It was an interesting NFP Awareness week at our blog The Practicing Catholic. We wrote a week-long series about natural family planning, and we lost a few followers. Are we disappointed? Sure, a bit. We felt called to share the beauty of the Church’s teaching about human sexuality through the lens of natural family planning, to charitably put the truth out there as best we can. For many couples with whom we speak, this is the topic they wrestle with most in trying to live their faith outside of Sunday Mass. We understand it all can be a bit difficult to hear as we didn’t always embrace the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, either.
Our journey started in RCIA, a year before we were married. Joel was joining the Church, and Lisa sat in on every class. We were intent on going through the whole process together. The RCIA team was welcoming and the program was decent. However, it largely neglected issues of morality and conscience formation. We heard nothing about Church teaching on human sexuality or the theology of marriage. Issues like cohabitation, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality were never discussed.
Marriage preparation was a similar experience. We took the FOCCUS inventory and met with a deacon and his wife several times. We discussed issues like communication and finances. We touched on fidelity. We read and discussed Genesis 1 and 2. But again, the so-called hot-button issues mentioned earlier didn’t come up. At all. Not once. In fact, out of convenience, we moved in together a couple months before our wedding. We thought our circle of friends was populated by faithful Catholics. Looking back, we’re stunned that nobody said a thing. Nobody cared enough to tell us the truth.
This attitude is exemplified by headlines about Pope Francis’s recent comments about individuals with same-sex attraction. It was widely reported that the Holy Father said, “Who am I to judge?” Indeed he did, but that sound bite was part of a larger discourse in which he affirmed the Church’s teaching that the tendency toward homosexual activity is not a sin. However, the manner in which one responds to such inclinations is another matter altogether.
People seem to have lost interest in such nuances, that something may appear good on the surface but may in fact not be good at all. It’s just easier “not to judge.” We were in love. We were already getting married. We were regular communicants. Why should anybody upset the order we had created for ourselves with something as insignificant as truth? Why indeed. So, we went on our merry way and began our marriage using “The Pill”.
Over the next couple years, bits of the truth started to break through, largely due to our new local Catholic radio station. We’re both suckers for talk radio, so we gave it a try. We credit Fr. John Riccardo and Catholic Answers for finally shattering our ignorance. Free of hormonal birth control for the first time in our marriage, we immediately conceived. Unfortunately, we lost our first child to miscarriage.
In the wake of that, Lisa continued to experience lingering physiological issues. We abstained from sex while sorting those out. Six months later, however, Lisa became pregnant again. We learned at her first ultrasound that she was pregnant with twins, but one had died early on. The other child, our daughter Lucy was born, ironically enough, on Labor Day later that same year.
The next two years were rather turbulent for a number of reasons. Lisa also continued to experience irregular and confusing signs of fertility. With two miscarriages already in our history, we needed some solutions. However, we didn’t really pursue any, since we had other, perhaps more selfish, reasons for not wanting to become pregnant. We spent most of that time abstaining, largely as a form of contraception.
Finally, Lisa began seeing a NFP doctor who required us to start charting her cycles. One might think we had finally become obedient to the Church’s teaching on marital sexuality, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. While charting, we still abstained, because we were afraid to give up control. Our reasons might not all have been good ones, but abstinence actually isn’t as difficult as most people think. After seven months of charting and treatment, we were finally ready. We conceived almost immediately, and our son Jude was born nine months later.
After all that, we might finally be there, ready to embrace new life, come what may. Funny thing, once we gave up control, our marital relations immediately became more intimate and fulfilling. Another child is due to arrive in a few months. We spent years delaying or avoiding pregnancy for a mix of reasons not well-discerned, and we now use natural family planning techniques specifically to achieve pregnancy. We married rather late and delayed starting a family, so our window of opportunity is beginning to close. We spent far too long detoxifying ourselves from a cultural mindset we had unknowingly absorbed, that children are an optional accessory to marriage, not an integral means of sanctification.
Why do we even listen to what the culture says on this issue? If our culture is so good, then why don’t we want to have more children to share it? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, so many of us totally dismiss the Church’s counter-cultural teachings on human sexuality. We struggle mightily to live them out, and even more to share them with others.
If only someone had bothered to share the truth with us so many years ago. We might not have been receptive to it at the time, but at least we would have been accountable to it. So often truth is not lived because it has not been proclaimed. In the face of the sexual revolution, the Church was largely silent, and the fruit of that silence is decidedly rotten. So many Catholics either don’t know what the Church teaches or they think her wisdom is optional. We are in serious need of sanctification; we need to raise up the next generation of saints.
Bring on the children.
© 2013. Joel and Lisa Schmidt. All Rights Reserved.