Friday, October 8, 2010

"A Renewed Reverence for the Ordinary"; Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento

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It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be
perfect, we have nothing more to do than to
perform the ordinary duties of the day well.”
(Cardinal John Henry Newman, A Short Road to Perfection, 1856)

These wise words of Cardinal John Henry
Newman, soon to be beatified, remind us not
only of what is made the sound substance of
sanctity, but also the most effective evangelization
of culture: “We have nothing more to do than
to perform the ordinary duties of the day well.”

In the heated, partisan passions wrestling for political advantage in the trench warfare of abortion, we have to change hearts; as well as change laws. Creating that culture of life is more than a political agenda. . . .

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.

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.

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.

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.

All this is why Newman's sage words bring us back to a renewed reverence for the ordinary. The rhythm of each day rounded by the wisdom and grace of Christ can awaken in us a heartfelt desire for the Gospel that gives life and hope to all. In the effort to restore a true culture of life, "We have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well."

Sacramento Catholic Herald
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