There’s a young woman in my parish called Lupita. She’s Mexican, and about as pretty and charming a woman as you would ever hope to see. She carries a little copy of herself on her hip, most days — a little toddler called Mercedita whose hair is always perfectly slicked into a ponytail and whose hands are always sticky.
Lupita is certified in a natural family planning technique called NaPro, and she teaches it to married couples as a vocation. She is the perfect ambassador, because she radiates joy and confidence in God’s perfect plan.
In this you could say she is very much in the spirit of Blessed Pope Paul VI. But also you could say that she is very much in the spirit of Blessed Oscar Romero, even if this connection is not so obvious.
NaPro is short for Natural Procreative Technologies, a scientific approach to women’s reproductive health that works with nature, not against it. Lupita teaches married and engaged couples how to use NaPro to space their children, whom they rightly consider the highest gift of marriage.
Where the birth control pill does violence to the rhythmic dance of female hormones, NaPro uses biomarkers to monitor the delicate intricacy of the female cycle so that a man and his wife can plan their intimacy around them.
Instead of side effects from the pill (caused by suppression of natural hormonal functions) such as depression, stroke, and cancer, Lupita’s system has side effects like increasing a man’s respect for his wife’s complex femininity and enhancing mutual thoughtfulness and consideration.
Pope Paul VI understood how only a marriage in which the husband accepts and cherishes his wife’s totality, even her healthy, natural fertility, can truly be said to mirror divine love. Abstaining for part of the month can be hard, or tantalizing, depending on how you look at it.
Then, when the infertile period recurs, the couple “use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity to one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.”
That quote is from “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul’s momentous encyclical that sang an elegy to marriage as representing the union of Christ and his Church.
It also explained just how artificial contraception would cause a “general lowering of moral standards” by teaching men to “forget the reverence due to a woman,” thus reducing women to an instrument for the satisfaction of desire.
He also wrote of the terrible temptation of governments, especially of those of developing nations, to address their understandable anxieties through antenatal programs that trample on the essential dignity of man.
What a strong temptation, when material goods are scarce or unevenly distributed due to selfishness or corruption, to encourage the poor to prevent their own joy by preventing their children — or worse — abort them.
This bring us to Blessed Romero. He was a man who drank deeply of the suffering of his brothers and sisters, the peasants who eke out a bare subsistence with all their drudgery, and too often go hungry.
He is the darling of many progressive liberals, who assume that he would have supported the legalization of abortion and the spread of artificial contraception from Yankee do-gooders as a liberation from the rigors of biology.
But they are wrong.
Romero spoke out forcefully against what Pope Francis would later call “ideological colonization,” the system by which affluent countries impose their decadent values on the vulnerable poor.
He railed against the “foreign specialists in the suppression of life” who came to El Salvador to teach the people that completely materialistic conception of family where a child is not a blessing but only a drain of scant resources.
He criticized secular societies like ours in the U.S., where pleasure and material well-being are the only yardsticks of fulfillment and cause a deep and wide hedonism that leads to all sorts of social injustice.
One of these is government policies that keep the poor immiserated, but another is what he called the “entire terrible campaign of contraceptives, of abortions … sins against the faith of Abraham; against the God who, as a gift, makes men and women fertile in their core.”
He was a firebrand, Romero, and it is no wonder he was martyred while celebrating Mass. Lupita is not a firebrand, but she lives a bit of martyrdom.
It’s hard, even in Catholic circles, to be a spokeswoman, no matter how pretty and charming, for something so countercultural as living marriage in joyful cooperation with God’s love. It leads to children!
And her smile and that little Mercedita on her hip are sure signs that through them, it leads to joy.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, coming to the U.S. at the age of 11. She has written for USA Today, National Review, Washington Post and the New York Times, and has appeared on CNN, Telemundo, Fox News and EWTN. Her Angelus column, “With Grace,” earned a Catholic Press Association award for “Best Regular Column: Family Life” in 2018. She practices radiology in Miami, Florida, where she lives with her husband and five children.
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