DOM BASILIO MAGNO
I. THE QUEST
"Many are called
but few are chosen."
All want it, many work for it, few attain it.
"The only placid and sure tranquility for man, the only solid
and perpetual security, is to be rescued from the storm of this troublesome
world and to rest in the settled anchorage of SALVATION" (St.
God became man. "To give His people knowledge of
salvation" (Lk. 1:77), "to offer salvation to all men" (Ti.
2:11). This is the goal of our salvation" (1 Pt. 1:9). And since
Christ, Himself, prophesied that few will enter it, St. Paul admonishes us,
to "work with anxious concern to achieve our salvation" (Phil
must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt. 19-16) The young man asked
B. BE HOLY, "without which no one can see God"
Salvation is a gift to those who live holy lives. "Blessed
are those who hunger and thirst for holiness. . . " (Mt. 5:6). This
holiness is no ordinary goodness. "Unless your holiness surpasses that
of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will NOT ENTER the kingdom of
heaven" (Mt. 5:20). "It is God's will, not only that you be holy,
but that you grow in holiness" (1 Thes. 4:3-7).
Where can we learn the way to holiness that leads to salvation?
St. Paul says: "From Scriptures you can learn the wisdom that leads to
salvation… and it can be used for teaching people to be holy" (2 Tim.
Let us all live lives of holiness "without which no one can
see the Lord" and be fearful of St. Peter's words: "It would be
better for him never to have learned the way to holiness than to know it
and afterwards abandon the holy rule that was entrusted to him." (2
C. A LIFE
There are things which are good in themselves and, therefore, must
be sought for their own sake, like wisdom and holiness. And there are
things which are indifferent but may be used as helps to attain good, like
food, drink and marriage (St. Augustine).
Holiness is given by God to those who obey the commands of Christ.
As a result holy people "receive not so much a portion from the Lord
as to receive the Lord Himself, as their portion" (St. Gregory the
And the commands of Christ are meant to subdue the passions of the
flesh, making us no longer subject to anything unlawful even in the
imagination of the heart springing from the corruption thereof (St. Gregory
the Great), thus making us pure in heart worthy to see God: "Blessed
are the pure in heart for they shall see God."
1. HOLINESS through red martyrdom
In their desire to deny themselves to please God, some have shed
their blood. "He who loses his life for My sake will save it"
(Mt. 16:25). This way to holiness is exemplified by Christ Himself, by the
apostles and the martyrs.
Tertullian describes them as "those who have fought the good
fight, where their manager is the living God, their trainer the Holy
Spirit, their crown eternity, their prize the angelic life, their
citizenship in heaven."
Red Martyrdom requires "immense moral courage in suffering,
combined with unshaken virtue and mildness of demeanor… thus making the
blood of martyrs the seed of the Church" (St. Cyprian).
"A Christian suffering martyrdom is a spectacle to the Lord,
a sublime and great exhibition of fealty and devotion by His soldier. Such
death is previous in the sight of the Lord" (St. Cyprian).
2. HOLINESS through white martyrdom
is a way to holiness that is essentially identical with the above but does
not necessitate the shedding of blood. The Blessed Virgin Mary exemplifies
this way of life and its is more commonly called "life of
This life is referred to as "the happy life" by St.
Augustine and the "Angelic Life" by St. John Chrysostom,
"because such Christians exhibit on earth the conduct of angels in
heaven." This way of life is made in heaven and brought down to earth
They give up
much for the sake of the kingdom. . . even many good things, such as
marriage, ". . . who marry not nor are given to marriage" (Mk.
12:25). For them marriage is good but ". . . it is better not to
marry" (Mt. 19:10). "For he who is unmarried thinks about the
things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. That he may be holy in the
body and soul" (1 Cor. 7:32). Thus they are described as physical and
spiritual virgins. Spiritual virginity is essential to holiness; while
physical virginity is just an aid and can be dispense with if marriage
becomes more helpful.
II. MARRIAGE, AN AID TO HOLINESS
sacrament of marriage is Great Mystery. . . so that St. John
Chrysostom condemned its profanation on the stage when it is made fun of
and mocked to elicit laughter. He called such shows the workshop of the
devil that has subverted many a family.
this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto
his wife, and they shall be one flesh" (Mt. 19:5). Now, why should a
woman leave those who gave life and brought her up, those who gave her
countless blessings, those who are familiar to her, and be joined so
intimately with a total stranger she came to know only recently, who bears
no relation to her and yet she must honor above her family? To know the
answer is to pierce through the great mystery of marriage which concerns
Christ and His Church.
Every Christian marriage worthy of its name must reflect this mystery,
but sadly this is rare even among Catholics. The Sacrament of Marriage is a
visible sign bearing witness to invisible realities, namely the mystery
concerning Christ and His Church. Yet most marriages bear witness to
nothing spiritual, to nothing mysterious, to no invisible realities.
Without bearing witness to this great mystery, marriage becomes a
God is the author of marriage. The union of husband and wife which
reflects the Oneness of Christ's virginal church, is from God; "so
divorce is from the devil" (St. Augustine). Christ came to Cana to
sanctify and improve on the worldly institution of marriage and to sanction
the bonds of concord. Tertullian defines Christian marriage as the
"union of believers having one hope, one desire, one course of life,
one service of God, in common one with the other." True Christian
marriage, where art thou?
THE GOOD OF MARRIAGE.
No one goes to heaven just by marrying. For many, though, marriage
is a GREAT HELP to holiness. But this must be embraced within the context
of the evangelical life.
Marrying to win a crown.
The Patriarchs of the Old Testament married for the noblest
motive, i.e. for a spiritual reason, the hope that they would give birth to
the virgin child, the Messiah. In the New Testament, the noblest reason for
marrying is likewise to give birth to a virgin totally consecrated to the
service of God. Obviously, to do so it is not enough just to give birth to
a child; the child must be bought up "in the discipline of the
Lord." Such virgin- child becomes the CROWN of a truly Christian
In the early Church, children who loved their parents worked hard
to be virgins so that their parents would have a crown. Thus St. Gregory
encouraged his sister to be a holy virgin to assure their parents' marriage
a crown; he could not be the crown being a married man.
Parents, on the other hand, welcomed having children for every
child becomes an occasion for a crown. They are mindful of Christ's words,
"He who welcomes this little one welcomes Me and he who rejects them
rejects Me." Regulation of birth in any of its forms, therefore, is a
rejection of Christ in the little ones.
Thus parents attain salvation by welcoming the little ones; they
gain an added crown if these little ones are bought up to be holy.
Marrying for the maintenance of chastity through the control of the
This is an inferior but acceptable spiritual motive for marrying--
to weaken the uncontrollable passions so one may observe fidelity in
chastity. Through marriage, concupiscence is brought under a lawful bond
and behaviour does not become loose or disgraceful but chaste.
"Marriage," St. Augustine states, "becomes the mutual service
of sustaining each other's weakness for the avoidance of illicit
intercourse. It is rendering service one to another that they may not fall
into damnable seductions through the temptations of Satan."
It is through chastity that each wins over the other to God; it is
through chastity that children, brought forth carnally, are nourished
spiritually. The fidelity of chastity brought about by tempering of the
passions brings love and happiness to the Christian family.
Marriage is NOT a solution for all problems; it is the medicine
for a very specific spiritual problem, - - - uncontrollable passion that
leads to unchastity, ". . . if they cannot control their sexual urges,
they should get married, since it is better to be married than to
burn" (1 Cor. 7:9). For the unchaste "Sex is always a
danger" (1 Cor.7:1).
Youthful incontinence, i.e. the desire for pleasure for its own
sake, which is bad, is transformed by marriage into the honorable task of
begetting children. For such, to choose is better than indulging in
is allowed, within marriage, to render the debt even without the purpose of
procreation. The demand, under the ardor of concupiscence, may even be
intemperate and incontinent, i.e. over and above one's needs, as long as
the purpose is to protect each other from adultery or fornication. This
would still be within the scope of Christian marriage as long as their
behaviour does not detract from their prayer time and does not generate
into unnatural practices.
FIDELITY IN MARRIAGE
Render the conjugal debt always. St. Paul says, "Do not
refuse each other" (1 Cor. 7:5). This is fidelity, to render the
marriage debt every time there is need for the avoidance of impurity,
whether one is fertile or not. This fidelity also consists in refusing to
have intercourse with anyone else except with one's spouse. And also, if
there is a need to separate for spiritual reasons, fidelity demands that
they remain chaste.
Rendering the conjugal debt means one cannot abstain without the
consent of the other. And consent to abstain is only given". . . in
order to pray" (1 Cor. 7:5). And even while abstaining in order to
pray, if the passions are aroused, fidelity demands that spouses "must
come together immediately in case Satan should take advantage of your weakness
and tempt you" (1 Cor. 7:5)
This fidelity includes, St. Augustine states, that they do nothing
to avoid having children nor act in any evil way so that they will not be
For a true
Christian marriage, there must be fidelity to God, shown by a life of
virtue and fidelity to one another.
From the two spiritual goals of marriage, we can conclude that
family planning, including abstention, go against the spiritual goals of
marriage and, therefore, are harmful to the spiritual life of both spouses.
Abstention, St. Paul reminds us, is for virginity and for prayer; never for
the regulation of birth. Abstention goes against the command of Christ
"to welcome children," i.e. against charity and against fidelity
"to render the debt," fertile or not. Abstention can ruin a
Abstention is too difficult for ordinary laymen. In abstaining to
regulate birth one must give up the marital act for an extended period of time.
For couples who marry precisely because they cannot control themselves,
this is next to impossible. For them to try it would expose them to impure
thoughts and desires, masturbation and even adultery, thereby, defeating
the very purpose of marriage. To abstain that long without spiritual harm
one must live like the ancient monks.
WHY DOES THE CHURCH TEACH ABSTENTION if it is spiritually harmful?
The church is not teaching it; she is merely tolerating a lesser moral evil
to avoid a greater evil. In tolerating abstention she is trying to prevent
abortion. Jesus Christ described the Jewish nation in the same way, that
Moses gave in to their evil demands like divorce because of their
hard-heartedness, but these were not so in the beginning (Mt. 19:8).
Today, Holy Mother the Church is dealing with delinquent children
who want to come home at 2:00 a.m. She is begging them to come home at
12:00 midnight when she really prefers them to be back at 6:00 p.m.
BIRTH remains an evil because it is an act that cannot be ordered to God.
However, if an act is evil, a good intention can diminish its evilness. And
a good intention is when your aim is the spiritual good of the spouse in
view of the ultimate end.
GOD ALONE IS THE AUTHOR OF LIFE
Not all who marry to have a crown are granted a crown; not all who
marry to welcome children do have children. Not all who abstain succeed in
regulating birth. Because after everything has been said the ultimate truth
is that God alone decides on the conception or non- conception of life,
""for God can raise up children to Abraham from these very
stones." Man has absolutely no part in that decision. Our Blessed
Mother, who knew no man, had a child simply because God willed it; and
Elizabeth had a child in her old age simply because God willed it. That's
why many who want children do not have them because God does not will it.
Marrying for Companionship and Friendship in Old Age.
One day spouses will no longer be able to have children or keep
their grown- up children; and there will be no passions to control.
Friendship and companionship between them is their harbor of peace and
tranquility. This must be developed early in marriage because this is the
best atmosphere in rearing children. And this is what will sustain them in
Sad are they
who sacrifice their marriage for temporary, fleeting pleasures. In their
old age they end up with no passions, no children, no companion and no
Why is it that though the doctrine on Family Planning is so simple
and clear many are ignorant of it? Because man loves to continue believing
that he has a say in the initiation and maintenance of life; the parents,
the doctors, the scientists, etc. Like Adam and Eve, they like to be like
But then we are living in the end times when "the Rebel will
deceive those who are bound for damnation because they would not grasp the
love of the truth which could have saved them. The reason why God is
sending a power to delude them and make them believe what is untrue is to
condemn all who refused to believe in the truth and choose wickedness
instead" (2 Thes. 2:9- 12).
advice is meant ONLY for those who are seeking for the true doctrine on
marriage and family planning. For those who are not seeking the truth, this
teaching is a burden and a source of annoyance. As for us, our humble
prayer is that this essay "bring salvation to ourselves and to those
who read it" (1 Tim 4:16). And may we hear from Christ the words He
addressed to Zacchaeus and his family. "Today, salvation has come to
this house" (Lk. 19:9).