[As St. Thomas Aquinas argues,] after the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the “greatest form of friendship.” It is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life. Marriage joins to all this an indissoluble exclusivity expressed in the stable commitment to share and shape together the whole of life. Let us be honest and acknowledge the signs that this is the case.

—Pope Francis

Here is my journal entry with advice I received in Confession yesterday from an elderly priest, who is the textbook definition of an “old salt” with the gravitas that attends. There was a sense of awe in that confessional. He said:

You know that after God himself, your wife is the only person God commands you to love in an absolute way. Not your parents or children are owed that, no one but your wife. We are by divine command to love all, but only the spouse is loved with all your heart, soul, mind, strength—and body. Your children and parents, co-workers, and friends should be made highly aware of that every day.

Defend her honor as God’s honor. God takes your actions toward her very personally, as toward him, in a way unlike all others. That should fill you with joy if you love her, and fear and trembling if you don’t.

She is the apple of his eye. He has entrusted her to your care, to mirror his love and fidelity.

Do you understand me? [Yes.]

So your life with and for her should mirror your life with and for God. I hope your life is filled with signs and tokens of your love and total devotion to God—in the way you speak, act, pray, spend your time. Your marriage should be filled with equally numerous signs. That requires planning, work, dedication.

Do you think she sees that? [I hope so.]

Your vocation is to be best friends, to be each other’s delight. That doesn’t come easy, you know. Two sinners. Nothing worthwhile does. Every day, beg Christ for the grace of friendship; nurture it. If you take it for granted, it will die. Love will die. You will die.

Let me see your wedding ring. [I passed it around the screen]. In death you will part, but at your parting you will meet God in judgment, and he will be holding this ring.

Do you understand? [Yes.]

After that Confession, I could never see Michelangelo’s painting of the creation of Adam the same again, as God has Eve protectively in His arm just before He entrusts her to Adam…

From the Catechism #2365:

God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ’s fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.

‘St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.’”