Sexual Love As Described in “Humanae Vitae”

When I read St Paul VI’s (I love writing Saint before his name) encyclical Humanae Vitae last year, the section on “What Love Is …” startled me. As I read his descriptors of what love is, especially what sexual and marital love is, I immediately drew the connection to St. John Paul II’s lecture series “Theology of the Body” (1979-1984). The themes of sexual love within Humanae Vitae mirror Theology of the body. Love is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, & FRUITFUL.  

Below is a graphic representation of God’s plan for sexual love according to Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical: 

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Forgive and Forget? My brain wasn’t designed for that.

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The holidays are upon us opening doors to joy and blessings and suffering and wounds. Real forgiveness doesn’t equate to the secular quip, “Forgive and forget” which by the way is cognitively impossible unless brain trauma exists. Real forgiveness is an act of the will, an act of love not a feeling or emotion. “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” – Corrie ten Boom.

Psychologist believe about 90% of hurts inflicted are unintentional, leaving room for 10% of intentional wounding and maiming. But people still feel 100% of the hurts whether intentional or unintentional. When a person feels threatened (i.e., someone is about to learn something that they don’t want as public or private knowledge,) they react. As you approach a wounded dog, even with the best intentions, the dog either runs away (flight) or snaps at you (fight.) People “act out” too, in various methods and manners. Except, with our God-given intellect and cognitive capabilities, humans can be crueler and more calculated in inflicting hurt. This is where forgiveness come in.

Forgiveness acknowledges wrong-doing or bad behavior and does not excuse it. Uncover the wounds by listing “who?” and “how?” Articulate the “how,” “why,” etc. This knowledge is followed by evaluating whether your personal behavior needs to change or boundaries set in-place. Make decisions. Sometimes this step involves seeking professional counseling or pastoral care. God didn’t request us to be doormats. He did ask us to turn the other cheek, but then what?

My counselor describes: “Your friend is sitting next to you and keeps poking your eye. You shouldn’t let your friend keep poking you in the eye (if you do, that is a a deeper issue.) You have a few options. 1.) Tell your friend to STOP! and your friend stops and can remain sitting beside you. 2.) Tell you friend to STOP! but your friend still pokes occasionally. You request they move across the room from you. 3.) Tell your friend to STOP! but your friend keeps poking whether next to you or across the room from you. You need to ask your friend to leave the room, i.e. BOUNDARIES.

To achieve forgiveness you don’t need reconciliation or an apology. Why? People apologize all the time without meaning a word. A sincere apology is rare. Sometimes apologies do more harm than good. For example, a women or man who has experienced intimate partner violence does not need to reconnect with their abusive partner to gain an apology. Reconnecting could be dangerous and harmful to the wounded person. Reconciliation requires repentance. Repentance is a free-will choice, and even God can’t make a person choose reconciliation and repentance. So neither can you or I.

Embracing an attitude of forgiveness frees the wounded. And allows for healing. Forgiveness, the person it frees is yourself. Authentic forgiveness allows people, like you and I, to make a choice in a bad situation. A choice that will either free us or shackle us. To take responsibility for my sins and transgressions but to embrace mercy and compassion. To forgive myself and others as Christ forgave. We are all sinners. And God loves us all. In the end, God is the judge and juror of our lives, but he did ask, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen.

*** This post was inspired by 4+ years of clinical, Catholic counseling. Don’t know where to start? Try searching for faith based, Catholic counselors @ LINK. May God bless you and keep you all.***

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae: An Encyclical of Hope

 

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July 25, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the prophetic and controversial Encyclical of Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life.”  Most people refer to his beautiful encyclical as the “contraception” encyclical. During a period of social, cultural, and religious turmoil surrounding the purpose and place of family, relationships, and procreation, Pope Paul VI released an reaffirmation of the truth: the Catholic Church would not support the use of artificial birth control or other reproductive technologies that could undermine family life and human dignity. But this was radical for the many influences adamant the Catholic Church would join their Protestant Christian brethren in accepting and normalizing artificial birth control.

What people miss by generalizing this prophetic document are the tenants of what eventually would be known as St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” or “Love and Responsibility.” This document expresses the profound nature of marriage between a man and woman, the marital embrace, and fruits of marital love. Love that is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, and FRUITFUL. After an exploration into love and marital love, Pope Paul VI warns of the dangers of artificial birth control and the consequences society would reap by accepting it. Towards the end of this document lies a call to action for medical practitioners and researches pleading for medical advancement regarding reproductive medicine, health, wellness. That is where my story with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae most intimately begins.

Because of Humanae Vitae, we have the Pope Paul VI Institute and Creighton Natural Family Planning Method. We also benefit from NFP spin-offs like the Marquette Method. Because Pope Paul VI had divine inspiration and the guts to swim against the cultural tide, almost fifty years later, I had a fighting chance of health and wellness as a young woman in my mid-twenties. My friends have a fighting chance of healing from infertility. Or my mom from developing reproductive cancer. Or loved ones maintaining a pregnancy after miscarriages. One of the more hidden messages of Humanae Vitae is hope- hope in what seems like impossible odds.

Yes, this encyclical is an encyclical of love, but from that lesson in sometimes a very challenging and difficult school of love bears the fruit of other virtues such as faith and hope. Thinking about the past three years of my Naprotechnology treatment, though riddled with severe physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, tears flow while I write this in gratitude and joy. I am beautifully broken and my journey of reproductive health and wellness is far from over. Amid the pain, suffering, and uncertainty, I found my dignity instead of loosing it.

Through the lens of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, I’ve experienced a glimpse into the profound nature of my womanhood and femininity and even a deeper insight into masculinity and manhood. My medical treatment is filtered through the lens of Christ viewing me as a good and godly creation. Beautiful in His sight. All because one little man in a white cassock (and a few others) inspired by the Holy Spirit swam against the tide and upheld authentic love instead.

Pope Paul VI, please, pray for us! Amen.

 

 

 

The Inspiration Behind Modern NFP

 

 

Where did modern Natural Family Planning originate? Modern NFP originated from Pope Paul VI’s groundbreaking and controversial encyclical issued July 25, 1968. In 1968, many people anticipated and expected the Catholic Church to follow the direction set by their Protestant and other monotheistic brethren who accepted the practice of contraception especially hormonal birth control. Nope. Pope Paul VI not only issued a authoritative document against contraceptive methods but warned (i,e. prophesied) about the cultural and social ramifications of a contraceptive culture. He prophesied the breakdown of family, relationships, increase in violence and objectification, and the breakdown of world peace.

But the historical “Rhythm Method” wasn’t comprehensive enough for women, procreation, health, wellness, and relationships. Towards the end of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI calls to action and places a level of responsibility on the shoulders of professionals with a certain type of power, authority, or education. He requests and pleads with medical researchers and clinicians to develop and research ethical and life-giving alternatives to contraceptive methods and healthcare practices.

Humanae Vitae

To Men of Science

24. We wish now to express our encouragement to men of science, who “can considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family, along with peace of conscience, if by pooling their efforts they labor to explain more thoroughly the various conditions favoring a proper regulation of births. It is particularly desirable that, according to the wish already expressed by Pope Pius XII, medical science succeed in providing a sufficiently secure basis for regulation of birth, founded on the observance of natural rhythms. In this way, scientist and especially Catholic scientist will contribute to demonstrate in actual fact that, as the Church teaches, “A true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to the fostering of authentic conjugal love.

During the 1960’s tumultuous confusion, a young medical student’s interest was pricked. When Doctor Thomas Hilgers, the founder and director Pope Paul VI Institute and the co- developer of the Creighton Method Natural Family Planning and NaproTECHNOLOGY (Natural Procreative Technology) asked a campus priest during medical school at the University of Minnesota if he could locate a copy of Humanae Vitae, the priest responded, “Why would you want to read that trash?” (EWTN Interview, At Home with Jim & Joy.) This statement shows how polarized members of the Church, even in the pastoral teaching authority of the Church, were regarding the “contraception” encyclical.

But even this heretical discouragement didn’t dissuade Dr. Hilgers and his wife from embarking on an eight year journey that climaxed in the founding of the Pope Paul VI Institute- a medical institution dedicated to researching women’s reproductive health and natural cycles while providing diagnosis and treatment for medical conditions and infertility that uphold the dignity of the woman, the husband, and the potential child.

 

 

Catholic Match Blog Post

Please. check out my latest blog post published on Catholic Match Institute’s Blog. I’m hoping this article helps provide a Catholic perspective on relationships, marriage, and high risk pregnancy. Please, enter into a very personal and important topic that has touched my life and many other women. May God bless and keep you all!

Real Talk: How to Discuss Sex and High Risk Pregnancy While Dating

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A Letter to My Future Husband #NPN2017

NPN2017Dear Future Husband,

In our day and age, I know it isn’t a matter of whether or not you have been exposed to pornography, but a matter of what you did/do once you were. I ask you to be honest with me. I know. I learned the statistics, the appeal, the behavior, the prevalence, and I’m asking you to, please, choose me. To choose us. Appeal to my love for you by being honest and transparent.

Don’t think for a moment I won’t be angered, disappointed or discouraged. Mostly, I will be scared. Maybe Betrayed. Definitely Hurt. Concerned for myself and potential children. I won’t excuse your behavior. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Porn isn’t just bad behavior. Porn lies. Kills Truth. Kills love. Porn distorts: Sex, Attraction, Beauty, Respect, Dignity, Worth, Value, Gratification, and Discipline. Porn objectifies. Porn turns men into beasts. Porn ruins your soul, your relationship with God, your ability to master virtue, and your ability to become the husband/father God called you to be. Porn is ultimately selfish.

Choosing to view and act on pornography is like eating a delicious 3 layered cake that is enticing and pleasurable in view, taste, smell, texture, etc. But you are so blinded by the externals and yourself (maybe peer pressure or “well intended” advice to eat the cake,) you don’t realize you just ingested a 3 layer “meth” cake of addictive hell, selfishness, and anti-love. But, it’s too late, you need another fix. You go back to the meth cake. You choose the meth cake over real love. It becomes a coping mechanism for disappointment, hurt, shame, uncertainty, insecurity, conflict, marital intimacy problems, etc. Pleasure and a quick fix distracts from struggling and striving for authentic faith, hope, and charity. I’m sorry and saddened if you bought into the lie of porn and chose the garbage when God wanted to give you heaven.

So what now. Guess what? You aren’t a slave to your lust, your past, your mistakes, your shame, your guilt, and your weaknesses. But you do need to change your heart which will change your body, mind, and soul. You ABSOLUTELY must change. There is no alternative. You need to become a true man: a lover of God and not yourself. Be disciplined in thought, word, and deed: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, etc. You need to learn that there is right and wrong. And others, including God, have authority to inform you and hold you accountable to what is right and wrong. That there is good and bad behavior.

In the meantime, cling to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Learn to do good and sin no more purely out of love for God. Love God! Create a clean heart in me, O God! Heal and hope. Become a real man of God. Don’t be afraid to suffer and sacrifice. Choose love. Choose me. Choose us. And please, pray for me and for my purity. Please, pray for us. You are in my prayers always.

With My Whole Heart,

Hannah

A.M.D.G.

Catholic 365 Article: NaProTECHNOLOGY for the Unmarried Woman

NFPA couple months ago, I submitted an article to Catholic 365 which was published. This article is a follow-up to an article I wrote a couple years ago. The article is a personal witness and testimony to health and healing beyond hope.

http://www.catholic365.com/article/6864/naprotechnology-for-the-unmarried-woman.html

Part 1: Pride Goes Before Disaster

“Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be humble with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.” ~ Proverbs 16: 18-19

Other than the theme of love the theme of pride dominates the majority of literature- Hubris. I learned acutely this week: Pride has no business in an intimate relationship.

St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changes angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” So very true. Pride enslaved us to sin and death. Humility freed us from sin and death.

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Within a loving, intimate relationship pride ruins relationships and wrecks havoc. Pride destroys all other virtues and even other vices. Pride denies sin. Pride ultimately means an over-inflated, misplaced self reliance and rejection of our reliance on Our heavenly Father- Our Creator. Pride is like giving God the middle finger. We puff up like a petty, pouffy self-absorbed grouse. But pride makes us feel good or justified or superior. In reality, we reject God, turn ourselves into mini-gods, and reject the people we claim to love. We’re too busy loving ourselves.

Pride manifests itself in many ways within a relationship: lack of communication, resentment, abuse and control, sexual perversion like pornography or masturbation, holding a grudge, inability to think of others, lying, omitting or twisting the truth, blaming others, whining, etc.

“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of live, or contentment, or even common sense.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Pride isn’t the same concept as being proud. We can delight in our gifts, talents, and accomplishments barring maintaining healthy gratitude to Our Creator who bestowed us with the capacity. Pride doesn’t mean having unhealthy boundaries, being a doormat, excusing bad behavior, or refusing to cultivate a conscience that delineates between good and evil. Having convictions or a moral compass  is not automatically pride.

Pride prevents reconciliation, humility, forgiveness, freedom, and virtue. Pride tramples faith, hope, and charity (love.) Pride enslaves a person to their distortion of self reliance and prevents freedom in this life and the next. Pride snuffs out joy. Pride destroys peace. Pride prevents communion and union.

“The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul (1563)

I’m guilty of pride. Pride that hurts others and myself. Daily I struggle with occasions of sin and sin prompted by pride. I struggle to keep prideful behavior at bay within an intimate relationship. Pride can be sneaky too manifesting itself in unlikely manners and places.

What is the antidote to pride? Humility. Not faux humility. Authentic humility. Part 2 of this post will be an exploration of humility.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis

Dear Little One,

*Dedicated to Francis, Noel, & Karol*

With the news of your impending arrival, we rejoiced at the gift of your life and anticipated when we would interact with you in our surroundings. We marveled at the thought of another unique human being entering our family. We imagined the soft feel of a newborn paired with that uncanny bonding smell of a newborn. We could almost hear your soft content coo and infant cry. A baby is a gift.

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The joyous shrieks and squeals of your cousins echo in my memory as the soft tears of your grandparents, aunts, and uncles remain etched on my heart. We instantly held you in our hearts. A place you will always remain.

Though we never experienced your uncanny newborn smell, the softness of your skin, or the glow of your unique personality, you are ours. The quality of love shared with my living nieces and nephews cannot be explained or quantified. Years of bonding, connecting, living, breathing, and feeling with them. I may not as acutely feel your death the same way as I would theirs, but that isn’t your fault, Little One. The limits of my human imagination and experience don’t diminish the reality of your existence and personhood.

I do believe you’re watching over us, praying for us, and keeping company with family from above. We grieved your loss. Your parents miss you. We miss your presence. Little One, please, pray for us. And we, in turn, pray and hope for the day in which we shall be reunited with you.

Someday, Little One, I’ll hold you in my arms. For now, I’ll hold you in my heart. Thank you for being a part of our family and for your prayers. Please, take good care of each other.

With All My Love,

Aunt Hannah

 

Life & Love with Chronic Illness

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

As the years of my life unfold, my medical record lengthens and complications arise. My life isn’t over. My ability to love isn’t less. It may be even more. There is something to maturation with age. Young enough at twenty-seven to not accept the status quo, challenge the system, and fight passionately for my goals, dreams, and desires, but I have matured in many ways too. I’m much kinder to myself than I used to be and more at peace with who I am. The real person who I am. Not the person I could be if most realities in my life changed. I bargain less and embrace more.

Learn to recognize what you can change and what you cannot change. Are there days when I wished I woke up minus a few health conditions and the symptoms I experience? Sure. That is an understandable response. But, at the rising or end of the day, I have no real control over my diagnosis. What I do have control of is being as healthy and whole as possible. I eat better. I exercise. I avoid allergens or irritants that may aggravate symptoms. I stress less or at least attempt to. I seek professional help when needed. I relax. I have a clean and healthy living space. I engage in mental and physical activities that are enjoyable. I spend time with family and friends. I work. Take each day by day. Slow down and smell the roses, feel the breeze brushing your cheek, and laugh when snowflakes land on your nose.

Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t live up to your own expectations, others, or the culture’s expectations. If you have one or multiple chronic illnesses like me, you can’t be someone else or wish you were someone else. You are just you. And that is good. Many days, your physical, mental, and emotional health will dictate your day, the activities you engage in, and your daily priorities. Don’t feel inadequate because you stayed home while your friends went out for a drink. Don’t apologize for eating or drinking or doing whatever you need too differently in order to care for yourself. You aren’t less of a person because you have “limitations” and “weaknesses” or “special circumstances.”

Don’t compare yourself to others, “should haves” or “could haves.” This mindset is detrimental to anyone, but a killer to a person with chronic illness. Whether you’re perfectly healthy or not, you are beautiful, lovable, and good. For years after I graduated from college, I beat myself up because I couldn’t be and accomplish how I imagined or in the manner my peers did. My mental aptitude was there but the physical was more elusive. Four years out of college, I learned my worth isn’t tied to my accomplishments. Life is a beautiful and challenging surprise.

You are lovable. Worthy of love and being loved. My love life has been tumultuous. I seethed or cried when men said rude, shallow, shortsighted, and uncompassionate comments regarding my health and worth. It hurt badly. Then I realized it was more about their issues and less about mine. Then I changed my dating approach. I stopped apologizing. I stopped justifying. I stopped tolerating dumb, mean comments. Yes, this thinned out my prospects and good riddance. Yes, a good man did come into my life. A man that loves me even more for what many men fear not less. Again, don’t compare your love life to others. You aren’t less of a couple or less loving because you can’t or shouldn’t appear in a certain manner, go to certain events, etc. Don’t do yourself or the one whom you love this disservice.

Daily Motto: You are beautiful. You are lovable. You are good. You are enough.