As if I could post something to ponder besides pregnancy!
B and I were lamenting recently that some of the young people we know seem to want the best of single living and also the best of married living- at the same time. Surely this is at least part of the reason that they live together or sleep together before they are married. Marriage just doesn't look the same when you look at it this way.
This article on marriage and self-sacrifice
is very interesting to me. I seem to find a lot of Catholic blogs and articles, and this is one. The author is making the point that Catholics choosing their vocation have been deeply (albeit largely unknowingly) affected by contraception. The entire article is worth reading. It's especially pertinent for me as I think about the self-sacrifice of adding another child (uh-oh. Here I go again!) to our family. My desire is not to have a jaded view of what my life should or could be, but to view all sacrifice and difficulty and challenge as worth it, as ordained.
Now, because of artificial contraception, the whole underlying assumptions and expectations about marriage have shifted. Marriage is no longer a way to give all, but a way to have it all. Therefore, when a young person today considers a religious vocation, they are not choosing between different paths of self-sacrifice; they are choosing between a life that seems to have it all and a life that seems to have nothing. They must choose between a home in the suburbs, 2.5 nice children, and a double income or total self denial. The choice is between a familiar form of hedonism or an inexplicable form of heroism.
Finally, a contraceptive culture is inherently sterile. When the marriage act is open to life and is creative, it shows that self-giving is the way of life and fruitfulness. This re-echoes in the search for religious vocation for a young person. If they have seen within marriage that self-giving obedience to the Church and personal sacrifice bring forth abundant fruit and new life, then they will understand implicitly that the religious vocation -- with its own set of sacrifices -- is also, implicitly, a life of fruitfulness and joy.
Could it be, therefore, that one of the solutions to the vocations crisis is better marriage preparation? At every opportunity -- in marriage preparation, RCIA, and all forms of catechesis -- the true understanding of the sacrament of marriage must be explained, expounded, and extolled. In the face of a culture that overwhelmingly assumes that marriage is an opportunity for self-fulfillment, we must remember that to be a Christian means we must take up our cross and follow Christ. At every opportunity, we must be reminded that the way to the abundant life is through service to others, and we must therefore never forget that marriage is for giving, not for getting. We must rediscover the deep wisdom of Humane Vitae, for at the heart of a self-sacrificial marriage must be the mutual self-giving and creativity of the marriage act.