My husband and I are approaching a new phase in our life. Our youngest will be graduating from high school in less than two years. My husband will soon complete thirty years of service as an Air Force officer and will have to make a change. I am still trying to figure out what I do next. The good news is that the years have brought a little more than strands of gray hair and a few extra lines on my forehead. When I was in my twenties, I was busy figuring out what I wanted to do. Now I am more focused on trying to figure out what God wants me to do.
There are so many ideas that I wish I had grasped sooner. The concept of a vocation is one of them. Marriage is a calling from God. It requires generous acquiescence to His will. We can think about what we want, what we hope for, and what we think should happen. In the end, however, the only desires that matter are God's. That doesn't mean I am supposed to sit by passively and let life happen because it is God's will. I am called to cooperate with him.
The Church teachings on marriage and sexuality leave some Catholics grumbling. "How dare the Church stick its nose into my bedroom!" Yet Church teachings are not an obstacle to our happiness. Rather they are a path to authentic joy. A focus on earthly pleasure is short sighted. St. Paul exhorts us to keep our eyes on the prize and that prize is eternal union with God.
If we really believe that our marriage is a vocation, a calling from God, then doesn't it make sense to open ourselves to his gift of life? Recently I read a blogging mother who wrote about being told that she could not be the mother she wanted to be with so many children. Her response was, "That is true, but I can be the mother God wants me to be." (I apologize for not being able to give credit to the source of this wisdom. If anyone knows who said it, please let me know.) There are definitely times when it seems better not to conceive a child. However, these should be the exceptional times in a marriage, not the rule. The decision to take into a account a woman's fertility cycles to space children should be a prayerful decision. I have written about this in much more detail here.
An even more delicate subject comes with the issue of infertility. A couple wants to generously give themselves to the vocation of parenthood. They truly believe they would make great parents and they may be right. However, the ends cannot justify immoral means. It is a defiance of God's will to engage in an immoral act to satisfy our own personal desires. In vitro fertilization (IVF) creates human persons outside the marital act. From an ethical perspective, it turns human persons into commodities. Thousands upon thousands of embryos are manufactured for the fertility industry. They are sorted, catalogued, frozen, and distributed for a fee. If they are found to be "defective", they are destroyed. IVF replaces rather than assists the marital act in the conception of a child making it an immoral act. This is not meant to minimize the suffering of those who experience infertility. It truly is a cross to bear. Sickness, suffering and death have been part of the human experience since the time of Original Sin. The challenge is to carry our crosses joined with Christ's suffering. NaPro technology offers a morally licit evaluation and treatment of infertility. Biological parenthood is not the only option to be a parent. There are many children who need the generous gift of adoption. The specific vocational path for any given individual requires prayer and discernment. It should be clear, however, that God's path will not include an option that demeans the dignity of any human person created in His image.
Seeking God's will in all we do, from the smallest decisions to the most life-changing decisions, should be the rule for each of us. I suppose it is the gift of being "of a certain age" that allows me the perspective to see that when I am faithful to this practice, there is true peace with my choice. When I ignore God's will I find myself mired in chaos. Regardless of the mistakes and bad choices I have made in the past, I can go forward in concert with my true vocation in the future. I really like this quote from Santiago Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel: “There is no saint without a past, nor sinner without a future”.
Thanks be to God for His enduring mercy.