A Gift for Married Couples

The Humanae Vitae is difficult to accept and even more difficult to live out because many believe contraception allows us to be responsible parents and allows us to exercise our so-called “freedom”. What we want is to be “free” to have sex when we want without having to worry about getting pregnant. Having to accept the discipline that comes with practicing chastity and abstinence seems to difficult and unnecessary in a world where other options are easily accessible and acceptable.

Sex is meant to be a gift for married couples, it serves to purposes, pleasure and procreation. These two are meant to be kept in balance. Contraception tips the scale and sex is used only for pleasure. When we reduce the chance of pregnancy, then we justify sex outside of marriage, pre-marital sex, same-sex, and extra marital affairs, which is infidelity.

When contraception fails, some resort to abortion as a back up. As Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  Others chose life for that child and take responsibility for the life that has been created. Even when life is created outside of God’s plan – God can redeem it and make it beautiful. Every human being is a result of millions of sexual unions. History of humanity is determined by who had sex with whom. Remember this the next time you celebrate your birthday, what you are celebrating is that your parents had sex.

Sex is a language that says, I give all of myself to you. While couples use contraception, their marital act is incomplete. They are lying to each other with their bodies, and there are real consequences in their relationship. It affects their communication, the level of intimacy and the way they view each other, and others of the opposite sex. What they think is freedom from the rules, is causing them to be slaves to their own bodies.

From personal experience I can share that when we reached a low point in our marriage, we turned to the Church for help. It was through learning the teaching of the Church on marriage and family that we recognized what we were doing wrong in our marriage. First, we took our sin to confession, and then years later, Dave felt called to have the vasectomy reversed.

In the past 11 years since we have learned the Church’s teaching, we have come to see God’s plan for marriage and family is based on love and what is best for us. God is the creator. He created us in His image and likeness. He loves us so much, gives us a share in His creative power. We do our part with the physical union and God implants the soul. The three of us share a love so powerful it becomes a third person – a child.

St. John Paul II, in the Theology of the Body, spoke of the four pillars of a Catholic marriage. The spouses are a gift to each other and their relationship is to be total, faithful, fruitful and forever.

A total self gift as it relates to the marital act, means nothing is held back, not the life-giving seed, or the life-bearing womb. Contraception reduces the possibility of a life being created, it says, I give only part of myself to you.

Being a faithful gift to our spouse means that I have made a commitment before God and others to be true to the marriage vows, to only become one with my spouse. Having sex outside of marriage only proves that one can be unfaithful, because they are capable of having sex with someone they are not married to. Pre-marital sex, in a sense is practice for being unfaithful to your spouse.

Being fruitful requires an openness to the possibility of life being created, not placing any physical barriers that can prevent pregnancy. The Catholic church teaches couples to use Natural Family Planning (NFP), this is not Catholic birth control. NFP ultimately tracks the women’s natural cycle for fertile and infertile signs. If the couple have good, moral reason to avoid pregnancy, they abstain from sex on her fertile days.

A couple who struggles with infertility, meaning that they do not use any contraception but find they are unable to conceive, are still being fruitful in that they are not placing any physical barriers to prevent conception. It is a difficult reality for these couples who want to have children of their own and the church recognizes how trying this can be for the couple. While there are some Catholic doctors who can help with some of the difficulties couples face, these couples are asked to stay fruitful through their involvement in parish life, and adoption or foster parenting. The church teaching is since God ordained that life be created within the marital act, procedures like IVF and surrogacy are illicit because it goes against the dignity of the human person. (I could write a whole other post on this issue).

The fourth pillar, that the couples share a love that is forever, requires that they have made a commitment to each other before God and other witnesses. The marital act becomes a renewal of the vows they made on their wedding day. This is good for the family and society. Children deserve to be born into the security of the family, to a couple who are committed to stay together.  Sure, in today’s world where divorce is rampant this seems to make little sense, I am writing about marriage as God intended it to be. The increase in the number of divorces in many cases is a consequence of not accepting the church’s teaching.

The virtues of chastity, modesty, and self-mastery are for the married and unmarried alike. Married couples need to practice these virtues to successfully use NFP and to fulfill the four pillars of marriage. If they practice these virtues before marriage they will be more successful continuing to practice them within marriage.

The church is not against sex. In fact, the church teaching is that sex is very good. It was one of the first commandments of God to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.”  God assigned pleasure to sex, the same way He assigned pleasure to eating and sleeping. Each of them is to be enjoyed in their proper context, proper time and in a proper amount. Think about what happens when eat too much, or too little or eat foods that are not good for us. How about if we sleep too much, too little or at inappropriate times. There are physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences. The same applies to sex.

Sex is meant to be a gift to the married couple for the good of their marriage and for their family. With mutual respect for the dignity of the person. Natural Family Planning (NFP) encourages open communication and empowers the couple to learn about their bodies. I will write more on NFP in a future post. For now here are some resources for you to learn more about Theology of the Body.

Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnDJDT0TSbE

http://www.theologyofthebody.net/

http://thetheologyofthebody.com/

http://tobinstitute.org/

https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2TBIND.HTM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzeWAq7MnhU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA3zgliE3OA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiDd37wkkpU

 

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Emerging From Grief

 

 

The ringing woke me from sleep. I absent-mindedly hit the snooze button on my alarm clock. When that didn’t work, I realized the ringing was coming from the phone. I opened my eyes to the darkness of my bedroom. The time was 2:30 a.m. and caller I.D. revealed it was my sister. My heart skipped a beat. This couldn’t be good news.

“Dad’s condition is much worse.” She choked back tears as she spoke.

“I am on my way.”

I didn’t want to waste any time. I needed to hit the road and get to the hospital. Dad had been hospitalized for 3 weeks with pneumonia. Being seventy-eight years old and suffering from lung disease for the past twenty years, made for a lethal combination.

Three hours later Dad took his last breath. We knew the time was coming but still, when it happened the finality of it set off a chain of emotions that we could not stop.

That was seven years ago. What has followed is a dramatic learning experience that has touched every area of my life, including my faith. The hardest part has been learning to live with the pain and to move beyond the grief and mourning.

Grief and mourning are not synonymous. Grief encompasses thoughts and emotions.  Feelings of anger, frustration, sorrow, guilt and loneliness are all a part of grief.  Grief is unique; everyone grieves differently. Some may be more tearful, while others show more anger or frustration. Mourning, however, is grief in action. What we do with our grief is part of mourning. Expressing emotions, through tears, talking to others and even exercise will lessen the grief.

Often I have heard it said that when you are dying you see your whole life flash before your eyes. The same may be true for those who lose a loved one. When my Dad died, I did not expect to relive all the memories of my life with him. For weeks after his passing, I could not get him out my mind. Remembering moments I haven’t thought of for years. Reliving memories from the good times as a little girl when I idolized him, to the rebellious teenage years when I did not respect him as much as I should have. Recalling the young adult who judged him and most recently recognizing the time when I was finally able to forgive, love and accept him for the man he was.

I understand now that our temperament and our relationship with the person who passed away will affect the grieving process. Watching my family grieve gave me a new understanding.  Regardless of the relationship we had with Dad, we all have memories that come to mind and we are faced with the reality that we will never see his face or hear his voice again.

Some well-meaning persons have offered advice. Unfortunately, some of the advice is based on myths. One myth involves the belief that discussing your feelings is unnecessary. I was also told that the best thing to do is get over it quickly. If you are still feeling sad after three months then you are at risk of suffering depression.  In response to this I wondered about our first Father’s Day without him, or our first Christmas without him. These celebrations happened well after three months. Feeling sad and missing his presence on these days cannot mean I am suffering depression. In truth, the grieving process will take as long as I need it to take. Tears are not a sign of inadequacy or weakness.

There are days I feel like I am doing alright. I smile and laugh, and feel like I have a handle on the grief. Then it seems out of nowhere, I’ll have a day where I can’t keep it together. Memories come on strong, and feelings of loss are unbearable. At first these days would confuse me and leave me wondering if I was regressing. These moments are perfectly normal, and those in bereavement work call them “grief bursts.” The grieving process is filled with valleys and plateaus. During the plateaus prayer and reading scripture have given me strength and hope.

Two months after Dad’s passing; my mom, sisters and I attended a conference organized by Dynamic Women of Faith in Toronto, Canada. The conference included a speaker, who trained under Dr. Alan Wolfelt, the Director of Center for Loss and Life Transition in Colorado. Her talk was titled, “When Someone Dies”. Much of the practical advice I received came from this talk. It has also been helpful to me to read articles on the internet from others who have also experienced the loss of a loved a one.

The first few months after losing a loved one can feel like a daze. The struggle to accept reality, working through the emotions and physical ailments that may occur, brings many moments of sadness and despair.  During this time, it helps to share emotions and allow the process to happen. I booked an appointment with my family doctor to rule out any physical illness, since my immune system was weak and may have left me prone to illness.

Grief can manifest itself in feelings of helplessness, guilt and anger.  Irritability, loneliness, inability to focus and fatigue are also a normal part of the grieving process. Adding an exercise routine, talking to others, seeking help through bereavement support groups or writing in a journal can help to work through these feelings.

The greatest consolation I received came three months after Dad passed away when I became pregnant with my third child. It was providential as we had hoped and prayed for another child for a few years. This brought on a mix of emotions. While I was excited about the pregnancy, I was also sad that my new baby would not meet his grandfather. After my son, was born I remembered how my dad held and played with my older children, and imagined that he would have done the same.

The grief process helps us move from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory. This can take years. We need to give ourselves permission to grieve. It is best not to make major life decisions during this time, and to set and follow a routine. Do the grief work, by perusing pictures and videos, listening to music, or writing a letter to the one who passed away. Accepting that tears and talking to others can and will help with the healing process.

The most valuable advice I have received is to take 5 – 10 minutes each day and allow memories and the tears to flow.  Surprisingly this practice brought me hope, acknowledging that this process would get easier, and that someday in eternity we will see eachother again.

Though, I cannot ignore the fact that my greatest strength has come from my faith.   God’s original plan did not include death; death is a result of Adam and Eve’s sin of pride and disobedience. This has given me a new appreciation for God’s love. He never intended for us to have to deal with the pain of grief because He knows how difficult it is for us. I know that He is grieving with me.

It took some time for me to sincerely open my heart to Christ, to spend time crying with Christ. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop. Doing this made me realize that I am not alone in this grief, and He gave me a new hope.

The sadness is still there and the vulnerability, but the reassurance that Dad is at peace and the consolation that has come from knowing my friends are praying for me and my family has been a tremendous help.

It is my hope that in sharing my experience and what I learned through this process, will help those of you who have experienced a death of a loved one. As a good friend reminded me, “We can never be ready for death, it comes like a thief in the night. We can only hope we are spiritually ready for it.”

 

Emerging From Grief – helpful resources:

50 Years Since Humanae Vitae: Consequences of Birth Control

Family Breakdown

 

Pope Paul VI predicted that the consequences of accepting and using birth control would result in an increase in marital infidelity, decrease in moral standards, lack of respect for life, lack of respect for women and a breakdown in the family. We don’t have to look very far to see the truth in this prediction.

We can see it among our own family and friends if we pay attention. We can also read about studies and review statistics that show these consequences too. I don’t personally like to quote statistics and studies because it’s necessary to research how the study was done and how the statistics were collected and what situations were considered. However, I am going to take the risk and use the statistics and studies to show how these consequences are real in our culture today.

Statistics Canada collected statistics from 2011 and compared it to statistics collected for 1981. Statistics show that in 1981 5.1 % of adults had been divorced or separated, while in 2011 11.5% of adults were divorced or separated. However, it was also reported that, “There was a decline in divorce rates between 1996 – 2011 but there was an increase in common-law unions, so the number of divorces or separations would be smaller.” In 1981, statistics show 6.3 % in common law unions and 93.7% were legally married. Compared to 2011, when 19.9 % of the adults were in common law unions and 80% were legally married. In 2008, statistics show that the leading reason for divorce was adultery. The consequences of birth control include a break down in the family. The family starts with the marriage, when we see an increase in married couples getting divorced, a breakdown in the family is the collateral damage.

Lack of respect for life and for women can be seen especially in the number of abortions performed over the last 40-50 years. When the birth control method fails, and the woman finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy she resorts to mutilating her own body and killing her own baby. Abortions in Canada alone show an increase in the number of abortions performed in a hospital or clinic consistently increase from 52,435 abortions in 1974, to 110,223 abortions in 1998. The statistics show a decrease from 1998 to 2010 when there were 64, 641 abortions. The decrease could be because the reported laws changed where hospitals and clinics were no longer required to keep record of the number of abortions performed. However, that does not change the fact that more than 3 million babies have died from abortion since 1969 when abortion was first decriminalized.

Pope Paul VI’s predictions are found in these alarming numbers, marital infidelity being the highest reason for divorce, the increase in marriages ending in divorce, the increase of common-law unions and abortions are all clear consequences of a culture that has embraced contraception in place of the virtues of chastity, modesty, respect and self-control. In my next post I will focus on how these virtues can help us to counteract the consequences of a culture that has accepted birth control.

Below is a list of on-line resources that you may find interesting:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf

https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=30736

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/index.cfm

https://chastityproject.com/qa/why-do-nfp-couples-have-such-low-divorce-rates/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4536625/

50 Years Since Humanae Vitae

humanaevitae

Pope Paul VI released the encyclical called Humanae Vitae (Human Life) on July 25, 1968 where he wrote about birth control. This encyclical was meant to put an end to the speculation on the Church teaching on acceptable forms of family planning. Since this teaching changed our lives over 10 years ago, I think it’s time to restart posting my writing to share the beauty of this teaching with my readers.

Pope Paul VI showed once again that the church exists to direct society and not to reflect it. For many, including some of our own Catholic priests, it was a difficult teaching to accept and to live out, so many never heard of it.

Why was it so difficult? The message was and still is counter cultural. However, 50 years later we can see the prophetic message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The teaching of Humanae Vitae is wise and loving – bringing to light the dignity of the human person and the beauty of God’s plan for marriage and family.

Pope Paul VI wrote about the future consequences of a society that accepts birth control. These consequences include: increase in marital infidelity; decrease in moral standards; lack of respect for life; lack of respect for women and a breakdown of the family.

In the coming weeks, I will share with you a series of blogs, where I will share, through my own personal experiences, what these consequences look like today and how the virtues of chastity, modesty, respect and self-control can help to counter act them.

For now, I implore you to:

  1. Add Humanae Vitae to your summer reading list: http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html
  2. Get to know Pope Paul VI who will be canonized on October 14, 2018: https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/pope-paul-vi-almost-saint-here-are-four-his-biggest-legacies

 

 

 

A Difficult Christmas

lbb-meme

Christmas is meant to be a time of joy, festivity and love. However, for some it is a difficult time. Whether it’s because of major life struggles and challenges we face, or because of painful memories associated with this time of year.

How do we make it through this festive time, when our hearts are wounded?

Reflecting on that first Christmas is a start. Mary and Joseph knew they were called to be parents of a Holy Child, and yet they could not provide a decent place for this child to be born. This required a lot of trust on their part.

The wise men who were seeking him, had only a star to guide them. The star that would only have shone in the darkness, by day they travelled by faith and memory and not by sight.

It is a grace, a gift of God to be able to find joy and peace during suffering and difficulty. I believe this requires a deep faith and trust in God. Like the still waters at the bottom of the raging river, a person with deep faith will rest in God in those deep, peaceful waters while the waves crash overhead.

Through faith we find the strength to move forward, to forgive, to love and to smile through our wounded hearts.

I pray those of you who are in need of healing, and most of us are, will have the courage to give your wounded heart to Christ so that he can heal your wounds and illuminate your path.

I leave with the words from Max Lucado “Perhaps the wound is old, and you are angry. Or perhaps the wound is fresh, and you are hurt. Part of you is broken, and the other part of you is bitter. Part of you wants to cry, and part of you wants to fight…. There is a fire burning in your heart. It’s the fire of anger…

There you are left with a decision. Do I put the fire out or heat it up? Do I get over it or get even? Do I release it or resent it? Do I let the hurts heal, or do I let the hurt turn into hate?

The worst part of all is that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all that is left.”

Leaving Bitterness Behind

 

final-cover

In the bitter cold winter, the trees seem dead and bare. While we can still find glimpses of beauty on a cold winter day, we are easily caught up in the negative aspects of winter, the cold, the limited sun light, the difficult labor of shoveling snow. When we embrace bitterness, our souls look like the trees in the middle of winter. We too can focus only on the negative and lose sight of the sun shining overhead, the snow glistening and the children playing.

The image for my book, was drawn by Paola Lecanda and depicts a woman who is walking away from the dead, barren trees. The shadow behind her shows that she is walking towards the sunlight. The symbolism of the eye in the background is her ability to self-reflect. To look deep within herself and root out the bitterness. This work of leaving bitterness behind, does not have to be done alone. Christ wants to help us if we just let him.  Our Catholic faith is so rich and the opportunities for healing through the sacraments alone are a treasure many of us take for granted. This book I have written is meant to be a tool for those prepared to do the work and enlist divine help in doing so.

Have you ever met someone who seems constantly discontent? Maybe you know someone, who is always complaining and you can’t remember the last time you saw them smile. Imagine that is the person you see in the mirror every day.

There was a time in my life, when I no longer recognized the person in the mirror. The person I did see, I no longer liked. She was flustered, angry and overwhelmed most of the time. Most days, this was hidden behind busyness of caring for family, apostolate and a semi-superficial prayer life. Unfortunately, my family was usually at the receiving end of my anger and complaints. I enjoyed my prayer time, but refused to do any deep self-reflecting. Apostolate and writing became the perfect escape.

One day while examining my conscience in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there was this one habitual sin that didn’t get much thought, I just knew I committed it and was sure to do it again. This time, a question popped into my mind, “Do you want to just keep bringing that up in confession or do you want to change it?”

I knew full well, the Holy Spirit was poking at my conscience and I knew the right answer was to want to change it. I went into the confessional that day with the conviction that I was not going to confess that one sin again.

From that point on, Christ was very generous with his grace to allow me to move into the direction of making this change. However, he was also very gentle and patient with me. Rooting out this one sin was not an easy process. This is when my trip to leave bitterness behind, began. The next few years, were not easy but it was a grace-filled time. While I was still in the healing process, the inspiration came to write down what I had learned and to share it.

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Purchase the book here “Leaving Bitterness Behind: A Catholic Approach to Healing Past Hurts”

 

 

Why Is This Happening?

why

I know I have been on hiatus for the past 19months according to my last post on this blog. Life is full, and it’s not that I stopped writing, I just didn’t make blog writing a priority. Admiration is warranted to those bloggers who manage to make the time to post blogs as often as every week, or multiple times a week.

This blog was never meant to be an on-line diary so I don’t usually share my updates. However, I will briefly let you know that 15 months ago we welcomed another baby boy into our family and I have published my first book!

We all go through seasons in our life when we are overwhelmed with the blessings we are receiving and then others seasons when we feel like we can’t take anything else going wrong. The last 19 months has been no different for me. The strangest feeling is when both of those seasons seem to be happening simultaneously. When we are receiving so many blessings while also enduring the cross, or watching those we love struggle with their cross.

When those tough times hit, and hit hard, the temptation comes for us to ask “Why?” The questions itself is not a bad question. Our human nature demands an explanation for everything, including why things happen the way they do.

However difficult it is to accept, sometimes this question is not answered. Part of the life of faith is accepting that we may never get the answer to this question. Not knowing ‘why’ is how we know we are not in control of every aspect of our lives. There are some things in life we cannot control, therefore we do not and
may never know why circumstances are what they are.

In my book, “Leaving Bitterness Behind” I mention that when we ask God, “Why is this happening to me?” it is really a question of trust. Do we or can we really trust God? We forget that God is a loving Father, and like any good parent, sometimes He will allow bad things to happen to us, for our own good. We may not understand it. We certainly may not like it. If we trust Him, He can make something good come from our suffering. We need to hold on to that faith, while we don’t understand why things are happening now, we hold on to the hope that one day we will come to understand, and it may not be in this life.

Like children, we don’t see the whole picture. We only see what is in front of us now. God can see the whole picture, He knows how what we are going through now, will affect the situations we face in the future. We have to trust that He is preparing us, molding us, shaping us, carving us into the best vers
ion of ourselves. Being shaped, molded and carved is not a painless process.

Knowing why isn’t always necessary anyway. Once we accept that we may never know why, then we are free to move on. Fight the good fight. Do what needs to be done and keep moving forward. In doing this, we experience a lasting peace and freedom.