Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflection November 21, 1984


I think the world would scoff or blush at the idea that there is any “religious content” in the conjugal act. However, SJPII says that it is our duty to understand the conjugal act, to not let it “become diminished and deprived” of the meaning that it does have, including religious meaning. The world sees it as a pleasurable act only, not a means to anything, but an end to be achieved. There is no sacredness to it, no holiness, only the physical pleasure that is achieved. And because of this, it reduces both parties to “mere objects”. SJPII seeks to show us that the “normal” method is the more freeing, and “strengthens the interior freedom of the gift.” The world sees it as restrictive and doesn’t understand that its “freedom” is unnatural and turns humans into objects to be used, slaves.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Reflection on November 14, 1984


What I took from this is the importance of living in the Spirit, allowing the graces of the Holy Spirit, is to actually being able to live out a proper married life. That is one of the reasons Catholics view this as a Sacrament, why the married couple is married in the Church, in the ceremony of matrimony, and receives those Graces from God. Without it, there is little chance to try and actually live out the union that they are called to live out.

Another odd contradiction that the world gets wrong is the fact that love, as one of its essential characteristics, is sacrifice. Continence fits right into that understanding and allows the experience of sacrifice to strengthen marriage. The world says that sacrifice is unnatural and should only be done as a last resort. It only further shows that the world’s understanding of love is distorted and not really what love is. Looking at the last reflection, the world’s idea of love is a childish and selfish idea of love. It is funny that when it comes to trust in God, a child’s trust goes far beyond that of an adult that has learned to be mistrustful. But when you look at love, a child’s love is a selfish love because they have not learned the importance of sacrifice. We are told by Christ to have the faith of a child, but not to love like a child. The world sees the trust of a child as a weakness, but sees the way they love as a model.

This is a bit off topic, but I just heard Fr. Barron talking about the Trinity. Although the Theology of the Body didn’t really discuss the Trinity too much, it does touch on it when talking about understanding God through the union of husband and wife. In light of that, this may have some or no relevance. He was talking about God being 3 persons in 1 being and why that is supposed to be confusing to us but why it is necessary. He said that if God were only 1 person in 1 being, He would be limited. However, if He were multiple beings, He would also be limited. Because He is perfection, He is perfect and limitless and perfect in every aspect. Therefore, He needs to be both singular (being) and multiple (persons) in order to be fully perfect. I had never heard an explanation like that before and thought I would share it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflection on November 7, 1984


The idea that continence is something that is old fashioned goes to show how far the world has gone in the wrong direction. Continence is an ability to control your emotions, your urges, your physical self against those impulses that push us to want to do things we probably shouldn’t. The more I see my kids grow up, the more I see that controlling ourselves is a very difficult task and is not something that is a part of us. But the idea that we shouldn’t have to control ourselves, that we should get whatever we want when we want it is completely childish. That is what a child believes and thinks. The world has given itself over to an ideology that is the equivalent of a 3-6 year old. To think that civilizations were formed with the deep thoughts of Aristotle and the like, contemplating the very deepest understandings of human knowledge, and the world feels that progress can only be made by basing its ideologies on the selfish thoughts of a 5 year old. The arguments against continence and its benefits basically boil down to a angry 5 year old throwing a fit that he didn’t get the toy he perceives to be better that his younger sibling got. (First hand and very recent experience tells me that this is not a pretty model to follow)

Continence during the natural cycle, as we have stated, can be abused. But the further purpose beyond the spacing of children is also a growing together of the two in a way outside of the conjugal act. This growth is a unique and important part of the reason that God created us with these cycles and allows for this growth. The two, if they only unite in the conjugal act, will not truly be united because that is only one aspect of the union. The two become one. That means in life as a whole. They must learn each other, know each other, and fully love the other. This, although the conjugal act is an important part, cannot be fully done by it. It needs to be shown in the everyday, the living of life. Without continence, there is a much stronger possibility that this growth will not happen, that the relationship will be formed around the conjugal act. Without this growth, they will never be able to fully give, fully receive, and the conjugal act will not have its fullness. But it continence is practiced, if that relationship grows during those periods, the conjugal act does take on its fuller meaning and furthers that growth of union.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Reflection on October 31, 1984


SJPII seems to be saying, along the lines of what was mentioned earlier, that the perception that continence brings about more inner tensions is wrong. Only if you see the negative only might you find that argument. But looking at the positives, the doors that are opened with continence, the greater ability to receive love, the inner tensions are lessoned.

That is not the way I thought about it or at least the image that popped into my mind was a different way (or maybe not) of thinking about it. I went back to what it was like dating in college. I wasn’t a big dater, but I did, and I imagine it is at least the same if not more sexually active now as it was 14 YEARS AGO. (Oh my that makes me feel old) Picture 2 people meeting or going on a date. Imagine if both are sexually active. Throughout the date you can imagine that both are constantly thinking how far are things going to go, what did that touch mean, should I invite myself for a drink, is she wearing that to tell me one thing or another, etc. Then if it does not lead to sex on the first date, are both thinking why not, or will it be the second, the third, if not the forth what is wrong, etc. The lack on continence leads to an over abundance of inner tension in regards to sexual activity that completely distract from the actual relationship.

Now, picture two people on a date and both fully understand that the other is waiting until marriage. There will still be the awkward moments, do I have food in my teeth, did I just snort while laughing, yes or no on the good night kiss, cheek or lips, etc. But there will not be the distracting of sex. They will not waste time worrying about it, wondering if this is the night. They can spend all that time the other couple waste actually getting to know the other and communicating. They can learn to communicate and express themselves without sex. They can learn to love each other and express that love outside of sex. It seems obvious as to which couple will have the stronger relationship, and probably obvious to everyone, if they are honest with themselves, as to which one they want to belong. But the world says the first is normal and the second is odd and old fashioned. That is the example I thought of when I think of the inner tensions continence can reduce.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reflection on October 24, 1984


“Conjugal chastity (and chastity in general) is manifested at first as the capacity to resist the concupiscence of the flesh. It later gradually reveals itself as a singular capacity to perceive, love and practice those meanings of the language of the body which remain altogether unknown to concupiscence itself.” The world sees chastity as closing a door to something. It is true that the choice to remain chaste, either for periods of time in a marriage or all the time outside of marriage, closes a door to the conjugal act. But SJPII is saying that this choice opens a door to a much fuller understanding of love and the capacity to love. I don’t think there is any argument that the more we move towards the acceptance and promotion of sex outside of marriage and use of contraception, the less true love we see in the world. The less we see of a truly giving love, a sacrificing love, a lifelong love, a love that can survive struggles and challenges.

The idea of a love like that between two people is disappearing. It is being replaced by the idea that a couple may be together for a while and they may find benefit in the other for a period of time, but when that seems to have been used up, the couple should just go their own ways. It is a utilitarian view of relationships, it is how we view a person in a contract, and it is how we view equipment or our phone. It is not meant to be the way we view other humans and especially not the way to view your spouse. But the world is pushing for this view because to the world everything and everyone is simple another resource that is expendable when its purpose it accomplished. When its cost is higher than its production, it is time to let it go. You can see how quickly a theology that the unity out of the conjugal act and sees a marriage as a utility quickly forms into a society where unwanted fetuses are disposed of, where elderly are euthanized to save money, and the envelope can and will be pushed further as God is pushed further and further away. Choosing chastity allows us to step back from the world and strengthens our resolve to control our impulses.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reflection on October 10, 1984


Absence makes the heart grow fonder. That is what I thought of when reading this. SJPII talks about the importance of continence and its importance in the fullness of showing love. Although we all know the saying and I think for the most part we all agree that it is true, we don’t like it. The only time we use it is when we are trying to cheer ourselves or someone else up about the fact that they are leaving or losing something. I don’t know if I have ever been in a situation in which I was glad to leave and thought of this saying. We bring it up to console what may appear to be a sacrifice. But we bring it up because we know it is true. That being apart from this thing or person will increase our appreciation when we return.

However, the world, although they still may use the saying, does not believe in it or think it is actually true. The world believes absence is unnecessary and should not be tolerated. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It hurts and I should never have to hurt. That is the way the world treats sex. You should have it whenever you want it and no one or nothing should restrict that, not even biology. You should be able to get around biology with barriers or chemicals, and if biology wins, abortion can remove biology. But God understands that absence is good for us, sacrifice is good for us, longing and appreciation are good for us. That is how we grow to love and give and give more fully to the other.

Having something without limitation allows us to take it for granite, it becomes boring, it becomes unattractive. We see this with the effects that pornography has on a person. What it starts out as, very tame, very minimal, if allowed to continue will become not enough. What satisfied before will not satisfy now and the person moves on to something more erotic. The further you push down that road the further you slip into a place where extremely unnatural things are all that arouse and this world is a virtual one. It is not real, but it affects your real world and the way you see it. Far beyond its effect on how you view humanity and how that develops your view and relationship with God, it affects your view and relationship with spouses.

The absence that God created in the human union of male and female is for our good, for our benefit, for our growth in love of each other and with Him. God didn’t make a mistake placing periods of infertility on a cycle just like it is not mistake and for a specific reason that He rested on the 7th day and instructs us to do the same. God gave us these things to help us. When we ignore them, especially for the sole purpose of seeking worldly or physical pleasure, we are moving down a very dangerous path, an unnatural path, and one that only leads further away from God and understanding our true meaning as humans.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflection October 3, 1984


I am amazed at the thinking that so many people have that life should be easy. I admit that there are many times I wish life would be a bit easier, but I also realize that my life is nowhere as difficult or challenging as it could have been. There is still the idea that we should get whatever we want, when we want it, no matter the cost to others, because that would make our life easier. Not only does it not work that way, but I would say that many times getting what we want does not give us the result we anticipated. But life is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be challenging. That is what we need to grow, to develop, to build ourselves up.

What I took from this talk is what the Catholic teaching on marriage and on its belief in regards to the conjugal act means to a marriage. Far beyond the understanding that contraception is evil, far beyond the understanding of connection with God and the meaning of being human, the Catholic teaching on “natural” conjugal union gives a couple the greatest opportunities to face the challenges of the world. There is no promise that if you follow Catholic teaching life will be easy. In fact there is a guarantee of the opposite. But following this teaching gives strength and power to the union that is not there when the conjugal union is divided by barriers. I think this is also true when the NFP method is being abused. There is still that sense of not fully giving themselves to each other. When that gift is fully given, fully received, the couple is in the best position to face the world together, to be the best models for their children, to be the best prophets of God’s love to the world. By living this out, graces are received and graces are expressed through them, from God to the world.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reflection on September 5, 1984


“By separating the natural method from the ethical dimension, one no longer sees the difference between it and the other methods (artificial means). One comes to the point of speaking of it as if it were only a different form of contraception.” I have to admit that up until a few years ago I would have joined in this group. I was one of the ones that argued NFP was just another form of birth control. The entirety of Theology of the Body, up until the discussion, lays out the “ethical” dimensions, or spiritual dimensions, of this method and the understanding behind it and the importance of following God’s method. I am not sure you could honestly go through Theology of the Body and come out the other end seeing that the artificial methods are anything but evil.

What I see as the issue with above quote is that throughout these reflections I have seen and stated that the theology that SJPII has preached is not only not fully (or even partially) known by the world, they have no desire to know it or will try purposefully to disregard it, mock it, promote the exact opposite. If “one no longer sees the difference between it and the other methods” if you separate the natural and the ethical dimensions, the world will refuse and go out of its way to see that NFP is the better method because it will refuse to have the debate about the ethical areas. NFP is exactly like all other forms of birth control because there are no ethics in the world. The world will never see NFP as a solution as long as they don’t see the ethical dimension.

The world is a broader scope, but I think the same discussion and arguments can be made in regards to the “Catholics” in the pews in regards to issues like contraception. Too many in this group (and I counted myself among them at one time) there is no difference because this theology of SJPII has not been taught clearly enough or spread well enough to the large percentage of Catholics. I understand that NFP is required teaching for couples getting married, and in our class there were small sections about Theology of the Body, but the length and breathe of Theology of the Body is so deep and rich, I wish it had been covered on its own prior to marriage. You can offer NFP classes to get the details, but I think if you taught Theology of the Body in greater amounts, people would be lining up to better understand NFP because it flows naturally (pun somewhat intended) from an understanding of this theology.

Reflection on August 29, 1984


Seeing the cycle of fertility in women that God gave them is such an easy next step when you have traveled on the journey that we have through Theology of the Body. Everything that we are in our masculinity and femininity are given to us by God to be a sign for us, to educate us, to teach us about ourselves and God. The fact that we are male and female, the fact that we are physically attracted, the fact that this conjugal union if fruitful, are all characteristics that have meaning here but also point to something greater in a spiritual sense. If these were all given as a gift to us by God, why isn’t it so obvious that He gives us a way to express this union in a way that will not produce children every time? God understood fully that the need for this union is powerful but also that there will be times when having children will be too much for a couple. He installed in the woman a method to allow for infertile time periods to allow for the conjugal union outside of its child bearing.

But, He also is giving us the opportunity to learn control, to cherish the “gift” aspect of ourselves and the other. We are not to misuse the conjugal act outside its purpose as a sign of union and prophetic message of Christ unity with the Church. Being open to life, even if you are following the method and have good reasons to believe you should not have a child, is a basic requirement to entering into a conjugal union. Artificial contraception, homosexual acts, abortion, all are totally at odds with the understanding that participation in the conjugal act is an openness to life. Those 3 and the acceptance of sex outside of marriage only feed on each other and build each other up in a larger and larger wall separating us from God’s True purpose for the conjugal act.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reflection on August 22, 1984


When you have gone through so many reflections on SJPII’s Theology of the Body, it is so obvious that the arguments made in Humane Vitae fit. A couple of things I thought about in a different way when reading this though, was the idea that the conjugal act is a reflection of the relationship between the two. I was picturing what artificial separation between a couple would be like outside the conjugal act. If you are using artificial contraception and this is a reflection of your relationship, then there is a barrier between you two at all times. Imagine being married and your house is separated by a piece of glass. You can see each other and live together, but never really join. Obviously people don’t actually live this way, but when they come together in the conjugal act, they are saying that is how they want to live this part of their life, separated, not joined, and not fully invested.

I though the glass wall was a fairly exaggerated example. Then I thought about what we are considering marriages and relationships now. People get married, but often they both work, sometimes they barely see each other and basically live separate lives. Many have joint accounts. Many keep their own name. The whole idea of a prenuptial agreement is that your stuff that you brought into the relationship will continue to be your stuff. Many people cohabitate and do not get married because they don’t want to share their things. Most couples are trying to live their lives as a couple with a glass wall, not so much keeping the other person out as maintaining all they have. Is it a stretch that this mentality has spawned from the rise and acceptance of artificial contraception? The idea that the conjugal act is the “language” speaking about the rest of your relationship means that separating the conjugal act allows and encourages separation throughout all the other aspects of your life.

It really makes you wonder about the world and all its talk of unity and coming together and everyone is equal. Two ideologies that seem to both be promoted by the world, relativism and human equality, when you really come down to it, are not “cohabitant”. Relativism allows you to make up whatever rules you want and if you think it is right, it is right. Human equality means that we are all on equal footing as a human race and there are rules that cannot be set aside. Both seem to be championed by the world, but they cannot coexist.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Reflection on August 8, 1984


I have heard many times the argument that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is just another form of contraception. It is accepted by the Catholic Church as acceptable because it is natural and for what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t put a barrier between the partners. That is what artificial contraception does, that is their purpose. But there is a point to be made about the choice to use NFP in a wrong way. I think fleshing out that point can be done looking at 4 scenarios.

1. A couple who does not want to have children for no particular reason and use Artificial Contraception.

2. A couple who has plausible and serious motives for spacing children and use Artificial Contraception.

3. A couple who does not want to have children for no particular reason and use NFP.

4. A couple who has plausible and serious motives for spacing children and use NFP.

You can see that there are 2 separate categories of action and both have their sinful nature. Couple number 3 is still acting in a sinful way because as a couple engaged in the conjugal union; they are supposed to be open to children unless there are good reasons for avoiding pregnancy. If they are only not having children because they want a better car or more vacations, they are not acting. But couple 2, although they may pass one hurdle in having good reasons for not having children, act in sinful manner by using artificial contraception as a means to achieve that.

The act of artificial contraception is sinful because of what it is by its nature, artificial. It puts a barrier up to something that is meant to be a gift fully given and fully received. Wondering if you could add another scenario in which you have an unmarried couple that uses NFP and, although they are using the natural approach, are still acting sinfully in that they are joining in a union outside the union of marriage. A married couple, using NFP, to space children for good reason, is the natural and normal method that best expresses what God had in mind for us as humans. I believe, and this is just me, it also allows the best chance for the husband and wife to best free themselves from the world and its sin in order to fully give and receive the gift they are to each other.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reflection on August 1, 1984


As we read this, we see that the argument about birth control, if limited to only whether you can use it or not, will miss the actual point. The reasons for its restrictions in the eyes of the Church go far beyond the actual use of it, but stretch, as we have seen, to the very understanding of what it means to be human. All of these documents go to the very powerful and fundamental meaning of the conjugal act and what that act means to us as humans, both in its two meaning and in its connection with being a part of God’s divine plan.

SPJII seems to point not to the use of birth control but to the moral maturity that is required for those to join in the conjugal act. There must be commitment; there must be understanding, the acceptance of children, the decision to not have children, etc. It is so much more than the physical pleasure that you receive. The world wants the physical pleasure and wants to delete everything else involved. The Catholic teaching sees the conjugal act as so much more than a physical act (although it sees it as that as well) which is why it attempts to protect it from distortion. Something so precious is meant to be guarded. The world doesn’t want to guard it; it wants to “free” it. I am sure there are stories out there the analogies this gift with something precious, maybe this is a better way to sell it to the world. Catholic teaching isn’t a restriction on your life, it is a protection of a very precious gift, possibly the most valuable gift you have. Hard to say if the world would listen to that either.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Reflection on July 25, 1984


I found it so interesting the one Pope digesting and unveiling the words of the other Pope. In Humane Vitae it talks about the conforming to the norm, living the normal conjugal relationship in both physical and spiritual. SJPII looks to this as further developed by our study in the theology of the body. But the fact that this is the “normal” way, only points us back to the words of Christ about the way it was in the beginning. But we are not in the beginning, we are after the fall and because of that separation, the world argues that the “normal” way is not sustainable, not achievable, and too hard. That is the argument the world makes for artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, etc. And neither Pope denies that living the “normal” life is easy. Both believe it is difficult, that is takes sacrifice. But both see it as what God intended and it is for our good. We need to strive for that normal in order to achieve a life God meant for us, a life in which we find true happiness and joy. But we need God’s help in getting there. The world moves further away from God and because of this, sees living out this “normal” conjugal life further and further away from possible. Instead of turning to God, they turn to an easy answer to allow them an excuse to avoid “normal”.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Reflection July 18, 1984


In Humane Vitae, SJPII says that they point to what is normal in the marital act, what is reasonable. Underneath this, or indirectly, it points to the 2 separate meanings of the marital act, both physical and spiritual. SJPII says that what we have seen in our rereading and digging deeper in the Scriptures is exactly this “normal” and reasonably rational understanding of the marital act on all its levels. We have come to the same conclusions reached in Humane Vitae, which will of course be the case because we are talking about a Truth that will never change. This Theology of the Body, which the world will call radical or unachievable, is the “normal” and reasonable understanding when you look at the marital act on its 2 basic levels. Any other use of the marital act outside of this “normal” way is by definition abnormal and unhealthy. Yet the world preaches this abnormality, teaches the unhealthy, criticizes the normal, and we see the results.

SJPII talks about the Tradition teachings of the Church in regards to Humane Vitae and that what is put down on words in that document do not come directly from Scripture. We believe as Catholics that the Magisterium of the Church can and has developed teachings that are believed to be infallible. Not everything in Catholic tradition comes straight from Scripture. (There be a whole debate here on Sola Scriptura, but this is not really the time) But I would somewhat disagree with SJPII when he says that Humane Vitae is not Scripturally based. Yes, it comes from the Traditional teachings of the Catholic faith through the centuries, but it also lines up perfectly with all the we have seen in our look at Theology of the Body. And, up until the discussion of Humane Vitae, the look through Theology of the Body has been looking at Scripture and using it to define what we are as humans. The teachings of Humane Vitae, then, do have Scripture behind them in the fact that its teachings coincide with everything in Theology of the Body, which is based almost entirely on Scripture. I read this reflection as a defense against the ability for the Church to develop teachings apart from Scripture, which I believe is true, but I wanted him to tie it together saying that even though this teaching is not directly connected to Scripture, it lines up directly with the teachings of Scripture because both Scripture and Magisterium teaching are Truth and cannot conflict.