The Christian Way to be Happily Married

About the Christian Way to be Happily Married

The Christian Way to be Happily Married offers a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness that is needed today to supplement, enhance, and sometimes correct today's secular marriage guidance and some secularized Christian marriage guidance. This virtue approach to marriage aims to help couples be happily married by following Jesus not only with "scientific" communication and relationship skills, but also, above all, with an increasingly Christ-like love for their spouse and for God, together with faith, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. The Christian Way to be Happily Married has been selected by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as Book of the Month (December 2011) for their For Your Marriage website.

There are four parts to this website page, "Be Happily Married," that introduces the Christian Way for couples to be happy in a holy Christian marriage. The endnotes for Parts I, II, and III are available upon request ("Contact Us").

Part I: Introduction to The Christian Way to be Happily Married. This introduction is taken from The Christian Way to be Happily Married, pp. 1-12.

Part II: The Christian Way for Bill and Maria to be Happily Married during Their Vacation in San Diego (from The Christian Way to be Happily Married, pp. 22-26).

Part III: An academic article that describes and supports the Catholic virtue approach to marriage in The Christian Way to be Happily Married. The article (about 25 book pages) is titled "Marriage as a Christian Calling to Holiness in a Secular American Society: A Catholic Virtue Approach to Marriage Recovered from Jesus, Christian Saints, & Pope John Paul II." This article is addressed not only to Christians involved in marriage and family ministry, but also to those couples and others who would be interested in an academic article on the need for more Catholic virtue-centered, New-Evangelization marriage guidance to help couples be happily married by following Jesus in a loving Christian marriage discipleship.

Part IV: A Summary of the Catholic and Carmelite Virtue Ethic of St. John of the Cross in The Christian Way to be Happily Married.

Part I:
Introduction to The Christian Way to be Happily Married


Have any of your readers fallen in love with a dimple, and then you married the whole person, and now you are trying to deal with this? If so, don’t panic. Once upon a time in a Garden of Love in a faraway land a young woman and a young man vowed to love and cherish one another for all the days of their lives, and they lived happily ever after, and we Catholics and other Christians can too. This ecumenical Catholic Christian marriage guide is for engaged and married Christians (and non-Christians too!) who believe or at least hope that living happily ever after does not have to be just a fairy tale in our American land, with so many marriages ending in divorce.

It may not be easy to be happily married. Many of us or our friends have suffered from stormy marriage relationships, bitter divorce proceedings, and prolonged child custody battles. The number of children under 18 whose parents have divorced increased in recent decades from under 1% to over 50%. No wonder many young adults have shied away from marriage! One of my college students writes, “I am afraid to be married. I don’t want to get divorced. As a child I promised myself I would never put another person through what I had to go through when my parents divorced. To this day that’s why I am not married, and that’s why I have no children. I have had the same boy friend for ten years.”

How can we Christian couples be happily married in what has been called our American Divorce Culture? What is the Christian Way to marriage and family happiness? Communicating well? Resolving conflicts? Dealing with gender, personality, and cultural differences? Kindling the romance?

No. These communication and relationship skills have helped many of us a great deal, but they have not always helped enough. Many psychologists and other marriage authorities have been promoting these skills for over half a century now in what has been called our American Psychological Society, but it is during this very time that divorce rates have skyrocketed! We Christian couples need something more powerful than psychology’s communication and relationship skills. What more do we need?

CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE DISCIPLESHIP

We need to follow Jesus with faith, love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues and gifts. With Christian faith, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and we trust that he loves and forgives us repentant sinners. With Christian love, we love our partner as much as possible as Jesus loves us, with a love that is always patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4–7). With this love, we treat our partner well, with patience, kindness, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. This faithful, loving, virtuous Christian marriage discipleship is the Christian Way to happiness in marriage and family life.

This Christian Way to marriage and family happiness is good for non-Christians too. It is good for all of us couples to love our partner and treat our partner well. This guide’s Christian marriage guidance can be helpful for non-Christians who admire Jesus even though they may not believe that he is the Son of God. Non-Christians could follow Jesus in a limited way as a moral teacher or role model, if not as the Son of God. Surveys show that Americans of all faiths admire Jesus. Mahatma Gandhi says that Jesus belongs to all people.

THE IMITATION OF CHRIST

Are we Christian couples following Jesus as much as we could in our marriage and family life? Maybe. But maybe not. Pope Benedict XVI warns that secularism, materialism, and moral relativism have weakened the discipleship of many Catholics and other Christians in the Western world. Is the Pope right?

We Christian couples can check our Christian discipleship by turning to Jesus and Christian saints and spiritual reformers. Jesus teaches that we should follow him not only by believing that he is the Son of God and trusting that he loves and forgives us repentant sinners, but also by turning away from our sins and amending our life. We turn away from our sins and amend our life in an authentic Biblical sense by becoming like Jesus in our moral character and conduct, with love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. St. Paul urges the Ephesians “to imitate God [. . .] and follow Christ by loving as he loved you” (Eph. 5:1–2). St. John teaches likewise that “we can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life as Christ lived” (1 John 2:5–6). Thomas ŕ Kempis writes in Of the Imitation of Christ that we follow Jesus by imitating his life and virtues. Pope John Paul II holds in his theology of the body that the fundamental vocation for all Christians is to follow Jesus by becoming like him in their moral character and conduct.

Jesus calls us Christian couples to become like him not only during prayer, worship, and other religious activities, but also during ordinary marriage and family activities like managing the family money and dealing with the housework. If we do not follow Jesus when we manage the family money and deal with the housework, are we true followers of Jesus? St. Teresa of Avila says that we find Jesus among the pots and pans.

This imitation-of-Christ, pots-and-pans Christian marriage discipleship is the Christian Way to happiness in marriage and family life.

Becoming like Jesus is a tall order! But that’s o.k. Many of us couples have already become more like Jesus in our marriage and family life. What’s more, some of us may suspect that we could become even more like Jesus, and we may be willing to go for it. We may be willing to go for an even more Christ-like marital love that is even more patient and kind, with little or no anger, fighting, or other hurtful conflict. We may be willing to follow Jesus farther along the Christian Way not only to happiness in marriage and family life, but also to holiness.

CHRISTIAN HOLINESS

We couples can set our sights on holiness. We are already holy in the basic sense of being created in the image of God. But many of us are impure, imperfect images of God, and we are called to become pure, transformed images of God. We are called to become holy in the deep sense of becoming extraordinarily loving, virtuous, Christ-like persons.

At the beginning of this 21st century, Pope John Paul II called for Catholic parishes to provide training in holiness for all parishioners. John Paul wrote that all the Christian faithful “are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” John Paul added that “the time has come to repropose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living.”

CHRISTIAN HAPPINESS

Some of us couples might hem and haw about going for the high standard of becoming like Jesus in our moral character and conduct. We might be afraid that we would have to sacrifice our happiness too much. But we need not be afraid. Becoming like Jesus might require us to sacrifice a worldly happiness at times, but it would not require us to sacrifice a Christian happiness. Christian happiness consists largely of following Jesus virtuously in this life and being united with God in a limited way in this life and then eternally. With this Christian happiness, we follow Jesus virtuously and we are happy at the same time, as discussed throughout this marriage guide (especially I,1--Part I, Chapter 1, and IV,1-6--Part IV, Chapters 1-6).

St. Paul and many other Christians have envisioned a virtuous Christian happiness in this life. Paul writes to the Philippians: “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord. [. . .] Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, [. . .] and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. [. . .] Then the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:4–9). Pope Benedict XVI teaches that obedience to God is the way to happiness. Benedict says that the virtuous life is the most joyful life.

We Christian couples are called to seek a virtuous Christian happiness, not just a worldly happiness. We would be more likely to seek the Christian happiness if we heard more about it. But many of us hear more about the worldly happiness that is promoted in our American consumer society than the Christian happiness that is prized in our Christian tradition. Some of us seek a worldly happiness more than a Christian happiness without even realizing it. We put our worldly happiness goals ahead of our Christian happiness goal of following Jesus with love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. Suppose that a Christian stock broker put his worldly happiness goals of making a million dollars in the stock market and buying a multi-million-dollar estate in Beverly Hills ahead of his Christian happiness goal of following Jesus virtuously. He might spend so much time pursuing his worldly happiness goals that he would neglect his wife and children.

Bishop Arthur Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, says that many couples in his marriage counseling focus on their individual worldly happiness so much that they neglect the needs of their family. Brazier could advise these couples to seek an individual Christian happiness that could include pursuing their individual goals, meeting their family’s needs, following Jesus virtuously, and being happy all at the same time. But Brazier and many other marriage authorities today do not say enough about Christian happiness.

STAGES OF GROWTH IN CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE DISCIPLESHIP

It may not always be easy to be happy in the Christian sense of becoming like Jesus in our moral character and conduct. But that’s o.k. Few of us will become saints today, tomorrow, or by the end of the year. But all of us have the potential to become increasingly loving, Christ-like, virtuously-happy persons gradually over the years, with God’s help.

We couples can grow gradually towards Christian ideals of love, happiness, and holiness. Many saints and spiritual reformers have identified beginning, intermediate, and advanced stages of Christian moral and spiritual growth. They have often emphasized growth in love for God during prayer and other religious activities, however, more than growth in marital love for one’s partner during ordinary marriage and family activities. This guide applies some of their insights on moral and spiritual growth to everyday marriage and family life. This guide draws from Jesus, St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Thérčse of Lisieux, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and other saints and spiritual reformers in order to recover and develop a theory of growth in Christian marital love and discipleship that is both faithful to the Christian tradition and relevant for contemporary marriage and family life.

Here’s the theory. We couples can grow from a romantic love and wisdom that help make us emotionally happy in a beginning romantic stage of Christian marriage discipleship (Part II of this book) to a conventional needs love and wisdom that help make us conventionally happy in an intermediate needs stage (Part III) and finally to a Christ-like transforming love and wisdom that help make us virtuously happy in an advanced transforming stage (Part IV). We will focus on growth in love and wisdom, but we will touch upon faith, patience, gratitude, and other Christian virtues too.

Let’s not go overboard applying these stages of Christian marriage discipleship to specific persons, including ourselves and our partner. These stages represent broad generalizations that come with many qualifications and exceptions. Still, knowing about these stages could help us know roughly where we are now in our Christian marriage discipleship and where we could go next. We might have trouble if we did not know these things. Author Laurence Peter writes, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

CONVENTIONAL MARRIAGE GUIDANCE

We Christian couples need plenty of Christian marriage guidance centered around God and virtue in order to get where we are going in our Christian marriage discipleship. We do not get enough Christian marriage guidance from secular marriage authorities today, however. Few of these authorities say much about Christian discipleship, Christian happiness, and Christian virtues. Social critic Barbara Whitehead argues in The Divorce Culture that today’s mainstream marriage guidance neglects religious and civic virtues that help bind couples together, including the virtues of “forgiveness, modesty, gratitude, loyalty, patience, generosity, and selflessness.”

Few secular marriage authorities encourage us couples strongly enough to strive for Christian ideals of love, happiness, and holiness. Many authorities emphasize that most of us cannot help being unloving at times. Psychologists Kinder and Cowan say that marriage can “elicit the most intense feelings of anger, hatred, and even violence.” Kinder and Cowan explain that marriage “involves interdependencies and mutual needs, and threats to them can lead to enormous insecurity and retaliatory feelings. Fighting is a normal and inherent part [my italics] of any bond that is so meaningful to the parties involved.”

I suppose that angry, hateful, and violent fighting could be a “normal” part of “normal” marriages. But this fighting is not an “inherent,” inevitable part of all marriages. We couples have the potential to love our partner as Jesus loves us, with no angry, hateful, or violent fighting. Kinder and Cowan do not account adequately for our tremendous human and Christian potential for a Christ-like marital love that is always patient and kind.

Most Christian marriage authorities provide more Christian marriage guidance, but not always enough of it. According to Dana Mack in a study of marriage preparation programs for teenagers in over 2,000 public and church middle schools and high schools nationwide, most church school programs offered much the same communications training that was offered in the public school programs, and little else. Mack argues that both the secular and Christian programs needed to go beyond communications training to provide more moral and spiritual marriage guidance.

Donald Browning, Thomas Oden, and some other Christian scholars criticize some of their fellow Christians for “mimicking” current psychological trends and neglecting “their own wisdom traditions.” Catholic author Matthew Kelly writes in Rediscovering Catholicism that after Vatican II many Catholic priests and educators stopped preaching and teaching about holiness. They thought that holiness was an unrealistic and unattainable ideal that often made people feel guilty, so they tried to make things easier for people by watering down holiness or throwing it out.

Author George Bernard Shaw is even more skeptical about holiness. He writes that Jesus “has not been a failure yet; for nobody has ever been sane enough to try his way.”

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP MARRIAGE GUIDANCE

Let’s not pour cold water on Christian ideals of love, happiness, and holiness. I am optimistic about Christianity, including Christian love and marriage. The saints have been extraordinarily loving, Christ-like persons. What’s more, we ordinary couples can become increasingly loving, Christ-like persons gradually over the years, with God’s help. Let’s set our sights optimistically on moral excellence instead of pessimistically on moral mediocrity; on the imitation of Christ instead of living like the rest of the world; on sanctity instead of “normalcy”; and on Christian hopefulness instead of a worldly skepticism. Let’s see what we can do, with the help of Jesus. Let’s not sell ourselves short, and let’s not sell Jesus short!

It may help to know that most of us couples are already on the right Christian marriage discipleship track that includes growth from romantic love to needs love to a Christ-like transforming love. What’s more, many of us already understand reasonably well how to grow from romantic love to the needs love that many conventional marriage authorities tell us about. We might not understand as well, however, how to grow farther to the Christ-like transforming love that Jesus and many saints and spiritual reformers tell us about. That’s where this marriage guide comes in. This guide supplements, enhances, and sometimes corrects today’s conventional marriage guidance in order to help couples grow not only from romantic love to needs love, but also from needs love to a Christ-like transforming love. We couples do not hear nearly enough these days about growth from needs love to transforming love.

This guide’s Christian growth-centered marriage guidance improves upon today’s conventional problem-centered marriage guidance. Many marriage authorities today advise us couples to negotiate and use other communication and relationship skills in order to deal with marital problems and differences effectively. We could use these skills to deal with marital problems and differences, however, without necessarily growing in love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. Suppose that a couple disagreed about partying and shopping. Suppose that the husband wanted to party more often with his single male and female friends on weekends, and his wife wanted to borrow more money for shopping. The partying husband and shopping wife might negotiate an agreement that the husband could party more often on weekends and his wife could borrow more money for shopping. The husband and wife might be happy with their negotiations, but they would not necessarily be growing in love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. Who knows, the wife might become a shopaholic, and her husband might commit adultery.

This guide’s Christian growth-centered marriage guidance includes practical problem-centered guidance too. We will explore growth in love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues in the practical context of dealing with marital problems and differences. Growing in these virtues is often the best way to deal with marital problems and differences over the long haul. Loving, wise, Christ-like couples usually deal with marital problems and differences better than unloving, foolish, un-Christ-like couples do!

INTEGRATING HAPPINESS & HOLINESS

This guide’s Christian marriage guidance is not only growth-centered, but also educational. The word “disciple” means student. We Christian couples are students of Jesus. We need to learn from Jesus about Christian marriage discipleship, including how to integrate happiness and holiness in our marriage and family life.

It may not be easy to learn from Jesus how to integrate happiness and holiness. Some philosophers, psychologists, and other authorities these days insist that happiness and holiness often conflict, so we human beings cannot be completely happy and completely holy at the same time. Jesus and many saints and spiritual reformers, however, tell us couples that we can integrate happiness and holiness. Holiness can be our happiness! An Old Testament psalmist prays, “Happy are those who dwell in your house” and “Happy are those who find refuge in you” (Ps. 84:5–6—NAB; see Matt. 5:1–12; John 15:11; 2 Cor. 1:24). Jesus teaches that the poor in spirit, the gentle, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the pure in heart are blessed (Matt. 5:3–9), and many Christians have identified this blessedness with happiness, and rightly so—-as we will see throughout this guide.

This guide recovers the teachings of Jesus and many saints and spiritual reformers that true happiness consists of holiness. To recover, defend, and promote this holy Christian happiness--together with a Christian philosophy of life, virtue ethic, and marital spirituality in general—-this guide draws not only from the Bible and other Christian classics, but also from many popular and scholarly sources in spirituality, theology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, literature, and other areas. We couples need wise hearts as well as loving hearts in order to understand and follow the holy Christian Way to be happily married in our Psychological Society and Divorce Culture.

ECUMENICAL CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE GUIDANCE

This guide’s Christian marriage guidance is also ecumenical. Many of us Christians need ecumenical Christian marriage guidance for the religiously and culturally mixed marriages in our pluralistic and multicultural American society. Journalist Jill Smolowe writes that America has produced “the greatest variety of hybrid households in the history of the world.” She notes that if “the daughter of Japanese and Filipino parents marries the son of German and Irish immigrants, together they may beget a Japanese-Filipino-German-Irish-Buddhist-Catholic-American child.”

We Christians can dialogue with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other people to develop common ideals of love, wisdom, and other virtues that can strengthen our marriages and families. Pope Paul VI writes that we Catholics want to join with various non-Christian religions in “promoting and defending common ideals in the spheres of religious liberty, human brotherhood, education, culture, social welfare, and civic order.”

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

It is important for you the readers to apply your understanding of Christian marriage discipleship in general to your own marriage and family life in particular. You can do this informally as you read this guide, or you can do this more systematically by using the “Christian Marriage Discipleship Check-Up Worksheet” in Appendix A at the end of the guide. The worksheet can help you check your Christian marriage discipleship, much as you might check your finances and health.

The worksheet has ten questions about your relationship with your partner on the following ten important aspects of marriage and family life: 1) communication; 2) money; 3) friends and relatives; 4) personality; 5) gender, cultural, and religious differences; 6) sex and intimacy; 7) housework and other family work; 8) education and careers; 9) prayer, worship, and other religious activities; and 10) parenting.

Completing the worksheet could help you and your partner determine where you are following Jesus virtuously now in your marriage and family life, and where you could follow Jesus more virtuously in the future. You and your partner could get ideas for dealing with specific marital problems and differences with love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. You could complete the worksheet now and/​or later after you have read more of the guide or the whole guide.

There are also discussion questions in Appendix B for use in marriage enrichment workshops, Bible study classes, marriage and family classes, and other groups that deal with marriage, Christian discipleship, Christian spirituality, or other related areas.

This guide’s Biblical references are to the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) unless otherwise noted: NRSV (New Revised Standard Version); REB (Revised English Bible); NAB (New American Bible).

CONCLUSION

The Christian Way for us couples to be happily married is to follow Jesus with love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues during our ordinary marriage and family activities. This virtuous Christian Way to be happily married is timely as well as timeless, for there has been a revival of virtue ethics in recent decades. The time is right for more emphasis upon Christian virtues in our marriage guidance. The time is right for marriage authorities to catch up with many of us couples who have always known that we could strengthen our marriages and families with good, old-fashioned Christian virtues. Some of the virtuous ingredients in popular “recipes” for a happy marriage are 3 cups of love, 2 cups of kindness, 1 cup of courtesy, 4 spoonfuls of hope, 1 pint of faith, and generous portions of patience, respect, and other Christian virtues . . . .

This guide offers Christian marriage guidance for those of you Catholics and other Christians—-and non-Christians too—-who would like to follow Jesus in your marriage and family life in the authentic Biblical sense of becoming more and more like Jesus in your moral character and conduct, with love, wisdom, and other Christian virtues. The best thing that you can do for yourself, for your partner, and for your marriage is to follow Jesus in this virtuous Christian way!

Many of you Christian couples may already be following Jesus with the support of fellow Christians in Bible study classes, prayer groups, lay religious orders, and other groups concerned with Christian discipleship in general. This guide can help you apply your Biblical, prayerful Christian discipleship in general to your marriage and family life in particular. This guide can help you strengthen your Christian marriage discipleship.

This guide often addresses married couples, but it is meant for you engaged couples too. The best way to prepare for your marriage is to begin following Jesus now before you marry so you can continue following Jesus after you marry, beginning on the first day of your married life—before it is too late!

We Christian couples can picture our Christian marriage discipleship (or “engagement discipleship”) as a mental, emotional, and spiritual journey with Jesus through a Garden of Love in our soul. The Calvinist revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) compares a soul that is holy to a garden with beautiful flowers: “Holiness [. . .] made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers; that is all pleasant, delightful, and undisturbed; enjoying a sweet calm, and the gently vivifying beams of the sun.”

It does not matter where we begin our journey with Jesus through the Garden of Love in our soul. We may begin mostly with romantic love, mostly with needs love, mostly with transforming love, or with some combination of these. It matters only that we set out upon this journey. Jesus teaches, “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Yes, we couples can live happily ever after in our Psychological Society and Divorce Culture, even if we fall in love with a dimple and marry the whole person. We just need to follow Jesus along the Christian Way to happiness and holiness in marriage and family life.

PART II:
The Christian Way for Bill and Maria to be Happily Married
during Their Vacation in San Diego


This example of Bill's and Maria's secular happiness compared to a virtuous Christian happiness is taken from The Chrisitan Way to be Happily Married (pp. 22-26).

Let's compare the conventional way that Bill and Maria try to be happy during their vacation in San Diego with the Christian Way that they should try to be happy. We will find that Bill and Maria would be much happier during their San Diego vacation if they followed the Christian Way to be happily married centered on God and virtue instead of the Conventional Way to be happily married focused on worldly goods.

Bill desires to jet-ski with Maria in Mission Bay on the first day of their vacation in order to be conventionally happy, but Maria wants to visit the San Diego Museum of Art with Bill instead. Maria complains, “You have such harebrained ideas. You’re no spring chicken. Why don’t you act your age?” Bill counterattacks, “You have no sense of adventure. You’re such a bore.”

Bill and Maria are seeking a Conventional Happiness centered around jet-skiing, art-museum visits, and other worldly goods more than a Christian Happiness centered around God and virtue.

It might seem that we couples could turn to worldly goods and to God and virtue as the two main sources of our happiness. No such luck! Jesus does not let us take this easy way out. Jesus calls us to put him first as the one main source of our happiness. Jesus explains: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [worldly goods]” (Matt. 6:24—NAB).

St. Paul writes likewise to the Roman Christians that they cannot serve two masters. Paul explains that they are slaves of God, so they cannot be slaves of sin too: "You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness" (Rom. 6:16–18).

Christian spiritual advisor Henry Foster (1821–1901) teaches likewise that we Christians “cannot afford to be double minded, to have a little of the Spirit of Christ and a little of the spirit of the world.” St. Augustine says that “Christ is not valued at all unless he be valued above all.”

BILL’S & MARIA’S SELFISHNESS

Most of us couples have some of the spirit of Christ, but we may have some of the spirit of the world too. Let’s describe the spirit of the world in terms of selfishness, as Jesus, saints, and spiritual reformers often do. Bill and Maria fight selfishly about the jet-skiing and the art-museum visit. In what sense are they being selfish?

It might seem that Bill and Maria are being selfish in the sense of putting their individual interests and desires ahead of their partner’s interests and desires. Bill puts his jet-skiing interests ahead of Maria’s art-museum interests, and Maria likewise puts her interests ahead of Bill’s interests.

Some Christians have characterized selfishness largely in these terms of putting our interests ahead of other people’s interests, but I do not characterize selfishness mostly in this way. Suppose that selfishness was mostly putting our interests ahead of other people’s interests. Then it seems that we would often need to sacrifice our interests in order to act unselfishly. But maybe we should not sacrifice our interests as often as we might think. The more we sacrifice our interests, the more we might help other people get their way, and then we might contribute to their selfishness. We might become permissive doormats, letting people step all over us.

Some psychologists and other authorities today warn us not to sacrifice our interests too much. Psychologists Rachael and Richard Heller encourage us to pursue our interests assertively with a “healthy” selfishness in order to develop our individual identity. They warn us not to sacrifice our interests so much that we do not know who we really are. They warn us not to identify ourselves mostly as someone else’s son, daughter, husband, wife, and so on.

This “healthy selfishness” is promoted daily in American newspapers, magazines, television programs, and other sources. Here are a few examples from magazine articles and news reports: “Why Selfish is Good” (The Vauxhall magazine, Autumn, 2004); “Selfishness: A Good Trait for Soccer Star” (Plain Dealer, January 15, 2005); and “Hudson Institute Defends U.S. Selfishness” (U.S. Abroad.org News, January 7, 2005).

The Hellers and many other authorities today do distinguish appropriately between a supposedly healthy selfishness and a clearly unhealthy, self-indulgent selfishness. And these authorities do make some good points. But they give selfishness too much of a good name. Selfishness, properly understood, is a negative, unhealthy character trait, not a positive, healthy one. To understand why this is so, let’s characterize selfishness not only in terms of our relationship with other people, but also in terms of our relationship with God. Selfishness involves above all putting our interests and our will ahead of God’s interests and God’s will—-not just ahead of our neighbor’s interests and our neighbor’s will. After all, our neighbor’s interests are sometimes unwise, and our neighbor’s will is sometimes unloving. We should not necessarily put our neighbor’s interests and will ahead of our own.

Maria should not necessarily put Bill’s jet-skiing interests ahead of her art-museum interests in order to act “unselfishly.” Bill’s interest in pressuring Maria to jet-ski with him is unwise and unloving.

Maria, Bill, and all the rest of us Christian couples should always put God’s interests and God’s will ahead of our interests and our will. God’s interests are always wise, and God’s will is always loving. God wants all of us Christian couples to respond to our partner lovingly and follow Jesus virtuously, and we should want these things too. These are our true Christian interests, and we should always put them first.

Bill and Maria do not put their true Christian interests in God and virtue first, ahead of their jet-skiing and art-museum interests. That’s why they are acting selfishly.

I will ordinarily use the word “selfishness” in this sense of putting our misguided interests, desires, and will for worldly goods ahead of God’s will that we follow Jesus virtuously.

Selfishness is not always sinfulness. With sinfulness, we know that we are being sinful, but we choose to be sinful anyway, with a free choice. We are morally responsible for our sinfulness.

With selfishness, on the other hand, we might not always know that we are being selfish, and we might not always choose to be selfish, with a free choice. Some of us might have been shaped morally during our childhood by such things as misguided parents and what some scholars call an American Culture of Narcissism, so we might be pretty selfish without realizing it. Then we might not be morally responsible for our selfishness. We would be morally responsible, however, for trying to identify and overcome any selfishness that we might have, with the help of Jesus.

In this guide, let’s deal with selfishness more than sinfulness. Bill and Maria are selfish, but they are not necessarily sinful in the sense of being morally responsible for their selfishness. Let’s leave judgments about people’s sinfulness to God.

Bill and Maria might not realize that they are being selfish when they put their jet-skiing and art-museum interests ahead of God and virtue. After all, the jet-skiing and the art-museum visit that they desire are not bad things, and they desire these things for seemingly good reasons. Bill was neglected by his parents during his childhood, so he has low self-esteem. He wants to jet-ski and engage in other adventurous activities in order to bolster his low self-esteem and be happy. He takes pride in himself as an adventurous person.

Maria also has low self-esteem. She wants to visit art museums and engage in other educational activities in order to feel good about herself and be happy. She takes pride in herself as an educated person.

Bill and Maria need to deal with their low self-esteem, but they need to deal with their selfishness too. What’s more, dealing with their selfishness could help them build their self-esteem. Suppose that they stopped fighting and started responding to one another more lovingly. Then they could feel better about themselves as more loving, Christ-like persons.

CONCLUSION

We Christian couples are called to seek a Christian Happiness centered around God and virtue instead of a Conventional Happiness centered around worldly goods. Bill and Maria would be much better off during their vacation in San Diego if they sought a Christian Happiness instead of a Conventional Happiness. To seek the Christian Happiness, they would let go of their selfish jet-skiing and art-museum desires in order to be happy responding to one another lovingly and following Jesus virtuously, with or without the jet-skiing and the art-museum visit. In other words, they would put away their old self "corrupted through deceitful desires" and put on a new self "created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth," as Paul the Apostle puts it (Eph. 4:22-24), Then they would discuss their jet-skiing and art-museum interests lovingly without being anxious about getting their way. What would they decide to do? It would not matter, as long as they responded lovingly to one another in some reasonable way. They might decide to shop together on the first day of their vacation, to go their separate jet-skiing and art-museum ways on the second day, and to sunbathe together on the third day. They could still do most of the things they enjoyed doing, including jet-skiing and visiting the art museum. They would probably enjoy these things more without the fighting.

Bill, Maria, and all the rest of us couples would lose little and gain a lot by seeking a Christian Happiness instead of a Conventional Happiness.


Part III:
Marriage as a Christian Calling to Holiness in a Secular American Society:
A Catholic Virtue Approach to Marriage
Recovered from Jesus, Christian Saints, & Pope John Paul II


Outline of Contents of Part III. The endnotes for this Part III are available upon request ("Contact Us").

1. The Secularization of Marriage as a Christian Calling to Holiness

2. A Secular Conventional Happiness Compared to a Christian Virtuous Happiness

3. Secular Self-Controlled Virtues Compared to Christian Transforming Virtues

4. Secular Morally-Neutral Emotions Compared to Christian Virtuous Emotions

5. A Renewal of the Christian Moral Foundation for Marriage as a Christian Calling to Holiness

6. A Proposal to Develop & Promote a Catholic Virtue Approach to Marriage in Catholic Parishes, Diocesan Centers, Counseling Services, Spirituality Centers, K-12 Schools, & Colleges & Universities

Secularization text is found here.

1. THE SECULARIZATION OF MARRIAGE AS A CHRISTIAN CALLING TO HOLINESS

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) identifies the Catholic vocation of marriage as a Christian calling to holiness in Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009). The bishops characterize holiness not only in the basic sense of couples experiencing the free gift of God's grace, but also in Pope John Paul II's deep New-Evangelization, imitation-of-Christ sense of couples becoming increasingly loving, virtuous, Christ-like persons and thereby witnessing Jesus in their marriage and family life. John Paul teaches that all Catholics are called to "be imitators of God . . . and walk in love as Christ loved us." John Paul writes that it is the duty of lay Catholics to make their daily conduct "a shining and convincing testimony to the Gospel." The bishops write likewise that couples are called to love their spouse and God "ever more perfectly . . . as Christ loves his Church." The bishops call couples to follow Jesus with faith, hope, love, gratitude, chastity, and other virtues in a loving Christian marriage discipleship. I call this a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness. I could call this also a Catholic New-Evangelization approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness.

Marriage as a Christian calling to holiness has been weakened in recent decades by the materialism, moral relativism, subjective individualism, and, in general, the secularism of the Western world, including American society. I use the word "secularism" in the sense of a pluralistic society with no one ideal type of behavior, a movement away from traditional Christian beliefs and values, and secular ethical systems that exclude theology and religion.

We Catholics can combat secularism and strengthen marriage with a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness. We can recover this Catholic virtue approach to marriage from Jesus, above all, and from St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Pope John Paul II, and other Catholic authorities on the moral and spiritual life. Jesus and these Catholic authorities are experts on Christian virtues, evangelization, and holiness, including holiness in marriage and family life. Social and behavioral scientists with their secular, "scientific" marriage guidance are not experts on Christian virtues, evangelization, and holiness in marriage and family life.

Certainly we Catholics rightly draw extensively from social and behavioral scientists for our marriage guidance. These scientists help many couples with an emphasis on communication skills, relationship skills, cognitive therapy, and other "scientific" marriage guidance. But we need to supplement, enhance, and sometimes correct today's "scientific" marriage guidance with more Catholic virtue-centered, New-Evangelization marriage guidance in order to help Christian couples pursue their "new" Christian marriage calling to holiness.

Most Catholic marriage authorities offer some virtuous, New-Evangelization marriage guidance. But not enough. Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), the largest Christian marriage enrichment program in the world, offers a secular, "scientific" communications approach to marriage, for the most part, without dealing adequately with Christian virtues, the New Evangelization, and holiness. The WWME website page titled "What is Worldwide Marriage Encounter?" emphasizes that WWME offers a "technique of loving communication that . . . [couples] can use for the rest of their lives . . . It's a time to share their feelings, hopes, and dreams with each other. The emphasis . . . is on the communication between husbands and wives." This WWME website identification page does not mention Christian virtues, the New Evangelization, or holiness.

Many secular and Christian marriage enrichment programs listed in USCCB's For Your Marriage website emphasize "scientific" communication and relationship skills without dealing adequately with Christian virtues, the New Evangelization, and holiness. Most of the nine "general" marriage enrichment programs listed in the website and some of the twelve "faith-based" programs offer communications marriage guidance or other "scientific" marriage guidance without dealing adequately with Christian virtues, the New Evangelization, and holiness.

We Catholics need to combat secularism not only in our American society in general, but also in our Catholic Church in particular, including our marriage programs. Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia emphasized at a recent symposium for American Catholic bishops and young Catholic theologians that the "internal" secularization of the Catholic Church in the United States is a major obstacle to the New Evangelization in Catholic life --and this would include Catholic marriage and family life. John Paul II observed in Veritatis Splendor (1993) that there was within the Catholic Church "an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine."

The internal secularization of the Catholic Church in the United States in modern times has been well documented by Catholic and non-Catholic authors, such as Ralph Martin in A Crisis of Truth: The Attack on Faith, Morality, and Mission in the Catholic Church (1982); Barbara Whitehead in The Divorce Culture (1997); and the Cardinal Newman Society in their publications. For an example of the secularization of Catholic marriage guidance, the Catholic theology professor Michael Lawler supported pre-marital sex and living together in an article published in the U.S. Catholic in June, 2007, when he was the Director of the Center for Marriage and the Family at Creighton University.

The Secularization of Christian Holiness

The secularization of marriage as a Christian calling to holiness includes the secularization of Christian holiness itself. Most Catholic marriage authorities do teach that marriage is a Christian calling to holiness, but some of them pass over holiness without saying enough about it. Others characterize holiness not only in Christian terms of God and virtue, but also in secular mental-health terms that sometimes water down or undermine holiness. The secularized "holiness" includes such things as 1) a "scientific" conventional happiness instead of a virtuous Christian "happiness in the Lord" (James 4:4)(No. 2 below); 2) weak modern self -controlled "virtues" instead of powerful Christian transforming virtues (No. 3 below); 3) morally-neutral emotions, including "healthy" anger, instead of virtuous emotions, including sinful anger (No. 4 below); and 4) a secular ethic with morally-relative conduct instead of a teleological Catholic virtue ethic with objectively-virtuous conduct. Let's look first at the secularized "happiness" compared to the Christian happiness.

Happiness text is found here.

2. A SECULAR CONVENTIONAL HAPPINESS COMPARED TO A CHRISTIAN VIRTUOUS HAPPINESS

The U.S. Catholic bishops identify marriage as a Christian calling to holiness in their pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. But with this emphasis on holiness, what happens to happiness? The bishops use the word "happiness" only a few times in minor ways in their pastoral letter. But Christian couples want to be happy, and rightly so. Thomas Aquinas holds that all human beings desire happiness. But what is happiness? How does happiness relate to holiness? And how can Christian couples be happy in a holy Christian marriage?

There are countless theories about happiness. Let's compare a secular conventional happiness centered on created goods ("Conventional Happiness") to a holy Christian happiness centered on God and virtue (I call this "Christian Happiness" to distinguish it from the Conventional Happiness). Let's look at the Conventional Happiness first.

The Christian Holiness Problem with Conventional Happiness

Many psychologists, sociologists, and other social and behavioral scientists define happiness as a subjective mental and emotional state of well-being that consists of being satisfied with one's life mentally and feeling good emotionally with pleasant or positive emotions and an absence of unpleasant or negative emotions. To be conventionally happy, couples often try to satisfy their desires for certain worldly material and immaterial goods ("created goods") that they think will satisfy and please them.

There is a serious Christian Holiness Problem, however, with this Conventional Happiness. Suppose a Christian husband was satisfied with his life mentally and felt good emotionally during an extra-marital affair. Then he would be conventionally happy even though he would not be following Jesus virtuously. But could he be truly happy without following Jesus virtuously? And could Christian couples be truly happy without God and virtue?

Not by a long shot! Christian couples need God to be happy, and they need to follow Jesus with love, faith, and other Christian virtues. But God and virtue are missing or put on the back burners in today's Conventional Happiness. What's more, Conventional Happiness often conflicts with holiness and holds Christian couples back in their Christian marriage discipleship. I call this the Christian Holiness Problem with Conventional Happiness.

The Conventional Happiness of a Catholic husband, Garrett, conflicts with holiness and holds him back in his Christian marriage calling to holiness. Garrett is a financial advisor who works full-time as the sole provider for his wife and their three young children. Garrett has a second job on weekends to save money to buy a new Porsche convertible. He also plays golf four times a week to reduce stress, spend time with his friends, and develop his God-given golfing talent. He is so busy with his two jobs and golfing, however, that he spends only about four hours a week with his children, so his conventional golfing/​Porsche-convertible happiness prevents him from caring for his children more responsibly and following Jesus more virtuously. This is the Christian Holiness Problem with Garrett's Conventional Happiness.

The Subjectivity of Conventional Happiness

It might seem that Garrett could give up his golfing and/​or his second job, spend more time with his children, and be conventionally happy. Maybe. But maybe not. Garrett might insist that he needed the golfing and the Porsche to be happy. Then he would need the golfing and the Porsche to be happy because this Conventional Happiness is subjective. We decide for ourselves, subjectively, what makes us happy. Philosopher Rosalind Hursthouse observes that most philosophers today and most other people believe that happiness is subjective, so "if I think I am happy, then I am--it is not something I can be wrong about."

Garrett's conventional golfing/​Porsche-convertible happiness tempts him, seduces him, and prevents him from caring for his children more responsibly and following Jesus more virtuously. There is indeed a Christian Holiness Problem with this subjective, "scientific," feel-good Conventional Happiness. This Conventional Happiness is a major threat to Christian marriage that is not dealt with adequately in a good deal of today's Christian marriage guidance.

Christian marriage authorities should help couples deal with the Christian Holiness Problem with Conventional Happiness. But how can couples deal with this problem?

Sacrificing Conventional Happiness for Holiness

Many Christian marriage authorities accept today's definition of a subjective, feel-good Conventional Happiness, for the most part, and they agree that this happiness sometimes does conflict with holiness. So what is their solution to the Christian Holiness Problem with Conventional Happiness?

Many Christian marriage authorities say that holiness trumps happiness. Christian couples should sacrifice their happiness, if necessary, to follow Jesus virtuously. Some couples in troubled marriages should stay together for the sake of their children and for the good of society even if they would sacrifice their personal happiness by doing so. Christian author Gary Thomas writes that God designed marriage to make couples holy more than to make them happy. Maybe Thomas read Rev. E. J. Hardy's 1886 Christian marriage guide, How to be Happy Though Married!

Many Christian couples struggle at times with Conventional Happiness/​Christian Holiness conflict. They struggle with Conventional-Happiness desires for such things as adulterous friendships, irresponsible golfing, keeping up with the Joneses, perfectly clean houses, or other created goods that do or could conflict with holiness. But must couples struggle with Conventional Happiness/​Christian Holiness conflict? Must they sacrifice their happiness at times to follow Jesus virtuously? Did Jesus design marriage to make couples holy more than to make them happy?

Definitely not, for all three questions. God designed marriage to make couples holy and happy too. But couples need to seek the right kind of happiness. They need to reject today's secular, subjective, feel-good Conventional Happiness that often conflicts with holiness. They need to seek a true Christian "happiness in the Lord" (James 4:4) that does not conflict with holiness. This Christian Happiness strengthens marriage as a Christian calling to holiness instead of weakening marriage. Let's see what this Christian Happiness is like.

Christian Happiness

Christian couples are called to seek a true Christian happiness instead of a secular Conventional Happiness. But what is true happiness, according to Jesus and many saints, theologians, popes, and other Catholics?

Let's use the word "happiness" in the ancient Greek philosophical sense and the traditional Christian philosophical and theological sense of the highest good that fulfills every human being. This highest good is God, so happiness is God, and our personal happiness is our personal experience of God, including a personal communion with Jesus. Thomas Aquinas teaches that God alone can satisfy the will of man, so "God alone constitutes man's happiness." John Paul II and The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teach that God alone is perfect happiness.

Aquinas distinguishes between a perfect eternal happiness and an imperfect happiness in this life. Aquinas identifies the temporal happiness with being virtuous (active and contemplative virtue) and being imperfectly united with God in this life.

Jesus likewise identifies temporal happiness with being virtuous and being imperfectly united with God. Jesus tells the woman in the crowd that "those who hear the word of God and keep it" are happy (Luke 11:27-28). Jesus teaches in the beatitudes that the poor in spirit are happy, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and the gentle, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers are happy too. This temporal happiness, in short, includes being virtuous.

The Greek word for happiness in the New Testament, "makarios," originally meant good fortune, but in the New Testament, including the beatitudes, "makarios" means a blessed happiness, or, in other words, a virtuous happiness. Paul and Peter refer to this virtuous Christian Happiness (Phil. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8).

Jesus teaches that temporal happiness includes not only being virtuous, but also being united with God. But how are we united with God in this life?

Being United with God

We are united with God with Christian virtues, especially the theological virtue of love. Jesus teaches, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). John the Apostle teaches that love and faith unite us with God: "His [God's] commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to. Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him" (1 John 3:23). John of the Cross teaches that "only" the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (love) can unite us with God in this life.

Why does John of the Cross say that "only" faith, hope, and love can unite us with God in this life? Can't God's grace unite us with God, including grace received not only in the virtues, but also in the sacraments, prayer, good works, and other activities?

Yes, God's grace can and does unite us with God in the sacraments, prayer, good works, and other activities. But there are different types and degrees of union with God. There is a natural union with God, for example, insofar as God is the source and sustainer of our human life (Acts 17:28). There is an ordinary union with God with grace that we receive with the sacraments and other activities. There is a saintly union with God with a Christ-like love and other Christian virtues that include grace. There is a mystical union with God with a Christ-like love, other Christian virtues, and extraordinary mystical experiences too.

The grace received in the sacraments and other activities does not necessarily unite us with God in the deep, saintly, imitation-of-Christ sense of being extraordinarily loving, virtuous, Christ-like persons. Some church-going Catholics attend Mass regularly and receive God's grace regularly in the sacrament of the Eucharist without necessarily being united with God in the deep, saintly sense of being extraordinarily loving, virtuous, Christ-like saints or mystics. Many Catholic authorities on the moral and spiritual life teach that the reception of grace in the sacraments, prayer, and other activities ordinarily needs to be accompanied with an extraordinarily loving, faithful, virtuous internal conversion to God in order for us to experience a saintly or mystical union with God.

A Definition of Christian Happiness

Let's define Christian Happiness in this life that consists of being virtuous and being united with God. This temporal Christian Happiness is an inner mental, emotional, and spiritual state of being a loving, faithful, hopeful, and otherwise virtuous, Christ-like person in our moral character and conduct, and thereby being united with God imperfectly in this life and then eternally. Temporal Christian Happiness, in short, consists of God and virtue.

It might seem that Christian couples could turn both to God and virtue and to golfing and other created goods equally as the two main sources of their happiness. But Jesus does not let couples take this easy way out. God is the one primary, ultimate source of happiness in this life and eternally. Jesus teaches, "No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). Augustine writes that "Christ is not valued at all unless he be valued above all." John of the Cross teaches that we need to let go of selfish desires for created goods in order to be happy following Jesus virtuously, with or without the created goods. We need to put God first for our happiness, ahead of golfing, friendships, and other created goods. The golfing, friendships, and other created goods could lead us to God for our happiness but, then again, they could lead us away from God. God comes first.

It might seem that Christian Happiness would include pleasant emotions in addition to God and virtue. In fact, pleasant emotions usually do come with Christian Happiness. I call this a Joyful Christian Happiness. But pleasant emotions do not necessarily come with Christian Happiness all the time. Virtuously-happy couples might not always experience pleasant emotions with an absence of unpleasant emotions. These couples might experience sorrow or other unpleasant emotions at times if they dealt with hardships, such as an unfaithful spouse or a son or daughter with cancer. Thomas Aquinas teaches that it is reasonable to be sorrowful in the face of evil. I call this virtuous Christian Happiness along the Way of the Cross a Basic Christian Happiness.

The essence of Christian Happiness in this life is being virtuous and being united with God, with or without pleasant emotions. Aquinas explains that inner peace and joy ("delight") are often the result of happiness, but they are not the essence of happiness. Ordinarily, though, Christian Happiness comes with inner peace, joy, and other pleasant emotions. This joyful Christian Happiness is more joyful than Conventional Happiness, as discussed below.

What else consists of being virtuous and being united with God, in addition to happiness? Holiness. Christian holiness and Christian Happiness are the same thing, according to Aquinas and many other great thinkers, as Catholic theologian William Mattison III points out. There is no Christian Holiness Problem with this virtuous Christian Happiness. Holiness is our happiness! Our happiness consists of being loving, virtuous, Christ-like persons, and thereby being united with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit imperfectly in this life and then eternally.

Christian couples can be happily united with God in this life with faith, hope, love, and other virtues during their ordinary marriage and family activities without needing extraordinary mystical experiences too, according to John of the Cross. John writes in a letter to a friend: "What do you think serving God involves other than avoiding evil, keeping His commandments, and being occupied with the things of God as best we can? When this is had, what need is there of other [supernatural] apprehensions or other lights and satisfactions . . . What need is there . . . other than to walk along the level road of the law of God and of the Church and live only in dark and true faith and certain hope and complete charity, expecting all our blessings in heaven . . . hoping for everything in heaven?"

A Practical Christian Marital Spirituality

Christian couples can be happily united with God in this life without needing extraordinary mystical experiences. Christian couples do not even need to be conscious of God's presence. Mother Teresa was not conscious of God's presence from age 49 or 50 until she passed away at age 87. Couples just need to follow Jesus with love, faith, and other Christian virtues and gifts in order to be happily united with God.

Here is a practical Christian marital spirituality for busy Christian couples! Couples do not need time for religious retreats every weekend in order to be happily united with God. Certainly religious retreats are ordinarily tremendously helpful. But couples can be happily united with God during their ordinary marriage and family activities when they do such things as getting up at 2 a.m. to feed the baby for the third time that night--and when they do these things lovingly without griping and grumbling.

Seeking a Christian Happiness instead of a Conventional Happiness

Some Christians do not agree that temporal Christian Happiness consists of being virtuous and being united with God, as discussed above. A college student told her instructor, "I'm a Catholic. So the meaning of life for me is just to enjoy ourselves."

Christian couples need to understand the Christian meaning of life, or, in other words, the Christian meaning of happiness and holiness. Some Catholic marriage authorities, however, discuss happiness in secular, subjective terms of life-satisfaction and pleasant emotions more than in Christian terms of God and virtue. I selected randomly a half dozen Catholic marriage guides, and they all used the word "happiness" or dealt with happiness largely in conventional terms of life-satisfaction and pleasant emotions.

Catholic marriage authorities and other Catholics should not put up a Happiness White Flag and surrender the definition and control of the word "happiness" to secular authorities in psychology, philosophy, and other disciplines. The desire to be happy is a powerful motivator for married couples, so it is important to motivate them to seek a virtuous Christian Happiness instead of a secular, "scientific" Conventional Happiness. Many Christian couples, however, seek a Conventional Happiness more intensely than a Christian Happiness partly because they hear so much more about the Conventional Happiness. They learn about today's conventional "new science of happiness" from self-help books; public and private schools, including psychology classes on happiness; magazine articles, such as Time magazine's "The New Science of Happiness"; academic journals, such as the Journal of Happiness Studies; television programs, such as "The Mystery of Happiness"; and many other sources. Catholic marriage authorities should provide couples with an alternative Christian Happiness that couples could seek instead of the Conventional Happiness that is a major threat to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness in a secular American society.

Seeking a Christian Happiness would help Christian couples tremendously in their marriage and family life. Suppose a Christian husband and wife were strongly motivated to be virtuously happy instead of conventionally happy when they dealt with disagreements about the family budget, housework, career plans, or other aspects of their marriage and family life. Then they would be strongly motivated to love one another and treat one another well when they dealt with their differences. They would deal with their differences unselfishly and lovingly without fighting about them selfishly and unlovingly.

The Superiority of Christian Happiness over Conventional Happiness

It might seem that Christian couples would have to give up created goods too much if they sought a Christian Happiness centered on God and virtue instead of a Conventional Happiness centered on couples satisfying and pleasing themselves with created goods. But ordinarily couples could pursue, possess, and enjoy created goods as long as this did not prevent them from following Jesus virtuously. John of the Cross points out that it is our selfish desires for created goods that often frustrate us, upset us, and prevent us from following Jesus virtuously; it is not the created goods themselves. Both virtuously-happy couples and conventionally-happy couples may possess and enjoy created goods.

As a matter of fact, virtuously-happy couples often enjoy created goods even more than conventionally-happy couples do! Why? Partly because virtuously-happy couples ordinarily enjoy created goods unselfishly, non-possessively, and peacefully. Conventionally-happy couples, on the other hand, often enjoy created goods selfishly, possessively, and stressfully.

John of the Cross distinguishes between a selfish possessive joy and an unselfish non-possessive joy. With possessive joy, conventionally-happy couples would selfishly desire, demand, and depend upon certain created goods for their Conventional Happiness, so they would pursue these created goods anxiously at times. If they did not get these goods, they would probably be frustrated, angry, disappointed, or otherwise upset. Even if they did get these goods, they might be afraid of losing them, or they might just get bored with them. So their anxiety, frustration, anger, fear, boredom, and other mental and emotional distress would make it hard for them to enjoy created goods. As an old American proverb says, "He who lives in desire or fear can never enjoy his possessions." Philosopher Eric Hoffer observes that the desirous pursuit of created goods in order to be conventionally happy is one of the main sources of unhappiness.

Virtuously-happy couples, on the other hand, ordinarily enjoy created goods unselfishly, non-possessively, and peacefully. With non-possessive joy, these couples enjoy certain created goods that interest and please them, but they do not selfishly desire, demand, and depend upon these particular created goods for their happiness. They are happy following Jesus virtuously without fuming, fretting, and flying off the handle if they cannot have everything that interests them. They ordinarily experience the inner peace and joy of Christ instead of the anxiety, frustration, fear, boredom, and other mental and emotional distress that sometimes come with a desirous pursuit of created goods.

Virtuously-happy couples put God first as the primary, ultimate source of their happiness, but ordinarily they still enjoy lots of created goods non-possessively as important secondary sources of their happiness. And these created goods are often tremendously satisfying and pleasing secondary sources of their happiness! So these couples ordinarily experience a Joyful Christian Happiness.

When all is said and done about happiness, Christian couples are called to seek a virtuous Christian Happiness instead of a secular, subjective, feel-good Conventional Happiness.

Virtues text is found here.

3. SECULAR SELF-CONTROLLED VIRTUES COMPARED TO CHRISTIAN TRANSFORMING
VIRTUES

Christian couples are called to seek a Christian Happiness centered on God and virtue (No. 2 above). To understand this virtuous Christian Happiness, Christian couples need to understand virtue itself, including the differences between weak modern self-controlled virtues and powerful Christian transforming virtues. Christian couples are called to follow Jesus with powerful Christian transforming virtues, not just weak self-controlled virtues.

Christian Transforming Virtues

According to Thomas Aquinas, a virtue is a good "habit," or "character trait," that makes us human beings good not only in our external conduct, but also in our inner character, including our emotions. With good conduct, we act reasonably and lovingly. With good character, including good emotions, we are reasonable, loving, and virtuous emotionally, with no selfish anger, envy, or other unreasonable, unloving emotions.

Secular Self-Controlled Virtues

Many secular marriage authorities and some Christian marriage authorities characterize virtue in modern self-controlled terms more than in traditional Christian transforming terms, so they do not offer a strong Catholic virtue approach to marriage even though they cover virtues in their marriage guidance. Catholic philosopher Robert Sokolowski observes that most modern philosophers have defined virtue largely in terms of self-control. He adds that today's self-controlled virtues are weak compared to ancient Greek and traditional Christian transforming virtues.

Self-controlled virtues enable us to control our conduct so that we act reasonably, but they do not completely transform our character, including our emotions. Suppose a husband was mad at his wife for forgetting to give him an important telephone message. With a self-controlled love for his wife, the husband would express his anger "constructively" and deal with the telephone problem "reasonably" in his external conduct. He would not yell at his wife destructively, for example, or bawl her out unreasonably. But he would still feel angry, at least for a while. He would not be loving his wife with a perfectly Christ-like love that is always patient and kind, with no selfish anger or other unloving, un-Christ-like emotions.

It is important for Christian couples to understand the differences not only between self-controlled virtues and transforming virtues in general, but also between the virtues of self-controlled needs love and Christian transforming love in particular. Some Christians in the past have called the transforming love a "gift love." Let's look at the needs love first, and then the transforming love.

Needs Love: A Self-Controlled Virtue

Needs love is a modern self-controlled virtue that enables couples to control their conduct without necessarily transforming their character completely, including their emotions. The needs lovers described in many secular and Christian marriage guides treat their partner reasonably even if they do not feel like doing so emotionally. Needs lovers feel angry, resentful, or otherwise unloving towards their partner at times, but they control the ways they act on their unloving feelings. They express their unloving emotions "constructively," for example, instead of expressing them destructively or repressing them. They do not, however, love their partner with a Christ-like transforming love that is always patient and kind, with no selfish anger, resentment, or other unloving, un-Christ-like emotions.

Suppose that a self-controlled needs lover, Michael, was mad at his wife, Hiroko, for joking and laughing with a handyman while the handyman was installing a dishwasher in their kitchen. And suppose Michael was also jealous. With a self-controlled needs love for Hiroko, Michael would not complain unreasonably about Hiroko's joking and laughing. But Michael would still feel angry and jealous even though he would realize that his feelings were unreasonable. Michael's self-controlled needs love for Hiroko might be admirable, but it would not be a Christ-like transforming love. What's more, it would not be a true virtue, according to Aquinas, following Aristotle.

The problem is that many marriage authorities promote needs love as a mature, "mentally healthy" love, and they warn couples not to strive "unrealistically" for a Christ-like transforming love.

Transforming love, however, is a true virtue and an ideal Christian love. This love transforms not only our conduct, but also our character, including our emotions, so our emotions are reasonable and loving. With a Christian transforming love for Hiroko, Michael would not feel mad at her, jealous, or otherwise unreasonable and unloving emotionally.

Christian couples are called to love their spouse and God with their whole heart, soul, and mind, including their emotions. Let's look more closely at the emotions, that is, the heart of Christian love.

Emotions text is found here.

4. SECULAR MORALLY-NEUTRAL EMOTIONS COMPARED TO CHRISTIAN VIRTUOUS EMOTIONS

Some secular and Christian marriage authorities reject or water down the Christian ideal of a Christ-like transforming love that is always patient and kind, with no unreasonable, unloving emotions. These marriage authorities say that we cannot control the ways that we feel emotionally, so we are not morally responsible for our emotions. We are often morally responsible for the ways that we act on our emotions, but not for the emotions themselves. The emotions themselves are morally neutral and morally permissible, and this includes anger, envy, and other negative emotions.

Morally-Permissible Anger

Many secular marriage authorities teach couples that emotions are morally neutral, so anger is morally permissible. The editors of the Ladies Home Journal write in their marriage guide that anger is a "normal, expected, and acceptable emotion," so we should give ourselves permission to be angry. Psychologists Melvyn Kinder and Connell Cowan write that marriage "can elicit the most intense feelings of anger, hatred, and even violence," so fighting is "a normal and inherent part [my italics]" of marriage.

Many secular marriage authorities maintain that anger is often healthy. They say that it is often healthy for couples to express anger "constructively" in order to resolve conflicts and reduce stress. According to an American Psychological Association report, mentally-healthy couples typically experience "healthy" anger a few times a week, often with some yelling.

Certainly it is better and "healthier" for couples to express their anger "constructively" instead of repressing their anger or expressing it destructively. But this "healthy" anger is not all it's cracked up to be. Suppose a couple's "healthy" anger lingered for the rest of the day and evening, and suppose the couple experienced also a few episodes of "acceptable" envy every week, and "normal" hatred, and other unloving, un-Christ-like emotions. That's a lot of unloving, un-Christ-like emotional turmoil throughout the week. That's not a deep, Christ-like holiness that comes with the inner peace and joy of Christ, as discussed in my article, "Moving Beyond 'Healthy' Anger," featured in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) For Your Marriage website.

Many Christian marriage authorities teach couples that anger and other negative, unloving emotions are morally permissible and sometimes healthy. The authors of a popular Catholic marriage preparation program write that anger is "neither good nor bad." The authors of a Catholic marriage enrichment program say that "feelings are neither right nor wrong until they are acted upon." The author of a feature article on "fair fighting" in USCCB's For Your Marriage website (July 9, 2011) writes that "anger is an emotion--neither right nor wrong in itself." The Marriage Alive "10 Great Dates" marriage enrichment program includes a video session titled "Using Anger in a Creative Way to Build Your Relationship." But why not build a holy marriage relationship with love, patience, forgiveness, and other virtues instead of building the relationship with anger?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that we can potentially control our emotions to some extent with our intellect and will, so our emotions can be good or bad. Augustine writes in the City of God that our emotions are morally good if our love is good, and our emotions are morally evil if our love is evil.

Christian Moral Responsibility for Emotions, including Anger

Jesus does not teach that anger is morally permissible and sometimes healthy. Jesus teaches that anger is ordinarily sinful, and that we are often morally responsible for anger and other negative emotions. Jesus says that "anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court" (Matt. 5:22). James writes in a Biblical letter that "human anger does not promote God's justice" (Jas. 1:20--REB). Thomas a Kempis writes in Of the Imitation of Christ that a person with true love and humility cannot feel angry at anyone." Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins in the Christian tradition.

Jesus calls Christian couples to holiness and happiness not only in their conduct, but also in their character, including their emotions. Jesus rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for cleaning the outside of the cup and dish and leaving the inside full of extortion and intemperance (Matt. 23-25). Jesus says that if our virtue "goes no deeper than the scribes and Pharisees," we will "never get into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt., 5:20). Joseph Roux observes in his Meditations of a Parish Priest that the chief cause of human misery is less the violence of our passions than the feebleness of our virtues.

Jesus teaches that it is not enough to refrain from committing adultery in our conduct with self-controlled virtues. Jesus teaches that "if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has already committed adultery in his heart" (Matt. 5:27-28).

Jesus teaches that it is not enough to refrain from committing murder in our conduct, with self-controlled virtue. Jesus says that "anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court" (Matt. 5:21-22), as noted above.

Catholic scholars Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri observe that in the above passages on lust and anger Jesus interiorizes the Old Covenant law so that the New Law applies to the heart and the head, including lustful and angry motives, thoughts, attitudes, and desires. Christian virtues include not only external acts of loving, forgiving, and the like, but also internal mental, emotional, and spiritual acts of loving, forgiving, and so on. Thomas Aquinas writes that "the kingdom of God consists chiefly in internal acts."

The Human Potential for Virtuous Emotions

It might seem that we human beings cannot always control our emotions, so we should not be morally responsible for them. A seven-year-old girl might not be able to help feeling afraid of the darkness in her bedroom. But she would still have the human potential to overcome her fear of the dark gradually over the years as she matured emotionally. Most of us mature emotionally as we grow from infancy to adulthood. We often overcome fears of the dark, temper tantrums, and other childish emotions. During our Terrible Twos some of us might have thrown temper tantrums if we had not been given Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries for breakfast, and we may not have been morally responsible for this. But we adults would often be morally responsible for childish temper tantrums like this.

How can Christian couples transform themselves emotionally, with God's help, and become even more reasonable, loving, Christ-like persons?

Thomas Aquinas holds that we can control our emotions to some extent with our intellect and will. Aquinas distinguishes between the involuntary, physical elements of our emotions, such as rapid breathing, and the voluntary, rational elements, such as feelings of jealousy. We cannot control the purely physical elements of our emotions directly with our reason and will, so ordinarily we are not morally responsible for these physical elements. We have the human potential, however, to control the voluntary, rational elements of our emotions directly with our intellect and will, with God's help, so we are often morally responsible for doing this. Aquinas declares that our emotions are "subject to the command of the reason and will."

Aquinas and many other Christian authorities on the moral and spiritual life have held for centuries that we have the potential to be virtuous emotionally. Aquinas teaches that our emotions are morally good to the extent that they are reasonable, and they are morally evil to the extent that they are unreasonable.

Becoming Reasonable & Loving Emotionally with Christian Wisdom & Love

Christian couples can transform the voluntary, rational elements of their emotions with their intellect and will, together with God's grace. With an increasingly wise intellect (the virtue of wisdom) and an increasingly loving will (the virtue of love), Christian couples can gradually transform themselves emotionally, with God's help. Suppose a wife was angry with her husband for forgetting to pick up a birthday cake for their son's birthday party. With Christian wisdom, the wife could reason wisely that she should not be mad at her husband. He did not do anything deliberately to upset or hurt her. He just forgot to pick up the birthday cake, and all of us forget things at times. What's more, getting mad at her husband would not do either one of them any good. As two old American proverbs say, anger usually punishes itself and profits nobody.

The wife discussed above could transform her emotions not only with Christian wisdom, but also with Christian love for her husband and for God. With love for God, she could desire and choose to do God's will by loving her husband with an increasingly Christ-like love. With love for her husband, she could treat him well without getting mad at him. Then the wife would be witnessing Jesus in her marriage and family in the New-Evangelization sense of making her daily conduct "a shining and convincing testimony to the Gospel," as John Paul II puts it.

Stages of Marriage

Jesus calls couples to follow him with a Christ-like transforming love and other transforming virtues. To do this, many couples need to grow from a self-controlled needs love and other self-controlled "virtues" to an increasingly Christ-like transforming love and other transforming virtues. Other couples need to grow even further from an immature, somewhat selfish romantic love for their partner to a more mature, self-controlled needs love and finally to an extraordinarily unselfish, Christ-like transforming love.

Many Christian marriage authorities do not deal adequately with moral and spiritual growth from self-controlled "virtues" to Christ-like transforming virtues in the highest stage of marriage. Bob and Irene Tomonto and Myrna Gallagher characterize the highest stage of marriage (Stage 6) to a great extent in secular mental-health terms of such things as couples negotiating effectively to resolve conflicts and couples satisfying their own needs while letting their spouse satisfy his or her needs (The Covenant Experience: Eleven Steps to a Better Marriage, pp. 46-47). The problem here is that the Tomontos and Gallagher do not say much about God, virtue, or a Christ-like transforming love in their short description of the highest stage of marriage. But Christian couples in the highest stage of marriage love God above all things for their happiness; they follow Jesus with Christ-like transforming virtues; they love their spouse with a Christ-like transforming love, including loving emotions as well as loving conduct; and they are happily united with God--that's what the highest stage of a holy Christian marriage is all about.

Christian marriage authorities who characterize the highest stage of marriage to a great extent in secular terms of mental health could still include mental health in their stages of marriage. They could include some characteristics of mental health, such as "healthy" anger, in lower stages of marriage, but not in the highest stage.

Moral Foundation text is found here.

5. A RENEWAL OF THE CHRISITAN MORAL FOUNDATION FOR MARRIAGE AS A CHRISTIAN CALLING TO HOLINESS

Catholic marriage authorities could strengthen marriages and families by recovering, developing, and promoting a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness (Nos. 1-4 above).

The Need for a Renewal of Christian Morality

It may not be easy to recover, develop, and promote a Catholic virtue approach to marriage in what has been called our American Consumer Society, Culture of Narcissism, Age of Entitlement, Psychological Society, and Divorce Culture. We need a strong Christian moral foundation overall for a Catholic virtue approach to marriage, so we may need to strengthen our Christian morality. During the latter decades of the 20th century, Pope John Paul II was concerned about what he called the "overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine" not only in secular American society overall, but also in the Catholic Church. Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued in After Virtue (1981) that the language and practice of Christian morality, including virtue, was in a "state of grave disorder." MacIntyre added that Christians still used "many of the same key expressions," so the "language and appearance of morality" persisted, but the "integral substance of morality" had been "fragmented" and then partly destroyed.

Catholic sociologist and ethicist John Coleman, following MacIntyre's lead, argued in "Conclusion: After Sainthood?" (1987) that the language and understanding of sainthood, including the ideal of sanctity, had been lost in modern secular societies.

The Christian language and practice of morality continues to be in a state of some disorder in today's secular American society, including some of today's Christian marriage guidance. In our moral language, we Catholics and other Christians continue to use many of the same traditional Christian words, such as "virtue," "joy," and "happiness," but we do not necessarily understand or agree with the meanings of these words. Does "virtue" refer to self-controlled virtue, transforming virtue, or something else? Does Christian "joy" refer to possessive joy, non-possessive joy, a biological pleasure center in the brain, or some other joy? Does "happiness" refer to a subjective life-satisfaction and pleasant emotions, or to being virtuous and being united with God, or to a bottle of Coca-Cola happiness, or to something else entirely?

The Christian language and practice of morality has become even more confusing with the influence of the secular languages and practices of the social, behavioral, and natural sciences. Some Christian marriage authorities promote "healthy" anger, "fair" fighting, "healthy" conflict, a mentally-healthy "happiness," and other secular concepts in their Christian marriage guidance. But are all these secular concepts compatible with Christian morality? Not always, and it would often help couples to understand why.

A Christian Morality of Obligation or a Christian Morality of Happiness?

We Catholics need a strong, orthodox Christian moral foundation for a Catholic virtue approach to marriage. But what would this morality be like?

Catholic theologian William Mattison III identifies two main approaches to morality in Western moral philosophy and theology from ancient Greek times to the present: a "morality-of-obligation" and a "morality-of-happiness." The morality-of-obligation centers on obedience to moral rules, including divine, natural, and civil laws. With this "morality-of-obligation," we Catholics dutifully obey the Ten Commandments and other reasonable moral rules and laws, but we may not always be happy doing this. We may seek a conventional sort of happiness that sometimes conflicts with our moral obligations and prevents us from following Jesus virtuously. So we struggle at times with Conventional Happiness/​Christian Morality-of-Obligation conflict--much as the golfing husband Garrett discussed above struggled with Conventional Happiness/​Christian Holiness conflict.

The morality-of-happiness, on the other hand, centers on living a fulfilling, happy, holy life with good moral character as well as good moral conduct. With the Christian version of the morality-of-happiness that I support in this article, we Christians love God above all things for our happiness, so we are happy following Jesus virtuously and being united with God, with or without golfing, a Porsche convertible, or other created goods. There is no conflict between our Christian Happiness that consists of God and virtue and Christian Holiness that consists of God and virtue too. The virtuous Christian Happiness and the deep Christian holiness are the same thing, as discussed above.

This Christian morality-of-happiness is teleological. The ultimate "end" or goal of human life ("telos") for us Christians is to be happy by being virtuously united with God in this life and then being united with God eternally.

This Christian teleological morality-of-happiness is also a virtue ethic. We are happily united with God in this life with love, faith, and other Christian virtues.

This Christian teleological "morality-of-happiness" virtue ethic includes action-guiding moral principles of a deontological sort that include the Ten Commandments, the natural law, and other reasonable laws. These reasonable laws are deontological in the sense that they require us to do what is right in itself and to avoid doing what is wrong in itself regardless of the consequences of our actions not only for our own conventional sort of happiness, but also for producing some greater good or avoiding some greater evil of a consequentialist or proportionalist sort. John Paul II rejects consequentialism and proportionalism in Veritatis Splendor, and he defends an orthodox Catholic teleological virtue ethic that includes divine commandments and the natural law.

This Christian teleological, morality-of-happiness virtue ethic includes action-guiding principles of a deontological sort in the context of the teleological virtue ethic overall. With this teleological virtue ethic, we are motivated to do what is right in itself and to avoid doing what is wrong in itself not just dutifully, with a deontological motivation, but lovingly, with the teleological motivation of loving God above all things as the primary, ultimate source of our happiness in this life and eternally. With this love for God above all things, we do God's will lovingly, including obeying his commandments and laws.

Which morality would be the best foundation for an orthodox Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness: the "morality-of- obligation" or the "morality-of-happiness"?

Some theologians, philosophers, and other Catholics support a "morality-of-obligation," a consequentialist morality, a proportionalist morality, or some other morality instead of a "morality-of-happiness." The dominant, orthodox morality in the Catholic Church, however, is the teleological "morality-of-happiness" virtue ethic that centers on loving God above all things as the primary, ultimate source of happiness in this life and eternally. Jesus calls his followers in the Sermon on the Mount to be happy ("makarios") in the holy Christian sense of being poor in spirit, gentle, merciful, pure in heart, and otherwise virtuous, Christ-like persons, as discussed above. Augustine, Aquinas, and many other Catholic saints and scholars likewise support a Christian teleological "morality-of-happiness" virtue ethic. We Catholics need to recover, strengthen, and renew this teleological virtue ethic that is the proper, orthodox foundation for a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness.

Virtue approach to marriage text is found here.

6. A PROPOSAL TO DEVELOP & PROMOTE A CATHOLIC VIRTUE APPROACH TO MARRIAGE IN CATHOLIC PARISHES, DIOCESAN CENTERS, COUNSELING SERVICES, SPIRITUALITY CENTERS, K-12 SCHOOLS, & COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES

Pope John Paul II, the American Catholic bishops, and others have helped launch a "new" Catholic virtue, New-Evangelization approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and, I would add, happiness. We Catholic clergy, laity, scholars, teachers, counselors, spiritual directors, and other authorities can help develop and promote a Catholic virtue approach to marriage in our parishes, diocesan centers, counseling services, spirituality centers, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities. With this "new" Catholic virtue approach to marriage, we can strengthen today's Catholic marriage guidance, including the communication-and-relationship-skills guidance, the cognitive-therapy guidance, the sacramental guidance, the prayer guidance, and other approaches to marriage.

Let's consider first what Catholic colleges and universities could do to support a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness.

Catholic Colleges & Universities

Faculty and administrators in Catholic colleges and universities could help students understand not only Christian ethics and spirituality in general, but also a Catholic teleological virtue ethic in particular, including a Catholic virtue approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness. Then the faculty and administrators would be helping students understand marriage "within an entire vision of reality" that "aims to recapture the ultimate meaning of life and its fundamental values," as the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family puts it in their description of the nature and purpose of their Institute. If students at Catholic colleges and universities studied marriage within a comprehensive Catholic vision of reality that would include loving God above all things for their happiness, students would not think, "I'm a Catholic. So the meaning of life for me is just to enjoy ourselves," as noted above.

Faculty and administrators at Catholic colleges and universities could help students understand Catholic virtue ethics, including concepts of a virtuous "happiness in the Lord," transforming virtues, virtuous emotions, a Christ-like transforming love, objectively virtuous conduct, virtuous union with God, and other important aspects of marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness. Then more Catholic colleges and universities could become "places where students are able to find God" instead of having God hidden from them, and places where students could "learn to live a virtuous life" instead of experiencing "how easy it is to embrace the lies of our [America's] permissive culture"--to borrow phrases from Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

Catholic college and university faculty and administrators could help students learn to live a virtuous life in the tremendously important areas of personal relationships in general and marriage and family life in particular.

Let's see how faculty and administrators in psychology, sociology, and other social and behavioral sciences could work with faculty and administrators in theology, philosophy, and religious studies to strengthen the curriculum not only in ethics and spirituality in general, but also in relationships, marriage, and the family in particular.

The Social & Behavioral Sciences, including Psychology

Catholic psychologists, counselors, and other marriage authorities in the social and behavioral sciences could strengthen their "scientific" marriage education and guidance with Christian moral insights about virtuous happiness, virtuous emotions, and other aspects of a happy and holy Christian marriage.

It might seem that Christian moral insights would not be relevant for the social and behavioral sciences, especially the supernatural aspects of Christian morality, such as God's healing, transforming, and divinizing grace. But the natural, human aspects of Christian morality are relevant for the social and behavioral sciences, including the human components of virtuous happiness, virtuous emotions, and other aspects of marriage. It could be mentally healthy as well as morally right, for example, for couples to communicate peacefully and lovingly instead of angrily and unlovingly. What's more, many social and behavioral scientists deal with moral values, so they should account for Christian morality.

The natural human aspects of Christian morality have been highly valued by many Catholic saints, theologians, popes, and other authorities on the moral and spiritual life. John of the Cross is a mystic, but he often emphasizes the human aspects of Christian morality, as I have maintained in several scholarly articles on John's virtue ethic and spirituality, including "Charity in the Dark Night of St. John of the Cross: The Human Experience of Union with God through Love."

John of the Cross often emphasizes the human aspects of union with God that could be meaningful for social and behavioral scientists. John teaches that Christians should desire and seek an ordinary union with God with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (love) without desiring and seeking extraordinary mystical experiences too. The theological virtue of love includes not only God's infused love, but also our own human love. John explains that "a person should insofar as possible strive to do his part purifying and perfecting himself" in order to prepare for a loving union with God. John teaches that ordinarily "God communicates himself to the soul more advanced in love, that is, more conformed to His will."

Many Catholic social and behavioral scientists in modern times have not strengthened their marriage guidance with a Christian virtue ethic and spirituality as much as they could. The American Catholic Psychological Association (ACPA), which had existed from 1948 to 1970, reorganized in 1970 to become just a non-denominational interest group, Psychologists Interested in Religious Issues (PIRI). So from 1970 to the present there has been no American Catholic Psychological Association to represent Catholicism in the profession and discipline of psychology.

Fortunately many Catholic organizations today are promoting Catholics beliefs and values in marriage, the family, and other areas. The National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM), the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, The Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and other Catholic organizations are working with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to strengthen marriages and families with Catholic beliefs and values. Now is the time to continue developing and promoting the Catholic virtue, New-Evangeliation approach to marriage and the family that Pope John Paul II, the American Catholic bishops, and some other Catholic authorities have called for in recent decades. Now is the time for a moral and spiritual renewal of Catholic marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness.

Catholic Spirituality

Catholic spiritual directors, advisors, and other authorities on Catholic spirituality could help develop and promote a Catholic moral and spiritual approach to marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness in their retreats, spiritual advising, workshops, writing, and other activities. Catholic authorities on the spiritual life could deal more thoroughly with moral and spiritual growth not only during prayer, but also during ordinary marriage and family activities ranging from dealing wisely with the family finances to getting up lovingly at 2 a.m. to feed the baby for the third time that night.

Catholic authorities on the spiritual life could help recover, develop, and promote a Catholic teleological virtue ethic that would integrate the Catholic moral and spiritual life. This virtue ethic would account for the human as well as the divine aspects of the moral and spiritual life, including the human components of virtuous happiness, transforming virtues, virtuous emotions, a Christ-like love, and other important aspects of marriage as a Christian calling to holiness and happiness. Some Catholic authorities on the spiritual life, however, focus on the passive reception of God's love and grace during prayer without accounting adequately for the active cultivation of human love, wisdom, patience, and other Christian virtues in everyday life, including marriage and family life. These Catholic authorities could deal more with the human components of Catholic spirituality, and this could help them apply the spirituality more effectively to marriage and family life.

Catholic authorities on the spiritual life are already familiar with the Catholic teleological virtue ethic that centers on loving God above all things for one's happiness, seeking first the kingdom of God, abandonment to God, the little way of spiritual childhood, and other Biblical and saintly ways for Christian couples to follow Jesus virtuously in their marriage and family life. Catholic authorities on the spiritual life can apply this virtue ethic in practical as well as prayerful ways to marriage and family life.

Conclusion

We Catholics can recover, develop, and promote a Catholic virtue, New-Evangelization approach to marriage in our colleges and universities, counseling services, spirituality centers, parishes, diocesan centers, K-12 schools, and other areas. This Catholic virtue, New-Evangelization approach to marriage is described and developed in my Catholic marriage guide, The Christian Way to be Happily Married. In this guide, I aim to help couples follow Jesus with love, faith, and other Christian virtues along the virtuous, joyful Christian Way to happiness and holiness in marriage and family life.

Part IV:
A Report on the Catholic and Carmelite Virtue Ethic of St. John of the Cross in The Christian Way to be Happily Married


This report is being prepared.