We all remember the experiences of so many of our national soldiers who went through arduous, exhausting and seemingly interminable combats. How many of them saw numerous companions fall, and they themselves were uncertain of their own survival… but the desire to defeat the enemy, to save their country, and to fight on like heroes encouraged them to continue without desisting, and even to give their lives if necessary. How many nations have the glory of numbering among their sons men of this valor; men who are more concerned with fulfilling their duty than enjoying a life of betrayal and egoism.
Let us imagine a hypothetical situation. In the midst of one of the worst conflicts that his country ever faced, a general has under his command a certain number of soldiers who start dragging their feet, and instead of promptly obeying orders, react with an attitude of relativism towards the commands received. They even start leaking information to the enemy and go so far as to persecute the few soldiers who remained faithful to their military ideal and discipline. Would there be any possibility that such an army could defeat the invaders, obtaining peace for their country? Would there be some way that the general could rectify this situation? The remaining true soldiers would certainly hope so, and they justly expect that for their efforts and courage, in confronting the enemy and their slovenly comrades in arms, they would receive military honors and that the others would be duly punished.
However, observing the pathetic state of his army, let us suppose that the general summons his soldiers and delivers a speech to encourage… the dissenters!
‘No army drops down from heaven perfectly formed… we cannot harshly judge those who have tired of the fight. It is time to put the demands of military discipline and honesty in proper perspective…’ Imagine that at the end of his dissertation, he rewards some of the soldiers… the most insubordinate ones.
Do we need to finish the story? Would the few good soldiers want to keep fighting?
Failure to encourage the good is the same as promoting vice. In any life circumstance, the human being has the innate necessity to aim toward elevated goals, but requires incentive and challenge. We don’t need to give examples; everyone has already experienced the daily situations where the expectation of a reward or the fear of scrutiny by a supervisor makes everyone give much more of themselves… If we need a little ‘push’ even in undertaking ordinary things, why would it not be so in the spiritual life?
Relativize… this is a word we never want to encounter in an encyclical, much less so in one about marriage, for family is the basis of society. What intention does he who fails to demand coherence within family life have? Will he be classifying the faulty, false and inconsistent fulfillment of matrimonial duties as something good? What kind of instruction for spouses is this? It is absolutely discouraging for those who fight to remain faithful. And what kind of formation can parents give to the poor children who are born in an atmosphere where heavenly blessings are not felt?
What does the Church say about the virtues essential for Christian marriage? Does it permit relativism?
Enter the various parts of our study
II – The holiness of the matrimonial vocation may not be taken with relativism: the family is called to perfection
III – It is possible to experience truly celestial realities in a family life lead with sanctity
IV – The families of today, as those of all times, should aim at high sanctity
V – The goal of family life cannot be fulfilled with mediocre aspirations