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July 26, 2006 | Birth Control, Books I Love, Human Life | 6 comments

– We’re finally enrolled in RCIA (I think — I’ll believe it when I see it) and classes start in September, so we’re looking forward to that.

– For those of you who have suggested I get spiritual direction on the NFP/Coumadin issue, do you mean talking specifically to my priest or do deacons or others do that sort of thing? Our poor priest seems really overwhelmed and it’s pretty difficult to get on his calendar so I haven’t tried talking to him about any of this yet. But maybe there’s someone else at my parish I could speak with. I’ll see who runs the NFP and marriage classes over there.

– While pondering my birth control dilemma I had an interesting realization: I asked myself if I doubted the Church’s teachings about birth control on a theoretical, societal level. I immediately thought, “No way! Contraception is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to civilization. Duh.” So that was encouraging. I realized that my doubts on this issue aren’t as black and white as they appear since I agree with the Church wholeheartedly at a theoretical level. (Pope Paul VI’s predictions about what would happen if use of contraception became widespread are eerily accurate.)

– I set aside the book I was reading and got Christopher West’s Good News about Sex and Marriage. (I wish that the cover didn’t have SEX & MARRIAGE written in such large print on the cover — kind of embarrassing when I leave it sitting out in the living room). 🙂 While some of it is hard for me to grasp (e.g. sex as a symbol of Christ’s unity with the Church) I find it to be an excellent read overall. I found this excerpt to be particularly striking:

Sexual attitudes and behaviors have the power to orient not only individuals but entire nations and societies toward respect for life — or toward its utter disregard. To be sure, when lust is woven into the fabric of a society, that society can be nothing but a “culture of death”.

Thinking about this sort of thing reminds me, as I said above, that my doubts about contraception really aren’t as deep as they seem.

6 Comments

  1. Tony

    While some of it is hard for me to grasp (e.g. sex as a symbol of Christ’s unity with the Church) I find it to be an excellent read overall. I found this excerpt to be particularly striking

    I’m still trying to grasp this whole thing, but I have discovered that if I am giving myself fully to my wife, and my wife is giving herself fully to me, God is present. Making love becomes almost a sacramental act, with the conclusion being a foretaste of heaven. Those who have never encountered the merging of two spirits as well as two bodies, and are making due with “rubbing peepees”, are akin to people who root around in a dumpster when there is a sumptuous feast available to them free and clear if they’d only wait for it.

    If you read through your nicene creed, you’ll read: “God from god, light from light, true God from true God. Begotten not made, one in spirit with the Father. Through Him all things were made.”

    What this means is that Christ has always been conubstantial with the Father, and the joining of those two produced a third, the Holy Spirit. This is akin to a husband and wife joining and their love being so great that in nine months they might have to give it a name. 🙂

    I hope I haven’t been rambling too much.

  2. knit_tgz

    JenWhile some of it is hard for me to grasp (e.g. sex as a symbol of Christ’s unity with the Church) I find it to be an excellent read overall.

    Curiously, for me this is not so difficult to grasp. I understand it intuitively (I cannot explain with words but it somehow makes sense), ever since I came back to Church because of the Body of Christ (the Eucharist). I love seeing how different we are, how different are our difficulties and how God congregates us all in one body, the Church, the Bride of Christ.

    Tony – If you read through your nicene creed, you’ll read: “God from god, light from light, true God from true God. Begotten not made, one in spirit with the Father. Through Him all things were made.” “One in spirit”? So, in English you don’t say, like us from Latin languages “consubtantial with the Father”? I don’t think “one in spirit” means the same thing, to tell you the truth…

    What this means is that Christ has always been conubstantial with the Father, and the joining of those two produced a third, the Holy Spirit. I don’t know exactly if “the joining of those two produced the Holy Spirit”. In fact, that is a question I have never read about. Remembering the Nicene Creed, we say (I am translating from my language to English, I don’t know if it is how you say over there) “I believe in the Holy Spirit, Lord who gives the life, who proceeds/comes from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified”. The way in which I understand this is that the Spirit, in some way, proceeds from the relation between the Father and the Son, and, at the same time, is the relation itself/himself. (The imagery of the dove, flying from one to another as the love and relation, makes this easy to believe for me). I am not a theologian, not even a well-read believer, so maybe this is completely wrong. Is there any place where this is discussed?

  3. SteveG

    Jennifer,
    I have the book you mention, and I also have the series of talks on CD that Christopher West does as part of a seminar on the Theology of the Body.

    If you are enjoying the book (which I agree is a good read), I think you’ll REALLY enjoy the talks. They are worth their weight in gold and I’ve listened to them over and over again. I just can’t recommend them highly enough.

    knit_tgz:
    The more correct wording reads..

    “One in being with the Father”

    …and is roughly equivalent to consubstantial.

    On the ‘produced’ issue, my own understanding is that your understanding is strictly speaking correct. Father and Son can’t ‘produce’ the HS as all three are coeternal; however, I suspect Tony is aware of that and is, as we all are, striving to offer an explanation which is meaningful using the marital equivalents of ‘producing a child’ in parallel with ‘producing the HS’.

    The author Frank Sheed in his book Theology and Sanity explains the Trinity better than any author offer I’ve run across. The book is definitely worth a read.

    For whatever its worth, I am going to offer a copy/paste of an explanation I gave to a non-believer on this very topic just a few weeks ago when they asked me to try to succinctly specify the attributes of the God I believe in. Here’s a part of what I offered with a few of the questions posed by the other person in the discussion to give context.

    Jennifer, I apologize in advance for gumming up your comment boxes. If it’s annoying in the least, let me know and I’ll edit the post and drop this next part. I only offer it because I think it’s relavent.

    ———————
    Question: SteveG, I just want to hear your description of [God].

    Response: I believe in a triune God. He is one in his nature, threefold in his persons. Meaning that three ‘persons’ share in the single nature. That single nature being God, there is but one God.

    I believe that the first person of that trinity gives the totality of himself in love**, which is received by the second person of the trinity in its fullness, who in return gives all that he is (his everything, his essence) back to the first in love. Neither holds back anything of/for themselves. This union of love is so complete that it is literally a life giving union that ‘generates’ the life of the third person of the trinity.

    The most complete (and it is vastly incomplete) analogy of this life giving union of persons is the life giving union of man and woman. Man pours himself out in the sexual act to the woman and holds nothing of himself back (ideally), giving the totality of himself (even physically gives ‘part of himself’); woman receives the man and gives of herself fully in return (ideally), and the two become one, and sometimes that union is so ‘real’ that a third person comes into being. Again, totally incomplete, and runs into lots of issues with gender, etc., but its a shadow of what you might consider the more vague description above.

    **defined roughly as selflessness, or willing and acting for the good of the ‘other’

    Question: SteveG, I can understand how the third persona comes about, but what are the first two to begin with, and why do they love each other?

    Response: The first two exist because the essence of the nature of God is to love.* If there is no relationship of persons, there can be no love. If God were of a singe person as well as a single nature, there would be no one but himself to love. Love of self is the antithesis of selfless love. Our God is not a lonely God, but a ‘family’, a life giving union of persons.

    Again, the husband and wife analogy. If only man or woman were to be, they could love only themselves, but nothing could come of it. It would be a sterile love as there would be no one to give to, to share with.

    *This is what’s behind what many here might consider the trite phrase ‘God is Love’. What is really the case is that we beleive that it is the very nature of God TO love, to give, to share.

    Question: Ok, I think I get it. God is divided so that he can be two persons which can love each other. Out of this is born a third person. So the family, like in the analogy, is the union of man and woman, from which we recieve a child. In the trinity, is this what is meant by “the Son”. Is that what Jesus is supposed to be? And if another is “the Father” does that mean “the Holy Spirit” is a feminine quality?

    Response: That’s where things get ugly and the analogy fails a bit. We refer to God the Father (masculine) and God the Son (masculine) because we believe this is how Christ revealed the relationship to us (that’s pretty evident from the bible) and so that is how we speak, and we think it means something (but not everything). But God is not in any true sense male or female.

    If you read Genesis carefully where it talks about being made in His image, it doesn’t say that man was made in his image, but that he made THEM (union) in his image.

    So God is most clearly imaged in the unity of man and woman, not in one or the other.

    If I have to give correspondences, then it’s something different than what you are seeing.

    Male –> Father –> Initiator of the gift of love.
    Female –> Son –> Receiver of the gift of love who returns the love in kind.
    Child –> Holy Spirit –> The union of the first two persons.

    But again, while it’s the best image of God we have, it’s not perfect, and it’s not a one to one correspondence, so please don’t read too much into the seeming gender issues there, and please don’t read it too literally.

    Again, the key to the analogy is life giving union of persons.

    Question: This next question is more speculation than anything else, just an idea that came to mind when I read your last post.

    I was simplifying when I asked if Christ was the result of union. Is it possible that the 3rd born of that union is the Creation? Or am I making a way bad assumption?

    Response: It’s a pretty reasonable thought given the sketch I’ve offered, but it’s not what we hold too. The problem with it is that according to Catholic theology, the three persons are co-eternal (always existed). There was no point at which the son or Holy Spirit didn’t exist. So again, the analogy fails in that it implies that the third person was ‘born’, which is not how it’s understood.

  4. SteveG

    Jennifer:
    As if I didn’t already write enough. 😉 I wanted to address this…

    For those of you who have suggested I get spiritual direction on the NFP/Coumadin issue, do you mean talking specifically to my priest or do deacons or others do that sort of thing? Our poor priest seems really overwhelmed and it’s pretty difficult to get on his calendar so I haven’t tried talking to him about any of this yet. But maybe there’s someone else at my parish I could speak with. I’ll see who runs the NFP and marriage classes over there.

    …My understanding has always been that it’s best to have a priest as a spiritual director. Preferably a priest who’s done spiritual direction before and has some knowledge of what’s entailed.

    That’s not to say that non-clergy can’t do it, but spiritual direction from someone who doesn’t really know how to approach it can be less than fruitful. GOOD spiritual direction is really a gift, and not everyone has it.

    I recently just switched from a wonderful, holy priest who was available whenever I needed him, but with whom I just couldn’t seem to build a rapport, to someone I can only meet with maybe once every two or even three months, but who is just has a gift for spiritual direction. It’s just my personal opinion, but I’d take that second relationship over the first despite the lesser frequency.

    I mention that because the reason that my current director is not quite as available is because of what you mention, he is just BUSY. But I approached him and left it up to him. He said he’d love to do it, but with the understanding that it might be infrequent at times.

    My point? Well, I think you should approach your pastor and explain your situation, and leave it up to him. After all, we call priests ‘father’ for a reason. They are supposed to be our spiritual fathers and certainly your pastor has a responsibility to shepherd you in your spiritual life.

    It may be that he simply doesn’t have the time, but let him determine that. You might be surprised to find that he can squeeze you in somewhere, and if not, he might give you the name of someone else who he thinks might be a good director.

    OK, I’ve blabbered on long enough. I’ll close by referromg you to this article written by Fr. John McClosky on Spiritual Direction for some further explanation.

  5. Ersza

    Many parish priests are simply too busy to provide counsel and spiritual direction to their parishioners. Our parish has 8000 members enrolled. We have a separate ministry of spiritual direction. Lest you think that these people are less qualified than the pastor, though, they go through extensive training both in the parish and in the diocese. In fact, I have heard from many sources that you can get better spriritual direction from a lay minister who has been specially trained than from a priest who has no training or talents in that direction. Spiritual direction is about more than being a biblical scholar or knowing certain facts. Spiritual direction is about finding out what God’s plan is for YOU. I’ve never done it, but I do agree that it would be a good place to start the discernment process for figuring out what to do about the coumadin.

  6. majellamom

    I understand not wanting to bother your priest because he is so busy…I’ve felt this way about many of my priests in the past (our new one has been here under a month, so I’m not sure on him yet!)

    So, I will second the “ask your priest for a recommendation” comment. Set up a short time to talk with your priest, let him know about your challenges, and then ask him if he could recommend a spiritual director to help you deal with the issue at hand. If he is too busy, that gives him a chance to direct you to someone else…if he doesn’t feel capable of handling your situation, he can direct you to someone else as well.

    Also, feel free to get in touch with people involved in NFP classes to get more info…I wouldn’t go with marriage prep people in general because so often they do not know much about NFP (but might be able to direct you to NFP teachers if you are having difficulty finding them!) The NFP teachers or promoters might be able to give you some good information on NFP and medications, etc. and they might be able to give you a recommendation to a spiritual director who would be comfortable dealing with issues related to NFP.

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