Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

I don’t usually post my homilies for a variety of reasons. But several people asked me for this one, and this is the quickest way I have of distributing it. For those who weren’t able to make the Mass — or would like to better understand where the church is coming from on contraception — I invite you to give it a read.

Forty-Seventh Anniversary of Humanae Vitae
Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden

Tonight, we gather to give thanks for Blessed Paul VI and his prophetic teaching 47 years ago on the dignity of human life and the beauty of marital love. We gather on this Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, who with her husband, Ulf, were God’s human instrument of giving life to eight children.

Bridget and Ulf understood that their role and responsibility as parents did not end, but began with conceiving their children. The aim and ambition of all Christian mothers and fathers are to rear their children to know and to love God in this world and to encourage them to live in such a way that they will live with God forever in heaven.

One of their children, Karin, is also venerated as a Saint – St. Catherine of Sweden. Catherine, like her Mother, was a young widow. She accompanied her Mother to Rome and on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After St. Bridget’s death, she became the Abbess of the Monastery her Mother had founded.

We ask for St. Bridget’s and St. Catherine’s intercession tonight that that our Church today might be an effective defender of the beauty and importance of Christian marriage and family life.

Gifts from God
Yesterday, as I was preparing this homily at the Office in my Residence, there was a man making some repairs on the air-conditioning system. He asked me what I was reading. At the time, I was reading a meditation by St. Bridget.

He told me that he was raised a Methodist and had met his wife, who had been raised Catholic, at an Evangelical Protestant Church. He told me that he loved to read the Bible. He considered Himself, more Catholic than Protestant, in part because he believes in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He also considers himself practically Catholic because he has 10 children. Early in their marriage he and his wife decided that they wanted to have as many children as God wanted them to have. He could not imagine life without his youngest child, a daughter, or any of the other nine children. It was obvious that he treasured each of his children as a precious gift from God. He reminded me of St. Augustine who gave to his illegitimate child the name – Adeodatus, gift from God.

Paul VI, a Modern Prophet
I told this man that I was working on this homily for tonight, commemorating the 47th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s teach on the dignity of Human Life and the beauty of Christian married life. I shared with him that Paul VI foresaw the terrible consequences of the sexual revolution, of the separation of life-giving component from the love-giving component of sexual love.

Paul VI had predicted that the widespread use of contraception would result in marital infidelity, a dramatic increase in divorce, and a general lowering of morality. Paul VI was particularly concerned about the vulnerability of men, particularly young men, who in the Pope’s words: “… have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anticonceptive practices, may finally lose respect for woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”

Paul VI was prophetic in describing what we now would call the hook-up culture so rampant on college campuses and amidst young adults. It is a culture where so many young people have sexual encounters barely knowing the other person, much less having a committed and loving relationship. Is it any wonder that we have an epidemic of date rape? We see a culture today, where so many young men and young women, have lost respect for each other.

Paul VI appealed to public leaders of his time to protect young and old from “every form of pornography and licentious performances.” The Holy Father instead urged them to create a culture that fosters the virtue of chastity. He warned public officials of the danger of permitting toxic materials to infect the young under the pretense of a false freedom or artistic expression. Mercifully, Paul VI did not live to see what is common fare today on cable and even network television.

My AC Repairman marveled at the blessing for the Church to have someone who could see so clearly the consequences of contraception and the sexual revolution it fueled. Today, if we but have the eyes to see, we are surrounded by the casualties of the sexual revolution, e.g. the high number of single parents, the number of children that do not have a father in their home, the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, the millions that have died from AIDS, pornography as the largest internet industry and pornographic addiction at epidemic proportions. These victims also include more than a million unborn children aborted in our country alone, the large number of teen pregnancies, and the distressing number of victims of child abuse. Our modern culture is adept at providing access to every conceivable form of pleasure, but mystified at the incredible number of individuals suffering from depression. Millions of adults and children find authentic and enduring joy elusive.

Paul VI even foresaw governments like our own in its domestic policy promoting contraception and abortion as part of preventive health care as well as providing massive amounts of federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, and at the same time making foreign aid grants to third world nations, contingent on their subjecting their people to family planning and abortion propaganda. Similarly, he predicted government’s like China coercing women to have abortion and limiting the number of children married couples are permitted to bring into the world.

Much That Was Not Foreseen
As much foresight as Paul VI had there were many aspects of our contemporary culture that he did not envision. He did not foresee abortion conglomerates selling fetal body parts for profit. He did not conceive of a society so confused that it would redefine marriage – no longer recognizing that essential to the marital covenant was complementary love of a man and a woman and that essential to marriage was the biological possibility of creating new life. Paul VI was unable to see the Brave New World of children being manufactured in laboratories. He did not foresee the Church being denied the ability to facilitate adoptions, because of our refusal to place children with same-sex couples. He did not imagine a new industry of what some call mommy porn as evidence with the popularity of books and movies like Fifty Shades of Gray. Paul VI did not foresee the gender question, resulting in iconic organizations like the Girl Scouts, permitting boys who want to be girls to become Brownies!

Everyone Has a Part in Reclaiming our Culture
Paul VI in Humanae Vitae identified the role and responsibility of many different groups to support authentic marriage and family life.

He challenged Bishops to be strong and courageous teachers of the Truth about love, sexuality, marriage and family life. He called upon priests to nourish with the Word of God and the Sacraments married couples and parents so that they could live well their beautiful, if challenging vocation.

Our late Holy Father called upon scientists to help couples find moral ways to address some of the challenges that made them vulnerable to resorting to contraception. Paul VI would have been so pleased by the advancements in Natural Family Planning. He would have been gratified by the Institute in Omaha named in his honor, where the best of medical science helps couples use moral means to exercise stewardship over their fertility and assists infertile couples to be able to conceive new life. The Holy Father called upon medical doctors, not only to refuse to perform abortions, but to assist couples by giving patients care that conforms to time honored moral principles as well as the best medical practice.

He challenged government leaders to enact public policies that protect the innocent and the vulnerable.
Paul VI called upon everyone (priests, religious, singles, married couples) to strive to live a life of virtue particularly the virtue of chastity, even when that required heroic sacrifice and a willingness to be counter-cultural.

Vibrant Marriages and Families are the Vaccine and the Cure
However, the vaccine and the cure for healing our society and reclaiming our culture are present in this Church tonight. It is strong marriages and vibrant families.

Christian marriage is a call to heroic love. It is a call to lay down one’s life for another in love. It is a summons to seek the happiness and eternal welfare of one’s spouse before one’s own wants and desires. It is a call to make the self-sacrificing love of Jesus real and tangible to one’s spouse and children.

Christian parenthood is a call to lose your life, as you knew it, to embark upon the most important work for our culture, society, nation and the church, namely the formation of children – the next generation of leaders, citizens and parishioners. In the words of St. John Paul uttered in his 1999 pastoral visit to St. Louis: “As the family goes so goes the nation!”

It is difficult as married couples and as parents to realize the importance of the seemingly inconsequential decisions that you make each and every day to sacrifice for the good of your spouse and your children. It is the cumulative impact of these seemingly small choices made day after day over a lifetime that impact the good of society and the good of the Church so profoundly.

The Entire Church and our Archdiocese Are Focused on Marriage and Family
The entire Church at this moment is focused upon the importance of marriage and family life. Last October, the Synod of Bishops, representing the Catholic Bishops of the entire world, met for several weeks identifying the challenges confronting married couples and families today. This coming October another Synod will meet in Rome to develop a pastoral strategies to guide the Church in its efforts to support better marriage and family life.

Pope Francis will make his first visit to the United States this September. The principal reason for his visit is to participate in the World Gathering of Families in Philadelphia. St. John Paul initiated the World Gathering of Families more than 20 years, in order to hold up to the world the importance of marriage and family life as the foundation for culture and civilization.

In our Archdiocese in the next few weeks, I will promulgate a Vision for the next decade in the Archdiocese. Among three Key Initiatives that give direction to this vision is one to strengthen the vocation of marriage and family life.

Part of this Key Initiative will be to invite married couples to give priority to strengthening their love for each other. We hope to help couples realize that one of the most important things they can do to change the world and help the Church is to invest in their marital relationship. Moreover, we want to find ways to help parents to live their vocation of being the first and most important teachers of their children in the Faith.

The Christian Family is to be a School of Faith and Virtue. It is the Christian Family that is the tool that God has ordained to pass the Faith from one generation to the next. Christian Parents are called to be teachers of the Faith by their words, but even more importantly by their example. They are called to create the environment in their home where the Faith is caught by their children. Christian families should be Saint Factories!

Parents are called to be Spiritual Directors for their Children, introducing them to a life of prayer and helping them from their earliest days to communicate sincerely, faithfully, and authentically with God. I want our Archdiocesan Church to do everything possible to help parents fulfill this critically important and awesome mission.

The Source of Complete Joy
In our first reading tonight from Galatians, St. Paul says the he lives “by Faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” Paul knew well the profound joy that comes from knowing he was loved by His Creator, the Creator of the universe.

Paul knew, however, that there was even a more sublime joy that experiencing the love of the only one who can fulfill the deepest longings of our heart. Paul knew what it was like to allow Christ to live in Him and then through him to be the human instrument of bringing the joy and the peace of God’s love to others. To bring another to know the love of God revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, is to experience what Jesus terms as “Complete Joy.”

Jesus instructs His Disciples that they must be connected to Him, the Vine. The disciples must allow the very life of Jesus to pulse through them so that they can be fruitful. Dear Parents, your children are the fruit of you love. They are your love with a name, like Grace or Jacob or Joey or Emily.

Mass Intention
Tonight, I offer this Mass for all married couples that your love will not atrophy and grow dimmer with the passing of time, but instead it will grow stronger and deeper and more passionate. I offer this Mass for Parents that you will discover that complete joy Our Lord desires for you in devoting yourself to the most important of all human tasks, the giving and the nurturing of human life. I pray that you will do everything possible, not just so that your children can succeed and prosper in this world, but so that they will become Saints and achieve their destiny to live with God forever.
Thus we invoke some of the great Saints to intercede for us:

St. Bridget and St. Catherine – Wives and Mothers, Pray for Us
St. Thomas More – Defender of True Marriage, Pray for Us
St. Gianna Molla, who willing gave her life for her daughter, Pray for Us
St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life to rescue a husband and father, Pray for us
St. Therese of Lisieux and your Holy Parents – Louis and Zelie Martin, Pray for us.



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