Here’s something you can tell your sons.

The girl you plan to marry is drop-dead gorgeous. She’s also a virtuous girl who is sweet, kind, and considerate of others. Her intelligence is apparent to all, and her many talents will be of great benefit to your household. While she is neither frivolous nor flighty, she enjoys life and has a wonderful sense of humor. Most importantly, she loves children, and she promises to be a loving and devoted mother. She obviously loves you very much, and I hope and pray that she fills your life with happiness.

But consider what marriage really is. You are promising to love and cherish one woman, not only for the present, but for the indefinite future until you are parted by death. You don’t know what the future holds. Your wife’s natural beauty may one day be ravaged by accident or fire, leaving you to adore a horribly scarred face for forty more years. Her ability to be sexually intimate with you could be ruined by illness or disease: thus, your marriage vows might well include a lifelong vow of celibacy. She may go blind or deaf at an early age. She may have her breasts removed to save her from cancer. Her personality may be devastated by drugs or alcoholism, and she may end up hating you. She may experience depression or mental illness. She may be unfaithful. She may walk out on you, and she may never come back. She may — heaven forbid — abuse or neglect your children.

And your job? Your job is to love, pray, and suffer for her. Your job is to forgive her seventy-times-seven. Your job is to avoid any thought of being free and finding another. Your job is to keep your vows unflinchingly. Your job is to be there for her when she needs you, when she hates you, when she ignores you, when she doesn’t know you are there, when she loves you again – at any cost except that of your own soul and those souls in your charge (*an important caveat). Your job is to love her as Christ loved the Church. Your job is to be a man. There are no exceptions.