You might not think a book that took me a whole year to read would be a book I was so excited about. That, however, is so, so not true. Hands down, Three to Get Married is the best book on marriage I have ever read. The newly minted Venerable Fulton Sheen manages to be eloquent, accessible, funny, and wise all at once, covering practically anything you can think of related to the nature of love and marriage. If any of that sounds boring or stuffy, I promise you it isn't. It took me a year because, aside from having limited time, I also really wanted to just let his words sink deep into my soul. Hopefully you'll have a similar reading experience. Archbishop Sheen is a total boss, breaking down philosophical and theological aspects of love in a way that's crystal clear and makes you wonder why you never thought of them yourself. Consider, for instance, the difference he describes between sex and love:
There are two extremes to be avoided in discussing married love: one is the refusal to recognize sexual love, the other is the giving of primacy to sexual attraction. The first error was Victorian; the second is Freudian. To the Christian, sex is inseparable from the person, and to reduce the person to sex is as silly as to reduce personality to lungs or a thorax. Certain Victorians in their education practically denied sex as a function of personality; certain sexophiles of modern times deny personality and make a god of sex. The male animal is attracted to the female animal, but a human personality is attracted to another human personality. The attraction of beast to beast is physiological; the attraction of human to human is physiological, psychological, and spiritual. The human spirit has a thirst for the infinite which the quadruped has not. This infinite is really God.
So good. What amazes me, too, about this book, is how candidly and reverently it speaks about sex, especially given that it was published in 1951, well before the Theology of the Body clarified many people's misconceptions about the Church's standpoint. It talks about Adam and Eve being naked without shame, the dignity of the body, and other truths that JPII would discuss a while later. Sheen speaks so beautifully about purity as "reverence for mystery." He says,
Purity is a consciousness that each possesses a gift which can be given only once, and can be received only once. In the unity of flesh he makes her a woman; she makes him a man. They may enjoy the gift many times, but once given it can never be taken back, either in man or in woman. It is not just a physiological
experience, but the unraveling of a mystery.
I could go on and on. Our Lady, the Trinity, raising your future children, amazing true love stories (get your tissues out)...it's all here. Flipping through my copy as I wrote this, I saw the huge amounts of underlines and stars on almost every page. I'm usually not too big an underliner, thinking that it kind of defeats the purpose of highlighting certain things when everything's highlighted, but it all really is incredible. Thank you, Archbishop Sheen, for making me view and anticipate my marriage in such a joyful, practical, way. Venerable indeed.
Given my crazy amount of underlining, I highly recommend running out right now to get yourself a copy of Three to Get Married, but what's great is that you can also read the whole thing online!
Have any of you read this? Do you have it on your to-read list? I'd love to hear what you think!