Marriage and the Third & Fourth Beatitudes

The Martin Family

The third Beatitude is “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.” This Beatitude can be addressed to the problem of escalating tensions within a marriage. Jesus is pointing out the obvious, it is just hard to see it. Anger does not promote reconciliation or love. One harsh word met with a sarcastic rejoinder only serves to heighten conflicts. This is true in general, and most particularly true in marriage. St. Frances de Sales strongly advised against ever getting angry because the possibility of it leading to anything positive was so rare. Much more probably, the problem would escalate. The courage to bite the tongue, to avoid the caustic remark is in need of this truth. “This is Jesus’ answer to the curse that has plagued the human race since Lamech swore escalating violence in his revenge. There is a force more powerful than hate, retaliation, and revenge. It is the power of love and it is Jesus’ expectation for his disciples, for it is available in him.”[1]

To be quite clear, this does not condone spousal abuse. However, returning violence for violence only produces more of the same. I remember my grandmother, married over fifty years, giving the following advice on the eve on my wedding, “Do not let the sun set on your wrath. Make up [with your husband] before going to bed.” My husband and I have shared these wise words in marriage preparation courses throughout the years with the couples agreeing to their applicability and challenge.

The fourth Beatitude is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Louis and Zelie Martin hungered and thirsted for righteousness or knowing God’s will. Each discerned the will of God first in regards to their vocation and then of their future spouse. As a couple, they were concerned to know the Lord’s will. Fr. Servais notes this principle; “We need to make room within ourselves for a nobler [spiritual] desire. This work of detachment is effected by poverty and suffering.”[2] The Martins discerned God’s will by denying themselves comforts while being generous with others. This couple was known to help the poor and to deal kindly with their employees. Daily Mass fueled their liberality along with a fervent prayer life within the home.

Zelie’s life was marked with suffering. She was subject to anxiety from her youth, lost many children to illness, and she died a painful death from breast cancer. Throughout these sufferings, rather than despairing, she saw it as God’s will and accepted it. Zelie would say, “Happiness does not belong to this earth but to heaven. Heaven is our true home.”[3] With this realization of her telos, Zelie had a peace and an abiding joy on earth. In the midst of trials, their home was known for being joyous.

to be continued…

            [1] Montague, 57

            [2] Pinckaers, 94

                  [3] Celine Martin, The Mother of the Little Flower, (Rockford, IL; TAN Books & Publishers, 2005) 39