Monday, November 17, 2008

Humanae Vitae Mass of Thanksgiving

In that Bishop Rhoades, prelate of the Harrisburg Diocese, was out of the country on the actual anniversary of the encyclical "Humanae Vitae," he celebrated that landmark papal letter to the faithful this past Sunday, November 16, 2008, at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in center city Harrisburg.

To paraphrase the Bishop's homily:

Humanae Vitae was born in and of a turbulent time. When Pope Paul VI wrote it,there was significant turmoil in the Church and the world. There was descent then, as there is now, against this teaching which in reality has always been the teaching of the Church as it is now. It is the truth of the Lord Himself; therefore, it is immutable.

Pope John Paul II expanded on Humanae Vitae in his own encyclical Theology of the Body. A powerful letter itself, Theology of the Body not only illuminates our thinking, but it can change our lives. These encyclicals are treatise of what the Master taught. It is incumbent upon us to be good and faithful servants. If we are, much like the parable in the day's Gospel, we will receive our Master's joy.

The heart of Humanae Vitae is that a married couple is to give themselves to each other completely. Through the conjugal love of marriage, by freely and completely giving of themselves, the couple becomes part of the mystery of creating life. Children are an authentic gift that is a matter of responsibility to God.

The Church is calling couples to say "yes" to life and "yes" to authentic love.

There may be times when couples must space children, or even suspend births. During those times, a husband and wife bear a responsibility to respect each other and their love. Within the framework of the conjugal love, couple should use Natural Family Planning methods. Part and parcel of NFP methods is mutual respect between the spouses. These methods entail a maturity of love that is part of the journey in virtue and of holiness.

Not only must marriage be respected, but also the dignity of human procreation itself. Science has blessed us with technology to help couples struggling with infertility. Care needs to be taken in the development and administration of technology though. Such research needs to be ethical - within the design and will of God. Unfortunately, there have been developments which have produced methods which spurn the God's plans - unethical methods of dissociation. Within these unethical dissociative methods is a void, a void wherein the respect for the dignity of the spouses and the child to be born ought exist. The Church recognizes the fact that a child deserves the dignity and respect of personhood from the moment of conception. It is essential that methods used respect the dignity of spouses and the child.

It is important for us to pray for couples facing the pain of infertility. It is a heavy burden they bear and we as the Church must pray for them.

Our teaching is counter-cultural, but following this teaching is part of following the way to holiness, to following Christ. It is part of fidelity to God.

Update: I just found that the Bishop's homily may be seen HERE in PDF format.

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