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Humanae Vitae: Day 26 The family Apostolate

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Family Apostolate

26. Among the fruits that ripen if the law of God be resolutely obeyed, the most precious is certainly this, that married couples themselves will often desire to communicate their own experience to others. Thus it comes about that in the fullness of the lay vocation will be included a novel and outstanding form of the apostolate by which, like ministering to like, married couples themselves by the leadership they offer will become apostles to other married couples. And surely among all the forms of the Christian apostolate it is hard to think of one more opportune for the present time (cf. Lumen Gentium 35, 41 and others).

In my own experience, I have seen this happen in parishes. Married couples who are faithful to the marital laws of the Church are happy couples with happy families. Yes, there are challenges, but they know that the grace of God is with them. Other couples see their joy and want to know what makes them so happy.

This builds up happy parishes with a solid Catholic culture. The Catechism calls the family “the original cell of social life” (2207) and says that the well-being of a society depends on families (cf. 2210). This is true of the parish as well. Strong Catholic families build up strong Catholic parishes. And it all begins with fidelity.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 11

Observing the Natural Law

11. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, “noble and worthy” (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 49).  It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life (cf. Pius XI, Casti connubi).

Natural Law, remember, is that which we naturally know as right vs. wrong because God placed that knowledge within us along with a conscience which tells us to do good and avoid evil.  Sex is a gift given by God to a husband and wife for the twin purposes of strengthening the bond between them (as they are no longer two but one flesh) and bringing children into the world.  Even if a couple is unable to have children, the conjugal act is still “noble and worthy” assuming that they are at least open to having children.

That last line is of great importance: “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”  Contraception willingly severs that intrinsic relationship between the marital act and the procreation of life.  And that is why the use of artificial contraception is always by its very nature a mortal sin.  Mortal sins cut us off from God’s grace which gives life to our souls (whereas venial sins wound that connection).  The use of contraception is a mortal sin because it destroys God’s plan for man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply”.

See references in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

nn. 1854-1864 on “The Gravity Of Sin: Mortal And Venial Sin”

n. 2370 and 2399 on Contraception which the Catechism (citing Humanae Vitae n. 14) describes as “intrinsically evil”.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 7

7. The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects. And since in the attempt to justify artificial methods of birth control many appeal to the demands of married love or of responsible parenthood, these two important realities of married life must be accurately defined and analyzed. This is what We mean to do, with special reference to what the Second Vatican Council taught with the highest authority in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today.

Paragraphs 7-18 fall under the section of the Encyclical titled “Doctrinal Principles”.

In order for us to understand the Church’s teaching on the transmission of life, we must consider the question of who is man?  Man is not just flesh and blood; He possesses an eternal soul.  And this body and soul together are one in man.

The Catechism says, “The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that ‘then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Gen 2:7).   Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God” (no. 362).

As such, the transmission of life is not just a physical concern that can only be addressed scientifically.  Souls are involved.  It’s not just a blob of tissue.

The issues that man has to deal with regarding the transmission of life are not all worldly issues.  This concerns the eternal as well because life does not end at the end of one’s earthly life.  What effect does the transmission of life have on man’s eternal destiny?

Our answer to the question of who is man will have an effect on how we understand the definition of married love and responsible parenthood.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)