Categories
Abortion Brad Fischetti Faith Formation Fatherhood Marriage NFP and contraceptives Parenting Perspective from the Head Respect Life Spiritual Growth Vocations

Why Is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone’s Business?

“I hope you’re not planning on any more children. Tell Bradley to get snipped, he’s got enough kids. And you better be on some good birth control because we all know the rhythm method doesn’t work.” 

The text above details what someone close to me, said to my wife recently.

Why is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone's Business?

The person offered this advice without any provocation and outside the context of a conversation about the subject. My initial inclination was to call that person and offer a scathing response. But after discussing with my wife, we decided to simply pray for that person and leave the rest up to God.

Why is it that the Catholic sex-life is so interesting to people? Why do so many people make it their business? We have all seen a family walk into church with 6, 7, 8, 9, or even 10 kids. And we’ve all seen the looks those families get from many of the parishioners. Granted some looks are those of admiration and respect. But many of those looks border on disgust. The comments, spoken and unspoken, are often times uncharitable and certainly not indicative of a Christian. The lack of understanding and the cynicism is present in many folks in the church, layperson, and clergy. I do respect and understand that for many, fully grasping and accepting the teachings of the Church is a lifelong process. Some may never fully accept specific teachings of the Church. And I think it is safe to say that the Church’s teachings on contraception are at the top of that list. 

I get it. It’s not unreasonable to think, “What’s so bad about a condom?” or “Why is it the Church’s business?” Those are fair questions to ask. And I think it’s important to ask questions as long as we are willing to dig deep for the answers. As Catholics, we look to the Church as a guide for subjects related to morality. The Church is our teacher, our Mother who enlightens our conscience to discern right from wrong. As Catholics, we are called to accept ALL the teachings of the Church. Nobody said being Catholic was easy. Some may say it’s even burdensome. The Church takes the hard stance on the hard issues. And I say THANK GOD FOR THAT. We live in a world where our morality is constantly being put to the test and bombarded with influences contrary to Catholic teachings. Our society, and even some churches, bends and forms and capitulates to the strains and whims of what’s normative. The Church doesn’t waiver. She stands firm as a beautiful beacon of hope and trust and of sound Christ-centered guidance.

Why is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone's Business? 2So what is so bad about a condom (or contraception in general)? And why is it the Church’s business? First, it’s the Church’s business because the Church is our authority on morality. Period. And a condom itself is not inherently bad or evil. However, the Church teaches us that the use of a condom is. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that every action, which renders procreation impossible, is intrinsically evil {2370}. Wow. That’s pretty heavy. The Church teaches that using a condom is not only unacceptable but also evil? In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI writes that contraception “contradicts the moral order” and is, therefore, “unworthy of man” {14}. The Church teaches us that our intimate physical relationships must be open to life-giving and love-giving.

Contrary to what some may believe, the Church does encourage us to exercise responsible parenthood. How does one exercise responsible parenthood without the use of contraception? First things first – self-control. Are you in control of your desires or are your desires in control of you? James Chapter 1 states: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.” Sexual desires aren’t bad or evil, but natural and good. The problem arises when we cannot control our desires. The Church offers a wonderful way for us to exercise responsible parenthood while maintaining, “respect [for] the bodies of our spouses” and encouraging “tenderness between them”. It’s called Natural Family Planning (NFP) and we’ll dig a little deeper below.

But first let’s break down the advice offered to my wife.

Part 1 – “I hope you’re not planning on any more children.” & “He’s got enough kids.” 

The Catechism states, “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity” {2373}. Children are a gift from God. You don’t need to read that in a book to know it’s true.

Part 2 – “Tell Bradley to get snipped”

Have we no more dignity than a stray dog or cat? A good friend of mine with six children often responds to similar comments with, “Sorry my husband is not a dog.” First of all, I can’t imagine voluntarily allowing a doctor to use a scalpel or laser “down there”. Beyond that obvious craziness and the possible risks associated with a vasectomy, the Church teaches us that sterilization is morally unacceptable. That’s enough for me.

Part 3 – “And you better be on some good birth control because we all know the rhythm method doesn’t work.”

This person is referring to NFP. NFP is not just a way to plan out pregnancies but actually is used to achieve pregnancy because it tracks and identifies ovulation. NFP is VERY effective when used correctly. Even the U.S. Government has a study that proves that a method of NFP is as effective as birth control pills and more effective than barrier methods in planning pregnancies. The beauty of NFP is that it is morally acceptable, free of cost, and poses no health risks to either spouse.

Many people don’t realize that several forms of birth control methods, including many birth control pills, sometimes work by preventing a newly conceived child from attaching to the uterus and, therefore, causing a first trimester abortion. Further, birth control pills and devices have potentially harmful side effects including an increased risk for breast cancer, blood clots, and toxic shock syndrome.

Why is the Catholic Sex-Life Everyone's Business? 3Sure NFP isn’t easy and certainly will require serious effort and diligent work. But it’s worth it. Studies have shown that couples that use NFP are far less likely to divorce {p.12}. Certainly those using NFP must have a very open line of communication and the comfort level to discuss some very intimate details. Such conversations and trust can only lead to a stronger marriage. 

I am still learning. My desire is for my intimate physical relationship to be pleasing to God. I am not judging or condemning. I’m only trying to offer a glimpse into what the Church teaches and to respond to what was said to my wife.

I am so grateful for the Catholic Church and her teachings on morality. Just imagine what we could accomplish if more Catholics had large families and raised their kids to be dedicated Catholics. What would the country look like if Catholic values were prominent in every facet of life?

Thank you Lord for your Church. Thank you for inspiring Her and for allowing Her to sustain for more than 2,000 years. Thank you for Her teachings on everything important.

Categories
Faith Formation Fatherhood Guest Posts HHS mandate Motherhood NFP and contraceptives Respect Life Testimonials Vocations

Giving Up (Birth) Control

In a world where we are able to control everything from the temperature of our water to our exact shade of blonde, it is no wonder that controlling all parts of our physical body is widely accepted. And, as humans, why shouldn’t we be in control? God gave us the intellect to learn and grow, and gave us dominion over His Earth.

I personally, understand the appeal of total control. I’m definitely a Type A kind of person, and I absolutely hate surprises. In fact I’m maybe the only person you’ll ever meet who despises breakfast in bed simply for the surprise factor. So I understand the inclination for a person to want to control every aspect of his or her life, because then there are no surprises. There’s nothing unexpected to throw off your plans. In fact the only thing that we cannot control is death, and yet though we may not know the hour, we all understand its impending finality will someday be upon us, no surprises there.

So what happens then, in a culture where everything becomes controllable?

Surprises become upsetting, even devastating.

It is common knowledge that when a woman begins puberty, she becomes able to bear children. But, if you are not willing to live by natural consequences, you can easily prevent this onset of fertility by using birth control.

What happens then to this same young girl as she ages, becomes married, and decides she wants to have children? Well then, if she has trouble becoming pregnant, the medical world has made it easy to receive all kinds of treatments from clomid to in vitro to ensure that she can control that too. Recently, there have even been medical advances which allow women to delay menopause indefinitely if they so choose, by using ovarian transplants. Not to worry however, because finally when this same woman has decided her fertility must once again come to an end, contraception is readily available and even sterilization to prevent all future “surprises”.

This woman who was at first devastated by her fertility is later in life devastated by her lack of fertility. Her complete desire for control has perhaps left her life empty both physically and spiritually.

That’s what happens when we try to block God’s control, our soul becomes tired and empty. We were not made to toil on this Earth alone, but to accept love, and thereby be filled. God made us because he wanted to share his divine love. His love is perfect, and His ever-generous gift to us is this life to share in His love and omniscient existence.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that, “God has placed it [the natural desire for happiness] in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it” (CCC 1718). We do not find happiness by creating our own, we find it in His creation. We have the opportunity to cooperate in His grace each day.

When in your life have you felt the most free? When have you felt the happiest? For me, it is when I give up control. When I decide to just let go and be happy. It’s when I let someone else decide for me, and know that His decisions will be far better than any I could make alone. Isn’t it ironic that happiness is most easily found when we give up that seemingly all-powerful control?

Well, I was that young woman. I was the woman who feared having children at “the wrong time”, who needed to be able to say exactly when each one of my children would be conceived. I was taught as a non-Catholic christian, that there was no sin in using contraception, and that it was morally prudent in order to best provide for your child or children. The very thought of having a surprise baby was both embarrassing and irresponsible.

And yet, all 5 of my children have been surprises! Not one of them was planned by me, but every single one of them was planned by God. And while it may sound overwhelming, trust me when I say that with every “surprise” I have felt more and more freed.

Just knowing that I don’t have to make the decision alone as to when it’s best to bring a new life to this world is freeing. Knowing that my husband and I can enjoy being a married couple and not have to stress about remembering to take a pill, finding a condom, or on the flip-side praying that an embryo made outside the womb will somehow successfully attach, is as close to perfect love as two humans can have. Fertility is a gift, “a child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment” (CCC 2366).

We are currently pregnant, and I can honestly tell you that after the birth of our child, I am looking forward to the freedom and excitement of letting God plan our next child should we be so blessed. Nothing is more freeing than bathing in the love of God. Nothing allows us to feel more fulfilled then living the life that God has planned for us.

“As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to divine providence. Our task is to live holy the present moment.” – St. Gianna Molla

Categories
Ink Slingers Martina

Eleventy billion quips you’ll hear about your large family

{please read ONLY if you have a sense of humor kthxbai}

 

 

Ok, so maybe not eleventy BILLION quips, but it’ll sure feel that way after a while. I don’t know why but, for some odd reason, I don’t have much experience with negative comments from strangers. I can’t figure out if it’s because of my winning smile – I exude a “can do” attitude when I leave the house {are you laughing at me???} – or if it’s because my laser beam stare {i.e. death glare} comes out when I suspect someone is going to let something incredibly rude or crass roll off their tongue. I hope it’s the former…it’s likely the latter.

Over the years in my online community, we have had many-a-discussion about the comments received from strangers about family size. I’ve never really considered my family size to warrant the comments some of these women have received, but in the event that someone makes one of those comments to me, I am now ready and able to identify the comment, the tone, whether it was genuine or baiting and assess how to respond…if at all. A smile kills the snarky intent of some folks.

So you can imagine when I announced our newest addition recently in our group {boosting us into the family-of-eight category – I posted “I may or may not be pregnant. That is all.”}, one of the gals decided to do her own spinoff thread of the anticipated responses I would be sure to hear and the following quips ensued.

**disclaimer: Catholic Sistas cannot be held responsible for loss of any liquid  that comes out of any orifice. Read at your own discretion. The end.**

 

She posted – What Martina is going to hear from strangers and “friends” in the next few weeks and years? Go. I’ll start. 

 Haven’t you figured out what causes that yet?

You are going to have your hands full! ::said with patronizing expression::

Are you NUTS?! 

Get a hobby…

…*another* hobby… 

Are you trying to keep up with the Duggars?? 

Can’t {husband’s name} leave you alone for two seconds? 

What, are you going for a football team? 

You need to stop having babies. There is no way you can have that many children and give them all enough love and attention! 

Breeders. 

Let me guess…you must be Mormon…or CATHOLIC!!! 

Now that you have a half dozen kids, are you going for a full dozen? 

Ever heard of cable t.v.? Satellite? Netflix? Hulu? 

Clearly {husband’s name} and the Catholic Church are oppressing you. 

You and others like you are the reason this world is overpopulated! 

You can sleep when you retire…

…just not with {husband’s name} 

This is your last one, right? 

You look great!! For a woman with 6 kids. 

Don’t you know what causes that?

You know, for the cost of raising that baby, you could feed fifteen starving children in {pick any impoverished country}

Well, {husband’s name} can’t leave you now…divorce will be too expensive!

I bet your uterus is just about falling out of you by now!

Y’all don’t get out much do you?

Good Lord, how old are you? Do you think this is safe at your age?

I bet this one will just fall out of you during delivery.

At least you have older kids…they will raise this one for you anyway!

HA – as if this is actually going to be a difficult pregnancy!…don’t they just WALK out at this point??

I’ll pray for you. You’re gonna need it.

It’s a uterus, not a clown car. 

See, I told you NFP doesn’t work…

Remind me not to let you in my car in 8 months!*

*Sigh*…if I had that kind of money I’d be a baby-making machine, too.

I bet your house is HUGE!!!!!

You’ll never be a supermodel now!

Better you than me!

I can’t imagine your grocery bill. Wow!

You’re so LUCKY you can stay at home with them.

You should get your own show. I mean, who in their right mind has SIX kids???

Tell me they aren’t all yours!!

You know you can do more than just make babies, right? Or does your husband not let you?

Have you had a recent head trauma?!?

You might need a walker the last month…**

Texas is in a drought and you want to add MORE kids that require water?? You must not care about Texas!!!***

Don’t you know you’re supposed to keep your toothbrushes on OPPOSITE sides of the sink??

I suppose you’ll be buying one of those 12 passenger vans, now. 

I’d go with the 15 passenger so you never need to upgrade again…of course, you’ll be killing the environment driving it, though.

Are they all from you?

You’re SO socially irresponsible!

Was this one on accident?

I know what you’ve been doing!

You know, they’ve figured out what causes that now…

Absolutely NO self control…tsk, tsk…

Are you getting your tubes tied/husband getting the big V after this one?

How many are your husband’s???

How many times HAVE you been married?

Are you sure they’re all yours? I didn’t know Mexicans could have blue-eyed babies.****

Are you done, YET?!?!

Way to kill the earth. 

 

As we all joked about these and had a good laugh, I realized that most people {with the exception of some who are just all drama} say these things with all sincerity. They genuinely feel like these comments are wanted, appreciated or that it will spur on a fruitful discussion. I’m actually not sure why private issues like fertility have become such common place topics to bring up with strangers. Why some feel the need to comment on others’ fertility or offer their own story as an example {validation, perhaps?} I’ll never understand, but I find that each of these comments represents an opportunity for us to be an example of Christian charity and a beacon of the Faith to shed light where there may be none.

The times that questions have come up for our family, I have usually made light of the situation. Typically if we are at a place where we pay for a service, I will casually say, “Oh, so-and-so, don’t you know we are just helping you out! We’re bringing you more business!” For future situations, I do hope that I will be able to avoid the temptation to respond in snarkines, or just offer it up when someone is baiting or blatantly unkind. I know those days will come. And I hope that I can make Jesus proud of me, whether it’s through example, word, or deed. So, friends, when all the world is pushing for people to check children off the commodity list, two and one of each, please, know that your example of being open to life is well-received whether you hear it from someone directly or not. This is one of the ways that we can be a visual example to the secular world of our desire to be counter-cultural.

Embrace it. Own it. Love it. Share it. Don’t be afraid. Kill ’em with kindness.

Share with me how you’ve responded charitably to comments you’ve received from strangers about your family size in the combox.

 

 

* #4 was born in the car after a less than one hour labor. Um, yeah.

** I am officially AMA {advanced maternal age – 35} now. Booooo…

*** Just to connect dots…I live in Texas. And we’re in a drought. Still.

**** When you have my lazy Mexican DNA that meets with bossy German DNA, you have re-donk-ulous potential to have kiddos who are EXTREMELY white…it makes for some interesting conversations with people…until they see my other kiddos who actually look more like me.

 

Categories
BirgitJ Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Motherhood Testimonials Vocations

On having a large family…

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalms 127:3

Early in our 37 year marriage, my husband and I felt called to have a large family. We had our first son right before I graduated from college and his sister 3.5 years later. Then we hit a lull…I always joked that our next son was on back-order for quite some time. He came to us a full 8 years after his sister. Then our happy life hit a snag. My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and then 18 months later with breast cancer. Since she was at least the third generation in her maternal family, it was surmised that she carried a gene for this ominous disease. My diagnosis at 48, and subsequent genetic testing, would give proof to that, years later. This occurrence directly affected my fertility when, at 32 years old, genetic counselors urgently advised me to have a life-preserving oophorectomy . My plans for that large family were permanently altered.

That call for more children, however, was quite urgent. When our youngest son was around sixteen, my husband and I felt the call to adopt. Through my pro-life work we met a young womanwho was pregnant and she chose us to be parents to her child. We had home studies done. I went to OB visits and some of her ultrasounds. The mother and I had lunch and spoke on the phone often. A lawyer was in place, as was every small detail, down to the music she would play in the delivery room – with me present! His name was to be Joseph Luke Jones!

In watching the video of one of her ultrasounds one day, I discovered that there was audio as well as video. As I turned up the volume I could vaguely hear what was being discussed. The color drained from my face as I heard her discussing names for her unborn son. It would be Jackson, she told the nurse, a family name. For a time I rode the waves of denial and trepidation. At eight months pregnant, she asked the lawyer to call and give me the news.

Her mind was made up.

She would keep the baby.

Lines of communication were cut off and it was over.

This sad chapter didn’t end there, however. When Jackson was a mere three months old, he was taken from her custody for neglect. Hope sprang up in my heart like a Spring flower! Here was our chance to make this precious baby our own after all! We contacted child services and were told that he was now in the ‘system’ and our studies for private adoption did not qualify us for a state adoption. On a wing and a prayer we quickly signed up for the appropriate classes and were qualified! What happened next was every bit as devastating as the change of heart of the birthmother. Jackson/Luke was not available. He was in a foster home and due to privacy issues we were told nothing more. The sad end of this chapter? We found out quite by chance that Jackson wound up staying with the very instructor who had taught our classes. She had had him all along!

Time marched on and so did we. We reached the conclusion that we had just the family that God wanted us to have – no more, no less. Our days were busy with homeschooling our youngest and marrying off our oldest. Soon our daughter graduated from college and began her life as an adult. We decided that maybe an empty nest wasn’t too bad after all! Our business was run in a home office and we worked side by side, building a customer list and national reputation. Life was good!

A year passed and we were blessed with our first granddaughter. She was the light of our lives and fulfilled that urgent need for babies. Two years later our daughter married and quickly blessed us with a grandson as well. Five weeks later there was another granddaughter! Our family was becoming larger and we felt so blessed. Since we were next door neighbors, arrangements were made for the grandson to stay with me when our daughter returned to work. This temporary arrangement quickly became permanent and continues today (along with his little sister). In time the total count of grandchildren has come to seven – all under the age of seven! Of those seven, five (in various combinations) stay at ‘Nana’s Day School’ on week days. Our house is once again filled with laughter and the sound of busy little feet on the tile floor, tap-tap tapping away.

The Whole Litter: Simon, Sarah, Corbin, Abby, Evan, Rachel, and Lukas

As I look around our house today, I realize that when we pray to God for a specific purpose He does listen and answer those prayers. Many weekends find our house filled to capacity with children, grandchildren, siblings and spouses, nieces, and nephews. This is the place to be – a house filled with laughter and love and children. Our prayers were answered – just not necessarily in the way that we would have anticipated. My husband and I do have that large family for which we prayed. It came to us while we were busily living our lives. It came in the form of children and grandchildren! We are blessed beyond measure!