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Last week, for NFP Awareness Week, I recorded a podcast of Humanae Vitae. I regret that I waited so long to read it myself for the first time, because it’s so short, so easy to understand, so profound, and, most of all, so encouraging. I really wanted other people to enjoy it, too.
The podcast is hung up in Techno-Idiotland, because I guess I pressed a button while editing, and a big chunk of it is missing. Duh. I’ll get back to it as soon as I can, and will post it on this blog when it’s ready.
In the meantime, I wanted to share just a small part of what Paul VI says toward the end of the encyclical.
After he acknowledges where we are at as a society, and acknowledges that population is growing quickly, and kids are expensive and exhausting, and after he reaffirms the Church’s authority to speak on matters of human sexuality, and after he gives a fair hearing to all the reasons the Church ought to rethink her teaching, he talks about what human beings are, and what love is, and what marriage is. (I’m serious, you gotta read it.) Then he famously predicts what will happen if we abandon the Church’s guidance in favor of embracing contraception (and he was right).
And then, he encourages public figures, scientists, doctors, priests, and bishops all to be courageous and faithful in specific ways.
This is the part that kept coming back to me this past week. He says:
[G]reat fruits are to be expected when the divine law is kept by a devout soul. The most outstanding of these fruits results from the frequent desire of spouses to share their experience with other spouses. Thus it happens that a new and especially worthy kind of apostolate is added to the already ample vocation of the laity: like will minister to like. That is, spouses fulfill their apostolic mission [munus] in behalf of other spouses by becoming guides for them. Among all the forms of Christian apostolate this apostolate seems most suitable today.
That is exactly what I’ve seen happen. Everyone likes to complain about how the internet has ruined society, turned us self-centered and crass, and made people cold-hearted toward each other. And yes, it has done those things.
But it has also opened up a great, wide avenue for “like to minister to like” in ways that would have been totally impossible before. Pope Paul VI would approve.
Just think: last week, six people, whom I’ve never met, shelled out $200+ dollars to help six other people, whom neither of us have ever met, to use Marquette NFP. This is not something you do because you want a line or two of ad space on some housewife’s bloggy blog. This is something you do because you are on a mission.
And I’ve seen more: Women encouraging other women when their husbands are not on board with NFP. Men encouraging other men to do the right thing, even when all their pals got “fixed” and think he’s a freak of nature for using NFP (and for not using porn, going to strip clubs, etc.). NFP instructors advising and encouraging strangers when they’re baffled over confusing fertility signs. And people praying, praying, praying for each other.
And making jokes about NFP to encourage each other. And weeping on each other’s shoulders when they are struggling with infertility, or horribly-timed pregnancies, or repeat miscarriages, or the cruel judgment of people who don’t understand why we do what we do. And praying for each other some more.
Imagine how encouraging it is for a fearful NFP newbie to search for an online support group, and to discover that there are hundreds and thousands of us out there (even if they are spread all around the world).
Like is ministering to like, and God is with us.
When I mentioned that I was thinking of recording a podcast of Humanae Vitae, someone asked, “Really? Just for funsies?” Nah, no real funsies involved. It’s just that I realized I’m never going to be an NFP teacher, because, in the words of NFP Barbie, science is hard. I’m never going to be a scholar or an academic, because I make too many butt jokes. However, I do have a mic on my computer. I do spend tons of time on Facebook. I do know a thing or two about love. So I’m going to do what I can do with where I am right now.
So good job, everyone who contributed even in the smallest way to spreading the word about NFP! And that includes people who are willing to admit that they’re struggling, because you can’t spread the truth if you’re not going to be honest.
If you’re talking about the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, reaching out, praying for each other, asking for prayers, willing to answer questions honestly, and picking yourself up and trying again when you fail, then you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. Paul VI specifically asked us to do just this. Paul VI knows it’s hard, and it makes you feel weird, and it’s not what everyone else is doing. Paul VI just wants you to try, because he loves you, and so does God.
I’m on a mission, and so are you.