Some might ask why and how investing in the dividends of our Faith has anything to do with a series on the charisms of Conjugal Love. The truth is without these dividends those charisms cease to be charisms for, after all charisms are gifts from God. One cannot have true love without God. It is impossible. He has given us, through the ultimate Gift of the Heavenly Father's Own Son Jesus Christ the gift of salvation through the Son's gift of the Cross and Resurrection in which He conquered death for all. He has left us another phenomenal Gift - His Spirit - the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity - the Holy Ghost. In addition Jesus left us another Gift in which we give back to His Father when we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the priest, acting as an alter Christus offers for us the unbloody sacrifice of His Body and Blood to the Father.
God also has given us another wonderful gift - the gift of life and through this gift, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was the cooperator - the Co-redemptrix - so also the husband and wife become the cooperator with God in bringing forth another soul made in His image and likeness with the intent to give Him honor and praise and, as the Baltimore Catechism has always taught, "to love Him and serve Him in this world and the next." That is the whole goal of procreation. God has created the sexual pleasures as a perk if you will to marriage. Unfortunately this has been badly abused by those who have rejected His gifts, His charisms.
Privileges are granted to those who accept responsibility. A couple who vows before God to take on the lasting responsibility of the Sacrament of Marriage are granted the privilege of intimacy between them that is meant to provide great pleasure and increase the attraction and affection between husband and wife, which in turn enhances their love for each other and their offspring - their own flesh and blood. A loving wife is the most precious gift God can give a loyal husband; a loyal, caring husband is the most precious gift God can give a trusting wife. With this kind of foundation, a family can be built, if you will, on the girders of their Faith, filled in with the charisms that enhance and give their Faith purpose. Just as a building has four corners - stones to build on, hence cornerstones, so also their Roman Catholic Faith has four universal marks - One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. If a marriage is built on these, each year will be level as they build toward a holiness that their children will follow and seek to exemplify.
It is in this building of family that the dividends pay off. Unfortunately today, raising a family isn't utopian smooth. Our world is filled with "bank robbers" who pillage and plunder virtue and values. What once was sacred and holy is today made to be profane and disgusting by the fallen angel. What should serve as an earned privilege reserved only for matrimony is regarded as acceptable to all in any form or manner they wish with no regard to the ultimate consequences on earth and especially in Heaven. The Blessed Mother and the saints have said often that there are more souls in hell because of the sins of the flesh than any other. If that's the case the abyss of hades should be overflowing when this generation passes because today every sin imaginable and unimaginable is flaunted in the face of the just and virtuous; every sin seeks acceptance as normal and everyone who objects to the perverse, the unnatural, the sin is persecuted further just as Christ said we would for His sake (cf. Matthew 5: 11; 23: 34; Luke 21: 12; and John 15: 18-27).
But just because everyone else is doing it does not make it acceptable or right. Yet sadly, even within our beloved Church many of our leaders have lowered the bar for standards; something the saints would never have done...and something we shouldn't buy into because it contradicts all the Church teaches. To not speak up against the sin and counsel the sinner to repent is akin to giving consent to the sin, to being an accomplice and therefore accountable before God for our inaction, for our failure to love our neighbor.
We say this because we have been given the charisms of the Faith and if we fail to use them, if we hide them under a bushel basket and not invest them in building a family of Faith - first in our own family, then the community and further as God moves us, then we cannot cash in the spiritual dividends that would have built up had we invested wisely. It's that simple. The beautiful thing is we don't have to have an economic degree, don't have to even know math, don't have to use a calculator. It's all there for us free. All we have to do is use the charisms given to us in the precious gift of our Faith, the Faith of the New Covenant created by Jesus the Son of God. You can't ask for a better banker!
But we also know what happens if we don't build our account. It wittles away. This is what mortal sin does to our spiritual bank accounts. But Christ has left us the charisms of the sacraments, most notably Baptism, Confession, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation. The first allows us to open an account, through the chrism of the baptism we are given a glimpse of the Prism of eternal happiness. The second gives us a spiritual ATM where we can make deposits and prevent the thieves of grace from invading our vault - our soul. The third enables us to build our account more rapidly with no deduction or late penalties unless we trip up and succumb to temptation. In that case we can recoup our loss if we take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a sincere heart, resolved to not allow the same thing to happen again. The fourth is a one-time deposit of grace that strengthens our account, gives it an added boost. After building up this account over the years we are eligible to advance to the upper echelon of the bank, if you will, through the sacraments of either Holy Matrimony or Holy Orders if it is God's Holy Will. Some are not directed to these special vaults but before God, if they keep their accounts in order, their reward will be just as fruitful.
It is in these expanding echelons that we also agree to accept more responsibility and, by doing so, seek to increase our cache with the cash of sharing and teaching the Faith to others. Parents do this with their children; priests and nuns with parishioners and those they are entrusted to in trust. This trust helps build for both the married state and consecrated state greater dividends in seeking holiness that are kept in a trust in Heaven for when it is time to cash in. That is where the final sacrament comes in - Extreme Unction - the Sacrament of the Sick in which the soul is prepared to return to God and to cash in his or her dividends amassed during this lifetime.
They say you can't take it with you and they are right regarding temporal things, but when you consider the dividends you invest through the great Deposit of the Faith in building graces towards the goal of sanctity - you can definitely take it with you and present it to the Almighty Judge. Chances are if you follow this kind of investment portfolio you'll be in and out of the High Court in no time and reaping the everlasting benefits in Heavenly bliss.
We don't know about you, but this makes the ups and downs of parenting, the "for-better-or-worse" times that much more bearable, that much more rewarding because your dividends also depend on how many dividends you shared with others. It's no pyramid scheme but rather a revolving account that keeps on giving in grace from generation to generation to generation. We have the passbook in the Truths, Doctrines, Dogmas and Traditions of holy Mother Church. They don't change, they just accrue interest in the celestial vault with our name on it. Isn't that worth investing in? Isn't that worth sharing with others? That's an integral and, in truth, the greatest gift of the charism of Conjugal Love for it's a gift that keeps on giving.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Twenty-Five: Coping with contradictions
For previous Lessons in this Series, see At One With God