In Each of Us, Christ: God’s Plan for Marriage

This month’s column at Amazing Catechists is entitled “In Each of Us, Christ: God’s Plan for Marriage.”

“Love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34-35

As baptized and confirmed Christian/Catholics, Christ resides in each of us. If we consider the love that Christ gave us when he died on the cross was his freely chosen gift, totally given, faithful to the point of death and that gift was fruitful (redemption of mankind which opened up the gates of heaven), and if we consider that we are called to image Christ, then we must love our spouse in the same way.

Our love must be free. “I lay down my life…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (Jn 10:18) We cannot be coerced to love or forced to engage in relations, even marital relations. Our love must be freely-given. Couples who use contraception have the potential of being slaves to their passions. If one cannot say no to sex, then their yes means nothing.

Our love must be total. “Greater love has no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) There can be no holding back. Within the context of the conjugal bed, this self-gift must be total: no contraceptives or contraceptive behaviors.

Our love must be faithful. “I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:20) Christ was faithful to the Father and faithful to each one of us. In the sacrament of marriage, we have made a lifelong commitment/vow to our spouse and we must remain faithful in everything we do. It is obvious that we ought to be faithful with regard to the conjugal bed, but there are many other areas we can be unfaithful that do not include sexual relations (and this will be a topic for a future column…) The use of contraception or contraceptive behaviors separates a couple during their most intimate act.

Our love must be fruitful. “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) Christ’s death brought life to us and opened up the gates of heaven. Married love must also bear fruit. The most obvious fruit is the gift of children. Couples who contracept are purposefully thwarting this essential life-giving aspect of conjugal relations.

To read the rest:

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Prayers of Love

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. I will be sharing several rosary stories over at Sarah Reinhard’s blog: Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering. The first story is below:

“When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: I love you! What is missing in the people who think the Rosary monotonous, is Love.” Sister Lucia of Fatima

I have been a Catholic for my entire life (51 years), but it is only in the last 25 or so years that I have had a devotion to the Holy Rosary. I attended Catholic schools until high school. As a teenager, I would have identified myself as Catholic, but between television and secular influences, I didn’t totally embrace my faith until after I was married and this was because my husband insisted that we not use contraception during our marriage.

To read the rest:

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Not A Form of NFP

In my newest column over at Amazing Catechists, I talk about a method of birth control which is natural but not moral: withdrawal.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

The “seed” of the marital act is a great gift, one which holds within it the potential for creating new life. When it is “spilled” purposefully, it is wasted and the couple become separated and cannot give themselves totally to one another. It is probably the oldest form of contraception and is likely used frequently nowadays as well. But it is most definitely not a form of NFP.

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach


My column this month at Catholic Mom is called “NFP Q & A.”

What are some of the benefits of NFP?

NFP is medically safe. There are no harmful chemicals, devices or health risks. NFP also gives a woman more awareness of what’s going on in her body and can assist her in recognizing health problems sooner. It is 99% effective in avoiding pregnancy and can also work well in planning pregnancies, even if the woman does not have ‘regular’ cycles. NFP costs less than other forms of birth control and once you learn it, there are no continuing costs. It’s immediately reversible at any time. Periodic abstinence improves communication and gives husband and wife a deeper respect for each other. Most importantly, NFP is morally acceptable. All major religions, including Catholicism, accept the use of NFP by married couples when there is serious reason to postpone pregnancy.

To read more, click on the link:

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Old Movies, New Books

One of my favorite television channels is Turner Classic Movies (

When watching this channel, seldom do I have to be concerned about graphic violence, sex or profanities. Often, the themes are mature but because of fade outs and ambiguous language, only adults can understand what’s really going on. Although pre-marital sex, abortion and adultery were occasional themes of old movies, they were rarely dealt with in an overt manner.

In this day and age when many, if not most, movies contain graphic violence, explicit sexual scenes and/or profanities, it is a delight to be able to watch old movies which do not include these.

My own novels (Emily’s Hope; In Name Only) deal with mature themes (sex, abortion, contraception, adultery) but do not contain graphic or explicit descriptions. The two novels I’m working on at present also contain mature themes. Ambiguity, I believe, is the most appropriate way to handle these sorts of topics. Also, the classic fade out works well in fiction. Many of my favorite contemporary authors also use this technique in their books. Here’s a scene/short excerpt from my second novel, In Name Only:

“Caroline?” he said, as he tipped her chin up to look at him.
Crackling from the fireplace distracted her and, for a moment, she stared silently into the bright flames. He placed his hands on her shoulders and waited for her to look at him. When she did, he took hold of her trembling hand and kissed it.
“What we do here, now, with our bodies, this very act is ordained by God.”
“But ‘tis also my duty.”
“Yes, it is, but I will never insist on this if you are in any way uncomfortable or not feeling well. Caroline, I want you to desire this as much as I do. Come. ” He walked her to his desk and picked up his Bible, already opened to the book of Tobias. He made the Sign of the Cross, then faced the crucifix and prayed the words of Scripture:
“And now, Lord, thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister for my wife, but only for the love of posterity in which Thy name may be blessed forever and ever. . .have mercy on us, Lord, and let us grow old both together in health.”
Caroline responded, “Amen.” She avoided eye contact, her face now flushed. She began to shiver, so he gently guided her to the bed.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP: No Holding Back

The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.
JP II, Familiaris Consortio, On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World

After waiting for three years to be married (and to have sex), I greatly anticipated our marital consummation. In my mind, we would, of course, use birth control. I never really considered that James would be against that. The way I saw it, it was a totally different issue. At that time in my life, even though I was Catholic, I didn’t know anyone who believed that birth control was wrong (except perhaps the Pope).

Since we were carrying on a long distance relationship at the time, I brought the topic up for discussion about six weeks before our wedding, during one of our biweekly phone calls. I shared with my then fiancé that I wanted to be fitted for a diaphragm. He was silent for a moment, so I asked, “Is there anything wrong?”

“Well, yes,” he answered. “I had always hoped that we wouldn’t use birth control.”

He gently tried to explain his reasons, but I wouldn’t listen. I felt like he was making a big deal out of nothing. After all, I thought, doesn’t everybody use some form of birth control?

This actually started our first fight in over three years of dating. We were teenagers when we first met and James was only 18 when we were engaged. “Well, if we aren’t going to use birth control,” I said, “and we’ve already decided that we need to wait a few years before having kids, what are we going to use?”

He answered, “I know someone who uses Natural Family Planning.”

“Natural Family Planning? Isn’t that rhythm?” I knew a lot of people who had used the rhythm method, with little success. “I don’t think so,” I replied.

At the time, it seemed like James was splitting hairs. After we ended the phone call, we continued writing back and forth. What worried me was when James wrote, “I’d rather have sex once a month with no birth control than every day with birth control.” I remember thinking, What planet is he from?

Later, I received a letter in which he said the following: “When I think of me using a condom, it means that I’m actually holding back a part of myself. And if you were using a diaphragm or the pill or something, you would be keeping a part of yourself from me. When we give ourselves to each other, it should be a total gift, not a partial one.” As we exchanged letters, I began to see that this whole issue was connected to the pre-marital sex issue. In the end, I decided to trust my future husband.

We took an NFP class, but I still wasn’t convinced. In fact, it took me (a rather stubborn person) six months to see that NFP had an extremely positive impact on our relationship. I saw that it helped us to keep the romance in our marriage and it truly preserved our unity. I became more aware of my body. I didn’t feel used (on the contrary: I felt loved.) I found that NFP was as effective in avoiding pregnancy as most other methods of birth control, and with no physical side effects. And…that it works effectively to plan a pregnancy as well. After 28 years (and five children), passion and romance are still very much a part of our marriage.

We have now been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League for 26 years and currently have a virtual online NFP class scheduled for Monday evening, September 27. Email me at for more information or leave a comment below.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Divorce, Deterrents and Deception

“Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all others, and this until death,” Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical “On Human Life.”

Faithful and exclusive until death. These are the hallmarks of married life. Unfortunately, divorce rates have skyrocketed since the early 1900’s. (In 1910, the divorce rate was one in ten…it is now one in two.)

It is no surprise that the number one cause of divorce is adultery. Adultery is not new to the 21st century. However, the original proponents marketed birth control as a “happy marriage builder.” Unfortunately, 100 years later, the opposite appears to be true.

Click on the link to read the rest of my new column at Amazing

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Another Great Review for In Name Only

Many thanks to Therese Heckenkamp and Traditional Catholic Novels for this outstanding review of In Name Only.

In Name Only reads true to life, with crosses, temptations, blessings, redemptions, and happiness. Despite how it sweeps you in, this is not a light and airy romance novel; it has substance and does not skirt serious issues, nor rely on graphic “love” scenes to hold your attention. Indeed, it depicts true love. The preciousness of life—particularly of the unborn—is emphasized. In addition, In Name Only illustrates the weakness of human nature, the far-reaching consequences of giving into temptation, and the power of forgiveness. Serious issues involving abortion, chastity, conversion, and marriage are dealt with skillfully. Due to such mature themes and subjects, please note that this is not a novel for young teens. One other warning: You may need a box of tissues. But your heart will glow at the story’s end. In conclusion, this is the the best book I’ve read in a long time. It has all the qualities that make for an outstanding, memorable novel—and it’s Catholic as well! I highly recommend it!

To read the entire review: click here: