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Henrik Hagnell wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Has the Church ever said that it is (more difficult) or (less easy) to go to Heaven if you live as a married Catholic with children than if you lived in a monastery as a monk or nun?
  • How then are their spouse and child(ren) an obstacle?

It sounds like a weird view on Marriage. I have read Ephesians 5 on Matrimony.

  • How can anything be more perfect than loving a spouse as Christ loved the Church?
    (Ephesians 5:25)
  • Where is the argument for this?

Some say that religious live in a more perfect state but they do not have a spouse to die for!

Sure, a religious can (say|chant) more liturgical prayers but Jesus wants sacrifices, (i.e. taking up our daily crosses) so I do not believe that religious life is a more perfect state. I say that a life with:

  • too much worrying
  • too little silence, and
  • too little liturgical prayer

is problematic but I do not see Matrimony as less perfect than the religious life.

Paolo Giustiniani said that the state of widowhood is more perfect than that of being married. This guy seems crazy and too medieval. We have come a long way since then. Some people in the medieval ages even believed that Duns Scotus was wrong but in 1854 they finally admitted that he was right. I suppose the Church says stuff that comes out of a certain era. The medieval people even believed in arranged marriages which is horrible for us Christians today.

  • What does the Church actually say about this?


  { Is it easier to get to Heaven as a married Catholic with children or as a religious monk or nun? }

Bob replied:

Dear Henrik,

You raise some good questions about Marriage. Throughout history there have been many different views on marriage, from as many different sects, and most of the categories you raised don't pertain to doctrine, so you won't find a categorical treatment of those issues in the Catechism or conciliar documents.

The general understanding of marriage and virginity and their ultimate telos derives from Jesus' teaching that none in Heaven are married, save for the Bridegroom (Christ) and his betrothed (the Church). In this way, all marriage here is just a foreshadowing of the true nuptials that take place between all of us and Christ. St. Paul obviously had the viewpoint that it was better to remain as he was (single, celibate, and/or widowered) because he saw, in it, practical benefits for the Christian life and ministry. He didn't eschew marriage but rather looked beyond it toward our final end. That has been the case with the Church for the most part, with the exception of those that went off the deep end and denigrated marriage like the Gnostic sects. They were heretics anyway.

I think the Catechism's section on Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom paragraphs 1618-1620, is a pretty good summary and has a nice quote from St. John Chrysostom as well.

Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom

1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. (cf. Luke 14:26; Mark 10:28-31) From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. (cf. Revelation 14:4; 1 Corinthians 7:32) Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

"For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." (Matthew 19:12)

1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away. (cf. Mark 12:25; 1 Corinthians 7:31)

1620 Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will. (cf. Matthew 19:3-12) Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 42, Perfectae Caritatis 12, Optatam Totius 10) and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other:

Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.

(St. John Chrysostom, De virg. 10,1:PG 48,540; cf. Pope St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 16)

That said, you are right overall. Marriage seems to be not only a huge blessing for any individual, but a clear path to sanctity. And that's why those who knowingly sacrifice it for the sake of the kingdom really are making a significant sacrifice. That has a lot more power than someone who just never found a good spouse so they didn't marry. Jesus promised rewards for that kind of sacrifice, and many of His disciples have done it since. But the Church has always recognized it as a calling, an exception to the norm. Not for everyone, and certainly if it was, there would be no people today to procreate the next generation of Christians.


Bob Kirby

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