By Jim Park.
My little family prays the rosary each night, and one of our usual intentions is for “the end to the contraceptive mentality.” But what is this mentality? Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, reveals it when he defines “responsible parenthood”:
“In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.
From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow.” (Humanae Vitae 10)
Thus, to Pope Paul VI, a contraceptive mentality is one in which the spouses use their own intelligence and will to decide whether or not to trust in the Creator and His design for their bodies.
Jesus, in responding to the Pharisees’ question about divorce (Matt. 19:3-5), speaks of this design in reminding them of the need to go back to “the beginning”: “And a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And it is through this becoming “one flesh” that “[the] husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.” (Humanae Vitae 8)
Marrying in our early 40s, my wife and I were hopeful of having children, but after a year of trying and open to God’s design, we began to fill out adoption paperwork. Soon thereafter, we found ourselves pregnant, and our daughter (now 11) was born 6 weeks prematurely, spending the first four weeks of her life in the Neonatal ICU. A year later and wanting to have more children, we renewed our adoption process, but again God intervened: another daughter (now age 9) was born on time, but with epilepsy and seizures that began at 2 months of age. Doctor visits, drug therapies, dietary changes, and physical and intellectual therapies followed. Yet, we held out hope for other children, looking into adoption again and foster care, seeking God’s will. Then, at age 50, my wife was pregnant again! Only this time, our child died in utero at 15 weeks and is with God in Heaven.
Responsible parenthood then, rightly understood, is turning over our wills to God, trying to have His will be ours. Yes, we certainly hope for the perfect child, but trusting and believing that in granting us a child, he or she is the one ordained before all eternity to be entrusted to us for our salvation and theirs! When we worried that underdeveloped lungs would have affected our older daughter’s brain, she has grown up to be our lawyer-in-training, a “drop of pure sunshine,” bringing laughter and joy to our lives. The challenges that our younger daughter has, has forced my wife and I to reevaluate our priorities, to see the need to slow down, and to teach us that relationship, connection, communio is the heart of our family. And our child in Heaven is our intercessor and the reminder that our end is not here on earth but rather with them and our Creator forever.
Jim Park grew up in Springfield, Virginia, one of eight children born to John and Rita Park. He attended Catholic grade school and high school, before heading off to Virginia Tech for college. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Geology, and two years later, was awarded a Masters of Science in Structural Geology and Rock Mechanics by Imperial College, in London, England. Jim currently works for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where he manages environmental reviews. He has been married to the love of his life, Geneva, for 12 years and have two beautiful daughters with them on earth, and one child with God in heaven.