Series Highlights Marriage as Way to Holiness

Conference Features Jacques and Raïssa Maritain

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ROME, JAN. 27, 2011 ( A new conference series sponsored by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is highlighting examples of conjugal holiness such as Jacques and Raïssa Maritain.

This series on «Profiles of Conjugal Holiness» aims to address topics such as the strength that comes from love, faithfulness to love and demonstrations of love, focusing on specific testimonies of married couples.

The first conference, which took place Jan. 13, was titled «A Way of Love and Faith as a Couple» and focused on the example of the Maritain couple.

Jacques and Raïssa were two young intellectual converts who married in 1904, and set out to discover together the way of faith with the sole objective of sanctifying their marriage.

Ludmila Grygiel, coordinator of the conference series, noted that the conversion of the Maritains was not easy: «In general it seems to me to be a rule that the conversion of an intellectual is more difficult than that of an artisan or farmer, because the cultural baggage of the scientific world to explain and know reality makes it more complicated to unite oneself to the simple evangelical message and accept the mysteries of God; on the other hand, the task of an honest intellectual is to seek the truth.»

The coordinator noted that Jacques and Raïssa sought this truth, but at the beginning, when they sought the meaning of life in philosophy, they ran the risk of falling into despair, even thinking of committing suicide.

Grygiel said that the Maritains decided to be baptized only after having given up the idea of finding the truth and intellectual happiness in the philosophy proposed at the time. Thanks to the reading of the mystics, they understood that what is known of God is nothing compared to what is not known of him.

She affirmed that the Maritains’ thirst for truth was satiated not by study, but by love for the truth that is given by wisdom, perfect love that gives perfect liberty.


Grygiel stressed that for the Maritains the moment of baptism, the beginning of life as Christians, meant «to begin to carry out their vocation to holiness.»

Cardinal Georges Cottier, who presided over the conference, spoke about having known Jacques Maritain personally in Rome during the years 1946-1952.

«We are before a great crisis of marriage,» the cardinal acknowledged. «In recent times, the idea that marriage is to last for the whole of life seems something almost impossible.»

He recalled: «The love of Jacques and Raïssa was something else. Up to the last moment it continued to be the same love as when they were 18, and this seems a monstrosity.»

In modern times, the prelate noted, many people wonder, «How can I be sure that in ten years I will have the same feelings as now?»

He noted «We live in the world of the moment, of the instant, of temporariness.»

The cardinal asked, «Where is the column that sustains everything if God is not there?»

Time’s passage

He continued: «It is not necessary to forget time, which the body that grows old also passes through. We change also from this point of view. The girl I met at 20 is not the same at 80.

«There are also illnesses, but the present world does not want us to see this. All are young, beautiful people, without illnesses.»

Cardinal Cottier stated: «This is what happens if there is no interiority and relationship with God. Youth and obsession of the body want to be at the same level of the spiritual aspect.

«If the body marks the rules of living, everything changes.»

«To this,» he noted, «are added the enormous economic difficulties that families suffer, the problem of work, unemployment and also the fact that couples arrive home exhausted after work.»

«All this is paid for by the family,» the cardinal lamented. «It is necessary to reflect on the social conditionings of family life because people are victims of this situation.»

Giulia Paola Di Nicola and her husband, Attilio Danese, both professors, recounted the story of the path followed by Jacques and Raïssa to God.


They affirmed that «forgiveness was an essential issue in the couple’s relationship.»

«If one loves it is fruitful, because love is fruitful,» Di Nicola said. «Two persons who love one another will make their love pass to all those around them.»

She pointed out that at the death of her husband Raïssa Maritain acknowledged that she did not know everything about him. Di Nicola said: «We see young engaged couples who call one another millions of times to tell each other everything, to explain everything. To give each other everything is one thing, to tell one another everything is another.»

She continued, «It is a delicate area because at times to be alone with God can be an escape from one’s responsibilities or from the other.»

«At the same time, to always be together becomes a dependence, a non-growth,» Di Nicola noted.

She explained: «Silence, in turn, does not mean to take something from the other, but to venerate him, to venerate the mystery that the other contains and contemplate him in his beauty.

«Simply admire the mystery contained in his soul.»

«It is not out of place to propose the validity of modesty, so dispersed in present-day society, made up only of exhibitionism,» Di Nicola affirmed. «It is the veil of modesty that our society lacks at the basis, and which would help us to discover with discretion the mystery of the other.»

The second conference of the series, titled «Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla: The Strength that Comes from Love,» will take place on March 3.

[With the contribution of Maria de la Torre]
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