The Marital Call for Life-Giving Love Part. 2

In Part 1 of “The Marital Call for Life-Giving Love” I discussed the primary means of “fruitfulness” in marriage, which is mutual acceptance of new life. Today, I’m discussing the Church’s plan for fertility.  

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A big question people often have upon hearing the Church’s teaching on contraception is the following: Does the Church seriously think that married couples are always called to engage in the sexual act with the intent of having children?

The answer: Absolutely not.

Being open to life in marriage is not to say that a married couple cannot responsibly and prayerfully regulate the size of their family, but rather that husband and wife do not thwart God’s design for sex, love, and marriage by artificially blocking fertility during a naturally fertile time.  Mirroring God’s love in the marital act means never rejecting (or placing barriers between) the possibility of bearing forth children.  Openness to the possibility of new life is key; not specific intention to procreate in every act. Through periodic abstinence, a couple is able to have control over their bodies and make a total and complete gift of themselves to each other.

This is why the intrinsic goodness of marriage isn’t altered or changed when couples are unable to have children, for reasons of age or natural infertility.  Unintended infertility is not an impediment to marriage; intended infertility is.

When Procreation is Entirely Excluded from Marital Love

When man and wife intentionally reject the possibility of children, the fundamental character of their sexual relationship drastically changes.  Openness to new life means being readily accepting of the expansion of love through parenthood.  When this openness to new life is removed, the will in the sexual act may no longer be wholly concerned with the other person’s good, and affirming of their inherent value.  Rather, the spouses (intentionally or not) begin to look at the other person as something to use and be used by.  Contraceptive love is not entirely concerned with the good of the other, because it excludes an entire gift of self.

The contraceptive mentality is not constricted to the medicated realm alone.  This similar mentality is taken in marriages that seek to remove the procreative aspect of their union through coitus interruptus (i.e. the “pull out” method), mutual masturbation that does not lead up to the sexual act, and the avoidance of children through abstinence for an unjust reason.fruitful

The Call for Chastity within Marriage 

This is why chastity in marriage is so essential. Chastity in marriage is not merely abstaining from sexual intercourse during periods of fertility.  It means following God’s plan for sex, love, and marriage.  This is not a negative thing, but it is an entirely positive thing motivated by authentic love.  As Jason Evert says, “Chastity gives you clarity of vision.”  It trains faithfulness, and frees us to love with full hearts so that we can make an entire gift of ourselves to our spouse.  Chastity does not mean oppressing all sexual desires, but calls spouses to properly order their desires so that they may be able to make a full expression of love and unity.

Living a chaste life in marriage opens up a deep level of communication and respect, and prompts man and wife to work together as a team, in all areas of their marriage. It also calls them to realize that there are more ways to express love than just the physical.  During periods of abstinence, they are called to get creative, finding ways to express their love to one another in different ways: through words of affirmation, spending quality time with one another, and performing acts of service for each other.

Seriously, the Solution is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning  is the means by which couples can avoid pregnancy if they have a just reason to do so.  So many people argue against NFP, claiming it is an old-fashioned, oppressive, and unworkable solution to human sexuality, but these claims are primarily based on misconceptions of what it is.

NFP is a means of regulating birth, through the observation of the woman’s natural fertility.  It relies on the science of a woman’s body, helping a couple identify when a woman is fertile or not.  This is not to be confused with the outdated, calendar “rhythm method,” but is an effective (99% method effective, and 96% user effective) and reliable means of avoiding pregnancy, and also of achieving it.   During fertile periods (in the case when a couple is trying to postpone pregnancy), man and wife are called to abstain from sexual intercourse.

NFP is different than contraception, because it isn’t a barrier method, meaning nothing is being done to prevent conception.  The sexual act is left the same–man and wife do not frustrate God’s plan for love in the act–and nothing changes in either of the spouse’s bodies. By watching the woman’s basal body temperature, cervical fluid, and hormone levels, the couple is able to identify when a woman is fertile or not, in order to achieve or postpone pregnancy.

Doesn’t This Method Have a High Failure Rate? 

Method effectiveness in each of the different methods of NFP is incredibly high (99% effective), but user effectiveness does vary.  How a person typically uses these methods vary in circumstances, and all of these play a huge role in how effective their method of choice is.

For example, a couple who isn’t following protocol strictly or is lax about keeping track of their signs of fertility will have a harder time postponing pregnancy than a couple who is very diligent.  Also, a woman who has irregular cycles or lower/higher levels of hormones than most, will probably need some assistance (an NFP instructor) to help guide her through her fertile periods.

The Strange and Difficult Way 

Many people think the Church’s stance on contraception is oppressive, but in reality, ordering sexuality according to God’s plan is actually entirely freeing.  This reality is hard to explain, because the nitty gritty of practicing NFP really does require a lot of work, discipline, and sometimes even heartache.  In all honesty, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that practicing NFP wasn’t hard.  It can be very difficult at times.  It calls for discipline in charting, open communication with my husband, periods of abstinence, and learning to live chastely in marriage.  It means asking ourselves, before entering into the marital embrace, the following: Are we prepared at this time (financially, spiritually, physically, etc.) to bring another life into the world, if God so wills it?  If we are, and I am fertile, then we are free to engage.  If we aren’t, and I am fertile, we have to hit the pause button on expressing our love bodily for a few days.  This requires a ton of self-control, and also certitude in our love.  NFP doesn’t require me to ingest chemicals or insert devices into my body in order to achieve sexual “liberation” in my marriage.  In our times of abstinence, we are reminding each other of the great responsibility that comes with marital love–and this is incredibly freeing.  As Jason Evert said,

“NFP beautifully contradicts such a [contraceptive] mentality, because it does not treat a woman’s body as if it needs to be subdued by drugs or shielded behind barriers in order to function properly; it just needs to be understood.  This invites the man to treat the woman’s fertility with reverence instead of disdain.   He learns that his wife’s body has been perfectly made.  This is true sexual liberation.”

Following God’s plan for sex, love, and marriage is very counter-cultural, and oftentimes very difficult.  Practicing the love God has in mind for marriage puts marital love to the test, calls man and wife to give a total gift of themselves to each other, and reminds them to always put the promise of their love in God’s hands.   In this way, love is not harmed or oppressed, but rather, strengthened and freed.

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2016: A Year in Review

2016 was one of those years that kind of slid by really fast, and from December to December here I am thinking to myself, Wait, what happened this year?  The more I think about it, though, I’m realizing that maybe it’s because since November I’ve been over here like Okay 2016…roll on out of here and let’s try this again! 

I’ve been hearing similar sentiments all over the place, and even saw that someone put together a horror movie trailer based on 2016.  Pretty creepy  but also pretty funny. But hey! 2016 wasn’t all terrible!  I compiled a little list for you of all the good/fun/awesome things 2016 brought us:

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Just a few things to remind us that 2016 was not so bad!

And really, all-in-all for my family it was a great year!

Here’s a little review for you:

  • At the end of January we had a really wonderful trip to California.  We went to visit Joe’s brother and his wife, and the four of us made our way for the second year in a row to Catalina Island to celebrate my birthday.  Not a bad way to start off the year!14600849_714873676631_7620449564457324180_n
  • One of the most significant events of 2016 for me was graduating from the University of Dallas with my Master of Arts in Theology.  My whole family and I traveled to Dallas, TX for the ceremony, and I’ve got to say, donning that black cap and gown was one of the best moments of my life.  I’ve never felt such a sense of accomplishment, and gratitude for being afforded the opportunity to study what I love and what I am passionate about.   I am so thankful to my parents and my grandfather for supporting me in my studies, and so blessed to have received an awesome education from the University of Dallas.  I look forward to great things to come!
  • Not long after my graduation, our little family joined Joe’s whole family on a vacation in Tulum, Mexico.  We all stayed together in a big beach side house with a pool, so needless to say this was a big highlight of the year.  My favorite memory was getting a free moment away with Joe to kayak across the beach for a little date at a oceanside cantina. 13731034_110711552702118_9138560475956338004_o
  • Right after graduating I got the itch to keep studying, so I began my courses with Catholic Distance University to get certified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I made my way through 3 courses, and am really loving it.  I’ve got two more courses and I’ll be done!
  • Joe laughs at me for posting this one, but hey!  I was in a commercial!  I know it is only for like a millisecond (see .18 to find me) but still pretty cool to represent our team, Sporting KC!!!
  • We made the big decision this year to send Eli to “school” (i.e. Mother’s Day Out). I am so glad we did because he is always so excited to go, and he has done so incredibly well.  He just goes one day a week, but he is already developing friendships and having so much fun.  I absolutely love picking him up and hearing about his little friends and about his day.  1473167642857
  • We potty-trained Eli this year! Yay to only 1 kid in diapers!!
  • Joe had an amazing opportunity pop up that took him all the way to Tokyo for work! It was really neat being able to face chat with him as he toured the temples in Japan. joe-in-tokyo
  • We painted our house blue.  house-beforehouse-after           It looks especially pretty in the Fall with all the reds and yellows surrounding it. 
  • The kids and I took a trip to Iowa to meet up with my best friends from Benedictine College.  Our boys were all born within a month of each other and I think they are just as close as we are! We had a great time chatting over mules and going to the Iowa State Fair. (I’m still dreaming of those fried pickles…)
  • We took our very first solo family trip to Colorado this Fall.  We traveled 8 hours by car, and the road trip itself was so much fun.  There’s just something about being alone and secluded with my family, moving somewhere together without any real distraction or noise.  That was the whole Colorado trip.  Just me and my family, in the quiet of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and it was wonderful.

     

  • This happened:                                                                       1477806070677And this:

     

  • This year we had quite the scare with my father getting sick and having to be in the hospital for a while.  I’ve never prayed so hard in my life, and I know he had so many of our friends and family praying for him as well.  I can only contribute his healing to God–it’s really amazing the work he’s done with my dad’s health. We love our dad so much!969499_560105244042195_169366718_n
  • Lucy took her first steps some time back in early September, but it wasn’t until about mid-November that she finally began walking.  She is so dainty about it still, walking around with her hands in the air, ready to block any incoming traffic (i.e. big brother Eli, and the dog Lyla).
  • Joe’s Grandma Marcella turned 100 this year!  I have never been to a 100th birthday party in my life–it was pretty special! img_2266                                                                   Look at all those candles!!
  • Lastly, and probably most significantly, this happened.  We think about Francis everyday, and are comforted knowing a piece of our family is already with the Lord.

Here are some of the most popular posts from the year:

More on Advent and the Domestic Church 

Should I Take My Kids to Mass 

The Immaculate Conception 

Inspired by Greatness 

He Lights the Ways We Do Not Know 

I look forward to what 2017 will bring.  I can’t wait to continue blogging more–I have big plans!

I hope you all have a very happy New Year and that 2017 is a blessing to you and yours!

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