Genesis 2:24 tells us: “…[A] man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” There are echoes of this in the Gospels when our Blessed Lord reiterates this to the Pharisees who have hardened hearts and are testing Him.
The phrase that I’d highlight and to delve deeper into is become one. The two become one. Indeed, that is what happens when a man and a woman enter into holy matrimony. In the creation story where this is introduced, the highlight is on the coming together of the two. Yes, this means a physical union, but it also represents union as a general theme.
Marriage as Service
As married men, we understand that it is no longer about the self. Ultimately, being a Catholic man is about the act of emptying the self in the service of, or for the benefit of, the other (think Aquinas’ definition of love). As a married Catholic man, that very theme ought to be on full display, and to an even higher pitch should you have children.
This does not mean, however, that you lose or compromise your identity when you become one with your bride, but rather that it is somewhat transformed into something different and fine-tuned into something better (i.e. holier, saintlier, more selfless) because of your wife’s sanctity. Likewise, you live your life in a way that brings your wife closer and closer to Heaven as time passes (whether that’s praying for her, going to Mass, etc…)
I’d like to remain with that concept. We and our wives can be very different from one another. In some regards, my wife and I are night and day different, and in others, we are very like-minded and similar. There’s a lot of good that can come from differences if you can set your pride aside. At times, the differences can create compromises that are better than you could have anticipated if done so with a spirit of humility.
My wife is the holiest person I know. Her selfless nature wreaks of the Gospel of our Lord and of the pouring-out-of-the-self in service to her neighbor, regardless of who it is. Just her way of simply living speaks of the love of God. In this alone, she far exceeds me in holiness. This is an area where she leads by example, and lives in a way that is attractive to those around her; attractive in a way that it makes her neighbors desire to lead lives in a similar manner. It makes us wonder, “what has she got that gives her that radiance?”
I do not possess that sanctity and it’s an uphill battle for me because of my sinful and prideful nature. We differ in that regard as it seems so effortless and natural for her, yet so difficult for me to attain that level of humility in many ways.
Stronger Through Differences
Another difference between my wife and I is that I gravitate toward more doctrine, theology, philosophy, and apologetics. We have a running joke that I read “fact books” that she has no desire to read but wouldn’t mind hearing about once I’m done. We’re wired differently as individuals, but together we become something different; something holier and stronger.
That is precisely where I’m driving this; together, my wife and I have a faith that is better than who we are individually. She helps bring authentic love and selfless living into my life while I might help bring a better understanding to the “why’s” of certain beliefs or doctrines. In the past, I would try and make our marriage more about my spirituality and turning both of us into what I thought our united faith ought to be like. By doing this, I caused pain and sorrow and couldn’t see past my own pride of thinking that I knew best for the both of us. Why would I assume that the way I live the faith is the way we ought to live it together? Who says that was right? My wife never once tried doing that to me, might I add.
But together my bride and I have a better faith as one. I have not been married for quite five years yet, but I understand that we both bring different attributes to the table of our common faith as a married couple, and because of that, we are stronger, and more importantly, holier.
Our marriage has been strengthened over time despite hurdles here and there because of the dying to the self for the greater good, namely our combined faith as husband and wife. There will always be areas to improve, and there will be times where we struggle, that is to be expected.
The union of the two individuals means trying to figure out how prayer will look for the two of you together, how you’ll raise your children, and what kinds of organizations or apostolates the two of you will engage in as a couple. These are things that would develop only because of the union of the two persons to create that stronger and holier faith.
I know and understand that as time progresses, we will need to adjust certain things to our “one faith” as a married couple and that will mean different things at different times. But as husbands it ought to be an initiative we lead to help us and our wives grow closer to God through the union of our faith together. We must always be praying for our wives; that they seek the will of God, that they strive for holiness and that we help them in any way we can to get them there. We must also pray for our marriages, that we can lead holy lives together and evangelize those around us by simply witnessing our love of one another and praying that it can be an outward sign of the love of the Holy Trinity. Let us also pray for ourselves, that we have the strength to lead in love and to die to the self so that together with our wives, we might grow closer to Christ.
Cameron Murray resides in St. Louis with his wife and son. He is an aspiring homesteader and writer, and God willing, hopes to run a small farm in the future. He is also the editor of a blog geared toward Catholic masculinity called The Seasick Catholic.