Good morning Father Angelo,
I am a 30-year-old woman who had a conventional, formal Catholic upbringing: I received the sacraments of Christian initiation because it was a kind of social duty, but on Sundays my mother grumbled when she had to take my brother and me to the Church.
In later years, I had a “fluctuating” relationship with faith, being always indecisive whether I believed or not. I also made several mistakes. I engaged with levity in sexual activity, and I bitterly repent of this.
As a matter of fact, for some months I have been going through an odd period. I think everything started when I got married last May (we had a civil ceremony for the sake of consistency). My husband entered my life in a special moment: I was literally on the brink of the abyss and he got me to believe in love again. I never had any doubts concerning my feelings for him; I have always felt so lucky (or maybe blessed) that I met him! However, just before my marriage and soon after, I experienced many difficulties, many doubts. I even wished I could escape.
After a while, I realized the problem was that something is lacking in our union, namely that our marriage is not established on God. I have also been experiencing difficulties in enjoying intimacy with him, because I feel that we are in an irregular situation. I regret this to a greater extent because I am aware that sorting this out would be easy.
My husband is an agnostic, just like I was until recently. Although he deeply respects other people’s faith, he has not gone through my spiritual crisis. Well, I feel that, first and foremost, I must start a personal spiritual journey. However, I imagine that the path to a real Marriage (with capital “M”) necessarily involves shared religious beliefs. I will pray so that he can have faith, but if this does not to happen, will a mixed marriage be possible for us?
Moreover, I have other ethical doubts. If we had a son or a daughter and s/he was to be homosexual, what should we do? Actually, I would have no problem and I would love that child in the same way. Is this compatible with the Catholic doctrine? Should I, as a mother, take position against that somehow?
Other question: for two years and a half I have been on a birth control pill for medical reasons. Unfortunately, I had two cysts in both ovaries; the only alternative solution was to have surgery performed, but that would jeopardize fertility. Doctors recommended I continue taking the pill until I decide to have a child because I risk a relapse. I am well informed about natural family planning methods and I know they can be as safe as standard contraception. I am not happy about being on a birth control pill, but as it was prescribed for medical reasons, what am I supposed to do?
I know I still have a long journey to travel. Unfortunately, I continue to commit sins. I beg you to pray for me so that my faith may become more solid. I would also like to ask you for advice to let my faith grow stronger.
Thank you in advance. I also wish you a merry Christmas (2019).
The priest’s answer
1. I regret I read only today you letter. I apologize to you, especially because you were at the beginning of a rediscovered relationship with God. You rediscovered that soon after celebrating a civil marriage. You say you feel that something is lacking in your marriage. That is true. What is missing is the blessing that makes immortal the effects of the reciprocal gift of yourselves.
Of course, you have given yourselves as a gift to each other. You wish your mutual self-giving to be immortal. But immortality can be given only by He who is the Lord of life.
When you receive the sacrament of marriage you will feel that things have changed. I will feel that your husband and you are one in the immortal and eternal God.
2. Here is what Tertullian, a Christian writer of the second century, wrote:
How shall we ever be able adequately to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church arranges, the Sacrifice strengthens, upon which the blessing sets a seal, at which angels are present as witnesses, and to which the Father gives His consent? […]
How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. (Tertullian, Ad uxorem, 2:9)
3. You are right to consider having a sacramental marriage celebrated. I think both you and your husband wish to hear those divine words that have the power to make you become one, indestructible thing:
«Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate» (Matt. 19:6)
Joined together forever!
One thing forever: in prayer, in offering, in the service of God!
4. The service of God is carried out by caring for one another, by praying together and, sometimes, by bearing with one another. God Himself will reward both of you with an eternal prize: «the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us» (Rom 8:18)
5. You are right to long for that perfect union in which there is no division both in flesh and in spirit. You will feel you are both servants of the same Master and children of the same Father.
6. Do ask the Lord to grant you to enjoy such a union with your husband soon.
Plead with Mary to intercede for you before Jesus the way she did in Cana of Galilee.
When Mary is the one who begs the Lord, the grace is guaranteed.
7. I also wish to mention another detail of your matrimonial life: the birth control pill taken for therapeutic aim.
As you know, the Church has nothing to object about this, because in this case temporary sterility is not directly pursued; it is only tolerated as a side effect.
Nevertheless, I have recently read that, as a result of the suspending of ovulation, chemical contraception also suspends the exterior signs of fertility, thus distancing the woman from the truth about herself. Since the perceivable sign of the true significance of sexuality is no longer at hand, the woman does not read the Creator’s project in her body.
Through the natural cycle of fertility, the woman safeguards the significance of her body. She is informed by her body about the ultimate truth of her being, namely that she is meant to become a gift. I think this remark is relevant.
8. I was also struck to learn that when the moment of ovulation is impending, the woman is influenced by the hormones that create in her womb a suitable place for pregnancy. This is the period when the woman experiences the highest degree of well-being, both physically and psychologically. The woman’s being, encompassing both body and spirit, is structured to create life, to become a gift.
9. For this reason, I wish you to be able soon to stop taking that medication. Although it is allowed under these circumstances, it deprives you of something particularly precious.
I remember you to the Lord and I bless you