The US Food and Drug Administration has directed the pharmaceutical manufacturer of the so-called “morning after pill” or “Plan B” contraceptive to market the controversial drug, without a prescription, to minor girls as young as fifteen.
“Plan B” is levonorgestrel, a female hormone that prevents ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). The drug also causes physiological changes that frustrate the possibility of pregnancy. For these reasons, Plan B is used for women who are victims of sexual assault, even in Catholic hospitals. According to Fr. Tad Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center,
“Some have argued that it may be immoral for Catholics to provide any contraceptive measures at all to a woman who has been raped. Such a view is incorrect … because a woman who has been sexually assaulted is clearly entitled to protect herself from the attacker’s sperm. The Church teaches that rape is not a unitive act that requires openness to procreation. It is rather an act of violence against another person, and the woman is allowed to take steps to prevent the possible fertilization of her own egg(s). It is permissible, then, for Catholic hospitals to provide their patients with morning-after pills if the following four conditions are met:
1. The woman is not already pregnant from prior, freely-chosen sexual activity.
2. The woman has been sexually assaulted.
3. The woman has not yet ovulated.
4. The morning-after pill can reasonably be expected to prevent her from ovulating.
According to Fr. Pacholczyk, after a sexual assault, the woman can be tested for LH (leutinizing hormone) that will determine whether she is ovulating. If she is, the morning-after pill would not block the egg’s release. In this circumstance, the drug might function to block the implantation of an embryo, which would result in an abortion. “Under these conditions, therefore, the morning-after pill should not be administered.” (See, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, “Getting it right ‘the morning after.’” at http://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=301) Otherwise, it may be used to prevent the fertilization of her ova by the rapist. This is not a contraceptive or abortive act, but a defensive one.
This legitimate use of “Plan B” does not however justify making it available as a contraceptive or abortifacient, especially to under-age users. Leaving pharmacological decisions to minors seems wrongheaded at best. Any parent knows how difficult it can be to manage a child’s medications under the best of circumstances. Children don’t ordinarily have the knowledge, experience or discipline to take the proper dose at the proper time etc. When a young girl is conflicted, afraid, or embarrassed, the possibility of misuse is magnified.
Young girls are vulnerable to young or older men who might urge them to take the drug “just in case”. There is a real danger that predatory or exploitative males will use the availability of levonorgestrel to pressure a young girl to have sex. To rule this scenario out is naive, irresponsible and dangerous.
The moral objections to facilitating sexual relations between minors, or between an adult male and minor female (in most jurisdictions this constituted rape), are replete. Making this deleterious drug available to minors undermines parental responsibility, potentially separates the minor child, boy or girl, from the guidance of their parents and faith community and leads them to believe there is a “quick fix” to a life altering, highly personal event.
What are parents to do? Young people need to be taught that “legal” is not the same as “good” or “right”. Smoking, gambling and promiscuity are “legal”, but entail serious spiritual, emotional and physical risks. Careful, informative and age appropriate guidance will fortify children’s resolve to avoid the actions that would tempt them to use this drug.
Most telling in the shadow of the FDA’s decision to dispense levonorgestrel to fifteen year olds is this warning, which comes directly from the package label -
“Do not give this medication to anyone younger than 17 years old. Contact a doctor for medical advice.” I would add: “But before you do – consult with your parents and pastor.”!
Fr. Paul CB Schenck, MA, EdD, is Diocesan Director of Respect Life Activities and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
The US Catholic Bishops recently stated, “Marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, is not an historical relic, but a vital and foundational institution of civil society today,” and “No other institution joins together persons with the natural ability to have children, to assure that those children are properly cared for. No other institution ensures that children will at least have the opportunity of being raised by their mother and father together.” They said this, not in a catechetical publication, but in a legal brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court! Furthermore, they warn, “Societal ills that flow from the dissolution of marriage and family would not be addressed—indeed, they would only be aggravated—were the government to fail to reinforce the union of one man and one woman with the unique encouragement and support it deserves.”
The family as it has been known throughout human history, as a man joined with a woman, open to children, is in trouble. The number of couples living together without marriage and temporarily, the percentage of marriages ended by divorce and those rejecting children is steadily rising. The Bishops have said, “We are troubled by the fact that far too many people do not understand what it means to say that marriage—both as a natural institution and a Christian sacrament—is a blessing and gift from God.” And that “We are alarmed that a couple‘s responsibility to serve life by being open to children is being denied and abandoned more frequently today.” They “note a disturbing trend today to view marriage as a mostly private matter, an individualistic project not related to the common good but oriented mostly to achieving personal satisfaction.”
The suffering that ensues includes poverty stricken one parent households, psychological and emotional disturbances rooted in feelings of abandonment and alienation, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and a tendency to criminal behaviors. These are proven to result from a culture that has widely rejected the ideal of the life-long, monogamous union of a man and woman open to children. In a phrase, the natural family.
The Catholic Church has a deep, broad and rich tradition of catechesis on the family. She has the example of the married saints to both inspire and demonstrate faithful family life. And, above all, she has the exemplar of the Holy Family to emulate. Christians see in these models the ideal of love, commitment, fidelity and generosity that should define the loving union of a man and woman who freely choose one another for life and together bring forth, or adopt, the new life God gives them as the superlative gift.
As we work to turn our society away from a culture of death – which disposes of lives perceived to be unfulfilling, inconvenient or counterproductive, we must turn our hearts and efforts towards this family. The Church vigorously advocates for the status and rights of the natural family because, as Blessed John Paul II so vividly declared, “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family.” Catholics especially must work together to foster a family friendly and supportive society which guides young people into the joyous realization of the love of husbands and wives, their openness to children, the celebration of the Sacraments within the family and the prayerful dedication of young men to the discernment and reception of Holy Orders. Such dedication is essential to all pro-life work. We need to pray, work and sacrifice on behalf of the family.
Later this year, I plan to bring members of my family on a holy pilgrimage to the shrines of Fatima, Lourdes and Sagrada Familia. At Fatima, the Blessed Mother proposed the spiritual remedies for the ills that now plague families. At Lourdes, she nurtured the virtues of faith, hope and love which are essential to family life. The beautiful Shrine of the Sagrada Familia in Spain is perhaps the most beautiful temple to the Holy Family in the whole world. My hope is that our pilgrimage will inspire and guide us in our work on behalf of the Family and of Life. To join us on our holy journey, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -
Church bells tolled across the midstate [last] Tuesday afternoon, marking the 40-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
One hundred Catholic churches participated in the bell ringing as a sign of mourning.
“Roe v. Wade is a monumental immoral decision,” said Father Paul Schenck, Director Respect Life. “It led to untold human suffering and premature deaths of millions of American citizens. If anyone else did what an abortionist does, it would be considered homicide. Does it make it more moral because consent was given? I don’t think so.”
Today we celebrate Epiphany, what we might call “the other Christmas”. Why do I say that? On Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Son of David – the renowned Jewish king, foretold by the prophets. We return to the ancient Judean capital, Bethlehem, the City of David, where he is circumcised on the eighth day and given the Hebrew Name Yeshua, Jesus.
Today, we celebrate the Good News “breaking out” beyond the boundaries of Israel, and being made known to all the peoples of the world – to every tribe, and tongue and people and nation. So, we celebrate the Savior who comes to the Gentiles. This is symbolized by the three wise men who came from the East (Iraq and Iran!) to welcome and worship Him.
“Epiphany” – means “revealed”. But what is it, exactly, that is revealed to the magi?
- It’s revealed that God loves all human beings, not just one kind.
- It’s revealed that God has a perfect plan to save us from the dead-end of sin and selfishness, and love us back from the brink of hatred, jealousy, prejudice, greed and violence that threatens to destroy us.
- It’s revealed that God chose to do this through a small, humble and unassuming family from a poor neighborhood so that the poor and the rich could recognize the love at the heart of this world-transforming event.
Notice the stark contrast between the Magi kings and Herod the king: Herod sees the promised child as a threat. He’s afraid the coming baby will crimp his style, will challenge his power and lower his status.
Today, we too often see the commitment to marriage, the prospect of a child and the responsibilities of family life as a threat to our personal freedom, our power to do whatever we want and a challenge to our independent lifestyles.
The Magi see the promised child as wonderful gift. They’ve humbled themselves to travel a great distance to a strange culture that speaks a different language, which looks and acts differently, in order to embrace this baby who fulfills God’s love.
Herod’s selfishness, fueled by his fears, leads to his downfall. The Magi’s worship, inspired by the prophets, leads to the salvation of all the nations. Today more than two billion people call themselves Christians, in large part because of the humility of these three kings.
The gift of eternal life is offered to the peoples of the world through the birth a child. The gift of human life, the greatest gift anyone can ever receive, is still being offered to us in each and every child of every race and gender, country and culture.
Each of us needs to be open to this wonderful gift of human life, of eternal life, by responding to God’s love calling us to worship Him as single persons, religious, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony and by cherishing the new life that every child embodies.
Today we celebrate the “Epiphany”, God’s great gift revealed to the world in the babe of Bethlehem, and we celebrate the great gift of humanity revealed to the world in each and every child, born, stillborn and yet to be born.
“Feliz Navidad”, Jose Feliciano’s Christmas song, is one of the most popular in the US and around the world. The Spanish greeting literally means, “Happy Nativity”
In the new translation of the Roman Missal, Christmas is formally called “The Solemnity of The Nativity of The Lord”. The “Nativity Scene” with the Babe in the manger, surrounded by a serene Blessed Mother and a careful St. Joseph, is a familiar, cherished and enduring image of the observance of Christmas. The carols of Christmas exult, “Christ is born today, Christ is born today!”
Birth is defined in Webster’s as, “the process or circumstances of being born”. Birth is a process, rather than a single, isolated event. Biologically, birth does not “produce” a child. The child, already present and very much alive, only transfers from one place, her mother’s womb, to another – outside her mother’s body. Neither does the birth process produce a person, the person already exists, simply moving from one place to another, and one status to another, from pre-born to born.
The Christ Child was already the Incarnate second person of the Holy Trinity before his birth. He was already “true God from true God” and Savior, before he was born. In every way, Jesus Christ was himself, before and after his nativity.
What then do we celebrate at Christmas, “the solemnity of the Nativity of The Lord”? We celebrate our Lord and Savior reaching his birth day, emerging from the Tabernacle of his Mother’s womb as Emmanuel, “God with us”. We receive him as he already is, and for who he already is – Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christmas then is a paradigm, an example of how we should receive every child – before – at – and after birth. Just as birth did not produce The Christ Child, or give him his personhood – so birth does not make any child or give him personhood. Each and every child is herself or himself, fully a human person, from the very first moment they come into existence at conception. The birth of a child is the celebration that she or he has reached their birth day and emerged from their mother’s sanctuary and is now among us.
This should cause us to celebrate a blessed solemnity of the Nativity of The Lord, a very Merry Christmas and a very happy birthday!
By Father Paul C.B. Schenck
September 16, 2012: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 50:5-9; 2 James 2:14-18; Gospel of Mark 8:27-35
Responsorial Psalms 114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
“See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?” (Psalm 69)
Today is Catechetical Sunday, when the Church focuses on teaching and learning about our Catholic faith. When I made up my mind to become a Catholic, I decided I needed a Catholic theological degree – because what I learned about Catholicism in Protestant seminary was what we didn’t believe. So I thought I’d better study what we do believe. So I took a master catechetical diploma, a master of religious studies and finally a master of Theology.
But don’t get the wrong idea – catechesis is not academic – and it is not about the transfer of knowledge. The great Jesuit catechist Father John Hardon wrote that Catechesis “is that form of ecclesiastical action that leads both communities and individual members of the faithful to maturity of faith.”
Maturity of faith. Mature is defined as the state or quality of being fully grown or developed. In a psychological sense it means the ability to react, cope and reason in an appropriate way for the situation. Now Faith means trusting the word of another and accepting their authority to say it. Now let’s put them together -
Faith, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is an act of the intellect (mind) assenting to the divine truth by command of the will (heart) moved by God through grace.
Sanit James asks us today: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”
It’s not just what we know, but what we do that demonstrates our faith. It’s not enough to just say that you love someone; you have to show that you love them. St. James sums it up by saying: “I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”
So, catechesis is learning about our faith with both our heads and our hearts; it’s learning what we believe, and how we’re supposed to live.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks: “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply: “You are the Christ.”
Faith is more than facts – and even more than acts. The Bible word for Faith is ðßóôéò, which means belief, trust, confidence; fidelity. To have trust and confidence in someone, and be faithful to them even in tough times, you really have to know them, isn’t that so?
I was in Russia and trying to change my U.S. $50 bill, and the teller told me she didn’t have enough U.S. dollars. Suddenly a stranger was beside me and said, “Do you need U.S. money?” He was well dressed, and spoke English well. “Yes,” I said. So he replied, “I have what you need” and he gave me a 20, two tens and two fives. I sat down and thought, “Who was he?” I took out my bills and held them up to the light and pulled out the red and blue threads. They were counterfeit.
To really trust someone, you need to know that person. Pope Benedict has said: “Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.”
And on this Catechetical Sunday, may we each come to know Jesus more and more.
By Deacon Keith Fournier
John Paul II Fellow of the National Pro-Life Center
Executive Director of the William Bentley Ball Religious Freedom Project on Capitol Hill
Some non-Catholic Christians don’t understand why Catholics hail Saint Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus. Yet our prayers echo the Archangel Gabriel and her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, among others…
August 15, 2012 (Catholic Online) – Today we celebrate the great Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most of our Eastern Christian brethren acknowledge the same great event on this feast, calling it the Dormition of the Mother of God. Some join us in the celebration today and others, following another calendar, commemorate it in just a few days.
This event is the natural progression in the life of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her “Yes,” her “Fiat” of surrendered love, brought Heaven to Earth and opened Earth to the Heaven which received her. She is thus the sign of the Church’s future and provides the pattern of every Christian vocation. All who say “Yes” to her beloved Son and live their lives in surrendered love, bear Jesus Christ for the world and will join with her in the fullness of the communion of love for all eternity.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
In those few words, all of human history was forever changed. As we make them our own, our histories begin to change as well. The angel proclaimed that Mary was “full of grace,” filled with the very life and presence of God. She walked in a deep, abiding and intimate relationship with God. He was with her before she even responded to His invitation. God chose Mary even before she chose God. This order is vitally important.
Mary’s prayer, her “fiat” – Medieval Latin for “let it be done” – was a response to the visitation from the messenger of Heaven, the angel. It provides a pattern of prayer for every Christian. It unfolds into a life of praise, her “Magnificat.”
This canticle begins with the words in Latin “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” – “My soul doth magnify the Lord” – and is the Gospel text for the Liturgy during the day on this feast. (Luke 1:46-55)
The “Fiat” is more than a prayer and the “Magnificat” more than a hymn of praise. Together they constitute a lesson book, a guide for our own lives. This lesson book is desperately needed by Christians, indeed all people of good will, in an age characterized by pride and arrogance.
The pattern of the life of Mary, the first disciple of the Lord, reveals a trajectory of surrendered love. If we embrace the mystery of Mary, we will find the meaning of our own lives.
We were created out of Love, in Love and for Love. As the beloved disciple John, who stood with her at the Tree of the Cross, reminds us in his first letter, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)
Mary said “Yes” to the invitation to participate in the communion of God’s love. She confronted her own fears and entered into a new way of living. So must we. Christians use the word “mystery” in a manner quite different than the contemporary West perceives the word. Christian mysteries are not puzzles to be solved, but gifts to be received in faith.
The Greek word “mysterion” – later translated “sacramentum” in Latin – is the word used for the sacraments in the Eastern Church. They are mysteries of our faith. It is in that light that Mary is viewed as a mystery; she reveals the very heart of that faith. She also teaches us the meaning of our own lives. Like her, we are invited into communion with the Trinitarian God – the Holy Trinity – in and through Jesus Christ. She shows us the way.
Mary lived a life of receiving and giving and giving and receiving. She has been called from the early centuries the “God-bearer” or “Mother of God” – which in Greek is Theo-tokos. She brought forth the Word of God. Her Fiat, her humble surrender, led to her Magnificat. Thus she becomes a prototype, showing us the vocation of every human person.
Her response reveals the meaning of life itself. We were made to give ourselves away to the Lord Who has given Himself to us in a holy exchange. He comes and abides within us. Through Baptism we enter into a new way of living in His Body, the Church. Living in that Church we are called to continue His redemptive mission by giving ourselves in Him for the world. An early father of the undivided Christian Church, Gregory of Nyssa, once wrote:
What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the Godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for “we no longer know Christ according to the flesh,” but He dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us.
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she bore within her the Incarnate Word of God as a living tabernacle of love. (Luke 1:38-45) Jesus, the Redeemer in the womb, was already saving the world and Mary, his chosen mother, was already His first disciple. This little Virgin from Nazareth not only experienced the great miracle but became herself a vehicle of grace for others.
Is it any wonder that the early Christians painted her image in the catacombs during their moments of fear, persecution and doubt? They found great inspiration from this little woman of great faith. In her “Yes” they came to understand that ordinary people can change human history. They were inspired to add their own “yes,” their own “fiat” to hers.
Justin Martyr and many other early Christian apologists found in her fiat, her obedient “Yes” to the angel, the undoing of the “No, I will not serve” given by the first woman, Eve. They called Mary “The Second Eve,” the mother of a new creation. In her womb was carried the One Whom the biblical authors would call the “New Adam.” He was born from her as the firstborn of a new race of men and women who would find a new birth and a new of living and dying through His incarnation, nativity, life, death and resurrection.
That same Redeemer now resides within – and lives through – all those who respond to the invitation of Love like she did. Mary’s choice, her response to the invitation of a God Who always respects human freedom, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history because it changed history forever.
However, it is more.
It is an invitation to each one of us to explore our own personal histories and to write them anew in Jesus Christ. Mary is a mirror, a reflection, of “Some-One,” Jesus Christ, her beloved Son,the Eternal Word from the Father Who became the Incarnate Word within her – the Savior Whom she was privileged to bear for the sake of the world filled her with His grace.
Each of us, now baptized into Him, is also called to become full of grace. The Lord desires to take up residence within us and be borne into a world that hungers for His love. Mary shows us the way. She heard the promise, believed, was filled with grace, and conceived the Lord Who is Love Incarnate. We can do likewise if we learn to pray, to listen, to hear and to respond with our own “Yes” – living our lives in surrendered love.
Hail Mary, full of grace
Teach us the meaning of Life.
By Father Paul C.B. Schenck
Founding Director and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center
Saint Paul writes: “First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior.” (I Timothy 2:1-3)
The Prayers of the Faithful, or petitions, are a very important part of the celebration of the Holy Mass. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal says: “In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is desirable that there usually be such a form of prayer in Masses celebrated with the people, so that petitions may be offered for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world.”
In their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops emphatically states: “In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the ‘culture of life’ and the ‘culture of death,’ there is need to develop a deep critical sense, capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.”
Quoting Blessed John Paul II, they observe: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life.”
In response to the current crisis of respect for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of all persons, the bishops call for pro-life petitions (prayers of the faithful) at every Mass.
Typically, when I am leading the prayers, I will pray for the entire Church, which means:
- For our Holy Father, our Bishop, all the bishops in communion together, the clergy, the religious, the consecrated and the lay faithful, that we may be witnesses to the gift of life and love to the world.
- For all elected and appointed officials, and all those responsible for public policy, that they may keep before them the sanctity of every human life, the dignity of every person and the common good of all people.
- For the sick and the suffering; the weak and vulnerable; those without advocates or voices; the pre-born, their mothers and fathers; the aging; those deemed terminally ill; the disabled; the incapacitated; subjects of scientific experiments that injure and destroy life; those who feel hopeless and helpless; the mentally and emotionally ill; the homeless; those without a nation or country to defend and protect their rights; victims of violence; those condemned to death and victims of war.
- For the dying and those who have died, that they may see the face of God and enjoy Him forever.
The Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes the Word of Life series (online and in hardcopy) as an easy way to follow their instruction that a pro-life petition be prayed at every Mass. While their stated purpose is to “develop a deep critical sense” of the respect for all human life and the dignity of all persons, it is not necessary to always mention abortion. The whole range of concerns for human life may be included over a reasonable course of time, weekly, monthly or seasonally. Still, the bishops have called for some expression of the aspirations of the Gospel of Life in the petitions at every Mass.
In the words of the bishops, in this way “we proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God; that each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self, and others; and that society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence.”
Lord, hear our prayer, amen!
THE WORD OF LIFE pro-life petitions can be found at http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/resources-for-the-eucharist/word-of-life/
Pro-life prayers can be found at http://www.priestsforlife.org/prayers/index.aspx
Homily by Father Paul C.B. Schenck
July 22, 2012: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Jeremiah 23:1-6; 2 Ephesians 2:13-18; Gospel of Mark 6:30-34
Responsorial Psalm: 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Today the prophet warns:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
The tone of the prophet is displeasure and disapproval. This was obviously not God’s original plan. God wanted the sheep, the people, brought together. He wanted wanderers to be returned to the fold, he wanted those left alone to be reunited with others who cared for them. He wanted the shepherds to bring them together and reassure them. But they were scattered and driven away.
How is it that the Good Shepherd brings the people of God together? How does He do it?
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The better translation is: I shall lack nothing.
Today we “want” everything. This is not what the Psalmist means. The Psalmist means that the Good Shepherd provides what the sheep, His people, actually need. Not what they think they need. Not what they “want.” He provides what they lack.
What do they need? They need identity, meaning and purpose. They need to know who they are, what their lives, their existence means, and what their purpose is.
Saint Paul tells us today that God’s purpose in creating us and calling us in Christ is: that He might create in Himself one new person in place of the two.
Today we begin Natural Family Planning week in the Church. I can hear you saying, “Oh, oh… here comes ‘the talk.’”
But, what is Natural Family Planning? It’s realizing the totality, the fullness, the completeness of human life, which begins with woman and man sealing their married love with a generous personal embrace of life – two persons committed to one another in such a way that they become “one” and welcome, with open hearts and lives, the gift of their children.
I hear you saying: “Whoa! Whoa! Time out! Time out!
“If we were ‘open’ every time – we’d have a barrel full of monkeys!”
Aha! The Church teaches, and the popes have affirmed, that sometimes the responsible thing to do is to space your children – to be fair and just and provide the best care. Not so that you can get what you want, but so that you can provide what your children need.
To make that possible, without violating the Law of Love, the Church teaches Natural Family Planning. This is a way that husbands and wives, lovers of God, each other and their children, can respect each other’s “nature”; that is, who God created them to be – and yet plan their families so that each can receive what they need, so they will lack nothing.
This is a very important principle, something every couple should learn – even those past child bearing years – that the Church urges couples to responsibly plan their families by spacing their children – but to do so in a way that honors who they are, respects each other, obeys God and welcomes their children.
Today’s Gospel tells us:
When [Jesus] disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
Natural Family Planning shows us how to avoid putting chemicals and devices between ourselves and God, between our love for each other as spouses, and between us as parents and our children. It also helps us to understand ourselves and each other, especially our significant other, our spouse and our children.
Let’s not do as the prophet warns: drive each other away. Rather, let’s draw ourselves together – with God, with our families, with the Church.
As we celebrate the gift of God’s love and of life and as we welcome with open arms all of God’s sheep, we ought to renew our vows to God, to each other and to our children and our children’s children; so that the Lord is our Shepherd, and we shall lack nothing.
Note: The second icon depicts Saints Anne and Joachim, examples of faithful matrimony, parents of Blessed Mother Mary and grandparents of Jesus Christ. Their feast day is July 26. The icon above is a close-up from “The Meeting at the Golden Gate” by Giotto di Bondone.