Special thanks again to Barb Schoeneberger for allowing me to reprint her beautifully written post from last week entitled “Changing Hearts on Contraception.”
Yesterday I opened the subject of The Spiritual Malaise Behind Contraception. Sandro Magister called the dichotomy between Church teaching and behavior of observant Catholics proof of “the relentless advance of secularization.” We have always been told that temptations come from the world, the flesh and the devil. In the case of contraception all three are at work, but the enormous pressure from the world (secularization) can’t be withstood by Catholics who have either lost or never had that profound connection with devout spiritual practices that gave us so many saints throughout the centuries.
Signs of estrangement
Language is powerful. The words we use say a lot about us and where we are in our relationship with God. Let’s take a look at some typical statements I’ve seen on the internet from Catholics regarding contraception to illustrate what I mean:
I don’t want the Church telling me what to do.
The Catholic Church is wrong and should get with the times.
I’ll quit contracepting when the Pope pays for my children’s education.
The bishop should stay out of my bedroom.
Now, for every italicized word, substitute the word “God.” A tenet of the Catholic Faith is that Sacred Scripture is truth, the Word of God, and Catholic Tradition which finds its roots in Sacred Scripture comes from God. When the Pope and the bishops in union with him teach the truth God revealed, they speak with the authority of God. So people are really saying, “I don’t want God telling me what to do; God is wrong and should get with the times; I’ll quit contracepting when God pays for my children’s education; God should stay out of my bedroom.”
As to the third statement, it is a fact that everything, including money, belongs to God who dispenses it through whatever means He sees fit, so God indeed provides for children’s education and all else that parents may need. For the rest, very, very scary is the spirit of the world. It wants NO relationship with God. These statements are indicative of the spiritual blindness afflicting us.
The role of the Capital Sins
If I had to pick among the Seven Capital Sins that facilitate our fascination with the world to the point that we contracept, they would be:
Greed makes us willing to trade children for status and things. It makes us decide that a certain standard of living is more important that accepting what God wants us to have. It drives us to “keep up with the Joneses.” It’s behind us “needing” to have the latest electronic gadget, entertainment center, dinner at the most upscale restaurant around, a lot of fine jewelry, etc.
The politics of scarcity feeds greed to the point that the United Nations and the U.S. government are trying to force birth control on as many nations as possible. The Malthusians have already been proven wrong, yet nations still try to bully other lesser powers into stunting their population growth, the greater powers eying the natural resources lesser powers have. Greed seeks to deny nations their greatest natural resource, their children.
Lust turns others into objects to be used for our pleasure with no responsibility or respect for the dignity of the person. What is more demeaning to the person than to become an object for someone else’s pleasure?
Pride hides behind the quotes above, and behind lust, placing our opinions and ideas above anyone else’s, especially God’s. Pride cares about what others think, not about what God thinks. And if we don’t care what God thinks, then what kind of relationship do we have with Him in the first place?
These sins are in service to secularization. The more we give in to them the blinder we become. We slowly forget God. We arrive at the point where we believe all that we have and accomplish are through our own intelligence and talent. We are just plain full of ourselves with no room for God.
The antidote to secularization
In recent weeks a number of priests have either written or commented on how hard it is to speak on the subject of contraception. They want to teach the truth and have a genuine fear of turning people off or incurring the wrath of the harpies in the parish. If I may be so bold, I offer to them my insight: Church teaching on contraception will fail to ignite the hearts of the faithful unless it becomes part of the whole of developing the virtues of humility and trust in God. This is our starting point and goes for overcoming addiction to any mortal sin. Unless we get to this most basic level of relationship with God, we can forget about getting people to accept anything except what they want to – the “cafeteria Catholic.”
Humility and trust in God are nothing more than pretty and useless words, though, without sound spiritual practice. What can we do beyond what the Church requires (the precepts of the Church) to develop humility and trust in God? I’ll offer a couple of things here that have taken me a long way:
Commit to examining our consciences every day and go to Confession more than once a month. Once a month just isn’t enough for people addicted to mortal sin. Really, if we are trying to strengthen our relationship with God, we need to be thinking about what to do that pleases Him and not what we do that pleases ourselves. The end of the day before going to sleep is the best time to do examine our conscience, accompanied by an act of contrition. Confession – Its Fruitful Practice (With an Examination of Conscience) is a handy booklet to help us face our sins and amend our lives.
Make a habit of practicing awareness of the presence of God. It becomes more and more difficult to sin if we habitually recall the presence of God. Ignatian spirituality calls for stopping what we’re doing a couple of times a day to reflect on how we have encountered God that day, praying about what He wants from us here and now, and thanking Him for His graces. With today’s wristwatches being capable of setting off an alarm, it’s easy to set a time to do this, and the time involved is only about 10 minutes. How complicated is that?
Pray the Traditional Morning Offering from The Apostleship of Prayer. Offering everything of our day to God starts us out on the right foot and combats sinful intentions as we go about our business.
These three simple spiritual practices will lead to others and draw a person slowly but surely into putting God first. Combating secularization gets easier as we seek God’s will in our lives and look to why the Church teaches what she does. We will find ourselves seeking more “God time” daily and find ourselves becoming more humble and trustful of God. We will develop a profound sense of who we really are as children of God. After awhile, the attraction to sins like contraception become weaker and weaker.
Is it easy? No, because it requires firm commitment and a willingness to conform ourselves to the will of God. Is it simple? Yes. What do we have to lose? Hell.
V. Praised be Jesus Christ!
R. Now and forever!
Again, I’d like to thank Barb for allowing me to repost her beautifully written, timely articles! Please visit her website at www.sufferingwithjoy.com