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My Family Foundations magazine came in the mail this week.  It used to have quite the reputation for being really one sided, along the lines of “the only truly Catholic family is a big family”.  I knew that wasn’t their motto, but it sometimes felt like that because a lot of people who choose to practice NFP do have larger families, because they want them.  Cause and effect can become cloudy on that point.  Lots of people like to make assumptions.

I should back up and say that this magazine is sent to members of the Couple to Couple League, which teaches the sympt0-thermal method of NFP.  We’ve tried Creighton, too.  They recently upgraded the rules and such for acheiving and avoiding pregnancy, and it’s much easier to understand than it used to be.  MUCH.  May God’s blessings be on them just for that!

In this month’s magazine, famed Catholic author and psychologist Gregory Popcak discussed what “Responsible Parenthood” means.  There are many ideas on that topic, of course.  They range from “people are a blight on the earth and we should make like lemmings and leap”, vs. “have as many kids as humanly possible, because that’s being a good person and following God’s plan.”  Most of us, obviously, fall somewhere in between.  Happily, believe it or not, the Pope does not tell us exactly what to do as Catholics.  That’s because there are as many definitions as there are families.  Families are dynamic.  They change.  This five years will be different than those five years.  That’s why we don’t have firm guidelines.  We need to pray and think and do our best. 

Here is a quote from Dr. Popcak, on page 17:

But even when considering the issues listed under the second point, a couple should never place themselves in a position of saying, “That’s it.  We’re done.”  rather, the couple should prayerfully ask, “If we don’t have them now, what do we need to do to get the additional emotional, relational or temporal resources we believe are necessary to raise another saint for the Kingdom.”  By asking this question, the couple is able to approach objections to the possibility of another child both realistically and generously.  For instance, it may be that parents decide that an older child’s behavior problems- or the couple’s marital problems- require too much of their attention to be able to properly attend to a new baby at this time.  But this should not be an excuse for never having more children.  Rather, parents should say, “What can we do to overcome this child’s behavior problems (or our marital struggles) so that we can free up the resources we need to raise another saint?”  In this way,  parents respect the call to both unity/intimacy and procreativity.”

It is important to note that his main point is that we need to have our priorities in order.  We don’t have much business adding another child if we haven’t addressed really serious issues in our family, especially in a misplaced call to holiness or out of guilt.  If that happens anyway, that can also be a part of God’s plan, but really, there are serious reasons to postpone, and it was wonderful to see most of this issue addressed to realistically addressing them in a faithful way. 

On page 4 is a very, very honest letter by editor Ann Gundlach.  She speaks of her own struggle between the voices that say what a good Catholic should do.  She realized that she was letting the devil in by listening to everyone but her husband about their needs.  She says, “We talk about contraception being wrong because it allows us to “use” our spouse as an object.  Well, I was trying to “use” my spouse to get more babies.  And I grew to resent him because he wasn’t giving me what I wanted.”

Her final message is good, too.  “When I finally learned to turn it over, we gained a peace that wasn’t there before — which has allowed us to grow in love.  Responsible parenthood is a personal decision for each married couple and God.  Speaking for myself only, I listened too much to the messages of other people and not enough to the opinions of my own husband and the Holy Spirit’s guidance in my own heart.”

Food for thought.   At least it spoke to me.

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