Husbands and Fathers in the Image of Christ: Facilitating God’s Will for Our Wives and Children

What does it mean for a man to love his wife and children as Christ loved (and loves) his Church?  Obviously, a lot rides on the word “as”—loving as Christ loves. … It means according to the same standard with which Christ loves

Pope John Paul II says in Familiaris Consortio that in the family, the man is called by God to occupy the roles of husband and father. 1  Indeed, only men can be husbands and fathers.  Both roles are poorly understood today.  Many reject the idea that “husband” is anything more than a socially constructed title; and some doubt whether “fatherhood” is anything more than a biological category.  The suggestion that the roles of husband and father might have certain stable qualities that should be accepted and respected sounds farcical. But the Christian Scriptures and Catholic faith do set forth certain qualities as characterizing the two roles.  This essay explores one important quality.

St. Paul says in Ephesians, chapter 5, that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church.  And Jesus teaches at the Last Supper that Christians should love one another as he (Christ) has loved them (cf. Jn 13:34); so a Christian father should love his children also as Christ loved the Church.  Christ-like love is the norm for husbands and fathers.

The norm is rather general and needs specification.  What does it mean for a man to love his wife and children as Christ loved (and loves) his Church?  Obviously, a lot rides on the word “as”—loving as Christ loves.  “As” here does not mean “to the same extent” (for since Jesus is also God, his love is not only fully human but also fully divine, and we cannot love in a fully divine way); nor does it mean “with the same effect” (since Jesus’ love ushers in the New Covenant of redemption, and ours can do no more than cooperate in that redemption); nor even does it mean “in the same way,” if, by “same way,” we mean we should do the same things that Jesus did.

The term rather has a qualitative reference.  It means according to the same standard with which Christ loves.  What then is the standard by which Jesus loves?  There is no ambiguity in Scripture about the answer to this question.  Jesus loves according to the will of the Father.  “My food,” he says, “is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:34); “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30); “not as I will, (Father), but as you will” (Mt 26:39).

Jesus loves the Church, and each member, according to the Father’s will for the Church, and each member.  Therefore, husbands and fathers should love their wives and children according to the Father’s will for them.

The concept of God’s will is not always well understood.  Some think following God’s will simply means being faithful to Church teaching; it does mean that, but it means more than that.  Others think that God’s will only extends to “big” decisions such as whether they should be married, or become a priest or religious, but not to the less dramatic choices of daily life. On these smaller issues, God does not have a particular will; what he wants us to do is make the choices that we think best; and if they are generally morally good, God accepts them as “his will” for our lives.  Others doubt whether God is interested in the details of our lives at all.

While some of these views are clearly false (such as the final one), none of them gets God’s will quite right.  Christian faith teaches that God is personal, providential, and all-powerful, which, if taken together, imply that he is eminently concerned for our entire lives.  He is our Father, and hence, occupies a relationship of intense personal concern for us (cf. Mt 6:9).  He is providential, i.e., he not only sustains our lives, but guides them (cf. Ps 33:19).  And he is all-powerful, i.e., his power—and hence, his will—is relevant to every area of our lives and every decision (cf. Rv 19:6). 2

Moreover, because we are baptized members of Christ’s body, our lives, our sufferings, and our good works are in a real, though mysterious way, Christ’s life, sufferings, and good works (cf. Col 1:24).  It is no longer just I who live, but Jesus who lives and suffers and loves within me (cf. Gal 2:20).  So as a baptized member of Jesus’ body, it is not only true to say that I belong to Christ—that I “am Christ’s” (cf. 1 Cor 3:23; Gal 3:29), but also that, in a mysterious way, I am Christ.  As part of his body, I collaborate with him in his plans, the chief of which is his redeeming of the world.

To draw this together, we can say that since God is personal, provident, and all-powerful, he has a unique, unrepeatable, and all-inclusive plan for my life here and in eternity. 3  God calls each one of us by name.  And because he incorporates us through baptism into his very own body, we are collaborators with him in his plan for redemption.  It follows that the unique, unrepeatable, and comprehensive plan of God for our lives is part of God’s own plan in Jesus for the redeeming of the world.

God’s personal call for one’s life—what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as one’s “baptismal vocation,” and John Paul II calls one’s “personal vocation” 4— extends to the whole of one’s life.  Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw, in their remarkable little book, Personal Vocation: God Calls Everyone By Name (OSV, 2003), explain that God’s plan for one’s life takes into consideration “all one’s circumstances” (p. 35): one’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, already existing duties, concrete limitations, one’s desires, sufferings, disappointments, and failures.  It integrates all these into a coherent whole, directed toward the fulfillment of God’s purposes.

Even one’s sins can be integrated into one’s personal vocation.  God wills that no one sins.  But he knows that we all do (Rom 3:23).  He knows that even very committed Christians sin, sometimes seriously; and he permits this.  Although the sin itself is certainly no part of God’s will for our lives, his will does include facing our sin honestly, repenting of it sincerely, and undertaking suitable restitution to those we might have harmed through our sin. 5

This concept of personal vocation can be understood in terms of Vatican II’s great teaching on the “Universal Call to Holiness” of all the baptized faithful.  The Council teaches that holiness is meant for every member of the Church, not just for those in consecrated lifestyles, or who have extraordinary experiences of God.  Commenting on the Council’s teaching, John Paul II writes that “the ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual.” 6  So the path to holiness for each individual is the path of the Father’s will.

Loving as Christ Means Facilitating God’s Will
Let us return to the specific topic of this essay.  Loving our wives and children as Christ loves his Church means loving them according to the Father’s will for them, not according to our (the husband or parent’s) will, or, heaven forbid, the will of secular society.  It means assisting them to clearly discern, devoutly accept, and faithfully live their personal vocations; facilitating and not hindering the unfolding of God’s special plan for their lives.  We can call this the way of the Lord Jesus for our spouse and children, and so too, for ourselves as husbands and fathers. It is their (and our) imitatio Christi: not living Jesus’ personal vocation (e.g., gathering twelve disciples, becoming an itinerant preacher in Palestine, going to Jerusalem, etc.), but adopting his way: obedience to the Father in whatever the Father asks.

Each person’s life and goodness is unique, and God creates each of us to manifest his goodness.  Our wives and children each embody “a facet of (God’s) perfection absent in all the rest: God creates no mere duplicates.” 7  If they carry out the Father’s plan for their lives, they will develop into the persons that God wills them to be, here on earth, and forever in heaven.  A husband and father is called to assist them in that.  John Paul II says this in somewhat different words, but I think to the same effect: “a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family”; in this way, he reveals and relives “on earth the very fatherhood of God” (Familiaris Consortio, no. 25). Let us discuss this general rule in greater detail.

Husbands, Love Your Wives
St. Paul employs a much despised metaphor to explain the relation of husband and wife.  He says “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5:23); consequently, a wife should “be subject” to her husband (v. 22; cf. Col 18).  The Greek verb “to be subject” is hupotasso, “hupo” meaning under and “tasso” meaning to arrange.  So hupotasso literally means “to arrange under,” usually translated “to be subject.”  As one Greek dictionary points out, in English, “to be subject” can tend to imply a kind of mandatory, involuntary subordination.  But in the New Testament hupotasso “never means mandatory submission by any being”; it always implies a voluntary arranging. 8

So if we follow St. Paul in Ephesians 5, a husband and wife should voluntarily arrange themselves in a relationship analogous to Christ and his Church.  This is a very challenging teaching for both Christian wives and husbands.  Not because of the secular notion that all order and authority in the marital relationship is intrinsically discriminatory and abusive.  But primarily, I think, because husbands, unlike Jesus, are not perfect human beings.  If a wife subjects herself to her husband, she subjects herself to a creature beset with weaknesses and sin.  Good husbands are aware of this, and so may have a natural reluctance to exercise firm leadership in the marriage and family for fear they might make mistakes.

John Paul II in his addresses entitled Theology of the Body, sets forth a novel interpretation of St. Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5, expressing great sensitivity to problems raised by the traditional notion of the unilateral submission of wives to husbands. 9  Examining the text of Ephesians 5, the pope points out that before St. Paul introduces any order of authority in the husband-wife relationship (in v. 22), he first states clearly (in v. 21) that spouses are to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” using the same verb hupotasso 10 (“be subject”) that he will use in the next verse to speak about a wife’s subjection.  The pope concludes that rather than setting forth a strict model of unilateral wifely submission, St. Paul’s teaching should be understood as commending the mutual subjection of spouses to each other, of husbands to wives and wives to husbands.  John Paul does not elaborate on how this should work practically.  But the interpretation has been favorably received both within and outside the Church.

I am very sympathetic to the pope’s reading, especially for purposes of pastoral application.  But it does raise one theological tension in the Pauline text, a tension that Theology of the Body leaves unresolved.  If “husbands” and “wives” are interchangeable with regard to the command to “be subject,” then it would be as correct to say “husbands, be subject to your wives” as to say “wives, be subject to your husbands.” This seems to follow from reading the passage through the lens of “mutual subjection.” So too, it would seem that “Christ” and “the church” are interchangeable since the relationship of Christian husband and wife, in Ephesians 5, is predicated upon the relationship of Christ and the Church: “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (v. 23).  But we get into problems if we say Christ and Church are interchangeable, i.e., “the church is the head of Christ.”

So with either interpretation we have a tension.  Is there a way to understand a husband’s headship and wife’s subjection that avoids these tensions?  We said earlier that a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the Church.  This means that, like Christ, he sacrifices himself in order to help her to discover, embrace, and faithfully live the Father’s will for her life.  Christ-like love then excludes whatever would prevent a husband from loving his wife this way.  I would  like to mention three things that impede a husband from loving like Christ.

The first is immoderate anger.  A husband cannot assist his wife in discerning and living God’s will for her, if he doesn’t regularly listen to her concerning what is on her mind and in her heart.  Listening to the heart, of course, will mean going beyond oral conversation.  A husband must also ‘listen’ to his wife in other ways, in general, by carefully observing how she’s experiencing daily life: how is her health, her mood, her schedule (is she over-busy)?  Is she at peace with God, with herself, with her children, with her husband?  Listen to her eyes; listen to her body language; listen to what she doesn’t say; and so on.

If a husband is dominated by anger, or habitually retreats into sullenness, or replies to his wife’s gestures for emotional intimacy with indifference, or by being dismissive, or if he regularly belittles her; he will drive her away.  She will come to consider him emotionally (and, if he’s violent) physically “unsafe.”  She will stop looking to him for support.

To love his wife, he needs to overcome his anger by actively cultivating the virtue of gentleness towards his wife.  Gentleness is neither passivity nor weakness; in fact, John Paul II pairs gentleness with strength in Familaris Constortio. 11 Gentleness means avoiding all harshness and severity.  A husband should treat his wife with, what John Paul II calls in Love and Responsibility, “disinterested tenderness,” that is, a ready willingness to enter into her emotions and experiences. It is “disinterested” in that it’s expressed not only when the husband wants to have sexual relations with her. 12

The pope adds something crucial, which will lead us to our next point.  He says “there can be no genuine tenderness without a perfected habit of continence” (sexual purity). 13

Our wives are our conjugal partners; and our marriage is the covenantal context that opens up to us, that is, justifies, indeed, makes intelligible, the blessing of an active sexual life.  Sex with someone other than our wives is a grave—a catastrophic—violation of that covenant; it is adultery.

But Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that “whoever looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28).  John Paul II, in Theology of the Body, says that the Lord’s teaching here expresses a profound insight into moral psychology based upon knowledge of the inner man. 14  Adultery begins with disordered sexual desire, what the pope calls “passion.”  And passion, he says, begins with a man’s “looking.”  He looks on a woman other than his wife with desire, meaning of course, sexual desire.  He may uncover her nakedness through the use of pornography.  He may fantasize.  He may have an affair.

This passion, the pope says, “suffocates the voice of conscience in the ‘heart;’ it suffocates the sense of responsibility before God.”  I would add that it suffocates the voice of God in the heart, so a husband cannot hear the Lord’s voice.  It brings “restlessness of the body and of the senses;” it demands continually to be satisfied.  And its satisfaction doesn’t bring peace. 15

It depersonalizes the woman to whom it is directed by reducing her to “an object for the … satisfaction of the man’s sexual urge.” 16  In addition, it (looking with lustful desire) changes a man from within.  The change is so deep, the pope says, that Christ teaches that he “has already committed adultery… in his heart” (Mt 5:28).  The Lord’s teaching, the pope continues, shows us just “how deep” the commandment regarding sexual purity goes—deep into the world of one’s interior life, the world of one’s thoughts and desires.  It confirms the Gospel truth that “the law is ‘fulfilled’in the heart. 17

Being pure of heart is a way to love one’s wife, and a precondition for being able to hear God’s will for her (cf. Mt 5:8).  For those who resolve, with the help of grace, to be pure, or to attain this purity of heart, they can rely on God’s assistance, but not without some struggle, especially if they’ve habitually indulged in the past in impure thoughts and actions.  John Paul II says that for a man to attain it, he must squarely face everything within himself that has its origins in disordered desire. 18

Laziness and Complacency
By “laziness,” I mean succumbing to that inertia of spirit felt by all husbands (indeed all spouses) to resist getting involved in the problems and needs of the family.  By “complacency,” I mean being content with oneself as uninvolved, saying, for example, in a self-justifying way to oneself: “I’ve had a hard day, I deserve a little space, a little internet, or TV, or reading time when I get home from work.  So get off my back.”

In particular, this can get expressed in relation to care for the children.  John Paul mentions a husband’s care for his children several times in Familiaris Consortio: husbands should “exercise generous responsibility” for his children; he should have “a more solicitous commitment to (their) education”; he should offer them a salutary “witness…of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces (them) into the living experience of Christ and the Church”; he should “never” allow professional work to be “a cause of division in the family but (something that) promotes (family) unity and stability.” 19

Husbands, therefore, should consciously rouse themselves to a lively concern for family details, especially for those individuals and events, from whom or which, they might naturally withdraw their attention.

Returning to “Subjection”
Remember, I said I would propose an account of “subjection” that avoids certain tensions?  Under what then, (or perhaps I should say “under whom” then), is a wife, in St. Paul’s account, being asked to “voluntarily arrange” herself?  The answer is, under a husband who is physically and emotionally accessible to her, who carefully attends to what she’s saying (orally and nonverbally), who treats her with tenderness and kindness, even when she’s ill or irritable, who consistently seeks the Lord’s will on her behalf, and behalf of the family. This husband makes a strenuous effort to keep his heart pure, who avoids all angry outbursts, and who never bullies or humiliates her. He willingly (if not always cheerfully) enters into the problems of the family; he takes due responsibility for the education of his children, and is aware that he’s called uniquely to exemplify and express to his children the love of the heavenly Father. He unceasingly fights against every fallen part of himself that militates against the Father’s love so as to win his children through paternal and apostolic charity to the heart of Christ and his Church.  In other words, his wife is called to subject herself to someone who makes a continuous effort to lay down his life so that she may flourish in Christ, so that she may open up to all the possibilities that God wills for her.

Her husband’s “headship,” then, is a continual, Christ-like laying down of his life for her; her “subjection” is to arrange herself under that love—to let him love her with Christ-like love. 20

This article chiefly addresses how to be a good husband.  But, it also states that a Christian father should love his children as Christ loved the Church.  This means that he should dedicate himself to raising his children according to God’s will for them, teaching them to seek God’s will for their lives.  When they are small, this ordinarily will not take on much specificity.  But as they grow past the age of reason (anywhere from age four through seven years old), he should begin to assist them to seek first the kingdom of God, and the Father’s will in their own lives (cf. Mt 6:33).  He should avoid that most pernicious error, so easily fallen into, by which he directs (pushes, sometimes manipulates and coerces) them to fulfill certain purposes for his sake, so that his ego can be vicariously fed through their accomplishments.

The New Testament gives almost no explicit advice to fathers on parenting.  But, St. Paul does repeat one piece of wisdom (once in Colossians and once in Ephesians).  He says: “fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Colossians adds, “lest they become discouraged,” and Ephesians adds “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 21  Both are preceded with an admonition to children to obey their parents.

Perhaps, we can end with this.  A father who habitually provokes his sons or daughters through immoderate criticism, or the imposing and enforcing of unreasonable standards (unhealthy strictness), or through indifference to them and their experience of life (their ‘world’), will drive them away from him.  He will lose access to his children’s minds and affections.  His ability to facilitate the finding and living of the Father’s plan for their lives will be obstructed.  And, his own Christian example, however sincere, will become in their minds alien (the example of someone “other”—not one of “us,” but one of “them”).

To love his children with Christ-like love, he needs to spend time with them (“time, not toys,” as the maxim goes).  He needs to teach them the truths of the faith, and if he does not know these truths, he needs to learn them.  Most of all, he needs to supply them, in his own person, with a living witness of both moral consistency and Christian devotion.  To pass on the faith to their children, it is not enough for a devout and spiritually motivated mother to drag along the deadweight of her benevolent, but spiritually indifferent, husband.  Children, especially sons, need to see their father down on his knees praying, going to Mass, frequenting the sacrament of confession, and growing in Christian perfection. Otherwise, the faith of the Gospel will feel like an imposition of alien obligations, nothing more than a bunch of rules.

So husbands and fathers should love their wives and children as Christ loves his Church. They should endeavor to get to know each member of their family well, for only then can they facilitate God’s special plan for them. They should not provoke their children to anger, and should not make their wife’s subjection a burden.  And, when they fall short of this upward call of God in Christ (cf. Phil 3:14), they should not get discouraged, for discouragement is poison from the devil. Rather, they should ask the forgiveness of Christ and their loved ones, including their children, confidently receive the Lord’s forgiveness, and work to shake off the emotional residue that tends to linger after family conflict.

Finally, since the affections of a man’s heart shape the quality of his love (cf. Mt 6:21), he’s needs to work to throw off his disordered affection for the world, especially his thirst for reputation in the eyes of peers and colleagues. The gentle voice of his children, or his wife’s unspoken needs, can hardly compete with the savage voice of worldly pride that masquerades itself before men’s eyes as healthy self-identity. Christian men should endeavor to make the words of St. Paul their own:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse (literally “dung”), in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, that depends on faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:7-11; RSV).

  1. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (“The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”) (1981), no. 25.
  2. The Greek word used in the verse is pantokrator translated either “omnipotent” or “almighty.”
  3. Benedict XVI, Reflects on Vocation with Roman Seminarians (March 4, 2010) (reported in, March 7, 2011); John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (1988) (“On the Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful”), writes: “God calls the individual in Jesus Christ, each one personally by name.  In this sense, the Lord’s words “You go into my vineyard too”, directed to the Church as a whole, come specially addressed to each member individually.  Because of each member’s unique and irrepeatable character, that is, one’s identity and actions as a person, each individual is placed at the service of the growth of the ecclesial community while, at the same time, singularly receiving and sharing in the common richness of all the Church” (no. 28).
  4. John Paul II, Message for the Day of Prayer for Vocations (2001): “Within the Christian community, each person must discover his or her own personal vocation and respond to it with generosity.  Every life is a vocation, and every believer is invited to co‑operate in the building up of the Church” (no. 3; emphasis added).
  5.  Grisez writes: “It is part of one’s {personal} vocation, to acknowledge that this evil, too, has been permitted by God, and to deal with it as he wills: with honesty, genuine contrition, appropriate restitution to those one has injured, gratitude for the Lord’s mercy, and suitable penance.”  The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol. 4, draft chapter 2, on file with author.
  6. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo millenio ineunte (“On the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000”) (2001), no. 31.
  7. Germain Grisez, Christian Moral Principles (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983), p. 561.
  8. See
  9. John Paul II, Man and Women He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, tr. Michael Waldstein (Boston: St. Paul Media, 2006), audience no. 89 (August 11, 1982).
  10. “… be subject to one another…”  (Gk. hupotassomenoi aggegois)
  11. John Paul II, Familaris Consortio (1981), no. 25.
  12. John Paul II, Love and Responsibility, tr. H.T. Willetts (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 275, see also 200-208.
  13. Ibid., 207.
  14. Theology of the Body, Audience 38 (Sept. 3, 1980) par. 5.
  15. Ibid., Audience 39 (Sept. 10, 1980), par. 2
  16. Ibid., Audience 41 (Sept. 24, 1980), par. 1.
  17. Ibid., Audience 43 (Oct. 8, 1980), par. 5.
  18. Ibid, par. 5.
  19. John Paul II, Familaris Consortio (1981), no. 25.
  20. John Paul II says something similar in Theology of the Body.  Having introduced the “mutual subjection” paradigm, he writes that “although the spouses should be ‘subject to one another in the fear of Christ’ … nevertheless in what follows {in Eph. 5}, the husband is above all the one who loves, and the wife, by contrast, is the one who is loved.  One might even venture the idea that the wife’s ‘submission’ to the husband … means above all ‘the experiencing of love’” (September 1, 1982, Audience 92, par. 6).
  21. Col. 3:18-21: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  Eph. 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Revised Standard Version).
Dr. E. Christian Brugger About Dr. E. Christian Brugger

Dr. E. Christian Brugger is the J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. He received a doctor of philosophy in moral theology in 2000 from Oxford University, St. Hugh's College. He received a Master of Studies (MSt) in Christian political studies in 1997 from Oxford University, Oriel College. He received an M.A. in theology in 1996 from Harvard Divinity School, an M.A. in moral theology in 1994 from Seton Hall University, in South Orange, New Jersey, and a B.A. in biological science in 1987 from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.


  1. This topic has interested me for a long time. To me it seems like John Paul II’s idea of mutual subjection of husbands and wives removes the wife’s responsibility in that passage but retains the husband’s responsibility and adds another layer to it. You’re idea seems to say she ought to be subject but only to a perfect husband. But if that’s the criteria then why should he sacrfice himself for a less than perfect wife? And what is a perfect wife? I mean, what is a wife actually supposed to do? Make him talk about excessive emotionality and try to manipulate him? I have literally no idea what to expect of a wife. I’m 30 and contemplating marriage, but I honestly wonder, after observing marriages of friends and family, what can I hope to get out of it. It seems like as a man it ultimately involves a lot of sacrifice and then a lot more sacrifice after that and that’s about it. The falling in love part is exhilarating, but I know that feeling doesn’t really last. Then you’re left with a wife who expects sacrifice as well as subjection from her husband. Not too appealing.

    • Avatar bill bannon says:

      Falling in love will last in a different modality than the honeymoon period if you are meant for mutual sanctification but the Church has to return to saying out loud in its catechism that wives are to obey husbands where there is a conflict of wills. She is not to obey in the immoral if he is cheating on his taxes for example. Generally in marriage in everyday matters like splitting the work load, there is mutual submission on the little things of life but if you meet someone who does not believe that the man leads in bigger things especially when there is a discrepancy of wills, then yes…you are safer alone or with an Amish girl who observes the literal sense of 6 verses on this topic in various epistles…although then, you’ll have to like changing horse shoes every several months.

  2. Avatar richard lobo says:

    Superb and timely for me!

  3. Avatar bill bannon says:

    The author writes: ” But in the New Testament hupotasso ‘never means mandatory submission by any being’; it always implies a voluntary arranging.”
    Then there is no predictable submission where submission is on a case by case volunteer basis…e.g….a soldier might obey his sergeant’s order to take this hill or he may not volunteer his being arranged under the seargent and dissent during battle. Aquinas noted that things done under a vow are more meritorious than the same things done without a vow because the vower gives their whole future in one moment and the non vower does not give everything nor their whole future life but gives
    on a case by case basis. We cannot use present, modern Greek scholars to undermine common sense. It is at the point of the marriage vow, not each week, that a woman implicitly agrees to voluntarily obey this particular man ( vis a vis 6 NT relevant passages not just Ephesians) in matters wherein they diverge while in most ongoing matters they both implicitly agree to obey each other vis a vis only Ephesians. A religious has it harder still: they are vowing to obey unseen future superiors of
    their order without the mutual submission clause. I find wifely submission pronounced in Casti Connubii section 74 and absent in both Vatican II and in the present catechism while obedience to the hierarchy is nevertheless pronounced…ccc882 reads ” For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
    Does it sound like we are to voluntarily arrange ourselves under the Pope on a case by case basis? Bottom line: the Church in documents lately ( post Casti Connubii) is lopsidedly promoting obedience to hierarchy ( see Lumen Gentium 22) while being virtually silent on obedience within the family. And it’s wondering why the former is not taking place.

  4. One of the best I’ve read on this topic!
    Dan, If you’re still asking “what can I hope to get out of it?” then you’re probably not ready to get into it. God works with what he’s got, of course, but the basic premise (as JPII never tired of reiterating) is that the only way to find ourselves is thru a “sincere gift of self.” Without that knowledge/commitment on the front end (i.e,. Not what can I get out of it? but What can I give to it?), any vocation is going to be twice as hard as it needs to be. I speak from experience :-)

    • It’s only intellectual for me at this point, but that sounds like a scam. It’s like “sign on the dotted line and then later you can find out what the contract says.” Well if anyone can expect to get anything from marriage it shouldn’t be hard to enumerate what it is. I’ll go with Bill Bannon’s advice which is much clearer and more balanced than the article. If I marry it will be a Catholic girl with an Amish-type attitude toward men who won’t be trying to scam me with evasive platitudes.

      • Dan – while your questions and observations are somewhat artlessly posited, I think they bring up very valid points. While marriage is not and should not be about what one “gets”, what is expected from a wife and marriage is something that should be very clear in your mind before you get to the altar. In the current legal and cultural environment a self-sufficient, single man in his 30s or 40s with a decent income, skills, and perhaps some assets should be Very careful when choosing a wife, and even more importantly, really discern why he wants to marry in the first place. In many conservative Catholic circles there is much hand-wringing and discussion of why young people, and young men in particular, are unwilling to marry. Quite frankly, these days the practical and logical reasons argue against marriage. Many women are “traditional” when it comes to letting their husband provide, but not so traditional as to be interested in making a house a home, taking care with their appearance after marriage, and showing practical love and appreciation for the sacrifices a good man makes for her. I too speak from experience…

  5. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    One can criticize the secular view of male female roles. But real people live in a world where gender roles are not defined by theology. How does one live in a marriage of mutuality given the roles of men and women with unequal earning ability (women earning more than men) unequal roles of authority in the work world (wife a manager husband a factory worker). Catholics are a long way from a practical theology that supports Christian marriage in contemporary society.

  6. Avatar Deacon Rex Pilger says:

    Dr. Brugger provides a more erudite exploration of what it means to be a husband and father than I attempted in my 2009 article (“Ephesians 5: Bridegroom and Bride” If commentator “Dan” is a real person, he may want to look in the mirror and see if he can recognize anything of Jesus in the reflected image.
    What did I expect from marriage (going on forty years)? How about a life companion who shared my love of Christ and his Church and complemented me in every way, not just sex? And a woman for whom I could offer myself as sacrifice, making vocational choices that met her needs and that of our growing family (five adult children now, with the sixth grandchild on the way), and not my wants and desires? Marriage — Christian Marriage — is a marvelous journey which never is a bore; each day is different from the previous. The Church tells us that such a union is oriented to the good of the spouses and to their children. Whom should “Dan” marry? Should “Dan” marry? Until he changes his expectations, perhaps even raise them (seek out a believing, practicing Catholic woman), and, most importantly, intensify his own faith life, seek out the Lord Jesus, and ask him what he wants “Dan” to do and be… until then, “Dan” is not ready to marry.

  7. Avatar Rich+Carmel says:

    Christ loves us with complete, unconditional love. Husbands and wives must strive to do the same, realizing that the sacramental grace from marriage will help in this unknown and unpredictable part of our spiritual journey. Entering into a marriage with the question “What do I get out of this?” is the message from the shallow secular world. It is not what God wants us to ask.


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