Book Excerpt: "Three to Get Married" by Fulton J. Sheen


Love has three causes: goodness, knowledge and similarity.

It is possible for man to mistake what is good for him, but it is impossible for him not to desire goodness. The prodigal son was right in being hungry: he was wrong in living on husks. Man is right in trying to fill up his life, his mind, his body, his house with what is good; he may be wrong perhaps in what he chooses as a good. But without the desire for goodness, there would be no love, whether it be love of country, love of friend, or love of spouse. Through love every heart seeks to acquire a perfection or a good which it lacks, or else to express the perfection that it already has.

It follows then that all love is produced by goodness, for goodness by its nature is lovable. It may be difficult to understand why certain people are loved, but of this we can be sure: those who love see a goodness in them which others do not see. God loves us because He puts His Goodness into us and finds it there. We love certain creatures because we find goodness in them. Saints love those whom no one else loves, because after the manner of God, they put goodness into other people and find them lovable. If it be asked why the drunkard loves alcohol, why the libertine loves perversion, or why the criminal loves stealing, it is because each of them sees some good in what he does. What each seeks is not the highest moral good, for endowed with free will, each can always choose a partial rather than a total good, thus making a god of his appetites. Evil in order to be attractive must at least wear the guise of goodness. Hell has to be gilded with gold of paradise, or men would never want its evil. If evil were always called by its right name, it would lose much of its appeal. When the exaggerations and perversions of sex are called the "Kinsey Report," they give an air of scientific goodness to that which would have no appeal if it were called "lust." Goodness by its nature is lovable, and love finds it impossible not to pursue goodness. Goodness is perfective of our being, and thus compensates for the meagerness of our having.

If one is asked why he is in love with a particular person, he may, if he is a logician, put his argument into some such form as this:

It is our nature to love goodness: But X is good: Therefore, I love X.

As we have said, this goodness is not always moral goodness; it can be physical goodness, or utilitarian goodness. A person is then loved because of the pleasure he gives, or because he is useful, or because "he can get it for you wholesale." But good he must be, under one of his aspects, otherwise he would not be loved.

The second cause of love is knowledge. A woman cannot love a man unless she has had at least some knowledge of him. "Introduce me to him" is a demand for knowledge preceding love. Even the dream girl of the bachelor has to be constructed out of fragments of knowledge. The unknown is the unloved. The love of the animal begins with the knowledge that comes through its senses, but the knowledge of man comes from his senses and his intellect. As love comes from knowledge, so hatred comes from want of knowledge. Bigotry is the fruit of ignorance.

Though at the beginning, knowledge is the condition of love, in its latter stages love can increase knowledge. A husband and wife who have lived together for many years have a new kind of knowledge of one another which is deeper than any spoken word, or any scientific investigation; it is knowledge that comes from love, a kind of intuitional perception of what is in the mind and the heart of the other. It is possible to love more than we know. A simple person in good faith may have a greater love of God than a theologian, and as a result a keener understanding of the ways of God with the heart than psychologists have. Goodness alone in isolation from knowledge could not prompt love; it must first be proposed to the mind and understood as good.

Knowledge can be either abstract or emotional. Geometry is abstract knowledge, but knowledge about sex is emotional knowledge. An isosceles triangle arouses no passions, but sex knowledge can do so! Those who advocate indiscriminate sex education to prevent sexual promiscuity forget that, because of the emotional tie-up, sex knowledge could lead to sex disorders. It is argued that if a man knew there was typhoid fever in a house, he would lose the desire to go into it. True, but the knowledge of sex is not the same as the knowledge of typhoid fever. No one has a "typhoid" passion to break down doors with quarantine warnings, but the human being does have a sex passion, which needs a control.

One of the psychological reasons why decent people shrink from vulgar sex discussion is because by its very nature it is not a communicable kind of knowledge. Its method of communication is so personal as to make the two who are involved shrink from making it general. It is too sacred to be profaned. It is a psychological fact that those whose knowledge of sex has passed to a unifying love in marriage are least inclined to bring it back from the realm of their inner mystery to that of public discussion. It is not because they are disillusioned about sex but because it has passed on to love, and only two can share its secrets. On the other hand, those whose knowledge of sex has not been sublimated into the mystery of love, and who therefore are most frustrated, are those who want to talk incessantly about sex matters. Husbands and wives whose marriages are characterized by infidelity are most loquacious on sex; fathers and mothers whose marriages are happy never speak about it. Their knowledge has become love; therefore they do not need to gossip about it. They who presume to know so much about sex actually know nothing about its mystery, otherwise they would not be so gabby about it.


This is an excerpt from Three to Get Married by Ven. Fulton Sheen.