Another area where Catholics should do more reflection and cultivate new habits is in the sexual practice of marriage. One habit that has taken hold of many marriages is the use of artificial means of contraception. The prevalence of the practice in and outside of the Catholic community has made contraception the unquestioned default mode of marriage. As a consequence, sexuality and relationships are misunderstood and misused; and their true purpose is misplaced.The comments are just part of a very wide-ranging column from the inaugural issue of the Diocese of Sacramento’s new magazine (link will open a viewer, column is on pgs. 2-3). Throughout the column, Bishop Soto uses Cardinal Newman’s phrase, “round of the day”:
These comments are not just about the “pill” or other forms of contraceptives. This is more about the habit of using artificial means. The habit has shaped the hearts and minds of many, especially the young. Marriage is no longer understood as the covenant of love between a man and a woman that creates life, because procreation is no longer associated with sexual intercourse. In this new social situation, many shrug their shoulders and wonder why a sexual relationship between any two people who care for each other cannot be called a marriage.
. . .a beautiful metaphor that speaks to the rhythm and rituals that can round our days, keeping our hearts and habits in sync with the creative hand of God’s grace. Our earth revolves around the sun, creating the natural cycle of night and day filled with the rituals of sunrise and sunset, the morning dew with the sweet songs of birds and the evening breeze with the soft aromas of the garden’s blooms. So we can give our heart to the ritual habits that round our day with the love and truth of Jesus. Holiness in this manner is an attractive and persuasive way to change the hearts and minds, as well as the laws, of our land.Bishop Soto goes on to apply the metaphor to several circumstances, but returning to the above subject, Bishop Soto continues:
The church’s teaching against the use of artificial contraceptives comes from a reverential awe for the “round” of the marriage covenant, where the human family finds life, grace and goodness revealed in the ordinary rituals of the home. The sexual ritual should not be discounted or dismissed from this sacramental view.Bishop Soto is a treasure and it is good to see his column again after a hiatus during the diocese’ transition from a newspaper to a magazine. Check out their new publication here.
The teaching of Natural Family Planning, as a moral and cultural alternative to the contraceptive culture, offers couples the opportunity to appreciate their sexuality, the grace of fertility and a way to unite themselves to the natural bodily rhythms that create life. Pastors and catechists should be more confident in teaching it. Married couples and young people eager to be married should explore this possibility as a gift, not a burden.