Tag Archives: Family Values

Our Mission & Evangelii Gaudium

pope-FrancisPope Francis challenges me. There is no way for me to listen or read his words without feeling he is speaking directly to me and calling me to action.

One of the things I really appreciate about being a volunteer with the Couple to Couple League is that it is truly a ministry. As a couple, my husband and I can minister to other couples and families with a message that is sorely missing today. Together we can help build stronger marriages and thus stronger families. We do this through our NFP apostolate.

My husband recently found the following paragraph in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which seems to summarize our position within the Church. I thought it would be interesting to share not only with the general public to elaborate on our mission, but also with other CCL volunteers as a reminder of where we fit in the greater scheme and how we serve our communities:

“Other Church institutions, basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors. Frequently they bring a new evangelizing fervour and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed. But it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church. This kind of integration will prevent them from concentrating only on part of the Gospel or the Church, or becoming nomads without roots.” (Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 29).

Blessings!

 

Pope Francis’ Letter to Families

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wrote the following letter to all families. I have reposted it here from the vatican website. Here is the original link. It is so worth taking the time to read…and reread.

Dear families,

With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”. Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.

This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2014
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

 FRANCIS

A Meditation in the Soil

It’s November, and so mild that I can still get out and work in the garden. This was my first year really gardening and I am pretty satisfied with the results overall, especially considering that I basically abandoned it midway through to the weeds and dry spells.

my garden at the height of summer

my garden before I abandoned it to the heat and weeds

I love working in the garden. Well, except when it’s hot. Then I wish I had a cave to hibernate through the summer and emerge in the Fall to play in the cold. I know. I probably shouldn’t ever have any high hopes for my garden at this rate!

Moments in the garden are revelatory: I understand God and His creation so much better there. I see so many microcosms of society and relationships, allegories and metaphors to life in the soil. Today’s task was turning the soil over in preparation for a winter rest and spring planting, which is definitely more than a day’s work.

It is often while in the garden, my thoughts drift to considering how simple life is really, and how NFP just makes sense on a natural level. It made me think that perhaps gardeners and farmers should understand natural family planning particularly well. They must always be considering the future of their soil and equipment while dealing with today’s planting or harvesting, and so that care guides their sustainability practices.

Natural family planning is a lot like gardening: with an eye to the future, we make decisions based on the current needs of our family. We are more cognizant of the way we treat our body, which for women often means seeing an improvement in our cycles (i.e. improved health improves cycle regularities). We refrain from practices that disrespect our body or that of our spouse. We refuse medications that harm our reproductive health and the overall health of our body, and we do this because we are looking at the long term.

Tracking and planning around the intricate rhythms of the reproductive cycle is like tending a garden. It’s not a perfect analogy, but hopefully you get the picture. Although today I realized NFP charting is much easier than tending the soil!

How much do we waste?

this trash wanted to go in a can, but the can ...

this trash wanted to go in a can, but the can was too full, so it’s waiting for the next one (Photo credit: purplepix)

When a new neighbor moved into my neighborhood a few years ago, his first reaction to my brood of four kids was: “Oh…my…when we were having kids, it was all about ‘zero population growth.'”

NFP and big families are linked in the minds of the public, and this is one of the major hurdles we face in promoting NFP. Whatever your opinions on environmental policy, you can’t argue that we are called to be good stewards of creation: not using more than we consume, protecting the earth for future generations to enjoy.

In fact, as NFP users, you could say we have an even greater responsibility to be careful of how we use the earth simply because we often do choose to have more children than the “norm,” and that lays us open to criticism about our use of resources.

Sometimes we defend our choices based on the principle that more immortal souls can never a bad thing. While that’s true, I don’t think it’s the most effective response.

This article caught my eye this morning: Humans on course to triple waste by 2100. I am constantly appalled by the amount of trash I see on the curb in my neighborhood every week. I don’t understand how people who are at home a quarter of the time we are can generate five times as much trash. I think our best defense is to show by the way we live our lives and the way we teach our children to live their lives that a family of six or eight can actually have a significantly lower carbon footprint than a family of three or four. Because once we live it, we demonstrate that “bigger” doesn’t necessarily equal “more.”

What about you? What do you do to reduce waste and consumption in your families?

NFP-Supportive Physicians

Sometimes it is tough practicing natural family planning in today’s society. Contraceptives are the accepted norm, so much so that the mere mention of NFP elicits a response equivalent to a sympathetic pat on the hand. Much of this is due to lack of education. In sex education classes, our school children are encouraged to practice “safe sex,” and in many places they can get free handouts from their school nurse. It is no wonder, then, that as adults many of our friends, family and colleagues simply do not understand how NFP works. Thus, when we meet other families who use NFP, it is like an oasis in the desert: “Aah, friends who understand!” It is the same way with doctors.

Since the development of the Pill, medical schools have set their full attention on contraceptives. Students very rarely hear about natural family planning, and when they do, it is often referenced to as the Rhythm Method, a calendar-based system that is highly ineffective, and so they also go uneducated. However, there are doctors who have discovered the benefits of NFP and who promote it exclusively, like these courageous doctors of Downers Grove, IL, who left their practices and established a new one where they will no longer prescribe birth control or perform sterilizations but instead support women using any form of NFP. Another one of our dear desert oases.

I have had the experience of visiting a NFP-supportive physician, and the difference in the visit was wonderful. He not only appreciated my bringing along my NFP chart and asked questions about my observed fertility signs, but he also asked follow-up questions which respected my knowledge of my own body. Instead of a pat on the hand, it was a pat on the back. And the best part, instead of being given the option of taking birth control to solve any “problems,” we discussed the taking of blood samples to determine any low or high hormone levels to determine the source of the problem, which would then help us find healthy, natural ways of solving them and getting me back to a better state of health. Wonderful!

NFP-supportive physicians can be hard to find, especially in rural areas, but there is a great tool you can use to locate one: onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory. Search results include NFP centers, pharmacies, medical professionals and teachers, all located by zip code.

Find a NFP-supportive physician at onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory

Find a NFP-supportive physician at onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory

Many NFP-supportive physicians have been trained through NaProTechnology, which is a new branch of health science dedicated exclusively to monitoring and maintaining a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health. They also assist with male infertility. To learn more about this exciting new field, go to www.naprotechnology.com/.

My hope is that you will be able to find the kind of supportive health care you need when you need it, knowing that it is out there to find.

Peace.

Sharing the Journey: Natural Parenting

Note: The views expressed in this post are personal in nature and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Couple to Couple League, Inc.

This post marks the beginning of a new series, Sharing the Journey, in which I and fellow NFP families will occasionally share about our own life experiences. They may deal directly with the use of NFP in our spousal relationships and planning our families, but probably more often than not we’ll talk about the indirect ways our uses of NFP influence our lives.

I consider myself a spontaneous organizer. Yes, that is basically an oxymoron. I am a conflicted person. My living and working space HAS to be organized otherwise I grow increasingly anxious and eventually break down or blow up, as my dear husband can tell you. However, I also enjoy changing things up (hence my constant rearranging of furniture), or deciding to go somewhere or do something at the last minute. Sometimes one attribute overwhelms the other, like when I suddenly decide to go somewhere only to realize I forgot to look up the directions beforehand and thus have absolutely no idea how to get there. True story, multiple times over.

Knowing this about myself, particularly the driving-without-directions tendency, when we found out we were expecting I threw myself into organizing mode, like big time. The funny thing is that despite growing up around babies and children, babysitting, and STUDYING child and family development as a major in college, no less, I suddenly forgot every single thing I ever knew and felt sure I did not know enough to subsist outside of the hospital. I began grabbing every parenting book I could get my hands on and scheduled Jeremy and me up for the entire series of child preparation classes the hospital provided. Still, when the day came for our scheduled C-section (how can you get more organized than planning the actual birth day, I’d like to know, though that wasn’t the intention), I felt so inadequate. I kept praying and chose to trust that God would guide us. And He has.

Soon after bringing our daughter home, I finally got my hands on a copy of the Sears’ Attachment Parenting book. I am not exaggerating when I say it changed everything, our whole approach to parenting. There were two other books that were also pivotal (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood and Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, both by Sheila Kippley), but for some reason the Sears’ book really hit home. I learned that by following a few basic guidelines and allowing my mothering instinct to guide me in responding to our baby’s cues, everything would fall into place and the result would be a healthy, happy baby and family. The continually unfolding story of our lives is telling me that this is happening.

So, we threw all those modern ideas I had been reading about out the window and began simply listening and responding to our baby’s cues instead. It could not have been simpler! For example, before reading the section about sleep, we had tried getting up for night feedings and laying her in the bassinet by herself to sleep. When I read about co-sleeping, however, it seemed to directly meet the communicated need to be closer to us, through the long, dark night, and it solved our sleep deprivation problem. Thus, I morphed from Zombie-Mom to Happily-Adjusting-Mother-of-a-Newborn, which is a more pleasant state of existence for all involved. Then also, reading the section about babywearing and all the benefits of keeping baby close was so insightful and made so much sense!  She seemed so much happier close to our hearts, and to the sound she had heard for nine months, and then as she grew it was apparent she was benefiting from all of the constant interacting with us. And of course there was breastfeeding. I had already decided to exclusively breastfeed, but it was so reassuring to be reaffirmed in the practice of pacifying her at the breast, breastfeeding when she indicated a desire and not according to a schedule, and that in fact it meets not only nutritional needs but also a very essential emotional one as well. These are just a few out of the many experiences we have had.

All of these things made sense to use because of our practice of NFP. By charting my body’s naturally-occurring physiological changes, I have come to believe and trust in my body. I understand how it works and appreciate its natural design, its intricate workings so delicately balanced and set in motion. I know that it is the way it is for a reason. All I have to do is pay attention and then respond to my natural cues, which is precisely what natural parenting is: paying attention to my child’s natural cues and responding appropriately and lovingly.

The more I learn about NFP, natural parenting, or just nature in general, I am reaffirmed in the belief that God created me and all creation with a plan and purpose. He not only made it so that the deepest, most intimate act of love, the marital embrace, is life-creating, resulting in a totally new and unique human being (love with a name), but He also gives us everything we need to care for our families. One “proof” for me of all this is our daughter. She not only is a pure gift to Jeremy and me, a fruit of our married love, but the efforts of natural parenting has been a happy, healthy, well-adjusted little girl.

Yes, she is this happy all the time!

Yes, she is this happy all the time!

When the time comes, I hope you find the key to the world of natural parenting and discover that you have all the tools and skills you need to build strong bonds with your spouse and children, and a strong, harmonious family life. May God bless you on your journey!

Link

Underage Dating: The Elephant in the Social Conservative Living-Room

This is an extremely good, eye-opening article by Bryana Johnson with the College Conservative regarding underage dating, “the cancer of broken marriages and failed relationships,” and how it sets children up for divorce. Here is an excerpt:

“The trouble with underage dating is that it presents an entirely faulty view of what interaction with the opposite gender should be about. Rather than placing emphasis on building one strong relationship with one person at a stage of life when a marital commitment is feasible, dating encourages young people to pour their energies into consistently seducing other young people at a time when neither of them are capable of making any long-term commitments. Their “relationships” are destined to fail from the get-go because they are founded on unhealthy perceptions of love and not backed by any real necessity to stick it out.”

This is just an excerpt; it is all really, really good!