Last week’s column left off with the topic of
procreative love, which is divinely intended to animate the selfless love of husband and wife to want to have children. Unlike unitive love, which provides for their mutual affection for each other; procreative love makes them desire to cooperate with each other in bringing offspring into the world and caring for and educating their children in what the Church calls spiritual procreation.
Once married people believe this, they are called upon to practice nothing less than heroic charity to reproduce themselves. This reproduction is not only to procreate children in body for this world but reproduce themselves in spirit for reunion with their families in a heavenly eternity.
The publication by Pope Paul VI of the encyclical Humanae Vitae which forbids contraception as a grave sin. No single document in modern papal history has provoked more controversy and opposition than Humanae Vitae. In one country after another, Catholic bishops’ conferences met in solemn session to pass judgment on this papal teaching. Thank God, many of these conferences fully approved what the Vicar of Christ declared.
Let’s take a look at a couple of significant paragraphs of Humanae Vitae. “In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian view of marriage, we must again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.
Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether permanent or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.”
Every form of contraception is simply forbidden. Given the mind-set of so many members of the hierarchy, it is no wonder that millions of Catholics are deeply confused. “Whom are we to obey,” they ask themselves, “the bishops or the pope?” Pope Paul VI anticipated this dilemma of conscience. Shortly after Humanae Vitae, he said, “How many times we have trembled before the alternatives of an easy condescension to current opinions.” No wonder Paul VI never published another encyclical for the next ten years until his death in 1978.
To be continued....
The Fourth Sunday of Easter has been designated World Day of Vocations. We want to celebrate our vocation, God’s call to a particular state in life. Some people’s vocations are to be married and raise children as gifts from God for His greater glory. Others are called to the dedicated single life while still others have the vocation of offering their lives in unique and total service to the glory of God through the priesthood, religious and consecrated life. To whatever vocation we are called, we need to live lives of holiness by staying close to Jesus.
This Sunday is also “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the focus of the Gospel reading is on Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Blessed Pope John Paul II declared that Good Shepherd Sunday’s theme is “Vocation to Service.” This theme is fitting for a weekend that we look at the vocation of the shepherd in caring for their flock and compare Jesus to a good shepherd.
Taking care of sheep and goats was thought to be a lowly job because the shepherd lived with the sheep out in the fields day and night for weeks on end. When a lamb was not able to keep up with the flock, the shepherd would carry it on his back. When we are not able to keep up, Jesus our Good Shepherd, does not leave us behind; rather out of His deep love, He carries us, even though we may not recognize it.
While others thought little of shepherds, God loved them so much that they were given the dignity of being the first to hear of the birth of Jesus, the Lamb of God. At His birth, Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, became one like us in everything but sin.
During the day, a shepherd would lead his sheep to the greenest pastures that he could find while he kept close watch over them to protect them. Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, constantly watches over us, protecting us and leading us to spiritual nourishment by receiving Him in Holy Communion. The good shepherds loved their flocks so much that they would put their lives in danger for their sheep. Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, gave His life for us.
To be a shepherd also means to be vigilant in protecting your sheep against danger. Shepherds carried a wooden staff to ward off wild animals intent on stealing the sheep away from the shepherd and killing them. Jesus carried a wooden cross to give us life and destroy the power of Satan, who seeks to take our eternal life by stealing our soul away from God.
In our society we face many dangers to our well-being. It is very difficult for us Christians to wander through a culture of death without the assistance of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. To help us to stay together for protection, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has given us the Church to lead us to what is good and to protect us from what causes misery.
Shepherds lived with the sheep 24 hours a day, even having names for all of them. In the morning the shepherd would call his sheep by their names and if any of them were missing, the shepherd would leave the others to go looking for the lost one. We also wander away from Jesus our Good Shepherd through the darkness of sin. But Jesus was sent by the Father to pay the price for our sins through His death. Good Shepherd that He is, Jesus continues to call us back, calling us by name to live our vocations in service of God by serving others. Jesus is indeed our Good Shepherd. On this World Day of Vocations, pray that in everything we do, each of us will image Jesus the Good Shepherd in our vocations of service to one another.
Continuing on with the Sacrament of Matrimony
we see that the marriage rite fulfills the provision that the sacramental grace and duties of the marrying partners be clearly understood. There are no less than five petitions to the heavenly Father, asking Him for the graces which the husband and wife will need all the days of their life here on earth.
For the graces of Matrimony: “Father, by your power you have made everything out of nothing. In the beginning you created the universe and mankind in your own likeness. You gave man the constant help of woman so that man and woman should no longer be two, but one flesh, and you teach us that what you have united may never be divided.”
Sign of Christ’s union with the Church: “Father, you have made the union of man and woman so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and His Church.”
Holiness of marriage: “Father, by your plan man and woman are united, and marriage has been established as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood.”
Love for the wife: “Look with love upon this woman, your daughter, now joined to her husband in marriage. She asks your blessing. Give her the grace of love and peace. May she always follow the example of the holy woman whose praises are sung in Scriptures.”
Love for the husband: “May the husband put his trust in her and recognize that she is his equal and the heir with him in the life of grace. May he always honor her and love her as Christ loves His bride, the Church.”
Mutual fidelity and children: “Father, keep them always true to Your Commandments. Keep them faithful in marriage and let them be living examples of Christian life. Give them the strength which comes from the Gospel so that they may be witnesses of Christ to others. Bless them with children and help them to be good parents. May they live to see their children’s children. And, after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven.”
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of selfless love in marriage unless we fully understand the purpose of marriage. This love is first of all to be unitive love. Unitive love is so basic that without it there would be no valid marriage.
To be continued....