The 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae might not mean a lot to you, but it means the world to me. Twenty years ago, this encyclical helped lead me and my wife from the brink of divorce with two children to a vasectomy reversal and five more beautiful gifts from God.
Though my wife, Julie, and I were both born and raised Catholic, we had slowly succumbed to the many wiles of the world. We went to Mass, but we were Catholics in name only. After the birth of our second child in 1989, Julie’s OB-GYN suggested that one of us should consider a sterilization procedure. “After all, you have the perfect family with a boy and a girl,” he said. Ignorant of what the Church taught on this matter and filled with a lot of selfishness, I underwent a vasectomy.
Years later, after a failed, last-ditch effort at marriage therapy, Julie and I announced to our 7- and 9-year-olds that we were getting a divorce. Our children were huddled in the corner crying their eyes out, but we had become so numb that we simply ignored their pain.
Somehow, we still attended Mass, and that particular summer there was a visiting priest whose homilies really spoke to us. We soon learned that he was the tribunal vicar for the diocese, and though we knew little about our Catholic faith, we knew that this was the person who oversaw annulments. So, we scheduled an appointment and spent the first 45 minutes telling him our reasons to no longer stay married. The priest patiently listened, and as we finished, he leaned forward and asked us to consider a series of questions: What is God’s plan for marriage? What does the Church teach about the sacrament of matrimony? What does the New Testament say about marriage?
By the grace of God, I went home and decided to find answers to those questions. I started with Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Before long, I discovered the Church’s teachings in Humanae Vitae and the writings of Pope John Paul II on the family. I began to see our situation, and life itself, in a whole new way. When I shared with Julie what I had learned, she wanted nothing more than to rebuild our marriage with God’s help.
I sought the guidance of a priest who explained that because I did not know what the Church taught when I got the vasectomy, I was not culpable of sin. Also, the Church does not require sterilization reversal. Intellectually, I understood, but in my heart, I felt a deeper calling. I went to God in prayer and eventually had the vasectomy reversed. Through his grace, Julie and I went on to have five more children, and this month, we celebrate 31 years of marriage.
So on this anniversary of Humanae Vitae, all I can say is thanks be to God for his beautiful plan for married love and the transmission of life.
The online article may be found on the Knights of Columbus website at http://www.kofc.org/en/columbia/detail/from-brokenness-to-bliss.html