Here is some of the most helpful advice I have come across for girls and women who are trying to determine whether God wishes them to enter the holy state of matrimony or not. (From Fr. Lasance’s book A Catholic Girl’s Guide)
Ought I to Marry? (LXVIII)
“Of the three paths before you when you stand at the parting of the ways one leads straight onward; it is the shortest, most direct way to heaven, and is known as the Religious life. The second trends away to the right; it also leads to the same bright, eternal goal, by a slightly circuitous route; it is the state of the unmarried in the world. The third road leads away to the left, into a hilly region; there are many pleasures and joys to be met with on that way, and also much toil and many sorrows; that is the married state. All these three states, I repeat most emphatically, are ordained by God; but any state is not fitted for any individual. Neither is it a matter of indifference to almighty God which state in life we choose for ourselves.
We will now consider each of these three states in turn in order to aid you in making a wise choice. The reason why I speak first of the married state is simply because a great majority of mankind is called to this state, and therefore is suggests itself first to our consideration. Now, the decisive question presents itself: Are you called to the married state? Ought you to marry? Let me suggest to you a few serious thoughts.
The answer to the question, “Ought you to marry?” depends upon another question: Do you think yourself capable of fulfilling the duties of the married state? In order to answer this question you must learn what these duties really are; and I will now proceed briefly to set them before you.
One of the chief among these duties requires that husband and wife should live together in concord, love, and conjugal fidelity until death. They must remain together, since marriage is indissoluble. Only when it pleases almighty God to sever the bond by taking the husband or wife out of this world may the survivor marry again.
How should married people live together? First of all in peace and harmony. They should aim at, and strive after, one and the same things; they should seek to lead a Christian life, serving God faithfully and helping each other on the way to heaven. For this end they must be united, avoiding anger, quarreling and dissension; otherwise they will embitter their life and make it a sort of hell upon earth. Nor can they escape hell in the world to come unless they repent and amend.
The following apposite anecdote may be related here. Two married persons who lived unhappily together carried their dispute one day so far as to come to blows. A neighbor who hear what was going on suddenly shouted: “Fire! Fire!” The quarrel was forgotten; husband and wife eagerly inquired where the fire was burning. “In hell,” was the unexpected reply, “and thither married people must go who persist in living in enmity, anger, and dissension.”
Married people should live together in love, not in strife and in quarreling. They should endeavor to please each other, they should pray for each other, have patience and bear with each other’s faults. When some grievance presents itself they should not complain to others, but mutually forgive and become reconciled.
And they should live in conjugal fidelity, keeping the promises they solemnly made at the altar. The wife must not fix her affections on any other man; the husband must not seek after any other woman; else will they be in danger of committing one of the most grievous and terrible of sins, a sin which God punishes very severely.
Another important duty is that of mutual edification. Husband and wife should set each other a good example, seeking each to sanctify the other, and walk together on the heavenward road. Such is the highest aim and object of a union which a sacrament has rendered holy. Christ loved His own unto the end, and, moreover, in such a manner that they should attain their own final salvation. So must the wife love her husband, and the husband his wife–in such a way that they may both attain their final end, eternal blessedness. They should therefore unite in prayer, attend divine worship together, and receive the sacraments at the same time. If they do this the blessing of God will assuredly rest upon them.
Difficult and important as are those duties of married people which we have already considered, the most difficult, and at the same time the most important of all, is doubtless that of bringing up their children in the fear of God. When the Last Judgment comes we who are priest and confessors shall not be judged in the same ways as ordinary individuals; we shall not only have to answer for what we have personally done of left undone, but we shall have further to give account of the souls committed to our care. In precisely the same manner shall fathers and mothers be judged; not merely in regard to what their own lives have been, but as to the manner in which they have brought up their children. If these latter are doomed to perdition through the bad education they have received from their parents, they shall hang like millstones round the neck of their father or mother, sinking them yet deeper into the abyss of hell.
This difficult duty of the education of children, and the heavy responsibility attaching to it, is sufficient of itself to make you, Christian maiden, seriously reflect before answering the question “Ought I to marry?” in the affirmative.
If this duty of education is so difficult and burdensome for the father, it is doubly and trebly so for the mother. For the physical and spiritual training of children depends, in their earliest years at least, almost exclusively upon her. How great a load of trouble and anxiety, grief and suffering, must rest upon a mother until her four, six, eight, or even more children can feed and dress themselves, until they are to a certain extent independent of her! Since the day when God said to the mother of the human race: “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power,” the life of every wife and mother has been a life of constant sacrifice and renunciation, full of sorrows and trials.
My dear daughter, “Ought you to marry?” To sum up everything in a few words, I would say to you: If you have courage to make great sacrifices, if you are very fond of children, if you feel that you could readily submit to the will of another, if you are sound and healthy in both mind and body, if you are sufficiently versed in household matters, and have attained the proper age (I would say the age of twenty), then you may marry if you consider yourself called to the wedded state rather than to an unmarried life in the world. May God enlighten, guide, and bless you! And may the words of Solomon be exemplified in your case: “She hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed; her husband and he praised her.”