Marriage is a holy vocation that leads to the creation of life and family, but it is also a way for spouses to attain holiness.
Taking the four components of God’s love for us (Free, total, faithful, fruitful) and comparing them to marital love, we can discover how we can live the sacrament of matrimony as a vocation in the most free, total, faithful and fruitful way, the ultimate expression of not only God’s love for us, but our love for our spouses. We can discover how we can best express and preserve our marital unity as well as helping our spouse get to heaven.
We need to be able to give our love freely to our spouse. If we ask for conditions, like... I’ll love you IF, then that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot control our passions, if we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free. If we cannot say no, our yes means nothing.
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The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my arm or except for my leg." Everything means everything. Total means total.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1643, it says: “Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all of the elements of the person enter – appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance, which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.” Sex is holy, but the world doesn’t see it that way.
We must be faithful to our spouse. Obviously, we must only have sexual intercourse with our spouse and no other. However, adultery is not the only way we can be unfaithful to our spouse. Indulging in fantasies, pornography of any kind and flirting all offend the sixth commandment. If we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action, and thought.
We must allow relations with our spouse to be fruitful – to be open to children – each and every time we have sex, whether or not we are planning a child. That doesn’t mean that we will conceive a child with every marital embrace. It also doesn’t mean that we must try to get pregnant each and every time we have relations. It just means that we need to be open. Natural Family Planning allows a couple to avoid pregnancy and still be open to the possibility of pregnancy.
Artificial contraception, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan (because it does not image God’s fruitfulness) but it also destroys a couple’s marital unity, encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When a device, medication is used or an operation has taken place to purposefully remove fertility permanently, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. (This does not include couples who have regretted and repented, nor does this include couples who are infertile or post-menopausal).
How can a married couple live a holy sexuality if they have a serious need to avoid pregnancy? Natural Family Planning is safe, effective and allows us to live our marital sexuality in the most free, total, faithful and fruitful way. And in this day and age, a couple need not leave the comfort of their homes to learn. Many NFP organizations offer live online classes with certified teachers.
Living a holy sexuality through the Theology of the Body is not always easy. But I can say from experience that it is most definitely worth it.
For more information on Natural Family Planning:
Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach
About the Author
Ellen and her husband, James, have been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League since 1984 and teach Theology of the Body to teens. She’s also an award-winning, bestselling author of ten books, an editor, a publisher and a self-publishing book coach. Her newest novel is Ella's Promise. The mother of five adult sons and grandmother of one precious grandson, Ellen lives in Pakenham, Ontario with her husband. Contact her at Full Quiver Publishing.