There’s a little garden beside my front walkway dedicated to St. Joseph. Matthew’s rose bush blooms within it as well as the Hostas and Day Lilies that were transplanted from other places on our property. In the beginning, our statue of the foster father of Jesus stood prominently among a balance of lively greenery and rich, brown dirt. Not the typical red clay of North Carolina, but soil that offered the promise of nutrients and growth.
Probably a month or more ago, clover sprang up in random patches around the resident plant life. I considered briefly that the clover, a weed, was intruding in this garden, but then it reminded me of shamrock with its heart-shaped leaves and emerald green color, so I let it remain. The clover, itself, is really quite small and unobtrusive, so why not allow it to blend in with the pattern, was my reasoning.
Life got busier throughout the weeks, postponing my good intentions to accomplish some yard work and so the invasion of weeds persisted. That is how it works. Today there is scarcely a square foot of brown soil to be seen as weeds of all varieties have laid their roots and spread their leaves across my humble, welcoming garden. The balance and the beauty seem lost to the eye now and, of course, it only stands to get worse.
In Saturday’s box on the calendar, I’ve scribbled a reminder to myself that weeding must be done; however, a real plan of action is necessary if it is my serious intention to regain control of this modest patch of earth. I could rise early and set to the task of pulling up weeds one by one. Surely, by the time the day’s heat becomes unbearable, I will be able to wipe my brow and step back to admire the return of balance.
Perhaps, pride might be entertained a bit too considering the sacrifice of time that will be required to prune around the shrine. The pride, though, would be short-lived because everyone knows the cleverness of weeds which are sure to re-stake their claim in due time.
Perhaps, an ample dousing of poison is in line, but then there is a risk to all that lies in close proximity. Truly, those roots, hidden beneath the surface, must be unveiled in their entirety. The right plan includes uprooting, tilling, sifting, laying down a protective barrier and then recovering. I know what it’s going to take, but I have to decide whether or not the desired result is worth the cost of the required sacrifice.
Facing A Dilemma
The dilemma in my welcome path garden offers a simple picture of a critical problem facing us in this state, this nation, this world today. The culture of death has come into nearly full bloom. Its broad leaves of abortion, euthanasia, divorce, cohabitation, addiction, pornography, promiscuity, prostitution and infidelity have taken over our civilization like kudzu.
Here in the United States, possibly the last bastion of hope for Christians, we are under attack from our own government which seeks to sow more laws that would eradicate what’s left of our religious liberties. Ah yes, the problem is as evident and well-defined as the creeping crab grass.
We, patriots and Christians, see the enemy and we are taking a stand against this injustice which is being perpetrated under the title of the HHS mandate. We will not sit idly by as this latest attempt to strip away our freedom reaches into our churches, our Catholic hospitals, and our pockets. We’ll march, we’ll rally, we’ll donate time and money, we’ll debate, we’ll evangelize and we’ll pray- all noble and necessary tasks, but a bit like my less painful plan to pull the weeds one by one and then step back in temporary triumph.
Digging Up The Roots
Before we can mount a sincere attack, the question needs to be asked, “From what root did these broad leaves of death spring?” Taking a long, honest look you’ll find that these are the fruits of contraception and the misuse of Natural Family Planning, the thinking that by utilizing a moral means one can legitimately justify the same ends.
Were people still familiar with Thomas Malthus, the original population doomsayer who preached total abstinence in order to save the world from mass starvation, this misuse of the natural means might be just as easily called the Malthusian mentality. It was this seed of thinking, that responsible men must take charge of their own destiny by thwarting the gift of procreative powers or be doomed to starvation, that was scattered about. Seeds germinate and sprout, that is their nature, so too did this idea. For if man was wise enough to discover his power to save the universe, then he must be equally endowed with the good sense to order his life as best he sees fit.
If one man can justify the end, of inhibiting the conception of a new life, then another man can do the same even if by different means. If the end is good, why squabble over the means. While the initial idea took some decades to establish hardy root-age, “modern” science, and a well-known woman named Margaret Sanger, eventually hailed a new way to rescue planet earth and its female inhabitants from the dreaded potential of babies.
Fortunately, the Catholic Church continued to stand upright, keeping Her branches bathed in the Son light, so that She alone continues to speak the truth that contraception is a misuse of the body and counter to the Will of the Creator, and therefore an impermissible moral evil. Pope Paul VI, in his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, reiterated the truth of God’s design of creating them male and female and prophesied the dire results that would follow were mankind to allow this seedling of contraception to remain rooted in its heart. As he forewarned, the right balance and inherent beauty of our world has all but been completely overgrown with ideas and practices of the culture of death.
Now if we are of the mind to dig up the problem, we must acknowledge that while the Church rejected the lie of contraception, Her people did not all heed Her instructions. Quite frankly, too many entrusted in the ranks of shepherds either allowed the culture of death to flourish unchallenged or aided its foothold through their sins of omission in the pulpit. Today the onslaught of the HHS mandate seems to have awakened the sleeping giant, who is now rubbing the sleep from his eyes and beginning to shake the trellis which was built beneath him. A welcome renewal, but not enough alone to reclaim the garden.
Contradiction Doesn’t Win
Morally good and constitutionally right as it is to argue for the protection of our religious liberty in light of the current threat of a mandate, we cannot hope to achieve victory if we continue to provide fertilizer in the enemy camp. Plainly stated, it is a contradiction that we fight for religious liberty in our healthcare system while at the same time the majority of Catholic physicians in our pews willingly sustain the culture of death by penning countless prescriptions for contraceptives and scheduling quick and easy sterilizations. Not to mention, the majority of their Catholic patients are happy to give them their business.
Why even the heralded breakthrough of ultrasound is often wielded in the doctor’s hands as a tool to discern the fit from the “unfit” in the womb. Ask any mother over the age of thirty-five and you’ll likely find she has been offered, if not downright pressured to submit to, a battery of tests aimed at informing her and her doctor as to the “quality of life” her unborn child might be expected to have and to offer. Because by extension of the anti-life mentality, a child who might require extra attention and care is a drain on his parents and society, so it is the duty of the doctor to offer an alternative.
It didn’t take long to come full circle with this technology, as recent headlines prove that female babies are targeted for sex selection abortions even within the borders of our blessed America. America is only a step to two away from adopting another of China’s infamous policies if we continue down this path.
Wish that I could say, the meager faction of Natural Family Planning teachers and promoters were fully doing their part to reseed the truth, but sadly that message, also, has been watered down. Only ten years ago when my husband and I were trained to understand the signs of our mutual fertility, it was directly noted that a serious reason needed to be discerned in order for a couple to rightly postpone a pregnancy, even indefinitely. The very word serious was meant to reflect the challenge and requirement of monthly turning to God and seeking His guidance as to whether or not husband and wife could actively avoid the fertile phase. We affirmed our Creator’s role, the blessing of family members and focused on expressing the call to generosity and trust. However, in an attempt to attract new business, the message was tailored to sound more appealing to younger couples, who’d grown up without benefit of well formed consciences in the area of Church teaching. Serious reason was replaced with responsible parenthood. Not that responsible parenthood isn’t a goal, but it seems more in line with the culture’s vision that responsible adults are the ones who limit their family size to one boy and one girl. The new slant is toward having a goal every cycle, to either be working at achieving or avoiding. Those of us whose goal is total surrender to God’s total dominion over our love lives are labeled Providentialists, a term more synonymous with religious zealots (aka freaks).
In the state I live in, there can hardly be found a single ob/gyn practice that doesn’t embrace the culture of death. While looking for a new physician, I called about a dozen offices and asked about their acceptance of Natural Family Planning. Each time the receptionist misunderstood me and readily rattled off the lists of hormonal contraceptives they could provide me with. Forced to choose a practice, I chose one that was recommended by pro-life friends, who praised one of the physicians as being both Catholic and the father of a large family. Presenting in the office, I was immediately bombarded with advertisements for contraception in nearly every room. Not a single pro-life, pro-NFP message was found anywhere. As an added challenge, in the state of NC, home birth midwives, who provide a real pro-life, pro-family, pro-woman alternative, are illegal. One cannot ignore the effect this has on other less informed women. If the message everywhere in the “world”(from your doctor’s office and hospitals, to print ads and commercials) is one of anti-life, it isn’t hard to understand why even seemingly pro-life people easily make some concessions.
Let The Fields Run Wild
Are we just supposed to give up and let the fields return to the wild? Should we just accept that the land has already been conquered by the enemy? No way! But if we continue to focus all of our attention on a single issue like the HHS mandate alone, then we simply break a weed or two from its stem while leaving all the deep root age behind. My beloved Catholic Church is to be applauded for holding fast to Truth, but we as the Body of Christ must rise up and shine in every place and circumstance. We must examine our consciences continually and ask ourselves if we are willing to follow the examples of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Chiara Corbella, who sacrificed their lives (literally) in order that their unborn children could live. This call to live our faith, means clinging to the Cross which entails real actions, real sacrifices. Perhaps, for too long, the majority have grown accustomed to merely glancing at the Crucifix and so have lost sight of the need to kiss it. We conjure up every manner of excuse for how we can tolerate individual situations that fuel the culture of death.
In my own case, well intentioned people have attempted to dissuade me from remaining completely open to life because in recent years it has meant much loss and physical suffering. In the case of physicians, they claim it is too big a risk to their livelihood to stop authoring prescriptions for abortifacients. And the excuses we all make go on and on.
It is long past time to relinquish control, give God everything and trust in His promises to provide for His people. Yes, we must do battle in the public square, but we must also work diligently and overtly for His glory. Not that we should be self-righteous like the Pharisees, but when people in the “world” look at us, they should see our unwavering love and devotion to Christ Jesus. We’ll make mistakes, we’ll fail some days, so then we should run to confession and adoration so that the Divine Gardener can prune our hearts and refresh spirits. Realize that the blood of martyrs waters the mustard seed, so pray for courage and fortitude. Let us remember his first command was to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”
The old laws may have changed, but the commandments never will. Find inspiration in knowing that there is no doubt that Christ will be the Victor. Accept your vocation and within it carry His standard high in the battlefields. Recognize that we must fight tirelessly on all fronts to extirpate the source of the culture of death. If we all conform ourselves to the task at hand, we can be confident that in His time the garden will return to its former beauty.
“Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.“