Saturday, May 8, 2010

You Must Be Catholic

You must be Catholic or madly in love,” said the gas station attendant as I escorted 7 sleepy children past the candy isle to the restroom. It was 2:00 am and we were only halfway to our destination.
“Both,” I replied with a wink and a grin. It was a pleasant change from the stale comments I usually get from strangers in public places:
“Don’t you know what causes that?”
            Duh- yeah, I think we’ve perfected it.
“Haven’t you got a TV?”
            Yes, we have a TV. But we have an even better marriage.

But this nameless gentleman at the Quick Stop was right on the money. I am very much enamoured with my husband and my Catholic faith, because both are teaching me how to live richly in the fullness of love.

How I wish those lessons had been well received earlier in life!  You see, at the rebellious know it all age  tender young age of 16, I was well versed in the pop culture version of counterfeit love and feminism.  I knew how to define my own standards of right and wrong and be fiercely independent. I was totally free from those guilt trips and social constraints that shackled generations before me. Funny how, after a while, all that freedom began to weigh on my heart, like an anchor dragging me ever deeper into the Culture of Death. Somewhere at the bottom of all that muck, I found my soul and decided that I wanted to live- REALLY LIVE! A wisp of a voice within was urging me to break out of the cycle of using and being used- of manipulating and being manipulated, of narcissism and daring to be my own god.  All I really wanted was what everyone desires; to be understood, accepted, and loved just for my own sake. From then on, I chose life- -
the Culture of Life.

Like the prodigal son I took the long way home, and found that love was waiting for me the whole time. I met my husband along the way and we learned from the Master Lover together. After all, the essence of God is Love. I don’t mean the Hollywood version you hear about on the Top 10 song charts, but the “lay down my life and sacrifice everything for you” type of love. That is the beauty of our Catholic faith. We are not called to obey an arbitrary set of do’s and don’t’s to please an oppressive ruler. We are called to be united; body, mind and soul, to love. United to the lover who sacrificed everything for us. It is in the marital embrace that male and female become the image of God. All of creation is ordered to that end. Every relationship I have brings me closer to the realization of that ultimate communion. We were meant to live for another; this truth is engraved on our very bodies. Even the unity I share with my husband in our marital embrace reflects an attribute of God, Himself, and foreshadows that union which He has planned for His bride, the church. That is why our marriage must be loving and life giving, not selfish and sterile.  Nothing artificial can come between us if our love is to be authentic. No manipulative games, no pretense, no latex or chemicals. Just the 2 of us, giving ourselves as a gift for the other. We give everything--all of our love, our fidelity, our trust, our hopes, our dreams, and yes- even our fertility ….au naturel.

Is it always sweetness and nice? Hardly. We’ve carried a lot of baggage into our marriage from those earlier years of living in the muck. There is also that pesky original sin business that keeps getting in the way of perfect harmony. Weeding out the selfishness in our hearts is difficult and often painful. But growth and maturity come with those growing pains. How many couples never experience the real deal because at the first difficult struggle they bail out of the relationship? Sure we all enjoy the Joyful Mysteries of life, but if we refuse to work through the Sorrowful Mysteries, we can never reach the Glorious

Dear Husband and I have learned so much over the years:
·        He has learned to respect and appreciate the natural rhythm of my body and psyche. Our union is both procreative and unitive by God’s design. It is a beautiful thing. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Mark 10:9
·        I have learned that a man who has mastered his passions has a strength about him that it is extremely attractive and desirable.
·        We’ve learned patience during times of continence.
·        We’ve learned that NFP is very effective for postponing pregnancy, when practiced; though it is a joint effort which requires delicate charity and frequent communication about the most intimate things.  *Not to be confused with MGDNFP, which is much less effective for spacing children.  Large quantities of MGD (Miller Genuine Draft) has a significant impact on NFP decision making skills.  
·        We’ve learned that children are a gift from God and not the scourge of society that many would have us think.  There is no need for us to protect ourselves from sugar and spice or snakes and snails. They are all made of love. And what better way to understand what it means to be created in His image, than to behold our own features and mannerisms in our children? Each one is a unique, unrepeatable creation, yet so much like us at the same time. And in case there is any doubt, know that love in a big family is never divided. It multiplies.
·        We’ve learned that taking God (Who is Love) out of the bedroom, has undeniable consequences:  Male + Female - God= No love.                        Do the math. If you don’t believe me, just Google the stats.
I have no doubt the man at the gas station had been well schooled in these love lessons. He knew that I needed a word of encouragement especially at 2:00 am, in this world which can be oddly hostile to the Culture of Life. I remember him every time I see a young mother balancing an infant carrier, a diaper bag, a purse, and her purchases, while trying to hold onto a toddler or two. That is my opportunity to pay it forward. 

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