" Therefore you have the duty to preserve the child and yourself from everything that might jeopardize your honest Christian way of life and that of your children, from everything that could obscure or weaken your faith and theirs, or becloud the purity and brightness and freshness of your soul and theirs."
(Pope Pius XII, April 14, 1943)
When a man and woman marry, they pledge their lives and their love to one another, promising to to be faithful in their thoughts, their hearts, and their actions. When first found, a love is jealously guarded, and nothing deters one from doing his utmost to ensure his sweetheart is not only loved but cherished and protected from any threatening or corrupting influences. Sometimes, though, one neglects to fortify the walls that were first set up to protect their precious treasure. They forget that to protect their love, their marriage, their very salvation, each spouse must first protect himself.
We often think of the innocence of children, and earnestly seek to preserve these delicate flowers. But in addition, we should not forget the innocence of our own souls, first made white in the waters of Baptism. Age should mature us but not deceive us into believing that the gradual lost of our innocence is inevitable. Pope Pius XII noted the difficult but necessary process:
" Nature, like the soil, must be worked with the sweat of the brow; one must toil incessantly to weed and uproot evil inclinations and vicious seeds to combat harmful influences. . . "Blessed John Paul II noted in his Theology of the Body that Adam failed to protect Eve from the serpent. Yet, Eve also failed to protect Adam from Satan's cunning as well, by doing the work of the devil for him. They each contributed to the discord that entered their marriage by their false assumption that no harm could come to them, and their false confidence that if it should they could easily recognize and ward it off.
A man and woman are each given guardianship over the precious treasure that is the soul of their spouse. To exercise this responsibility properly, they must first recognize it, and humbly ask for the wisdom to discern how to perform their task. Just as exposing a flower to a harsh climate will cause it to struggle, so too, exposing a spouse to unnecessary temptation will hurt it in its efforts to grow.
Two examples can inspire us to a renewed zeal in our role as protectors. Saint Cecilia, whose feast is today, had her virtue protected first by her guardian angel and then by her husband St. Valerian after his Baptism. We would do well to also look to the example of the Blessed Mother, whose innocence was entrusted first to the priests of the Temple, then to St. Joseph, and finally to St. John. How each must have worked diligently to protect her! How we might do the same; to protect the other, and to protect ourselves.