Marriage is wonderful, but it brings with it a lot of responsibilities and duties. Scripture and the teaching of the Church are quite clear— the husband is the head of the home, and he bears the primary responsibility before God for its happiness and holiness. In imitation of Jesus, the husband is the prophet, priest, and king of the domestic church.
Because marriage is serious business, entering it with the mentality of an adolescent, with no forethought whatsoever, is a recipe for disaster. It is alright to be immature when you get married, but it is not alright to stay that way. You should be pursuing maturity and holiness with passion long before you begin to think about marriage.
So as a Catholic considering marriage, how should your prepare yourself? What steps can you take to get ready for this joyful responsibility?
Here are the top 5 ways you can prepare yourself for a holy and happy marriage.
1. Pursue virtue – Every Catholic man, young or old, married or unmarried, should be actively pursuing virtue. But if you are thinking seriously about marriage, it should be priority number one. Marriage brings with it tremendous responsibilities, and habits of holiness are necessary to face these challenges manfully.
For example, let’s say it is your first year of marriage. You have a good job that pays the bills, but one day, you get a pink slip. You are laid off with no way to provide for your family. How do you face this challenge? The virtue of fortitude, or courage, will provide the mettle necessary to pick yourself up and look for another job in the face of humiliation and discouragement.
Or say you are coming home after a long day at work. You simply want to sit on the couch in front of the TV, but your wife is lonely and wants to spend an hour talking. What do you do? The selfish man ignores his wife and watches TV, but the virtuous man practices charity. He forgets about himself and meets his wife’s needs.
Without the consistent practice and cultivation of virtue, your marriage is in for a lot of problems. Prepare for marriage by cultivating virtue at every opportunity.
2. Be wise financially – It is so easy to be stupid with money. Credit card companies market to college students, and personal loans are easily obtained. Cars or the latest electronic gadgets are marketed by monthly payments rather than full price (think 60″ TV for $99 a month), making the temptation to instant gratification almost too much to bear. And that’s not even factoring in the crushing weight of student loans that most young people face. Saving? Most young men think that’s something you start doing in your 50s.
I confess I was unwise financially before we got married. Excited to be finally making my own money, I bought whatever I wanted— often using credit. I rationalized, thinking I could afford the payments. When it came time to get married however, the seriousness of my stupidity sunk in. Rather than having money in the bank, I was in the red. And guess what: I was bringing that burden into our marriage and sharing it with my wife. It wasn’t a good feeling.
Prepare now by being wise financially. Tell yourself no. Maybe you can afford a new iPhone, but do you really need it? Put the money you would spend in the bank. Pay down every bit of debt you can. Never, ever buy a new car, no matter how low the payments may be. If you need guidance, check out financially teachers like Dave Ramsey. As much as is within your power, enter your marriage with a strong financial footing.
3. Learn and practice the Faith – As a husband and father, you will be the spiritual head of your family. Sadly, many men are content to leave the spiritual guidance to their wives. They abdicate their role as priest of the home and check out in matters of faith. This is not an option for the Catholic gentleman. You must prepare yourself to lead your family spiritually.
Purchase a Catechism and study it. Read the lives of the saints and the spiritual classics, even if only for 5 minutes a day. Pray the rosary. Go to confession frequently. Strive to become a saint and leave mediocrity and lukewarmness behind. In short, make the faith a priority, even if it hasn’t been to this point.
4. Be pure – Temptations to sexual impurity abound in the modern world. Pornography is just a click away, scantily clad women adorn countless advertisements, and sexual content saturates movies and television. In addition, the hookup culture on college campuses and marital infidelity are rampant.
But no matter how many temptations there are, there is no excuse for sexual impurity. Indulging in sexual sins can and will destroy your soul and your marriage. Strive manfully against these temptations, and instead, fill your mind with all that is holy. As St. Paul says, “flee fornication.” Be radical in fighting temptations. If TV is causing you to sin, get rid of it. If you computer is causing you to sin, install a strict filter and get an accountability partner. Do whatever you have to do.
Save yourself for your wife and enter your marriage with a positive sort of naiveté. While this is scorned by the world, it will be treasured by your wife.
5. Seek wisdom – One of the hallmarks of youth from time immemorial is a disdain for the wisdom of their elders. For some strange reason, youth seem to think they have all the knowledge they will ever need, and adults don’t really understand the world, despite their treasury of experience. Of course, this attitude is the height of stupidity. Proverbs has many strong words for the mockers and fools who scorn their elders, and scripture is crystal clear that elders are to respected and learned from.
The young Catholic man should be soaking up wisdom like a sponge. Pray every day for the gift of true wisdom— not worldly wisdom, but godly wisdom. Spend time with your elders and be humble enough to learn from them. Don’t segregate yourself off from adults or those who are more mature (I have a big problem with youth groups that separate boys from men). Have conversations with the wise and mature. Find a holy mentor if you can; a man you can trust who can guide you and teach you. Again, read the saints and absorb their holy counsels. Read holy scripture daily, especially Proverbs, Wisdom, or Sirach. Read The Love of Eternal Wisdom by St. Louis de Montfort.
In the life of the Catholic man, there is no substitute for the possession of true wisdom. Being worldly wise is for those who don’t care about getting to heaven, and it isn’t something you should concern yourself with. Instead, seek true, spiritual wisdom with all that you have.
Can you ever be fully ready for marriage? I don’t think so. Experience is the best teacher, and marriage reveals your selfishness, immaturity, and pride like nothing else. It will be a learning experience itself, maturing you more quickly than anything else.
But that doesn’t mean you should enter marriage as an overgrown boy. Strive to be a man your future wife can be proud of. More importantly, strive to be a saint, and everything else will fall into place. Marriage is a serious responsibility— far more serious than many realize— and you should prepare for it as such.
Married men, what is your advice for those considering marriage? If you’re not married, how are your preparing for marriage?