He says it – and then we have to do as our Mother commands (at the wedding); “Do whatever He tells you.”

Marriage was elevated to a Sacrament so that in receiving grace from God we could love one another and our children even in the hard times – and we are to bring each other and the children to heaven.

The question then is, how are we to do this? In what way to we keep God first and how do we balance the needs of our spouse and children? Does home educating the children upset or improve that balance? And I think I need to look at that modern problematic business of authority and power – whose is the head of the family?

Next time…

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One response to “The order of marriage. (part I)

  1. I remember being told that the marriage is the most important thing and we must put it above the children so that they have some rock solid foundation for their life.

    I agree that there have been times we have needed to put the boys needs above the rest of the families.

    I think in reality, the family flourishes when a person that needs to be served is served. We all get something from looking after everyone in the family.

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