As I’m sure many of you have experienced, making resolutions is the easy part. Keeping them is a whole other thing! My resolve to post on a more frequent, consistent basis hit the skids as I moved from one job to a work-at-home assignment that involved weeks of virtual training. By the end of each day, my brain was fried and I could hardly bear the thought of sitting at the computer after already being butt-dead from a full eight hours of it. Which seems like a legitimate excuse, right?
Well, luckily for me, Lent began rather early this year. I long ago declined to create my Lenten sacrifice from something as ridiculous as giving up brussel sprouts (seriously, does ANYONE eat them?) Although that might be a subject for a good joke at the Friday Fish Fry, it doesn’t translate into a 40-day spiritual journey.
While pondering over a practice to take up during Lent that would bring more clarity in my faith journey, inspiration appeared in the form of a challenge from my son. He asked me to evaluate how and why I so staunchly believed the teachings and doctrine of the Catholic Church. Not just rattle off a memorized statement or someone else’s thoughts – but my very own thoughts and experience. What a perfect solution: contemplate and chronicle the reasons and methods of my now strong, resolute belief (it certainly wasn’t an overnight epiphany!)
So the first installment of my “Lenten Chronicles“……
One of the most profound discoveries I’ve encountered in all the years of being Catholic is the teaching of John Paul II on the Theology of the Body. I wish someone had compiled the 129 Wednesday General Audiences in which he addressed the “biblical exploration of the meaning of the body and human sexuality” into an understandable, easy-to-read format earlier than the 1990s! I’m envious of the younger generation’s access to this amazingly bold contrast to the Sexual Revolution. In my teens and twenties (the 1970s), the aftermath of “love the one you’re with” and the easy access to contraceptives drastically overshadowed what little instruction the Church offered.
As a young married woman, family planning had no significant input from our faith tradition. However, after about four years of marriage the dangers of the Pill, the increased sophistication of Natural Family Planning and a desire to start a family gave us the impetus to rethink our actions. We attended classes, discontinued use of the Pill and allowed God back into our family planning. Happily, we know NFP works both ways. Initially, it allowed us to postpone pregnancy until my husband finished college and entered the workforce. We also have the blessing of knowing EXACTLY when our first-born was conceived. We found it to be a very enriching experience, requiring much more dialog and decision-making which only strengthened our marriage. When we had some difficulty getting pregnant a second time (I wanted a BUNCH of kids and close together), being able to chart my cycle helped to facilitate the birth of our second child about 4.5 years after our first. I guess God knew I could only handle two – but that story is for a different post.
Fast forward to the early years of the new millennium: I began to find books that allowed the everyday Catholic to delve into Theology of the Body without having spent years in college level study of theology, human sexuality and so on. Especially Christopher West‘s writings opened a whole new world to me. Then in March 2009 he came to Austin to present the message of Pope John Paul II in a dynamic, modern format. The whole time I sat listening to his enthusiastic, charismatic speeches I kept thinking how different the lives of thousands (maybe millions) of Catholics would be if this information had been offered YEARS earlier; if we had this information to pass on to our children in their formative and teenage years. The ramifications are mind-boggling. Everything from promiscuity, STDs, unplanned pregnancies and abortions could be drastically reduced if the Church had made concerted efforts to introduce Theology of the Body to parishioners across the globe. Evidence of this lack of education has come to light in the face of current legislative proposals such as the HHS mandate, along with blatant disregard for conscience protection for medical professionals. I’m heartened, though, by evidence of outreach, especially to teens, in the form of Theology of the Body instruction during youth religious education and formation. But parents need to understand the importance of Catholic teaching on this subject as well. Without their knowledge and wholehearted involvement, I’m afraid we will continue down the path of ignorance for the majority of the clergy and laity of our Church.
In my next installment of “Lenten Chronicles“, I plan to talk about Humanae Vitae, which is the prophetic precursor to Theology of the Body.