Anyone who is contemplating marriage has a lot to think about, indeed. However, there is one modern trend that should be avoided once you have determined that marriage is your vocation. To explain this pitfall and how to overcome it, I introduce a phrase from philosophy. “The first in intention is the last in execution.” No, we are not talking about executing people as so many irreverent jokes concerning wives go. In this sense we use the word execution to mean: the result of an act performed, such as in, “The plan was sound; its execution, faulty.”
Let’s consider the statement again, “The first in intention is the last in execution.” Imagine a sculptor who is just about to put hammer and chisel to his marble for the first time. What is he going to make? A tree? A lion? A saint? We don’t know but the sculptor does know. Before he strikes his first blow, he has an intention in mind. He knows exactly what he means to accomplish; as a matter of fact, that is the first thought he has, namely, what the end result will be. So his original intention of what he is going to make is the last thing he will actually accomplish. In other words, the first in intention is the last in execution. What has this to do with marriage?
The average young man today, who has just realized that his vocation is to be married, will immediately set out to find a spouse. Is that all there is to it? “I want to get married, now who can I marry?” According to our philosophy, which is supposed to bring us wisdom, this is the wrong approach. In this scenario, the first in intention is the first in execution and not the last. Again, consider the sculptor. He has an intention to sculpt a figure of a lion from his square block of marble. But his intention does not make the lion pop out of the marble. There are many intermediary steps that the sculptor must go through before the lion appears. First, he had to study patiently under a teacher, next he needs the proper tools (chisels), and then he needs the proper materials (marble). If he can not afford these then he needs to earn money or obtain a sponsor. He also needs time and a workplace to accomplish his task. Only after these things are taken care of can he actually start chipping away at the stone. Eventually, his original intention is realized by producing a sculpted piece of art.
Preparing for marriage also has these intermediary steps. Being a spouse or a parent is not merely a physical and instinctual affair. You are not born with all the skills and qualities needed for your vocation. You must prepare. Think of your end goal now and what you can do to achieve those goals. While you have the time and the money you can learn skills that will help in your marriage before you get married, such as sewing, how to read music, how to teach, cooking, housekeeping, etc. Men also need to prepare for the workplace and earn enough money to sustain the family. This may entail going to college, finding a better job, saving as much money as possible, learning financial basics, even learning handyman skills will help the family in the long run. Above all these things there is a big intermediary step that every Catholic considering matrimony must take if he or she wants a fruitful life together with one’s spouse. That essential step is to learn your faith and build your spiritual life.
If you intend to marry you should make prayer a daily habit. You should learn to meditate and do it often. You should keep up your knowledge of the catechism and other subjects that you will be called on to teach your children. Remember, whether your children are going to a good Catholic school or are home-schooled, you are the primary educators of your children. You must care about and oversee their education at every step. This may take a large effort on your part, especially if you yourself are not well educated. You must also build virtue by overcoming your faults and taking sufferings with patience.
Just because you feel an attraction to the married state, and are of age, does not mean that you are instantly ready to plunge headlong into it. As one priest said in a sermon I heard recently, “The words, ‘I love you,’ have no meaning without sacrifice.” The truth of this becomes apparent when we look upon the crucifix, complete with all the sacrifice, pain, and preparation Our Lord went through to fulfill His “Vocation.” I am certainly not trying to dissuade anyone from the vocation of marriage, far from it! We need to populate this world and our Church with saints. I point all of this out so that you will make the best use of your time and energy, which are typically much more abundant in the single life. I would recommend to all who are contemplating the married state to listen to or read Brother André’s talks on “Vocations,” find a good spiritual advisor if you do not already have one, and seek your parent’s advice on all aspects of marriage. After all, they have experienced it first hand and already know what to do, what not to do and how best to prepare you. So remember, “The first in intention is the last in execution.”
Editor’s note: The complete set of the vocations talks Mr. Hamilton references is here on audio:
The print versions, soon to be complete, are here on our site: