Raised in a “Sunday Catholic” Home

I have been Catholic my whole life but never appreciated the depth and the beauty of my faith until eight years ago.

How is it possible to grow up with the Catholic faith and comfortably overlook certain Church teachings, most notably the one on contraception?  There may be some explanation from being raised in a “Sunday Catholic” home (Mass on Sunday and holy days, no other discussion of God or faith in between) along with being surrounded by many Catholics over the years who did not follow the teachings of the Church.  Perhaps it came partly from my experience over the years within the churches where I lived.  In some regions, the Catholic culture seemed to place the Catechism in the background and avoided controversial topics at the pulpit.  Yet, it would be most grievous to exclude my own contribution of convenient ignorance.  Even though I may not have had thorough teaching on the Church’s moral objection to contraception, I knew the Church was opposed to it and did not seek to understand why.  I simply chose to do what I wanted.

In my twenties, I married a man who was not Catholic.  Although we planned to raise our children in the Catholic faith and regularly attend Sunday Mass, we were neutral on the morality of contraception.  Both of us were completing education and training in our future careers and were far from the thought of having children.  And so, we chose to use contraception in the beginning of our married life.  As God is always the one who pursues us, He began to tug at our hearts and we began to desire having children.  We were blessed with this great gift, but even so, still disregarded the conflict in faith surrounding our use of contraception.

It was not until we began to hear from the pulpit the truths about contraception, that we became unsettled.  At first we were angry and defensive.  However, as we sought more knowledge through programs in our parish, we began to understand the beauty of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family.  We decided to live our married life with God as the center and to trust in the authority of His Church and her teachings.  Driven by this, eight years ago we learned, and still continue, the practice of natural family planning (NFP).   This change of heart strengthened our marriage, and we found a greater respect and appreciation for each other.  The sacrifices that are always required of spouses and parents became easier and a general peacefulness settled into our home.

Both of us still have much to learn about our Catholic faith (my husband completed RCIA many years ago), but we believe that our children will take with them what we now know and live. The strength and beauty of our Catholic faith comes from living it in its entirety.  This is what we have discovered and hope for our children.

 

I Used to be One of those Catholics that Wants to Change the Church

I have not always been a practicing Catholic. I used to be one of those Catholics that say they are Catholic but want to change the Church, on such issues as contraception. I figured it was old-fashioned and would one day change with the times.  Never in a million years did I think I would actually change, not the Church.

I was raised by parents who believed contraception was valid and healthy. I remember my mother handing me an Ann Landers book on how to know if you are ready for sex. It included all the contraception methods out there, as well as statistics on reliability. It also had a love test to know if you are ready and mature enough to have sex. Any love-struck teenager girl could have easily passed the “Love Test.”

When I was in college, my mother found my birth control pills. She was really upset. I was confused because I thought she would be proud of me. I was “taking care of myself,” isn’t that what she wanted me to do? All she wanted to know was if I was planning on marrying the young man that I was sleeping with, and that might make it all right in her mind. I was not even close to thinking about marriage and made that clear to her.

My mother’s generation didn’t mind pre-marital sex if a promise ring was involved, or maybe a marriage proposal nearby. My generation had taken it to a new level: pre-marital sex was fine if you liked the guy.  I remember the debate with my mom so clearly, “Mom, what is the difference? They are both pre-marital sex! Is it wrong, or not wrong?”  She did not have an answer for that, so she started praying the rosary every day, and I noticed.

There is a saying, “Sin leads to more sin.” I did not like the girl I was becoming and wanted to change. This was something I could not accomplish alone — I needed some Divine help. So I went to confession, I returned to Mass, I went to Holy Hours, I stopped dating. I told my girlfriends my new decision to not have sex again till marriage, and asked for their support and help. A true friend wants you to be the best you can be.

My life changed for the better because “Virtue leads to more virtue.”  My grades improved, my outlook on life changed, I had a purpose and goals that God was going to help me accomplish. I also started praying for my future husband, that God could help him with any struggles he may have with purity.

I also decided the Church was right about pre-marital sex being wrong, and that contraception had led me down the road to a bad decision. I figured it would affect me the same way in marriage. I decided it was wrong and I would trust God to lead me to a man that felt the same way.

God took care of me and led me to a great husband. We consider fertility a gift and we are not at war with and trying to “fix” our fertility issues.  Natural Family Planning has led me to be able to read my body, discover a thyroid and hormone problem that may have gone unknown if masked by a Pill.

I have a mini-van full of kids and would not have it any other way. If you see a large family, don’t assume NFP doesn’t work. Assume that the parents are still really attracted to each other, assume that their love is strong enough to accept another child, assume that they really, really love each other and don’t mind little people exactly like their spouses on this earth.  God is good, do not be afraid of His blessing, He will give you more than you can handle so that you are truly dependent on Him.

submitted from Virginia

A Journey of Faith

My story is a journey of faith.  Not  to the point that God knew what was best, but that He knew what was best FOR ME.  There are lots of reasons – legitimate ones in my book – that led me down the path of artificial birth control.  A self-worth almost non-existent, a mom who projected her fear of just about everything onto me, a young marriage that really did not know how to communicate on these kinds of issues, and a broken heart over the loss of 2 pregnancies. But mostly it was my fear of failing that kept me from trusting in God completely, kept me from trusting my husband, myself. So it was about control and power and I was the one in charge.

After a few years of married life on the pill, we decided it was time to start a family.  Five or so years later we still were not pregnant.   We started investigating possible reasons this might not be working.  Around the same time, I began spending time with women who embraced God’s love and plan for marriage and family and I began surrounding myself with families who loved Christ so much, you could see it in everything they did.  This, my friends, began to rub off.  And one day a week or so before we were heading to Dominion Fertility to see what was what, I had a reversion.  I told God “Thy Will Be Done” and meant it for the first time in my life. Turns out I got pregnant three or so days later and never needed to return to the “fertility specialist.;” I had already had my appointment with the best – God Himself!

And so began my journey of faith with NFP.  It was bumpy and not consistent.  I wish I had been more educated on how NFP works, because not having the full instruction, if you will, I believe we missed out on a  lot.  I think having this as a part of our marriage would have truly strengthened us as a couple much earlier in our life together. And I will tell you that once we stopped using artificial birth control our intimate time together became so much more. And though we have come through some fire together stronger for sure, there are times when we struggle with topics or issues that I suspect had we been more open to life and GOD’S plan from the beginning, not ours, we’d find ourselves resolving things differently.

Now, I have three incredible earthly daughters (and three blessed heavenly children) and am here to tell about it.  That is a great gift that I do not take for granted.  I heard a priest say the other day, “You have to have a few cracks here and there so the light can come through and shine, right?”  I truly believe that my brokenness led to God’s light being able to shine right on in.  Now I hope to offer witness to you.

Submitted from Virginia

We Contracepted – I Was Ignorant

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