Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Humanae Vitae ... A Fresh, Vibrant Look at Married Life

As a stop gap while our next book was being ordered (A Jesuit Off Broadway), our Catholic women's book club read the encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae. It is the 40th year since Pope Paul VI released it, as most Catholics who browse the blogosphere are well aware.

Like most, I was vaguely aware of the contents but only through hearsay. I was blown away to find it a masterpiece of logic, reason, and thorough understanding of what a married couple strives for in their lives together.
This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.

It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.

Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare."
It was interesting the the group spanned young, single women; recently married; someone who is having her fifth child; and ... me, who will celebrate 25 years of married bliss next year. All of us found so much to relate to and were highly impressed by the care and regard the Pope had put into this piece. Moreover, 40 years later, we looked back and were mightily impressed as well in the breaking of the naturally intertwined cycle of marital love and the "generation of life" mankind broke so much more. I now have a much better understanding of why people say that contraception is what led to abortion. When one thing is taken casually in order to make life more convenient, then it begins a way of thinking that leads to casual convenience in other ways that do not hold life as sacred.

As well, because of my involvement for the past few years in our parish's Beyond Cana marriage retreat, I was able to see how this encyclical has so much of the essential understanding necessary for our marriages to be able to elevate us to the best that we can be ... rather than settling for second-best.

This is the barest of skimming of what we discussed.

I highly recommend that if you have not read this important document in a thoughtful fashion, that you take it up and do so. Do not be satisfied as I was to read what others say about it. Read it for yourself.

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