Last week’s guest post struck quite a nerve for many of my readers (something to the tune of 30,000 views on Facebook, which is a substantial nerve!) As I read through the dozens and dozens of thoughtful, sometimes heartbreaking comments, I wanted to reach through the screen and ask every single one of you:
What do you need?
What do you need to help you continue in this radical, counter cultural, often thankless and frequently ridiculed but oh-so-worth it lifestyle?
What do you need to get started, if you’re fresh off the birth control patch and hoping to get your body healthy again?
What are you hoping to learn during your marriage prep classes that you hope will prepare you to live NFP as a couple?
What do you need from the Church right now, while you’re drowning (maybe in debt, maybe in post partum hormones, maybe in tears over a positive pregnancy test) and really, really close to throwing in the towel?
I’m wondering what it would look like, on a practical level, if there were more support for actually living NFP.
Not just ticking the box for marriage prep and daydreaming through half a dozen classes while you mentally arrange table seatings for your wedding, but real, ongoing and substantial formation in this critically important and, let’s be honest, make-it-or-break-it area of intimacy?
I think it would look like real pastoral support. Resources for continuing education. A parish position or at least diocesan position dedicated solely to walking alongside struggling couples – which any of us at any moment in our marriages are likely to be – and saying, hey, the Church is here. You’re not alone. You’re living this lofty call out in a secular culture that holds you in actual contempt in the grocery store, some days, but you won’t get that here. What do you need? To learn a new method? A scholarship to cover the cost of instruction? Help connecting with a licensed instructor? A referral to an NFP trained physician? A voucher for medical care at their clinic? A babysitter so you can attend the freaking classes and pay attention? A recommendation to a good Catholic therapist?
And how about a homily once in a while about the call to Christian marriage? A call on/smack down from the pulpit reminding us – and encouraging us – that this thing we all signed up for? It’s a cross.
And it is meant to sanctify and break down and consume and resurrect us into something more beautiful and more real than we could have imagined when we made our vows.
I’ve said before that I think it odd that priests and religious have ongoing formation and married couples have…what, emergency intervention? When I think of what most parishes do to minister to marriages, I think of the kind of last ditch effort big guns meant to help a couple on the brink of divorce. But what about the ongoing formation? The day to day, year after year encouragement and instruction as a couple grows and matures and encounters different stages of parenting and different seasons of married life?
My parish is an unusually dynamic and family-focused place. I know it is the shining exception to the rule. And yet, I’m not sure even we have concrete resources for couples struggling to live out NFP, or that I’ve heard many homilies going into detail about why the Church calls us continually to take up this cross of rejecting contraception and living out a different path in a world that says “you’re crazy.”
And I think that would be awfully good to hear. (Especially if you’re hearing lots of other places, like from your parents, your in laws, your friends, and your siblings that “you’re crazy.”)
So I’m asking you, lovely and heroic and generous and hurting and hopeful readers, what would it look like? What do you wish we had that doesn’t exist yet, and how do we go about building it?
I’m really glad we’re having the conversation.