Since Thursday, July 25, 2013, is the 45 anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, this week is “NFP Awareness Week.” In that spirit, I want to share with you all for my Chaplain’s Corner column this week an article that I published recently in the newsletter of the California Natural Family Planning Association (canfp.org):
G.K. Chesterton famously insisted that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Not only is Chesterton’s quip wonderfully anti-perfectionistic, it’s also a profound insight into the structure of human moral psychology: we acquire the virtues by practicing virtuous behavior before we are virtuous. This wisdom certainly applies to Natural Family Planning and the integral sexuality accompanying it.
It has become common in discussions of NFP in recent years for emphasis to be placed on the necessity of just causes required by the natural moral law for abstaining from sexual intercourse during fertile periods. This is indeed a very important aspect of the virtuous use of NFP. To abstain during fertile periods without a just reason would be to stifle the full flowering of human sexuality. But this emphasis often goes too far, cautioning at times against the use of NFP because, it is claimed, it can become in practice a form of “Catholic contraception” if it’s used with a “contraceptive mentality.”
Here we have both poor moral analysis and an unfortunate case of the perfect becoming an enemy of the good. We must understand clearly and decisively that it is morally (and physically) impossible for NFP to be contraceptive. The method of determining periods of fertility and abstaining during those periods does not touch the object of the sexual act itself in the slightest and leaves that act perfectly free and open to becoming the integral union of love and life built in to the logic of sexual love.
Here are a couple of photos and a video from the Mass of Feast of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at Star of the Sea Church, San Francisco, CA; celebrated by Fr. Joseph Previtali on July 1, 2013.
Nuestra Señora del Carmen Coronada de Malaga
On July 16, we celebrate the great feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, especially associated with the Carmelite Order, which traces its roots back to Elijah the Prophet (1 Kings 18). In fact, the early documents of the Carmelite Order testify that there was a continuous Jewish/Christian monastic presence on Mount Carmel from the time of Elijah and Elisha until the Order’s founding in the 12th century.
The actual feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebrates the ecclesiastical approbation of the Carmelite Order by Pope Honorius III in 1226. The feast was instituted some time in the late 14th century and the date of July 16 was selected because it was on July 16, 1251 that St. Simon Stock received his famous apparition by Our Lady at Cambridge, England.
Catholics have a wonderful way of sanctifying time. The liturgical calendar, and the devotional life that goes with it, make our daily lives interesting and festive in ways that seem ever ancient and ever new as we encounter each year the cycle of sacred time. Just as May is the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary and June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, July is the month of the Precious Blood of the Lord. On July 1, we celebrated the Feast of the Most Precious Blood, at which Mass we prayed that God, Who willed to be pleased by the Blood of Christ, would grant that we might “salútis nostræ prétium sollémni cultu ita venerári, atque a præséntis vitæ malis ejus virtúte deféndi in terris; ut fructu perpétuo lætémur in cœlis.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, in his treatment in the Summa Theologiae (Q. 48) on the Passion of our Lord, speaks of the Precious Blood of Christ as the “price of our redemption.” The Common Doctor says, “Christ’s blood or His bodily life, which ‘is in the blood,’ is the price of our redemption (Leviticus 17:11-14), and that life He paid.” And again he says, “Christ is said to have paid the price of our redemption–His own precious blood–not to the devil, but to God.”
Low Mass for the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord
July 1, 2013 (Monday) – 6:30PM
4420 Geary Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94118
Celebrant: Fr. Joseph Previtali