I am a cradle Catholic, from a large family in the mid-west. I grew up going to church on Sundays, CCD classes once a week, and confession once in a blue moon. We were one of the only big families that I knew of, and it seemed to me that like dinosaurs, big Catholic families had become extinct. Neither my parents nor my parish were teaching the faith. At my parish they talked about Jesus and God and love, but not about doctrine. At home we said grace before meals and that was it. On some level I knew that our large family had something to do with church doctrine, but I never learned about that doctrine at church or at home and I just never thought about it.
I stopped going to church when I entered college for a couple of reasons. For one, there was no one there to make me go. The other reason was that I didn’t know the truths that would compel me to go. The truth is very compelling, but I was ignorant.
I met my husband on campus, he was also a cradle Catholic. After college we sought to be married in the Catholic church out of respect for tradition, ritual, and a desire to not rock the boat. I don’t think either of us really understood what we were choosing. Getting married in a Catholic church was just what you did in our families. We went through pre-canna counseling during which the priest told us “the church asks that you be open to children to keep you from being selfish. My married friends tell me that children have a way of doing that…keeping you from being selfish.” That was it. I perceived this comment as a “oh by the way the rules are that I have to say this” comment. Had I been better catechized I might have perceived it as an invitation to ask about church doctrine, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.
We contracepted. Fifteen years into marriage we had 3 wonderful children, but something was wrong. I was miserable and my husband and I were often fighting. For Lent I decided that I would start attending my parish mom’s group meeting. At one of these meetings a couple of moms started talking about NFP. I was shocked. By this time we had moved to Virginia and I knew that the church was against contraception but I didn’t know why and certainly didn’t realize that anyone was actually living this teaching. I was so ignorant. I really thought that no one could possibly be living this teaching in today’s world so I was floored that these women were living it and talking about it.
The next meeting I went to, a friend of mine was passing out Janet Smith’s CD entitled “Contraception Why Not?” I was not interested. I thought that even if the church was teaching it and some people were living it, it would still be impossible for me. I ended up taking the CD and agreeing to listen to it, just to please my friend. I thought to myself “there is no way that anything on this CD could change my mind and it would really please my friend if I listened to it, so I’ll do it to please her”.
A funny thing happened that day. I listened to the CD and completely changed my mind about contraception. For the first time I heard the church’s teaching and reasoning on contraception and I was blessed with the grace to recognize it as true, good, and beautiful. I was done contracepting.
The next few years were a little bumpy as I began making significant changes in my life. My refusal to contracept required my husband’s cooperation and it was a few years before he was on board. Those years were difficult for me, having embraced the truth but not being able to fully live it yet. I spent much time in those years praying and offering up my suffering in reparation for the years that I had lived in deliberate ignorance. I began going to confession frequently and starting learning about my faith in earnest. What I found is that at first glance church doctrine looks difficult if not impossible to live in today’s secular world. However, as I began learning what the church taught and then living it, my life and my marriage kept getting better and better.
Living my Catholic faith can be a struggle at times but it is a joyful struggle. I’d choose this joyful struggle over my previous ignorant misery any day and every day!
Submitted from Virginia