Leave it to Father to give a sermon on Humanae Vitae on Mother's Day. The priests at our parish say it is as much their job to "disturb the comfortable as it is to comfort the disturbed." So, after a warning about eye rolling, father asked the congregation to consider for a moment that the Church is our mother and her messages to us are given in love not to constrain us, but to lead us along the way of true freedom. He asked that we open our hearts and minds and open discussion in our homes on the purpose and beauty of married love.
He said that a contraceptive culture has grown up all around us and is tangled in the landscape of society much like the vine, Kudzu, has taken over vast areas of the south, choking out life wherever it pervades. He acknowledged that the changes required to live the Gospel fully in this area of life may be large for some and may require encouragement, support, and practical advice from other couples. He's working hard to build that up within our parish community, actively encouraging couples to come together and discuss the blessings and practical difficulties of natural family planning. Also important was Father's point that we are not to judge others, but take everyone where they are at and leave the pruning to God. Father is a good example of this himself. He takes everyone where they are at and then, ever so gently, invites us to take one step closer to God.
Now, my husband and I don't much like talking about NFP with other couples. It's just so...personal, but father has been inviting us to open our minds and hearts and see if we can't take one step beyond our comfort level. He's been introducing us to people looking to spread the message and then ducking out of the conversation. Have I mentioned that Father is a master of disturbing the comfortable? We're going to a meeting in June to learn more about what we can do. We're trying to be more open...
In many areas of life, we're trying to be more open. It isn't easy, but we moved here into a neighborhood where children come to play in our yard. We're very comfortable as a family unit and as a family of all brothers who are each others' best friends, we don't feel much need to reach out beyond our own family. We're a big draw, however, for other families' children seeking friends and we've been trying to draw the line where we're comfortable. It isn't easy. I'm often tempted to send them home to their own families since we don't send our children to play in other yards. But, I also want to be a good neighbor and I decided to reach out a bit and get to know some of these mothers whose children play here.
Today, we had a neighborhood Mother's Day celebration at our home with cake and coffee and we invited the neighborhood mothers and children into our home. This sort of thing isn't easy for me. I have a hard time socializing with women whose ideas of family life are so different from my own. I often feel defensive in such situations and I resent what feels like their judgments, but I'm trying to be more open.
"I love your flowers," one mother remarked, noticing the sherbet roses my husband gave to me for Mother's Day. "Thank you," I said, "but you know, Jeremy brings me flowers almost every week." He really does. The other mothers all shared looks of surprise and then knowing looks. The speaker then voiced their thoughts to me, "Well, quite honestly, he should. It's the least he could do."
It's the least he could do? It seemed absurd to me. This husband of mine who presented me with a beautiful bouquet of roses on Mother's Day Eve (if there even is such a thing) treated me to TWO cards--one from himself one from the children, breakfast in bed, a day at the gardens and dinner out just the day before? After such a dreamy day of gratitude expressed for this poor little mother who tries to overcome her faults, but isn't always as successful as she'd like to be... and that's the LEAST he could do? I'm still basking in the glow of a lovely day and feeling ever so humbled and not good enough for these people who so trust and love me with their every day lives and that's the LEAST they could do? It baffled me. It really did.
When Jeremy came home and asked about our day with the neighbors I shared this story and he said quite simply, "It's Kudzu. The idea that my good and the good of the children are somehow opposed to your good-- it's Kudzu." He's right. The contraceptive mentality makes individualists of all. It makes the husband the enemy of the wife and the children the enemy of both. Here, we live a common life with a common good. We all contribute to that life and it pays us back, each of us, more than we put into the pot. Much more. I don't need to look out for my own good-- others attend to it. I don't need "protection" against my own spouse. I shouldn't be pitied because of my children. I see the concept of a common family good is in some ways foreign to my neighbors, and sadly, the blessings of it must be, too.
And what about me and the concept of a common good within our neighborhood and within our parish community? Could we be more open, less self-protective? It isn't easy. It isn't perfectly comfortable, but because of Father's example I'm willing to try.