Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday. I had a whirlwind trip to New Jersey for the Catholic Marketing Network and the Catholic Writers Conference Live. Here are seven photos from the CMN and Conference:
To celebrate NFP Awareness Week, this is an “all cartoon” post:
All images are copyright by James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.
According to the Catholic encyclopedia, mercy is “a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune.” The spiritual works of mercy are one way Catholics can show charity and compassion to others. Since my husband and I teach Natural Family Planning, we have always tried to practice the spiritual works of mercy through our NFP ministry. Many Catholics do not understand the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them,” Sharing the truth with charity and without judgment is extremely important.
Admonish the Sinner and Instruct the Ignorant
I often find myself in conversations about these intimate topics with acquaintances and relatives. For example, while I was attending a First Penance meeting with one of my sons, the instructor handed out a “Examination of Conscience” pamphlet. On page three, under “Thou Shall Not Kill,” sterilization was listed correctly as a mortal sin. The woman next to me gasped and whispered, “I thought the Church changed her teaching on this. I had my tubes tied and didn’t know it was wrong.” I then gently said, “The Church has never changed this teaching. Birth control and sterilization have always been considered mortal sins.” The woman glanced away, then turned back to me, tears in her eyes. I patted her shoulder, then said, “You know, if you didn’t realize it was wrong, then it’s not a mortal sin.” I pointed out the section in the “Examination of Conscience” pamphlet which stated that all three of these conditions need to be in place for mortal sin: it must be 1) serious matter, 2) the person must know it is serious and then 3) freely commit it. I strongly encouraged her to seek spiritual direction from a faithful priest. When she left the meeting, she thanked me.
Counsel the Doubtful and Comfort the Sorrowful
A few years ago, when we were speaking at the local marriage prep course on “Sexual Honesty Within Marriage,” we talked about the importance of keeping the marital embrace free, total, faithful and “fruitful.” During the last part of the talk, we explained that contraception removes the fruitful aspect from the marital act. All of a sudden, a young woman rushed out of the meeting room, in tears. James and I continued our talk while one of the other host couples followed her, but we were concerned. After the talk, I immediately went to speak to the woman. I learned that she was the mother of a 13-year-old daughter from a teenage relationship. The young woman shared that she was currently in remission from terminal cancer. Because of the aggressive treatment, her doctors told that she would not have any more children. She told me that it upset her to hear the suggestion that her marriage might not be “fruitful” since she and her fiancé would never have children. (Of course, we didn’t say that in our talk, but this is how she interpreted it). She admitted that she had mistakenly thought she had already dealt with the fact that she and her future husband would not be having children together. But our talk seemed to bring her sadness and regret to the surface. She then sobbed and I embraced her as she released emotions that had obviously been pent up for a while. When she stopped crying, I explained that fruitfulness was much more than giving birth to children. We discussed adoption. We talked about the fruitfulness of being a good example as well as other ways she and her husband could be ‘fruitful” in their marriage. After the course finished that evening, she came up to me, hugged me and thanked me for being so “kind.”
Bear Wrongs Patiently, Forgive all Injuries
Bearing wrongs patiently has never been something I have done well. And the following example shows that not everyone I “admonish” or “instruct” has been open to the information.
Ten years ago, a woman called for NFP counseling. She and her husband had taken an NFP class years earlier. Her husband, she said, had made an appointment for a vasectomy and he had indicated the decision was not up for debate. After using NFP for many years, he no longer had any patience for the abstinence it entailed. The wife sounded like she was crying. “What can I do to stop him?” she asked. I spoke with her, then sent her information on the moral, spiritual and physical implications of sterilization. I encouraged her to seek spiritual direction from a faithful priest I knew in the area. Four different times we spoke on the phone, her tone frantic and desperate. Finally, she stopped calling. I continued to pray for this couple. Some months later, she called to inform me that her husband had indeed gone through with the vasectomy and they were now ‘very happy.’ She wanted me to know that, although she knew I didn’t agree with ‘their’ decision, she had come to accept it and that it had been the ‘right’ thing for them.
Admittedly, I have no idea what happened in between her frantic calls and the vasectomy. I suspect she never called the faithful priest I recommended. However, I calmly responded, “But sterilization is against the fifth commandment as well as the sixth, it separates a couple…it causes an increase in prostate cancer, it – ” She cut me off by angrily telling me that she only called to inform me, not to hear what the Church teaches, that she already knew that. Her husband then got on the phone and yelled at me, his tone sharp, accusing me of trying to “sabotage” his marriage. I listened, heart pounding, as he screamed at me over the phone. It took a lot of self-control not to hang up nor respond to his verbal abuse. I prayed and waited until he stopped yelling, although by that point, I was nearly in tears and my hands were trembling. Then I said, my voice breaking, “I will pray for you and I wish you both well…goodbye.” My hands shaking, I hung up the phone and cried. I forgave them long ago for their verbal abuse, and I have prayed for them from time to time, but I’ve always wondered how they are doing.
Pray for the Living and the Dead
Prayer is so powerful, more powerful than any of us can ever imagine. Even if you’re not comfortable speaking up, you can always pray for anyone at anytime. Praying for others is an important part of the spiritual works of mercy. I pray daily that more couples can discover the joy of following the Church’s teachings on sexuality by learning NFP: to be chaste before marriage, to be generous and open to life within marriage. I pray for all the student couples to whom we have taught NFP over the years. I pray for the engaged couples who have listened to our testimony and talks at marriage prep courses. I offer up many prayers for relatives and friends who have chosen to lead alternate lifestyles, and those deceased ancestors and relatives who were not faithful to the Catholic Church’s beautiful teachings of sexuality.
Practicing the spiritual works of mercy through the Theology of the Body is an ideal way to show charity and compassion to others. It’s not always easy to do. However, I know that, for me, it is the right thing to do, even if the person or persons are not open to the message. The truth is, we never know when a seed of truth will be planted and someone will experience a change of heart.
Copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach
So why NFP (or Natural Family Planning)? NFP is safe, healthy and effective. Most importantly, it is a morally acceptable way to avoid and achieve pregnancy.
If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.
Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely. If we ask for conditions, that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.
Total: The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my fertility.” Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).
Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other. But if we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.
Fruitful: Marital relations must be fruitful, open to children, each and every time. That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace. It just means we need to be open.
Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When an action, device, medication or operation is purposefully used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”
Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and, if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.
NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.
Want to live the highest expression of your marital love? Use NFP and be open to life.
For more information about the Theology of the Body:
Miracle Man by Judy Landrieu Klein is FREE on Kindle this week.
“Miracle Man” is no ordinary near-death-experience account. A true story, “Miracle Man” is so full of supernatural marvels and surprising twists that readers are unanimously saying they “can’t put it down!”
“Miracle Man” will take you on a spiritual excursion as you follow Bernie Klein’s riveting journey to heaven and back after he inexplicably survives “the widow maker”—a massive heart attack that usually kills someone in three minutes. After experiencing multiple organ failure and spending six weeks comatose and on life support, Bernie comes back from “the dead” to share his dramatic encounter with Jesus, earning him the name “Miracle Man” among the hospital staff. Bernie’s come-to-Jesus radically changes him and his perspective on life, giving him extreme clarity on what truly matters. His first-hand account of a personal encounter with God also transforms his wife, Judy, as she learns to let go of her fear and mistrust and surrender completely to God.
If you’ve ever wondered if heaven is for real…if you’ve ever had doubts in your relationship with God…if you’ve ever questioned whether God answers prayers…then this book is for you. “Miracle Man” is sure to make you laugh and cry as you experience God’s outrageous love, mercy and faithfulness through Bernie Klein’s life-changing story.
“Miracle Man” powerfully reminds us that, in the end, miracles are possible.
Kindle Edition of Miracle Man is FREE this week.
Let’s talk summer! There’s nothing I like better than to sit under a tree on a warm summer’s day and read a story that will sweep me away. Full Quiver Publishing books make ideal summer reads!!
1. The Lion’s Heart
The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt is currently available on Kindle and in softcover. With the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the US that legalizes same sex marriage, this book is even more relevant and encompasses the Catholic Church’s teachings on this topic. Of The Lion’s Heart, Joseph Pearce, well-known Catholic author, says, “Dena Hunt is a consummate storyteller who does not shirk or shy away from the difficult questions about life and love that her story raises. The Lion’s Heart contains not only the loves of lovers, spouses, parents, and children but also the demons and dragons that selfishness unleashes. The Lion’s Heart is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the hard-hearted. It pulsates with a passion that will bring true hearts to their knees.”
2. In Name Only (O’Donovan Family)
In Name Only is the first in the O’Donovan Family series (although both this and its sequel can be read independently of the other). It has been downloaded over 160,000 times on Kindle and won the Gold medal in Religious Fiction at the 2010 IPPY Awards. Check out the novel website and the profile page on Amazon.
3. A Subtle Grace (O’Donovan Family)
A Subtle Grace is my newest book and is available both on Kindle and in paperback. In her review, Trisha Niermeyer Potter, blogger at Prints of Grace, says this:
“This is one of my favorite contemporary works of Catholic fiction. The storytelling is masterful, the characters fascinating, and the writing is of high literary quality. People are imperfect—past, present, and future—but each is given the opportunity to grow, change, learn, and be redeemed. In this story it’s shown how the greatest mistake of our lives can be turned into one of the most amazing blessings and even be a source of hope for others. Life’s messy. People are complex. We’ve all got some skeletons in our closets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also fit some trophies and triumphs in there as well. A Subtle Grace has all of the elements that good Catholic fiction should.”
4. Stealing Jenny
This is my biggest seller and most popular book as evidenced by the over 530 reviews on Amazon (and the six months it spent as a #1 bestseller on Kindle with over 280,000 downloads). It’s a quick and easy read. Check out the novel website here and the Amazon profile page here.
6. Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon
A beautiful Theology of the Body romance with over 200 reviews on Amazon!
There are two other non-fiction FQP books: Growing Up in God’s Image: A New Approach to the Facts of Life Talk and Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.
Today is the feast day of St. Maria Goretti. During my teen years, I attended a church named for St. Maria Goretti and was married in that church. She is one of my favorite patron saints and a patron saint of, among others, rape victims and young girls. To find out more about St. Maria Goretti, check out this link here.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us and especially pray for the 300 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria last year. We pray that they will be found and brought back to their families.
Please join me and other bloggers at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday.
Given the US Supreme Court’s decision last week on legalizing same sex marriage, I’m dedicating my entire SQT today to a book FQP published last year entitled, The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt, which I believe encompasses the Catholic teaching on same sex attraction.
1. Synopsis of The Lion’s Heart
Paul Meyer has never let anyone get too close. Until Max. The Lion’s Heart is a heart-rending story about love and sacrifice. The emotional struggle of Paul’s same-sex attraction, the guilt he feels, and his ambivalence toward his Catholic faith all come together in this look inside the heart of a tortured man.
It wasn’t the deception, unpleasant as it was, that troubled him. In fact, he simply couldn’t put his finger on it. All he knew that was truly different with Max was that he loved him. And it was that, that single stark truth, which made everything different. He never loved before… He put the empty wine glass on the balcony floor beside him and tried to find again that mysterious, interior quiet that city noise always brought him. But he felt instead a kind of disquiet that seemed urgent… Love was never wrong. He’d heard that so often from sincere people, good people… ‘Love is never wrong.’ More than a platitude, it became a mantra. No one could argue with it, not without being judgmental or bigoted. Paul himself always believed it, although he never thought much about it before—never had much reason to think about it. But then, he’d never really loved anyone before…
3. Review from Joseph Pearce
“Dena Hunt is a consummate storyteller who does not shirk or shy away from the difficult questions about life and love that her story raises. The Lion’s Heart contains not only the loves of lovers, spouses, parents, and children but also the demons and dragons that selfishness unleashes. The Lion’s Heart is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the hard-hearted. It pulsates with a passion that will bring true hearts to their knees.” Joseph Pearce, author of The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, co-editor of the St. Austin
4. Review from A. K. Frailey
“It may be fiction but The Lion’s Heart reflects a truth that is as real as the sunrise. The moral conflicts and dilemmas are treated with dignity and there are no easy answers, though, thank God, there are answers. The style, beauty, and flow of Dena’s writing speaks for itself. I could not give this book a higher rating, for it is at the top of the charts. I thank Ms. Hunt for having the courage and the beauty of heart to see, feel, and love as she did – for this book is, above all, a work of love. May it be accepted as such.” A.K. Frailey, author The Deliverance Trilogy
5. Review from Fr. Paul Check
“Dena Hunt conveys some of the very real struggles of those persons who have same-sex attractions (SSA), especially the shame, confusion, and misery that can accompany such feelings. She shows how that suffering can affect family and friends. The path to understanding homosexuality requires abundant patience, prudence, and good will because the topic is not primarily a controversial cultural issue, but rather a complex personal reality. It is one for which there is not one simple or general explanation – or response. This novel gives us a glimpse into the lives and hearts of those touched by SSA who are striving to understand themselves, and so to love genuinely after the example of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church.” Rev. Paul Check, Executive Director, Courage
6. Review from Erin McCole Cupp
“Whatever side of controversy you call home, this book is a game-changer. With The Lion’s Heart, Dena Hunt gives us a compassionate story courageously told, depicting the truth in all its dimensions. Readers will never be the same, and with The Lion’s Heart, the landscape of faith-based fiction is changed forever.” Erin McCole Cupp, author, Don’t You Forget Me
7. Review from Christopher Blunt
“The Lion’s Heart is a rocketing page-turner that had me hooked from beginning to end. The characters’ very genuine experiences with same- sex attraction, and its consequences, led me to a much deeper understanding and empathy for all those who must bear this burden. Above all, this story powerfully brings to life the reality that love often means saying “no” to one’s own desires, and instead choosing what is truly good for the other.” Christopher Blunt, author of Passport
You can purchase The Lion’s Heart on Kindle at this link.
It’s also available in paperback at this link.