For one of the last entries in the Living Humanae Vitae series, I wanted to share something from a contributor that has more of a reflective feel to it. We’ve heard from more than half a dozen brave women over the past several months, some of whom felt comfortable sharing their stories only under the condition of anonymity, and others who were happy to be “outed” about their culturally subversive sexual practices. Some of the stories were filled with suffering and struggle, and some were marked by a peace born of surrender and experience. What they all share in common is a fidelity to the Catholic Church and all Her teachings on human love and marriage, and the humility to share a part of their journeys with you all.
I hope that for my non Catholic readers, these pieces have been informative and have answered some questions you might not have known that you had!
For my Catholic readers, I hope they have been challenging, encouraging, and convicting. If you’ve struggled and fallen short in this area (raises hand) or you think yours is a hopeless case and that the only answer is to walk away from Jesus’ Church, think again.
Get to confession. Bring your spouse with you, if they’re Catholic. Have your marriage blessed if you were married outside of the Church. Look into having your vasectomy reversed, or, if your sterilization was permanent, consider asking a trusted spiritual advisor for some direction. I have heard from sterilized couples who practice periodic abstinence in their relationship as a penance, even years later.
My point is, it is never too late and no case is “too far gone” for God. And there is a reason your story unfolded the way it did – nothing is outside His plan.
There is nothing that He cannot redeem, and nothing that He does not long to redeem for us.
Never forget that the rules and regulations that God asks us to live by – the morals and matters of faith which govern our lives – are not the prison fence surrounding incarcerated inmates, but the protective walls of a playground, encircling beloved children whose Father wants the very best for them.
God loves you, and He made you the way He did for a reason. He wants you to be happy, too, believe it or not. We have such a warped and puritanical view of God in this country (and I speak here as an American) that we too often relate to Him more like a forbidding judge or a vengeful superpower than a doting Father who literally died for love of us.
God did not make “rules” regarding our sexuality in order to thwart our freedom or limit our pleasure; God designed us and knows exactly what we need to fulfill us on the deepest level.
We might desire comfort, but we were not made for comfort, to paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI, we were made for greatness.
I hope you were able to see a glimpse of that in some of the stories you’ve read here. And I’m happy to report that I’m working on a larger project along these lines that I look forward to being able to share with you in the not too distant (fingers crossed) future.
There is a fact of my life that I have come to know well in the last twelve years.
It is a fact that I love and that some days I hate.
It is a fact that delights me with its great glory and one that scares me; one that fills me with one of the greatest gifts in the universe and yet strips me bare, laying me open, vulnerable to the elements of the unknown.
As a married woman, blessed with fertility and striving to live the fullness of Catholic faith and teaching, this fact is my biological ability to conceive and bear children.
This is my great blessing and my deepest hardship, a reality wherein lies my power and my inadequacy.
The great calling of women to motherhood, this mandate to all of us of “openness to life,” is the Story, the mystery of my life, month in and month out, for as long as I shall hold within my body the ability to grow a child. This mystery is one which I do not understand. I do not understand the power, I do not understand the responsibility, I do not understand the cross.
But I understand that I am living a Story, a Calling, that is beyond me and my small needs or wishes. It is ultimately the Story of the building of the Kingdom of God.
A story about growth and love beyond what I thought I could imagine.
A story about loving so much and dreading so much.
A story about awesome, unbelievable responsibility and awful, frightful inability.
A story about late-night tears, breathless prayers and trying, trying, trying to trust.
A story is about vulnerability to a different outcome, one that seems too hard, or too messy or too embarrassing.
The story is about the promise and also the threat of eternity always before my eyes.
The story is about the greatest moments of a human life being given to me . . . me!
I know there is glory in this gift of fertility. But there is also trial in the eternal weight of all of that glory.
Whether I am pregnant, whether I am in a postpartum phase, whether I am asking and trying for a new child to join our family, whether I am actively working, praying and participating with God on a plan for my family that involves postponement of pregnancy through the use of NFP, this is my life. I am, at all times, not in control (even if I think that I am). I am not in control of my body. As a woman, I have the capacity, more than most men ever can, of quite literally giving over my very body in carrying out the plan of God.
Not of me.
The plan of my life, as is shown to me every day of the month, is in the hands of Someone Else.
And every fertile month this story is played out. Every month goes by in terms of another child or not, another soul or not, the next step in the plan of God. The month of a fertile, married, Catholic mother literally is defined by the needs a child — the one being carried within, nursed without, the one tried for. There can be the need to avoid one, and the needs of the ones that surround her.
This very fact of my life is one that I find, many days, exhausting and testing. Exhausted in my prayers, my thoughts, and my hopes. Testing my trust, my patience, and my stamina. So many days, I think, how can I do this? Why must I be entrusted with such weighty decisions, ones with eternal ramifications? Why are there so many months of fertility?
But sometimes I catch my breath in a moment — when I feel a baby move for the first time inside of me, when my children overwhelm me with their preciousness, when I think of what I will miss so much in later years — and then I am so grateful for this gift of fertility. I am grateful in a weak, incomplete human way that I could never express in words.
What did I ever do to deserve the honor of living out this blessed story?
Thank you, my Lord, for letting me be a woman.