Thank you for the warm reception to my joining the Catholic Herald staff!
I appreciated the feedback from my first column linking Natural Family Planning with a foundation of navigating life with a faith perspective. Before moving on to two final reflections – one on parenthood, and one on intimacy – let’s take one more look at our foundation of faith.
Faith is introduced in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life.” (CCC #26) I’ll wait for you to re-read that sentence.
Where and how God is revealing himself and giving himself to me, to my marriage and to my family? Through what circumstances and people is he drawing near? How actively am I listening to him, and seeking in him the meaning of my life? I hope you come back to these questions again.
But to take it a step further, do this exercise with someone closing in on their eternal reward. What meaning has faith given your life? As you look back, how and where did God reveal himself to you? What perspectives helped you find meaning in life?
God draws near to each of us at all times and through all circumstances. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, for better and for worse. Sounds like marriage, doesn’t it? Because that’s exactly what it is – God’s continual invitation to an unconditional relationship of love with Him. Faith is our response.
Navigating life with a faith perspective is to take an active role in this divine relationship. Have I had a personal experience of God’s unconditional love? Can I hear God’s voice affirming that my creation is good? Do I contracept the divine life he wants to grow and bear fruit in me?
And to naturally plan our families is to embrace a continually active, non-contraceptive co-creatorship with him. In what ways is God inviting my spouse and I to take part in his boundless and fearless love? Are there barriers in our openness to the life and love he wants to share with the world through us? And through what desires and passions does he invite us to be fruitful beyond physical fertility?
Only when our focus is on God and his eternal perspective, can we see the transcendent role he invites us to play. And with a sense of personal mission, we find the courage to identify with our unrepeatable part.
“How many ways are there to God?” This question was posed to Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) in an interview with journalist Peter Seewald. Published in Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger’s answer was, “As many as there are people. For even within the same faith, each man’s way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ’s word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way … the one way is so big that is becomes a personal way for each man.”
In parallel, “How many ways are there to practice faithful and faith-filled family planning?” We can confidently answer, “As many as there are married couples and families.”
Yes, each couple has the responsibility to form their consciences in truth, in generosity and in humility. Yes, courage and perseverance are needed to find the right balance of method and discernment, openness and responsibility. But with purity of intention and prayer of petition, we can celebrate fruitfulness all along that way.
Ending as we started, with the Catechism: “Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act.” Article #166 continues, “I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”
In the same way, and in a society increasingly hostile to faith, we cannot go it alone. Not even Jesus did that. With our eyes fixed on Him, but only “being carried by the faith of others,” and supporting them ourselves, can we stay the course and experience the blessings of faith’s fruitfulness.