14I wish the younger (widows) to marry. Censorious men laugh at this injunction of the Apostle. “ if,” say they, “ had been necessary to stimulate their excessively strong desire; for who does not know that almost all widows have naturally a wish to be married?” Superstitious men, on the other hand, would reckon that this doctrine concerning marriage is highly unsuitable to an Apostle of Christ. But, after a careful examination of the whole matter, men of sound judgment will acknowledge that Paul teaches nothing here but what is necessary and highly useful. For, on the one hand, there are many to whom widowhood gives the opportunity of greater licentiousness; and, on the other hand, there are always arising spirits speaking lies in hypocrisy, who make holiness to consist in celibacy, as if it were angelical perfection, and either totally condemn marriage, or despise it as if it savored of the pollution of the flesh. There are few either of men or women that consider their calling. How rarely do you find a man who willingly bears the burden of governing a wife! The reason is, that it is attended by innumerable vexations. How reluctantly does a woman submit to the yoke!
Consequently, when Paul bids the younger widows marry, he does not invite them to nuptial delights; and, when he bids them bear children, he does not exhort them to indulge lust; but, taking into account the weakness of the sex, and the slipperiness of the age, he exhorts them to chaste marriage, and, at the same time, to the endurance of those burdens which belong to holy marriage. And he does this, especially, in order that he may not be thought to have acted contemptuously in excluding them from the rank of widows; for he means, that their life will be not less acceptable to God than if they remained in widowhood. And, indeed, God pays no regard to the superstitious opinions of men, but values this obedience more highly than all things else, when we comply with our calling, instead of permitting ourselves to be carried along by the wish of our own heart.
Having heard that consolation, they have no reason to complain that injury is done to them, or to take it in that they are excluded from one kind of honor; for they learn that, in the married state, they are not less acceptable to God, because they obey his calling. When he speaks of bearing children, he includes, under a single word, all the annoyances that must be endured in bringing up children; in the same manner as, under the government of the house, he includes all that belongs to household management.
To give no occasion to the adversary For, as the husband may be said to be the covering of the wife, so widowhood is liable to many unfavorable suspicions. And what purpose does it serve, to arm the enemies of the gospel with calumnies, without any necessity? But it is very difficult for a widow, in the flower of her age, to act with such caution that wicked men shall not find some pretext for slandering her; and, therefore, if they sincerely desire edification, let them, in order to shut the mouth of evil speakers, choose a way of life that is less liable to suspicion. Here, I suppose, the common adversaries of the gospel to be meant, rather than the private adversaries of any woman; for Paul speaks indefinitely. (96)
(96) “ us ponder well this doctrine of Paul; for, although he treats here of widows in particular yet we are all admonished, that, in order to perform our duty towards God, it is not enough that our conscience be pure and clean, and that we walk without any bad disposition; but we ought likewise to add such prudence that enemies shall have their mouth shut when they wish to slander us, that their impudence may be known, and that we may always be ready to give an account of what we have done, and that they may have no presence for blaspheming against the name of God and his word, because there will be no appearance of evil in us. True, we cannot avoid being slandered; but let us always attend to this, that no occasion may be given on our part, or by our imprudence.” — Fr. Ser.