Rights and Obligations of Parents to Educate Their Children

Recently my wife and I attended a home schooling conference. To be honest, half the reason we went was because we had managed to talk my parents into staying with the kids so that we could get out of the house without the kids for the weekend. I think we have managed that twice since we have been married. Not that we don’t like taking the kids with us you understand, but sometimes you just need some adult time.

Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised by the conference. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking over the program before we went, and the first day we really just kind of wandered to whatever talk was going on at the moment, at random, still I learned a lot and was happy to be able to catch a talk by Patrick Madrid. I have enough other experiences to fill probably two other blog posts, but I mostly want to talk about the last talk that we attended. This talk was given by Mr. Phillip Gray a Canon Lawyer and member of the St. Joseph Foundation.

Much of this post is directly from the talk Mr. Gray gave on the last day of the conference. I did a good deal of digging once I got home, but without him, this post would not have been possible.

I really want to talk about this, because I think it is something a lot of parents, home schooling or not, face when dealing with sacramental preparation for their kids.

There are a lot of important documents here, most of which I will link in the text and at the bottom, but also two that I want to mention up front because they have special significance here and are very helpful, The Charter of the rights of the family (which is right on the Vatican’s website) and Responsibilities and rights of parents in religious education (which you can get from Seton for about $2)

So here are the basics:

It is the obligation of parents to educate their children. Not only in their faith, but also over all. You might remember saying so when your child was baptized. Something along the lines of:

You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

It is the obligation of society (that includes, but is not limited to The Church) to provide support, and not hinder in any way that education. (See the Charter of the rights of the family.)

And it is the right of the parents to determine what societal support (again including but not limited to The Church) is right for them and their family and their children.

So what does all of this mean? I am going to limit my discussion to sacramental prep because with general education there are country/ state / county / and other governmental laws and regulations that come into play. You can learn more about that on the HSLDA website, and that is a whole other can of worms that I don’t want to get into. Since Sacramental Preparation is only regulated by The Church we can talk about that here.

As the parent you have the obligation to train your children in preparation for the sacraments. You, as the parent, have the right (not the obligation) to use whatever sacramental preparation program that your parish, diocese or even archdiocese offers.
The wording of that is important. That means that it is not the director of religious Ed, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop who gets to determine what religious Ed program, or sacramental preparation program you use for your child(ren).
They cannot make it a requirement that you use their program, no matter how great it is, how much work they have put into it, or how much they really want you too. More than that, they cannot have higher standards for your child, because your child didn’t use the program they recommended, than they would for a child who did use their program.

It also means that the director of religious Ed, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop does not have the authority, again going back to the Charter of Rights of the Family, over how your child is to be catechized, and in no way may any of them usurp the primacy of the authority of the family.

I do want to make it clear. It is the job of the Priest or in the case of Confirmation the Bishop to make sure that your child is in fact, prepared for the sacrament, but that does not mean that they can make it mandatory that you use their program, or that they hold your child to a higher standard because you didn’t use their program.

Pope Saint Pius X said that in order for a child to be prepared for Holy Communion they must ONLY be above the age of reason, and be able to tell the difference between regular bread and the Body of Christ. This right to salvation, supersedes the knowledge we like to impart.

See theCongregation for Catholic Education where they talk about the parents as the primary educators and these programs the teachers in the schools the pastor or whoever else, are secondary to the parents. This is also backed up by Charter of the rights of the family and further backed up by Can. 793 §1 – §2
Having said that I want to repeat that it is the priest’s responsibility to make sure that a candidate is prepared for the sacrament. For example:

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

“Or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise” Otherwise the candidate needs to meet the three other requirements. But note that one of those requirements is not that the candidate used the parishes program. Priests do need to be a filter to make sure that candidates are properly catechized, but they and as parents you also need to know what that means. Remember that it is the Church’s role is to assist parents in the education of their children. That is by divine law. Because the family is the primal unit of society, and it is The Church’s role support the family.

Alright, so that argument might get you past Reconciliation and First Holy Communion, but what about Confirmation. In the United states under the USCCB there is complimentary legislation that states that the bishop can determine an age for receiving confirmation.

USCCB: Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

It might surprise you to know, that the above arguments also apply to these age requirements.

The Congregation for Catholic Education in the 1998 case said, “Such complimentary legislation must be interpreted with respect to the general laws of The Church, (Reference 889 §2.) This making the Diocesan norm is subordinate to the general norms governing the reception of the sacraments.”

In this case, and according to Mr. Gray, and the majority of the others the Vatican sided with parents, and the Bishop was told he needed to confer the Sacrament on the child.

The Congregation for Catholic Education also said in the same 1998 case,

“Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them are properly disposed and not prohibited from receiving them.
… Indeed, the longer the conferral of the sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for it’s reception but deprived of its Grace for a considerable period of time.

and in the Council of Trent:

[Page 58]

ON CONFIRMATION
CANON I.-If any one saith, that the confirmation of those who have been baptized is an idle ceremony, and not rather a true and proper sacrament; or that of old it was nothing more than a kind of catechism, whereby they who were near adolescence gave an account of their faith in the face of the Church; let him be anathema.

It is clear from these two that if you present your child for confirmation and you have properly catechized them and they are above the age of reason then they should be able to receive the sacrament. But what does Canon Law say about this?

Can. 843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

You can clearly see that Canon Law confirms both what the Congregation for Catholic Education and what the Council of Trent has said.

Did you know that Confirmation is supposed to come before Communion? If you have ever been to a Easter Vigil Mass when they bring in RCIA candidates and they do the confirmation before the holy communion. Believe it or not, that is the way it is supposed to happen. The doctrine of The Church states that the order of the Sacraments should be Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Communion. That is because confirmation completes baptismal Grace. Take a look at The Council of Trent.

ON THE SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL
CANON I.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.

And again quoting the Congregation for Catholic Education said in the 1998 case,

“Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them are properly disposed and not prohibited from receiving them.
… Indeed, the longer the conferral of the sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for it’s reception but deprived of its Grace for a considerable period of time.”

In conclusion, If you have instructed your child in the sacraments and they are properly prepared, then they can receive the sacraments. But what do you do if the religious Ed director, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop says no? It is laid out in canon law and is based on Mathew 18. If you have a problem with your brother, go to him. If he does not listen, take witnesses, if he still does not listen take him to The Church. That last step is where the St. Joseph Foundation comes in and can help you appeal your case.

You can learn more about the St. Joseph Foundation and how to contact them through their website

Lest you think that I am just reading into this what I want, here are most of the references to the original documents I have referenced above. I have linked to most of them in the text but in case you missed them or just want to get to them faster, here they are again:

The Code of Canon Law
The USCCB
Congregation for Catholic Education
Council of Trent
Council of Trent – The 7th session (where I pulled most of my information
Charter of the rights of the family (which is right on the Vatican’s website)
Responsibilities and rights of parents in religious education
St. Joseph Foundation
and the HSLDA website

 

Can. 793 §1. Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.

§2. Parents also have the right to that assistance, to be furnished by civil society, which they need to secure the Catholic education of their children.

Can. 794 §1. The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church, to which has been divinely entrusted the mission of assisting persons so that they are able to reach the fullness of the Christian life.

§2. Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education.

Can. 795 Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.

And

Pope Saint Pius X said that in order for a child to be prepared for Holy Communion they must ONLY be above the age of reason, and be able to tell the difference between regular bread and the Body of Christ. This right to salvation, supersedes the knowledge we like to impart.

And

Can. 843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.
§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can. 891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

USCCB:
Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

Advertisements

The Sinner’s Guide To Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher – A Review

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family PlanningThe Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning By Simcha Fisher.

This book came highly recommended, so when one more person recommended it to me, I decided that it was time to get a copy. Well actually two copies, since the deal right now is if you buy the hard copy you get the kindle version for free. That worked out really well since my wife prefers hard copy and I prefer e-copy.

I should start this review by saying my wife and I have been practicing NFP for more than 14 years, and we have been teaching it for just over 13 years. So while I was excited about reading this book, we have some experience in helping people who have questions about the why’s and the where’s and the hows of NFP. We have heard many of the complaints, promises and hype about it. We have lived a lot of the pains and joys of it as well. And in the last few years we have gotten rather tired and probably jaded by all of the sunshine and unicorns side that you see most of the time.

This book, is not one of those sunshine and rainbows, puppies and kittens. Well maybe it is because, as anyone who has ever had a puppy or a kitten will tell you, that while they are super cute and there are some great benefits to having one, they can also be a pain. Ruined floors and furniture, torn up shoes, walks in the middle of the night that and unexpected puddle that gets your socks wet right after you turn the lights off.

So on with the review. This books starts with a disclaimer. This book will not teach you NFP. It will not tell you about all the different methods, it will not even tout one version of NFP over all the others. It won’t tell you about the dangers of using artificial birth control. So if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you.

After the disclaimer, the first few chapters are about the realities of living with NFP. Why you might choose it, and some of the common arguments. And I enjoyed reading about them. Even though I knew it was the case already it was good to hear that other people struggle with using NFP as well. The chapters on why, biologically speaking, the struggle can be so darn hard was especially nice to see.

For a long time my wife and I called ourselves the NFP dropouts. After reading this book, the title no longer seems all that appropriate. While my wife says she already kind of knew this, believe it or not, outside of class, guys really don’t talk about these things. So it was nice to see that there are other couples out there that are just as much “dropouts” as we are.

I have only given this book three stars. And all three stars are for the first half to two thirds of this book. the last third of the book deals with, well, it deals with sex. Ok NFP is about sex. Not entirely, a good portion of what NFP is about is learning to listen to and interpret your wife’s body, in order to help prevent or to achieve a pregnancy. But that is just a start. NFP is about respect and love and intimacy that extends way beyond the bedroom.

While I suppose it was good information to get out there, and as one of the reviewers pointed out, that normally you would only find this kind of information in a very intimate conversation with a close friend, some times it would be good to keep more of that information to those close intimate conversations.

I am a prude. I will admit it. But, I am a prude who is willing to talk about just about anything in a one on one conversation. We have had couples ask us some of the questions that were handled in the last third of this book. So it is not that the subjects are “off limits” or something. The problem I had with this section of the book, was that it was no longer a close personal intimate conversation. If I had not been laying on the bed right next to my wife, I would have been really uncomfortable reading this. After all, if I were talking about this kind of stuff, I would have her there with me, so if I were reading it I would need to be sitting right next to her, even with that, I was glad she finished the book before me so that she knew what it was that I was reading. To say it made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. While I know there are those that would disagree with me, I feel that some conversations are best left to intimate situations when both the husband and wife are involved. So while I appreciate the effort Mrs. Fisher made in getting this information out, I kind of wish she hadn’t. As it stands by the time I was finished with this section of the book, I was soured on the whole thing, and really had to try hard to put my feelings aside to write anything positive about the book at all.

My last comment on this book is this. Who am I to say one person’s writing style is better or worse than another. So I want to make it clear that, that is not what I am saying. I know that Simcha has a very personal and rather informal style of writing. I do like her style for most of the things that she writes, but some things require a more formal style. I think if some of the subjects that I found uncomfortable were written with a less irreverent and a more formal style they would have been easier to deal with.

If you are struggling with NFP and feel like you are all alone out there, and if all you are hearing from the people around you is the puppies and rainbows side of it, this is likely a great book for you. If you have been using NFP for long enough that you know that it is a struggle and that there are other people out there like you, this book might be just more of what you already know. At best it will be an affirmation, at worse it will make you uncomfortable if your not reading it with your spouse.

View all my reviews

Since you know what I think about it, and you know my wife read it as well, here is her review.

Happiness and Trepidation

baby[1] a Few days ago my wife and I made kind of an announcement, and I am just getting around to writing about it. We always love sharing the news about our little babies, but this announcement came with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.





First, let’s start with the happy part. HEY everyone we are having a baby! We are so very excited about it. We wanted to shout it from the roof tops. So there we were yesterday shouting it from the highest roof top we know (Facebook.) We showed the picture to the kids. As a small aside, it is wonderful to see how many of them saw the ultrasound and not only knew what that meant, but also could pick out the baby. They were all very excited. The only concern we got from the kids was from our oldest. He asked, “does this mean I am going to have to learn to drive an even bigger van?”

I love babies. Not just my own but other people’s as well. If we are at a function were people have kids, you are likely going to find me holding one. I love100_4923 being dad. Some days my head feels like it is going to explode if I get one more question about why, why, why, or a child who does not want to do their school work, but at the end of the day I know that despite the headache, despite the piles of laundry that I still need to fold and have the children dump back into their hamper because they don’t want to put them away, this is why I am here. I love being a dad. I love being with the kids, wrestling, playing, building train tracks, drinking imaginary tea and eating imaginary cookies. I love teaching them new things and practicing the old, and over all just watching them become the people, that I know they will be.

100_4958So why, with all this joy, do I also have trepidation and sometimes even abject fear? Let’s start with the simple answer, it is a new life a new and precious, and fragile life, and I am not as sure of myself as I once was about these things. Despite all our medical knowledge and all the prayers, there is danger involved here, both for the new baby and mom. But let’s not focus on the big things.

How about the questions. As you probably know, this is baby # 11 for us. That is a pretty big number. Big enough that people, even good Catholic families, tend 2013-12-31 18.45.52to give you side ways glances, and ask you questions like How did this happen? Sometimes I actually look forward to these questions now, because I feel like I am prepared for them, usually because it is an opportunity to practice my snarky responses. But some times the questions come from people you didn’t expect. Sometimes even the people you expect to be supportive really aren’t and that is some times hard to deal with.

Some of the questions aren’t like that though. Some of them are just questions, but they hurt none the less. No matter how carefully they are asked. For example, my wife’s doctor’s nurse, a wonderful woman who is very caring and supportive had some background questions to ask, and the conversation went like this.

“How many pregnancies have you had?”
*My wife counting on her fingers* “15.”
“How many living children?”
“9.”

See, a simple question asked with respect and dignity and yet, it hurts. It is not because it was wrong of her to ask or anything, just hard to think about those babies that we will never get to hold.

So yes, while I am very excited, I am fearful. I am uncertain about my own abilities. We debated for a while if we were going to tell any one other than our very closest friends and those people who needed to know. (The God parents for example.) I was all for sending out birth announcements as a way of letting most people know. But my wife did something that reminded me that this is a reason to be joyful. She started telling people. She started telling them and letting them know how happy we were. And we are, and I am. So welcome to the world my little one. We can’t wait to meet you.
– Love Dad

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

This post was inspired by post a Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace


doorsKevin Cummings was one of the first people I met online. Even well before I got to know him (and I still don’t really know him I just like to think that I do.) I knew I liked this guy. He used to run a podcast called Short Cummings Audio. Short humor essays that he called Life — In Funny, Six-Minute Slices. I got his sense of humor, and that meant to me a lot.

As I talked with him several times I felt like I got to know him. Turned out he was Catholic and a father and well, just an all around nice guy. So when he started a new website called Seminarian Parents. I was interested. For a lot of reasons, but one in particular, my oldest son and maybe one of his younger brothers are discerning a calling to the priesthood. The blog is about the personal journey, both as a parent and a fellow Catholic from “mere mortals” to priesthood, and about the journey the rest of the family is taking around him.

A couple of days ago he published the article linked here. When I saw the article I knew I needed to share it with people. But I knew that I also wanted to say something about it. I want to try not to take any thing away from what Kevin has said here. I think he has some pretty important things to say on this subject, but I wanted to add to it.

I think very few people seek out a vocation. They look for jobs and friends and, do what feels right at the time. But a vocation is something completely different. Kevin Actually already wrote a piece on vocation that does a better job than I can of defining what vocation is. But in short it is about your life’s work. What it is that you are going to do with your life. That is so much more than just your job.

Like Kevin says in his post, Marriage is a vocation, albeit one that a lot of people don’t take seriously any more, but a vocation none the less. It is, in truth no less of a commitment than someone entering the priesthood. Priest’s make sacrifices to be a priest, and married people make similar but different sacrifices to be married. They are vocations, and they both require a high level of commitment. They both require a level of sacrifice.

When I was younger, after I was engaged to my wife, I thought maybe I heard the calling to the priesthood. I remember those questions swirling in my head. “Am I ready for that level of commitment?” And it hit me that even though I was only engaged at the time, I was because I was already talking about that level of commitment with someone else. It was not the level of commitment that turned my mind from one vocation to another, because while they are both different, they are both life long commitments.

I appreciate the priests who we know, and have made this wonderful choice to be priests. We actively encourage our children to look at religious life as a real choice and to pray so that if they hear that calling them they might be ready to answer it. We also try to teach them that marriage is the same kind of vocation, and requires the same kind of sacrifices, and requires the same kinds of prayer to discern.
Thank you Kevin for such a great post about opening up to Grace.

This post was inspired by a post Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

MileStones

20120427-202840.jpgIt is not every day that you get to celebrate a major milestone in your life, but for me today is one of those days. I am going to keep this short because, well I have more important things to do today. Today, my wife and I celebrate 17 years together. Over the years we have had our ups and downs. Mostly up. We have moved 6 times, lived in 6 different states, had 10 kids, 4 cars, 3 houses 4 dogs something like 75 chickens and 6 sheep. Like I said it has been a wild ride, but I can’t imagine anyone else I would want to have at my side, and I know I would have never made it here without her.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am Torn About NFP

Our new pope, Pope Francis, has said that we need to step out of our comfort zones when it comes to our faith, that we need to challenge what we have been doing all of our lives and look at what the Catholic Church really teaches.

I have been trying to do that, but I admit it is not an easy task. He (the Pope) has been taking us to task on the poor and the oppressed, As well as challanging a lot of people’s conception on what it means to lead a Christian life.

For me this means looking at what I am doing. Looking at what I have been doing and trying, the best way that I can, to understand why it is that I am doing it. That means understanding the churches teachings behind it.

As I have shared before, my wife and I are NFP Teachers. In the last couple of years something about doing this has been niggling at the back of my mind. I do feel called to help people understand NFP. But It was not until I had a conversation with my wife that I think understood some of what has been eating at me.

The conversation was about a question that came up. What do you do / how do you approach a family who is totally open to life. This came from a teaching couple who live in a diocese where the NFP class is part of the marriage preparation. The answer my wife gave, which at first startled me but the more I thought about it the more it made sense was, “You don’t need to do anything with them.”

I understand that using NFP is a choice. Heck if you read my other post, you know that we call ourselves the NFP dropouts, because while we know it, and we teach it, we don’t usually feel called to use it.

That has kind of set me on a path of trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that the Church teaches about NFP. This morning, at my wife’s suggestion I read the following article. (Yes, my wife is very smart) Heroic Parenthood and The Sorrow of Natural Family Planning

NOTE: Below I have stolen (borrowed / Made Reference to) several parts from the article. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing, but here are some of the things that I found important and relevant to my topic today.

One of the things that I was, well surprised is not the right word maybe interested to find out, was that NFP is a dispensation.

the Venerable Pius XII in his Allocution to Midwives:

The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in the order established by God, on fruitful marriages. Therefore, to embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life. Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned.

(I used wikipedia but this appears to be pulled from canon law)
A Dispensation is defined as In the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, a dispensation is the exemption from the immediate obligation of law in certain cases.[1] Its object is to modify the hardship often arising from the rigorous application of general laws to particular cases, and its essence is to preserve the law by suspending its operation in such cases.

And this is also backed up again by Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II in Humanae Vitae

What does all this mean? In plain simple language that someone like I can understand, Pope Pius XII said that sex, (the marital embrace) has a procreative aspect that cannot be divorced from the rest of it. Despite that, the church recognizes that there are times when a married couple may have serious reasons such as medical or economical to avoid a pregnancy. It is in those cases that the dispensation of NFP is permitted.

That in short means that unless you have a serious reason, you should not be using NFP. (a little side note here, and this is going to be me talking. Keeping up with the “Joneses” economically, is not a serious reason. But tif you can’t put food on the table, cloth your kids and for goodness sakes a roof over your families head that is a serious reason. You might find you are are happier if you are not keeping up with the Joneses, maybe even move out of their neighborhood and find a community of people who, like you believe that the Joneses have it all wrong in the first place.)

Alright so where to I stand:

Up until recently I would have said that I thing all married couples should learn NFP. I still don’t think that is a bad idea. I am a big believer in knowledge is power. I also believe that you can’t make informed decisions without all the information. I believe that having the information about knowing how to read a woman’s body is not a bad thing. But as my wife points out, once you know NFP and know how to read the signs, it is not like you can ignore them. (See I told you she was smart.) So the temptation would be to use them. Even if you are not actually charting or any of that, if you have really learned NFP, then you know what you are looking for and you know when you are fertile or not.

So the argument might come up that NFP can be used to achieve pregnancy as much as it can be for avoiding it. To that I say, “Yes! of corse it can.” But if you are open to life, and you trust that God take care of this, then shouldn’t it be more like, you will get pregnant when the time is right? Again there is the dispensation for couples who are having trouble conceiving.

So how do I plan to approach this in the future? I’m not sure yet. I still thing teaching NFP is very valuable. If nothing else it keeps women from being put at risk by using the really dangerous hormones in artificial birth control. But I really believe that we need to approach it differently, and to do that we need to approach family differently, and to do that we need to approach marriage differently.

One of my favorite parts about the article I read this morning was the suggested way that we approach the subject in marriage preparation. I am guilty of having approached it like this:

Catholicism does not require that you become parents of a large family — rather it wants you to be responsible parents. NFP offers you a reasonable alternative to artificial contraception: a way for you young couples to be responsible while not availing yourselves to drugs or devices that degrade your humanity. You should use these NFP techniques to grow closer, to communicate better, and prayerfully consider whether and when you should bring children into the world in a responsible manner. If that means that you need to delay — even permanently — having children, that is acceptable today with the use of NFP. And what’s more, NFP is proven to be 99% effective for avoiding pregnancy — just as effective as the pill.

I would love to think that I have the strength of faith to approach it more like this:

For you young Catholic people who are marrying in your twenties, you can expect, God willing and absent a physical impairment or grave reason, to have a home filled with many children. You should mentally, physically and spiritually prepare for seven, eight, nine or more children given your ages. You should be prepared to accept the hardships that come with having a large family for two important reasons: children please our Lord and your cooperation with the Lord in bringing forth new souls will in turn please our God, which will bring you many graces. Second, having a large family will help you be saved, it will re-focus your attention from the material attachments that are both rampant today and hazardous to your eternal destination. Your many children will help you to become better and holier people and will stand as a contradiction to a world that has forgot how live the abundant life. You, and your large faithful families, will turn the tide against the scoffers and misanthropes who would revile God’s creation and man’s place in it. We cannot promise you it will be easy because it won’t, but if you persevere in prayer and virtue, you will overcome with God’s grace. And should you live to see your children’s children, you will praise God all the more that he saw fit to give you the gift of faith.

This will not be popular. This will not be easy. But, this, I think, is where we are falling down and where we need to start, with God’s Grace, to pick ourselves back up.

Some Thoughts about NFP from an NFP teacher

nfp-poster-2013-470x363px[1]Some of you might not realize this, but I am an NFP teacher. To others of you, it might not come as a surprise at all. To still others of you, I know you are snickering behind your hands because you know that we have ten kids and you are thinking, “Yeah? and how is that working out for you?” To you I say, “it is really terrific.”

I could talk a lot here about how NFP is not “Catholic Birth Control,” and how what we teach encourages couple to be open to life, but first of all that kind of sounds like sour grapes even to me, and second of all that is not what I want to talk about. Besides you have probably heard all of that before.

samplechart[1]My wife and I have been NFP teachers for a long time, 13+ years in fact. We have been using NFP only a little longer than that. We did not use it when we got married thinking it was one of those things that was really not that important. Boy were we wrong.

Over that time though my view (our view) of NFP has changed. when we started using NFP we were at a rough patch in our relationship. We were young, we had been married for a couple of years and while we had known each other for quite some time before we got married, as any married couple will tell you, that is not the same as being married to the person. There are ins and outs of each other that you have not figured out, and at some point in time in the first five years usually, couples start having some problems getting along. This was were we were.

Picture 36For a long time after we started using and then teaching NFP, I credited it with saving our marriage. I thought it might have been the necessary communication that is required to make NFP work. While I am sure that is part of it, that obviously was not all of it. And that is what I wanted to talk about.

800px-Clinical_thermometer_38.7[1]

The method of NFP that my wife and I teach and use, is called the Sympto-Thermal method. This means that, as the name suggests, we look at several different indicators to determine when a woman is fertile and when she is not. The beauty is that the more important it is to the couple that they avoid getting pregnant or that they conceive, the more indicators you can use and therefore the more accurate it can be. If you are one of those couples like us (most of the time) that really just need to know when (in round numbers) there will be a pregnancy and when there most likely will not, you don’t have to be that accurate, and if you need more, then there is more information for you to use.

However, no matter the method you use, and I am not picky, all of the programs that I have encountered tend to make these wild promises in their promotion pitches. NFP couples have lower divorce rates. NFP couples have more Sex. NFP couples are happier. They have smarter, healthier, happier, lower sodium marriages. Ok that last one I have never heard but you can imagine it if you have ever heard a serious NFP pitch.

The truth is some-what less that these things and more than them at the same time. While it is true that NFP couples do tend to have a lower divorce rate, most couples who would bother to take the time to learn NFP already are highly invested in their marriage in the first place. They usually tend to be the ones who really believe those things they said in their wedding vows. So yes, we as a group do have a lower divorce rate but it can’t be attributed to NFP alone.

How about the big one. A better Sex Life. Lately I have seen a couple of posts running around on the internet that claim that Catholic couples have better sex lives. By Catholic couples I think they mean NFP couples, based on the ones that I have read. This again is not really a true statement, well maybe it is, but let’s look at where it is coming from.

800px-Opened_Oral_Birth_Control[1]
Couples who practice NFP, strictly as a form of birth control, there I said it, will probably find the methods frustrating and even might find that they are having less sex than promised by the articles. SURPRISE! The truth is that NFP, at least the method we teach, is at its heart two things. First, it is fertility awareness. We teach a couple how to read the signs that a woman’s body gives off to help them interpret fertility. Second, it is about respect. Respecting life primarily, but respecting the sanctity of the person as well.

As I said before, if a couple is going to take the time to learn NFP, the likely have some level of this respect for each other already, the classes we teach can’t magically make you respect your spouse any more, but maybe we help couples to understand something new about each other that gives them just that little bit more to respect about each other. Giving couples the monthly, weekly or even some times daily conversation about, are we open to life, are we ready to commit or do we need to wait, is only a stepping stone. And while it might open the door to more and better communication, it is not necessarily going to lead to a better sex life.

20130325-212904.jpgSo what about the better sex life? Those studies can’t all be wrong can they? Again, I point to the couple who is already committed to their marriage. To them, if they have another baby, planned or unplanned, it will likely not effect the state of their marriage. These people, even if they are trying to avoid pregnancy, somewhere in the back of their minds understand this, and so yes, will be more likely to say, something like, well we could interpret today as the start of phase 2 or we could be seeing the evidence of last night. Or Well we have waited and we have seen the thermal shift and it is going in an upward trend so I think we are safe. Or even, well I have always loved the sounds of the pitter patter of little feet. Those couples who think like that, really probably are going to have a better sex life. But once again that is much less to do with NFP and much more to do with the couples attitude toward life.

I am not saying that NFP can’t help these things. But I believe in telling people the truth. NFP will help your marriage, but you have to actually have a marriage I mean a real marriage before it will.

100_2961The last point that I will cover is respect. I am going to be talking mostly to the guys here. Being a guy, I am in the unique position to do that. This is going to be a little off topic because, well it is my own little sales pitch for NFP. While the rest of this has been about understanding what it is and what it is not, this part is going to be about me telling you guys why this is important.

You (as a husband) have to have respect for your wife. PERIOD. But there is more to respect than just flowers on occasion and remembering when her birthday is. There is laundry and dishes and housework even when you don’t feel like it. I am not saying that I am a perfect husband, far from it. I am not saying that NFP is going to make you a perfect husband, but it can’t hurt. Your wife, as you know, has this on again off again fertility thing. Now it can be somewhat controlled using drugs. But that does have some consequences. First, if you have ever used cruise control in an 80’s model car you know that it can be a little unpredictable. Sometimes it creeps up, some times it shuts off, sometimes going up or down hills it can be unpredictable. While cruise control and birth control drugs have gotten better over the years they are still not perfect. And like cruise control there are some dangers. If you have ever gone around a corner at 65 that really should have been 55 or more like 45, you know that cruise control can be down right dangerous. The same can be said for birth control drugs. You are introducing something into a woman’s body, in there fertility cycle, that is unnatural, and can be dangerous. Just listen to the end of a YAZ commercial if you doubt me.800px-Cruise_control_Mercedes_C220[1]

Now, all drugs can be dangerous. This is true. But we strictly regulate them and hopefully we are careful about when we take them and only take them when they are necessary. used all the time the risks go up and well you end up with problems. Life is precious guys. Probably most of you would really get upset if something ever happened to your wife, and life is full of dangers. If you can look at the woman across from you and say, “Hey I want you to take this drug for the next 20+ years that is going to increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and maybe even cancer, without flinching then go for it. That would be like telling her, “Get on the beltway in Baltimore, get the car up to 65 push the cruise button and just keep it on until you reach Denver, because the car gets better gas mileage that way.” Yes, she might be able to make it but the risks of something going wrong along the way that are related to that even speed are pretty darn high, and I would hope that you would have more respect for your wife to understand when to moderate the speed on her own, or even with you. In the same way I would hope that you have the respect for your wife to understand her fertility, and share that with you.

If you would like to learn more about NFP, you can contact me, or feel free to check out some of these wonderful sites.
Couple to Couple League international
I use nfp
The Billings Method
Creighton Model

Cycle Go Pro A Review

Images in this post come from wikipedia, CCLI, USSCB, and some are even from me.

Returning to Something that Feels like Normal

tinyfeet Something that feels like normal. Since I don’t know that I remember what normal feels like, I don’t know that I will know when we get back to that point, but we always hope to get back to something that feels like normal.

For me, that has been what the last year or so has been. Trying to get back to something that felt like normal. That means getting out to run a few days a week, and getting back to writing. It also means remembering to spend time with my wife. That is something I have to admit that I have not been very diligent about. 20120427-202840.jpg While she is almost always on my mind, some times it is very easy to forget that just like everyone else she needs my attention too.

I suspect that it is easy in a marriage, I know it has been on occasion within my own, to forget that the person sitting next to you might desire your attention as much as anyone else. And thinking back to when and why we got married it was because she was my best friend and I wanted to give her my attention. So I am working on that, and it feels good.

Picture 35One of the things that I have been struggling with this year is writing. When I have and idea for something, which was very very rare, guilt would set in and try as I might I could not write it. I would make excuses like not having the time or really just about anything. Or when I did sit down to write I would get bogged down in the details of writing, and not actually write.

I know that this was not a good thing. I know that I am happier when I am writing. Of course there were two problems, and now that I have found some time every day to write (usually on my lunch break) the ideas are coming faster than I can write them. I wrote a story a couple of weeks ago and got it submitted. Since then it has been like the flood gates have been opened and ideas keep coming to me. I am not saying they are all good ideas or anything, but at least I am writing, and it really does feel good to do so.

I really do like to run. I know it is one of those things that not everyone gets, and for those of you who don’t I am sorry. If you like to run, you know what I am talking about. Again there is the guilt factor, I should be spending the time that I am running either spending time with my family, or doing something else for them, and so it is easy to skip running. But like everything else that feels normal when I skip it, something just feels off. There are mornings, likenike-ipod-sport-kit-11[1] yesterday when I run and everything hurts. There are days like Saturday when I can just barely finish the goal I put before myself, but those days the exception rather than the norm. Even if that sink full of dishes does not get washed before I go, it is worth going because I can always wash them when I get back.

So I guess this is what normal feels like. Or maybe, this is just what I want normal to feel like. Either way I am happier.

At the Beginning of the Journey

Anillos[1]I saw a great saying yesterday, it was one of those pictures with words over it supposed to be inspirational or something like that. To be honest most of the time I just skip over these pictures because, either they are super sappy, or they are offensive. This one was different, and it kind of struck a cord. Maybe I am just becoming a sentimental sap or maybe it is just that this one is a great reminder today.

Why today? Romeo_Juilet Well it is going to sound kind of silly but 22 years ago today, the woman who would one day be my wife and I started our life together. At the time we were young. We didn’t know a heck of a lot, and we certainly didn’t know what was coming. But that day we started our journey together anyway.

I am probably going to loose some guy credits here, and that is ok because I will more than likely will make them up in husband credits. I will be honest here guys, the husband credits are much more important.

Yes, this is our dating anniversary. And yes, it has been 22 years since that faithful day, and yes, we have been married for the last 17 years and yes, I still keep track of this day. Because it is rather important.

That day, the woman (thought at the time she was really still a girl) started to changed my life. And she has been changing it every since. It was not a whirl wind romance, or anything like that. We spent only a short time together until life took us apart. We spent several years getting together only once or twice a year, and learning about each other through the mail. You know, real mail, envelopes and stamps and stuff.

But today is not really about that. Today is about a kiss. It is about a first kiss, how it all got started, and everything that has happened since. It is a long story, but the short version is this. Life with her has not always been easy, but it has always been great, we have had some incredible high spots, and some lows along the way. We have always tried to deal with everything that has been thrown our way, together. She has been my strength when I needed it, and I hope that I have been there for her. But no matter what has happend, or will happen, I hope that we get to spend the rest of our long lives together.

This last year has been rough, I don’t know how I could have made it though it without your strength. I wish we could have skipped parts of this year, but I am glad that I was by your side.

Thank you my dear for my life so far. I hope to have many more happy years with you. I also hope I am a better kisser now than I was that day.
Poll The Princess Bride Kiss

How I meet Their Mother – A Date with my Wife

Picture 37I don’t get out a lot. Wait, that didn’t come out right. I don’t get to go out on dates with my wife a lot. It has become a lot easier in the last couple of years . A lot of that has to do with our wonderful oldest son, who at 15 does a pretty good job watching his younger siblings while his parents sneak out of the house for a while.

So on Sunday we went to an evening Mass at one of our local Parishes. (As a side note I am very happy this Mass exists since it gave us a chance to go to Mass together, even though I had to work this week. Thank you to the folks at Our Lady of Mercy for giving us this option.) After which we went out to dinner at Red Lobster with a gift card I got from my employer.

Normally I would not mention the restaurant but it plays an important part in this story. On the ride between Mass and dinner my lovely bride and I had the discussion, of where we would like to go. The gift card we were given was for the parent company of Red Lobster, Olive Garden and a few others, so we had some choices. We finally came to a conclusion when she said, “let’s do Red Lobster, it has been a long time since we have been there.” we rode a long in the relative quiet of the car for a little while as decision made we headed toward dinner.

The silence was broken when I said,

“You know, I think the last time we when to Red Lobster you threw up in my car.” A moment of thoughtful silence
“Wow, that date was before child #1, and I have thrown up so many time since then that I had forgotten about that.”
“Well I am glad we are now measuring time in numbers of times you have thrown up.”

Our conversation continued in the silliness for a while, but eventually lead us to a discussion of how we met and our feelings around that time.

Back when I looked like this,—->piza<—– and yes I am in this picture but I am not going to tell you which one, I met my wife. Techically this picture was taken after I met her but more on that in a few moments. Needless to say, it was a long time ago and very far away.

We got to talking about how we felt about each other in the time between when we met and when we actually started dating. It was a unique time in my life. We had lived in Germany for a number of years and knew that this was likely the last year we would be there so we were trying to cram as much as we could into it as possible, doing as many of the exciting things as we could. Clouded by time when I think back to when we lived there much of what I remember was that year.

That year was also the year that my wife moved to town. I have always maintained that the moment I met her I knew I wanted to be with her. And that really is mostly true, but as we talked about it, I discovered something a little bit different. Slightly Paraphrased:

Me: In October Andy suggest that we should maybe date.
My Wife: I wasn’t ready then.
Me: I know neither was I.
MW: You should not date someone unless you can see yourself married to them, and I could not see that in you yet.
Me: Right. By November though, I was pretty sure.
MW: [smile remembering it]
Me: and by The Christmas concert [smiling remembering the cookie that she had given me that I never ate because could eat it and have it too.] I knew for sure and I was just trying to figure out how to reconcile it with the rest of my life. And by the time I went to Italy I realized I wished I had brought you instead of my other friends
MW: That probably would not have gone over well with my Dad.

The point is that looking back on it, I remember thinking that I knew as soon as I met her, but really it wasn’t until later that I really understood what spending the rest of my life with her really meant. Now (22+ years from that Christmas concert) I can honestly say that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but it was the best misunderstood decision that I ever made.