Great Marriage Advice from a Celibate Saint

When asked in an interview about his advice to married women, St. Josemaria Escriva gave a blunt but truthful reply:

If a marriage is to preserve its initial charm and beauty, both husband and wife should try to renew their love day after day, and that is done through sacrifice, with smiles and also with ingenuity. Is it surprising that a husband who arrives home tired from work begins to lose patience when his wife keeps on and on about everything she thinks has gone wrong during the day? Disagreeable things can wait for a better moment when the husband is less tired and more disposed to listen to them.

Another important thing is personal appearance. And I would say that any priest who says the contrary is a bad adviser. As years go by a woman who lives in the world has to take more care not only of her interior life, but also of her looks. Her interior life itself requires her to be careful about her personal appearance; naturally this should always be in keeping with her age and circumstances. I often say jokingly that older facades need more restoration. It is the advice of a priest. An old Spanish saying goes: ‘A well-groomed woman keeps her husband away from other doors.’

That is why I am not afraid to say that women are responsible for eighty per cent of the infidelities of their husbands because they do not know how to win them each day and take loving and considerate care of them. A married woman’s attention should be centered on her husband and children, as a married man’s attention should be centered on his wife and children. Much time and effort is required to succeed in this, and anything which militates against it is bad and should not be tolerated.

There is no excuse for not fulfilling this lovable duty. Work outside the home is not an excuse. Not even one’s life of piety can be an excuse, because if it is incompatible with one’s daily obligations, it is not good, nor pleasing to God. A married woman’s first concern has to be her home. There is a Spanish saying which goes: ‘If through going to church to pray a woman burns the stew, she may be half an angel, but she’s half a devil too.’ I’d say she was a fully-fledged devil.

I read it to my husband and he said, “That sounds about right.” He was surprised when I told him that it spawned an epic thread on Catholic Answers, mostly from people denouncing Escriva as a sexist pig. The main argument against him seemed to be, “But people are going to age no matter what, so men shouldn’t care about their wives’ looks!” However, I think it is a mistake to define appearance as an area totally outside our control. We can make certain choices that do influence our looks–such as the choice to exercise, to eat moderately, to wear clean and flattering clothes, to take care of our skin’s health, to avoid cutting hair too short or getting tattoos. Appearance is therefore a reflection of one’s inner character, which is why Escriva links the interior and exterior life. Of course, some aspects of our appearance do escape our control, and for that reason, I’m sure no sane husband would blame his wife for getting wrinkles at age 70, or for her natural bone structure.

Some people also criticize Escriva’s expectations that women, even working women, should be the “angels of the house”: sweet, uncomplaining, always centered on home life. Again, I see nothing wrong this expectation. He doesn’t tell women to efface all their needs–he merely tells them to recognize that there is a time and place for everything. Yes, you may wish to confide your troubles in your husband, but do it at the right time, once he’s had time to relax, and you’ll find a more sympathetic ear. Yes, you need to pray, but do it at a time when you don’t have pressing household duties. Yes, you may need to get a job to help support the family, but don’t bring your career mentality into the home. (And to the women who would screech, “But men don’t have to do any of those things,” I reply: Trust me, men have their own burdens to bear).

In the same interview, the saint was also asked whether forbidding fornication is “reactionary.” He responded, “Reactionary? Who are the reactionaries? The real reactionaries are the people who go back to the jungle, recognizing no impulse other than instinct.” What a perfect skewering of the leftist impulse to adopt apes and cavemen as our models. I’ll take St. Josemaria Escriva’s Biblically-based marriage advice over theirs any day. St. Josemaria, pray for us!

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