This is a really great sermon about the family, contraception and natural family planning. A very rare thing to hear from the pulpit...
Sermon given by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP (pictured) on the feast of the Holy Family,
Sunday 9th January 2011
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
INTRODUCTION: Dear Faithful,
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we
give thanks to God Who chose to become Man in a family. The first Adam was
created by God without any human intervention. That is, the first Adam was
created by God not in a family, by definition. God could have done for the
New Adam – Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ – what He had done for the first
Adam – Eve’s unfortunate’s husband. The second Person of the Blessed Trinity
could have become a man like Adam did, that is, without parents. On the
contrary, God chose to be conceived and born and educated as part of a human
family, in which He actually spent 30 years of his life on earth out of 33,
briefly in Bethlehem and in Egypt, and mostly in Nazareth. God could not
have given us a more convincing proof of his esteem for the institution
called ‘a human family’. We will see how spouses are called to share in
God’s creative power, then how parenthood leads through suffering to joy,
and lastly, how spouses can use sexuality saintly.
PART ONE: SHARING IN GOD’S CREATIVE POWER
If God loves families so much, what does He actually expect of them? God
expect families to imitate Him. Now what do we know of God, that our
families may imitate Him? God is a substantial communion of fecund love
between several Persons – God the Father eternally begets God the Son; God
the Son is eternally begotten by God the Father; God the Father and God the
Son eternally spire God the Holy Spirit; God the Holy Spirit eternally
proceeds from God the Father and God the Son.
Furthermore, God is good by essence, and good diffuses itself – ‘bonum
diffusivum sui’. God created, in order to grant other beings the good of
existing in his grace, which is the supreme good. What does this tell us
about families then? In God’s plan and with God’s help, families are
analogically a communion of fecund love, like the Blessed Trinity. Marital
union between husband and wife is designed to diffuse the good of existing,
at the image of God.
This is possible only because it has pleased God to endow human beings with
the incredible privilege of sharing in his own creative power through sexual
fecundity, as we read in the Holy Bible: “And God created man to his own
image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.
And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and
subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air,
and all living creatures that move upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
“Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his
wife: and they shall be two in one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). “And Adam knew Eve
his wife: who conceived and brought forth Cain, saying: I have gotten a man
through God. And again she brought forth his brother Abel” (Genesis 4:1-2).
Who will tell the incomparable dignity of procreators, a divine prerogative
which God shared with us human beings only, not even with his holy angels?
Is there anything more extraordinary and more worthy of praise and honour as
to allow God’s own creative power to work about new rational creatures
endowed with immortal souls? Our Blessed Lord Himself praised this sublime
mission when he said: “When [a woman] hath brought forth the child, she
remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world”
PART TWO: PARENTHOOD, THROUGH SUFFERING TO JOY
Those among us today who are parents, but also the others, know well that
the original sin has made life very difficult for all men, and in particular
for parents. If the conceiving of a child is easy (for those couples at
least who have been spared the distress of sterility), his bringing up is
difficult and often painful. It requires constant sacrifices on behalf of
the parents and of the family.
By comparison, mere beasts fulfil parenthood when begetting their children
to natural life and raising them according to natural instinct. But human
beings are rational animals. Unlike beasts, human beings have an
intellectual and immortal soul, designed to know God and to unite with Him.
Consequently, begetting children to natural life and natural instinct will
not be enough for human parents to fulfil parenthood. The husband and wife
are father and mother inasmuch as they educate their children as children of
God, as children “of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all
paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:14-15).
Dear Friends, let us not think for one second that God, Who has made some of
you pro-creators in his image, would ignore or despise your psychological
and moral pangs and your heroic sacrifices as parents. Indeed, for your own
sake, that same God has delivered his own beloved Child, as St Paul
stresses: “[God] that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for
us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?” (Rom 8:32). So
God knows very well what it means to suffer as a parent. But He also knows
that parents’ sufferings work about redemption and eternal life, when
accepted in union with his adorable Will, and when trusting in his tender
Let us not however imagine that family life and parenthood in particular are
essentially painful. No, children are a blessing and a source of joy already
in this life, and forever in the next with God’s help. The prophet Isaiah
thus describes fecundity as a cause for exultation: “Give praise, O thou
barren, that bearest not: sing forth praise, and make a joyful noise, thou
that didst not travail with child: for many are the children of the
desolate, more than of her that hath a husband, saith the Lord” (Isaiah
54:1). Parents are called and appointed by God to share in his creative
power on earth so as to populate heaven with numerous saints! God who is
good and holy will make this sublime vocation also a joyful one, if only we
trust in Him; and if with his grace we tackle daily the obstacles of our
selfishness and of our pride – until they melt away.
PART THREE: PRACTICAL APPLICATION: SAINTLY USE OF SEXUALITY
In the meantime, the Church with all her power supports parents in their
very meritorious battle for life both natural and supernatural. Holy Mother
Church helps her children to welcome their own children and thus to fulfil
their vocation as fathers and mothers. She enlightens them and strengthens
them against the easy temptation of contraception – not to mention abortion
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that if: “For just reasons,
spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to
make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in
conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood”
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on
self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the
objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the
spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favour the education of an
authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation
of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its
natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render
procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil.”
I should add here that as such, these actions must be accused in confession.
The Catechism reads further: “Thus the innate language that expresses the
total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through
contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not
giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive
refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of
conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.
2371 “Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it
are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and
full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal
destiny.” [End of quote].
In good faith, parents who meritoriously refuse contraception may wonder
when periodic continence is licit. The following guidelines [cf Husband and
Wife, TAN Books & Publishers, Inc, by Rev. Paul Wickens] may help:
1. There should be a serious reason for practicing it, for example, grave
physical or mental health problems or some economic catastrophe.
2. Both parties should mutually agree to abstain from the marriage act
during the designated times.
3. There should be no serious danger of incontinence for either partner.
4. There should be no lessening of faith or trust in God’s wisdom in sending
5. The periodic abstinence should be practiced only for the duration of time
that the serious reason exists.
6. To be completely certain, couples should also seek the advice and counsel
of a priest whose doctrine they can trust.
Not quite as a last guideline, but rather as a constant condition for
virtuous behaviour, spouses should also pray God, and his tender Mother the
Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph, the Holy Angels and all the saints to
guide them and fortify them daily.
CONCLUSION: Our Lord Jesus Christ has elevated marriage to the dignity of a
sacrament. In the Holy Bible, God even made the sacrament of matrimony an
icon of his own love for every soul and for the Church. God’s love is
fecund, bringing forth countless saints, radiant children of Holy Mother
Church immaculate. Similarly, human marriage calls for a generous openness
to life. This is what we pray for on this feast of the Holy Family. We pray
to that intention during this Mass – if not all of us as parents, then,
fraternally, as baptised children of the Church. Our intercession is made
more confident by the words of Our Lord’s beloved Apostle St John who wrote
in his third letter: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my
children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.