Editor’s note: Today we welcome Krissie Allen to the New Evangelizers blogging team!
Years ago my devoutly Catholic father placed “We Vote Pro-Life” bumper stickers on the back of all his children’s cars, including mine. As a fourth-commandment-keeping kind of daughter, I left the sticker on even after it began to lose some of its stick. The edges, crispy and tattered, folded onto themselves, leaving only the words “Pro” actually visible to anyone driving behind.
It didn’t matter much what the sticker read, however, because I knew the decaying sticker reflected something more significant than ordinary wear and tear. It symbolized my own decaying lack of commitment to one aspect of the Catholic Church’s teaching on what it means to be wholly pro-life: refraining from artificial contraception.
In 1968, when faced with an emerging contraceptive culture, Pope Paul VI wrote his encyclical letter Humane Vitae to address the issue of whether or not the use of artificial contraception could be deemed morally acceptable.
The Church considered reports that present the same arguments many modern Catholics still make about why contraception poses no moral impediment, including the idea that the greater number of children a family has the harder it is to parent in a responsible manner.
After considering such arguments, however, the Pope determined, in part, that God’s design for life was simply too sacred to be altered in an artificial way and that remaining open to that design contains spiritual benefits beyond the here and now.
Despite the beauty and wisdom in the Pope’s letter, it is not exactly a teaching I (or many Catholic women for that matter) have always found easy to embrace, especially now that I have four children under the age of eight. As a tuckered-out mother who has spent more than my share of mornings cleaning the unfathomable off of walls and sofas and listening to the constant hum of chaos, remaining open to life can at times seem like a greater burden than I can bear.
And birth control becomes tempting.
Still, with the Church’s teaching on birth control being spotlighted nationwide by the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services Mandate requiring Catholic institutions to provide the insurance to provide employees with birth control against their religious beliefs, it is as though divine intervention is at work—and perhaps asking Catholic women like myself who have struggled with the issue to stop and take a second look.
When I place the Church’s teaching against all my excuses and “what if’s” that keep me from following it boldly, I am confronted with the fact that Jesus has never backed down from asking for more from those who love Him.
In Luke 18:22, when Jesus is asked by a commandment-keeping ruler what else he needs to do to obtain eternal life, Jesus tells him, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor … and come, follow Me.” He does not say, “You are doing just fine,” or “Follow Me–but only to the point that it makes you comfortable.”
In John 15:12-13, Jesus reminds his followers to love one another as he has loved and that “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
While remaining open to life in our marriage is surely not death on a cross, it does provide us Catholic women the opportunity to partake in the type of self sacrifice and surrender that God does indeed expect of us. In conjugal love, we can give ourselves totally to our spouse, children, and most importantly to God.
Putting away artificial contraception and living a life that puts trust in Christ is our call as Catholic women. Perhaps it is somewhat frightening to let go of our lives in this way and perhaps the stakes are higher for those of us with a number of children already.
But who better to wage on than God? The time has never been better to stand up to a culture that tells us we cannot go any further with God and once again put the stick in our pro-life witness.
Copyright © 2012, Krissie Allen