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 Vanier Way”

The Vanier Way Qoute

My mom and I watched a documentary on EWTN recently called the “Vanier Way.” A group of students from the Canadian Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School: “visit the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, and immerse themselves in the culture as they partake in workshops in pottery, mosaics, and gardening.” (@EWTN) These disillusioned high school students visit Parisian and French cultural, religious, and historical sights as well as immersing themselves in a few different L’Arche communities around the Paris area. The students were more moved by the L’Arche community than the Eiffel tower. Why? Because they experienced authentic love and joy. They experienced real truth and beauty amid the broken, outcast, and “undesirables” of society.

“L’Arche was not my project, but God’s.”- Jean Vanier

The students are blessed to interact with the Founder Jean Vanier who established the first L’Arche community in the late 1960s outside Paris after visiting local asylums. A female friend suggested the term “L’Arche” or “The Ark” in English indicating a community where people with intellectual disabilities could create a new family and no longer hide in the shadows of society. In 1970, the first L’Arche community opened in India. In 1972, the first USA L’Arche home was founded in Erie, PA. Theologian and priest Henri Nouwen lived his last 10 years at a Toronto’s Daybreak L’Arche home. As the founder states, “L’Arche’s first seeds were planted in the earth of the Roman Catholic Church. Through God’s grace, other seeds were planted in other soils. . . L’Arche became ecumenical.” All L’Arche communities have a religious dimension to their community even in communities with those of severe intellectual disabilities. “Some communities are one religion, others are inter-denominational or inter-faith. Members are encouraged to grow in their spiritual journeys, and people who are not affiliated with a particular religious tradition are also welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience.”

“Without this spiritual dimension and growth in holiness, L’Arche could become simply another group home. It would lose what makes it unique.”- Jean Vanier

The beauty of the documentary lies in the reactions of the high school students interacting with members of the community, how they process those interactions, and the transformative seeds planted. Another beautiful aspect is the insightful and authentic observation and story telling quality of Jean Vanier who speaks with a spiritual depth, peace, and humility few people evoke. He warns about the impact of social media (guilty here) and the power of “the tyranny of the Group.” And provides interacting on a human level with “the other” as an antidote against “the tyranny of the group.” These human interactions, absent of cell phones and social media shake us up and out of ourselves and illuminate the lies and pressure we follow so blindly with or without question.

The heart of the Vanier Way is simply the recognize and live in accordance with the profound recognition of the intrinsic dignity of every human being from conception to natural death regardless of form or function. Our job is to love. Love and be loved in return. To love without measure or degree. To love the lovable and unlovable. And to allow love to transform us and inform us. “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” – St. John Paul II

“Our community life is beautiful and intense, a source of life for everyone. People with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.” —Jean Vanier

May God bless you and keep you! You are more precious than you believe!

To learn more about the United State’s L’Arche community: LINK

To learn more about the  International L’Arche community: LINK