Radiating Fruitfulness: Sacrifice

Radiating Fruitfulness: Sacrifice

We made it! I made it! Welcome to the third and final installment of my first series, “Radiating Fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality, Sacrifice,” where we explore what it means for a marriage to be fruitful, even for those of us not blessed with children. If you’re just joining us, feel free to check out Part 1: Radiating Charity and Part 2: Radiating Hospitality.

Radiating Sacrifice

Somehow that title doesn’t have the same ring as the last two. The word “sacrifice” doesn’t exactly fill us with warm fuzzies, does it? Still, the Catechism points to sacrifice as a way in which all marriages are fruitful. What does this mean?

Sacrifice means giving something of ourselves, offering something up, as a gift to God. Sacrifice is an act of love, and an exercise in trust. We know that we will be ok without these things, because God is our strength. Christ gave is own life as a sacrifice on the cross, to redeem us. We in turn take up our crosses daily, uniting our suffering to his.

We know that marriage comes with sacrifice. We vow to love and honor each other “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.” Even in the good times, placing the needs of your spouse before yourself isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sanctification in marriage comes from a daily dying to yourself for the sake of the other. “No, I’m not going to stay at the office later than I have to, because I have a wife who needs me.” “Sorry, I’m going to have to cancel my plans to take care of my husband who’s not feeling well.” “Yes, I’ll hold my tongue in front of your mother.”

Those things are little, and yet we know there are bigger sacrifices that come with love.

“No, we’re not going to live together before marriage because we trust that God has a plan for us, and that sex belongs in marriage, period.”

And then, the struggle of the infertile:

“No, doctor/mom/dad/brother/cousin/myself, for the thousandth time, we refuse to engage in IVF. Yes, we know that that is our only chance for a biological child. Yes, we are suffering, more than you realize. But we trust that God has a plan for us, and that new life is sacred. We make this sacrifice because our souls are more important to us than the fulfillment of our dreams, because our greatest dream is the Kingdom of God.”

What good, truly, comes from these sacrifices? If we look with human eyes, we only see the pain. In the first instance- “My spouse is encroaching on my comfort.” In the second- “Quaint, archaic rules are getting in the way of how I want to live.” In the third- “Old men in Rome are dictating whether or not I can have children.”

If we look with eyes of faith, we see the Glory of God. When we sacrifice and die to ourselves, we open our hearts and become holier people, and that holiness radiates outward.

Like St. Therese’s “Little Way”, we are growing in holiness through small, everyday sacrifices. In the first instance, sacrificing your own comfort to tend to the needs of another bears witness to the love and patience of the Father.  In the second instance, bearing witness to the truth of sexuality goes so far against the grain that it angers those who can’t bear the light. While many won’t have to courage to say it out loud, more than one will be touched by this witness. And on a much more personal note, couples can attest to the many blessings and graces that flow after marriage as a result of this sacrifice.

In the third case, perhaps the witness is more silent. Perhaps not many will know that refusing IVF comes with an immense suffering on your part. But I promise, it is worth it. Graces flow from obedience. In the words of Our Lady of Lourdes, “I cannot promise you happiness in this world, only in the next.” Couples dealing with infertility are on the front lines of the culture wars. Our witness to the dignity of life and the sanctity of marriage matters. It is perhaps a still, small voice- but one that has the power to open eyes and change hearts.

 

We know that all love bears fruit. It is my hope that this series might be a small comfort to my brothers and sisters who are suffering in the throws of infertility. I promise you, your marriage has a purpose. God has a plan. I pray that all who read this will experience the healing touch of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that whether or not you have children, your marriage will bear much fruit, for his greater glory.

+AMDG+

 

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Radiating Fruitfulness: Hospitality

Radiating Fruitfulness: Hospitality

In this series, we’ve been exploring what it means when the Catechism states that all marriages can “radiate a fruitfulness of charity, hospitality, and sacrifice.” If you missed the beginning, check out part 1, Radiating Charity.

I have to admit, writing part 2 has been a real challenge. What exactly is “fruitfulness of hospitality”? Honestly, I had to do a lot of background reading and thinking to even have an outline for this post. I’ve wondered about this question for an entire decade. Why did I expect to have this figured out in a week? Am I in over my head? Oh but I have to write this. Ok. Here we go:

 

Part 2: Radiating Hospitality

What does hospitality mean, anyways? Let’s start with the Google definition.

hos·pi·tal·i·ty
ˌhäspəˈtalədē/
noun
  1. the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

The Old Testament includes a number of stories that illustrate the sacred nature of hospitality. Angels disguised as house-guests are a recurring theme, and God continually rewards the generous heart.

These stories reflect a culture in which hospitality was held as a sacred virtue. We see this lived out in the life of Jesus. There are many stories of him visiting people and having dinner at their homes. We know he ate with Levi, Zacchaeus, Peter’s in-laws, Mary and Martha, a Pharisee, and many others. Much of his teaching was delivered over a dinner table. His first miracle was supplying wine to a wedding feast. Another miracle involved feeding 5,000 people. He made breakfast for his friends after his Resurrection. The night before he died was spent breaking bread with the apostles, giving his own flesh as bread for the life of the world, and commanding them to “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus invites us to his table, where he gives himself to us in the form of bread.

At our wedding homily, the priest talked about how heaven is described as a wedding feast. It’s everyone together, happy, celebrating and full of love. Only minutes old, our marriage was already fruitful in that it was bringing all those people there together. This continues, not only in the parties we host or the dinners we share, but in our desire to let our home be a safe harbor for others. I really do believe that “radiating a fruitfulness of hospitality” means that the love you share spreads to create a welcoming environment for those around you. Just like the dinner scenes in the New Testament, your new family (even if it’s a family of two) can be a place where others can experience the warmth and healing comfort of God’s love.

When two people marry, their home becomes each other and the love that is shared between them. Marriage brings forth a new life, one that is designed to be open and welcoming. The grace of the sacrament fosters an environment for sharing, visiting, and loving one another. This is how marriage radiates a fruitfulness of hospitality.

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Check out Part 3: Radiating Sacrifice

Previous: Part 1: Radiating Charity

New Series! Radiating Fruitfulness

New Series! Radiating Fruitfulness

The Sacrament of Marriage is always fruitful. It always brings forth new life, even without the gift of children. Understanding this outside of the context of parenthood can be difficult, but it is nonetheless true. Even the Catechism mentions this.

“Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.” (CCC 1654)

I’ve often read these lines and wondered what they meant. What does this mean for my life, for my marriage? Why does infertility get such little mention in the Catechism, as if it were an afterthought?  Of course, the Catechism is a summary, not the exhaustive body of Catholic thought. Still, not much has been written on the subject.

In a way, perhaps those of us suffering infertility have a unique gift. When we are denied the obvious signs of fruitfulness, we are invited to discover the beauty and gift that Sacramental Marriage is in and of itself.

This is a new series exploring what it means for a Catholic marriage to “radiate fruitfulness” through charity, hospitality, and sacrifice.

Part 1: Radiating Charity

The Catechism defines charity as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” (CCC 1822)

Charity, sometimes called “love”, is the highest of the virtues: It is what animates and inspires the others.

Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (CCC 1824)

And of course, the most famous and beautiful passage ever written about charity comes from St. Paul:

“Charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13)

When we are called to marriage, we are called to be Christ to one another. Our vocation is to love with our whole selves- and this love, by nature, expands outward. It becomes a beacon of hope in our world of darkness.

A loving marriage provides a stable home base for the spouses from which they can step out and share their love with everyone they meet. Some concrete examples of this include community involvement, mentoring, sharing your wisdom with others, being an example of Christian living, and encouraging others to walk in the light.

The love between a husband and wife becomes an energy that transforms their world. Case in point: a wounded woman who thought she had nothing to offer realizes that she is valuable. Through her vocation to love her husband and his vocation of loving her, she learns to open her heart and soul to the world. And through his vocation to love his wife, and her vocation of loving him, a man learns that he is needed. He learns he can be a provider, a hero, that he is strong and able, that he has a purpose.

They say that behind every great man is an even greater woman. The truth is that true love transforms. It makes us become the best version of ourselves.

“All because two people fell in love.”

Radiating Fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality, Sacrifice. What it means for #marriage to be fruitful, even in #infertility. #Catholic #Christian

 Check out Part 2: Radiating Hospitality

Check out Part 3: Radiating Sacrifice