‘Humanae Vitae’ as a guide for a holy marriage: Part IV
By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship
We are into fall and have left another summer behind. The harvest is in full swing. It started during the heat of summer and, in our diocese, extends even to when the first dusting of snow coats the corn. When I was a boy, at the end of each summer and into the fall the green beans or tomatoes would come from the garden, the fresh potatoes were brought home by dad straight from the field and the local fruit farm would have strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon. God has given us the richness of the harvest from crops that grow year after year. They are tended by farmers, to be sure (I’m from a farm family, so I have to thank the farmers), but the fruitfulness of the harvest is given to us by God for our food in this world as we wait to join God in the eternal banquet.
What do my nostalgic memories of the richness of the land have to do with “Humanae Vitae”? At the conclusion of my previous column, I wrote that I would share one more thing Pope Blessed Paul VI tells us about marriage. Up to this point, I reviewed how the Holy Father described the characteristics of marital love; it is meant to be total, faithful, exclusive and free. I also explained how these descriptors are related. If you are totally committed to your marriage, you will be faithful and exclusive, and your love will be a freely given gift. These characteristics belong together. There is one final characteristic: marital love is meant to be fecund. Don’t bother looking up the definition online, I will explain the meaning.
The word fecund is based on the Latin word “fecundus.” I am not referring to the Latin word because it sounds Catholic to do so, and I am not using the Latin to make me sound smart – I had to look it up when I first read it. Fecundus means “fruitful.” What does it mean to be fruitful in marriage? As Pope Blessed Paul VI wrote in “Humanae Vitae:” “And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives.”
A similar idea was presented by Pope St. John Paul II and echoed by Popes Benedict and Francis. Married couples are called to be open to cooperating with God in the creation of a new soul.
Marital love is meant to be fruitful love. The ultimate expression of fruitful love is the marital act, also referred to as the conjugal act, the coming together of the woman’s and man’s bodies into the most intimate act between two humans. An act that has “Two Inseparable Aspects: Union and Procreation,” as the subheading in Chapter 2 of “Humanae Vitae” states. It sounds complicated but only because we typically do not use these words. Unitive refers to the physical intimacy that unites husband and wife in an exclusive way. The sexual act is meant only to be experienced in marriage – the most intimate act reserved for the most intimate union. I am sure somebody is thinking, “Oh, most people do not think that way these days,” but across time and across cultures – and especially as taught by Jesus – the sexual act is meant to be between a husband and a wife. Why?
Remember the section title in the above paragraph? Pope Blessed Paul VI wrote about the “inseparable” elements of union and procreation. For the union deepened by the intimacy of the marital act is meant to be open and life-creating. A new person, created in the “image and likeness of God” comes from the fruitful union of a husband and wife. Children are a blessing from God when a married couple opens themselves to experience the unitive and procreative aspects of the fruitful love they are called to experience in marriage.
In the pages of “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI shared with the world the long-held teachings of the Church. Marital love is meant to be total, faithful, exclusive, free and fruitful. At the beginning of this column I reflected on the fruitfulness of God’s creation – to bring forth life. God created marriage to be fruitful, bringing the husband and wife into greater intimacy of union and, when blessed by God, meant to cooperate in the creation of human life. All who are reading this column are beneficiaries of God’s fruitful plan for creation: we have life.