Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission {Freedom’s Calling, part 3}

Today, please welcome Kristi Denoy for part three in Freedom’s Calling – my series commemorating Humanae Vitae’s 50th anniversary and sharing the journeys of Catholics who have come to understand and embrace the truth of this teaching. For more information on the series, you can read part 1 here, part 2 herepart 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here.

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Growing up Catholic, I attended Mass sporadically, although I did hit all of the sacraments basically on time. In ninth grade, my then-BFF, who was also Catholic, took me to her parish for religious education.

There I learned about the Church’s stance on life in a slightly wrong, surface level. The message I learned was that pro-life meant anti-abortion. I knew abortion was wrong and premarital sex was outside of God’s plan. I knew nothing about openness to life within marriage or that contraception was also contrary to Church teaching. I wore my virginity proudly, too, planning to wait until marriage.

For myself.

For others, I had more of a secular mindset. I thought that if you were sinning by having sex before marriage, you might as well add on another sin and use a condom so you don’t get pregnant.

This lopsided outlook was formed by what I learned from my parents, my youth minister and his wife, late 1990’s to early 2000’s teen movies, my classmates, and a combination of Teen, Seventeen, Teen People, and YM magazines.

My virginity lasted until my freshman year of college, when I had my first boyfriend. I was pro-condom and went on a low-risk artificial hormonal birth control pill. Despite being a founding member of a Catholic sorority in college, I was involved in relationships, casual hookups, and a couple of one-night stands. I knew that my actions were against what the Church taught, but I had begun to fall away and didn’t really care. It felt good, I liked it, and I was having fun.

This lifestyle continued after college graduation, into my early adulthood. It created a unique situation in that I didn’t really get to know my partner, even if I called him “boyfriend.” For me, it ultimately led to a rushed wedding and a marriage that was quite short-lived which ended in divorce and left me a single mom.

About two and a half years after my divorce, I decided to really learn what the Catholic Church taught about sex, marriage, and contraception. I was yearning for a closer relationship with God and a deeper connection that I had been missing. My daughter was growing, and I wanted to bring her up in the faith; thus, I wanted to know exactly what that faith taught that I had somehow missed. I did this primarily by listening to The SonRise Morning Show on my morning commute and Catholic Answers Live on my drive home. I had no idea that contraception can be a mortal sin or how it worked biologically. At this point, I was 25 and fully ready to research more and live out the faith I claimed.

Once my first marriage was annulled, I considered dating again. I turned to Catholic Match and met some nice guys, dated a couple, and married one of those. Once in a relationship, it was extremely difficult to avoid falling into my old dating habits, even though I fully understood Church teaching as it pertained to dating.

When my husband and I became engaged and I learned that only Natural Family Planning was available to Catholic couples as a means to space pregnancies, I was upset. It took me a little bit longer as well as reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West and Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri and lots of prayer and discussion to accept this hard truth.

Further, I studied the teachings of Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and found him to be so utterly prophetic, it was eerie. Contraception hurts women, ultimately, and marriages. I know this first-hand from my experience. As a self-proclaimed feminist, that’s something I cannot support. As a practicing Catholic, it’s something that I cannot accept for myself.

For those who are currently where I once was, I recommend really diving into Humanae Vitae and the books I listed. Once you read truth, it’s hard to ignore it. Natural Family Planning can be frustrating because it requires faith, prayer, trust, and self-control. RIght now, I’m just a few months postpartum after a VBAC, so my husband and I have discerned that we need to abstain for medical reasons. This self-control is a good thing, though, especially in the entitled culture in which we live. When abstinence is difficult for us, we cling to one another in non-physical ways, such as deep conversation or watching YouTube video after YouTube video of bad lip readings or “honest” movie trailers, still fostering intimacy.

The ultimate mission of matrimony is to help my husband get to heaven. The ultimate mission for us, as Christians is to bring others to Christ through our witness. The ultimate mission for Catholics is that we are called to be saints; a call to holiness. Adhering to the teachings within Humanae Vitae are an excellent way to fulfill that mission.

Kristi Denoy blogs and podcasts at www.hailmarry.org, where Catholic marriage and motherhood are discussed. She is proudly married to her CatholicMatch and mama to two beautiful girls, ages 9 years and 3 months, respectively. Her writing has also appeared on Spoken Bride, Catholic Match, and Not So Formulaic and she’s been a radio guest on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on Breadbox Media and The Jennifer Fulwiler Show on Sirius XM. You can connect with Kristi via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Want more of this series?

Part 1: My introduction

Part 2: Celebrating the responsibility of our creative power with Amy Thomas of Catholic Pilgrim

Part 4: The Ripple Effect of Chastity in my Life with Katie Herzing of Becoming Perfectly Myself

Part 5: Moved by NFP with Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Part 6: Freedom in Surrender with Laura Durant Healing Heart of Jesus

Part 7 (the end): When God’s generosity meets the demands of conscience and science with Leslie Sholly of Life in Every Limb

11 thoughts on “Self Control and Our Ultimate Mission {Freedom’s Calling, part 3}

  1. There seems to be a running theme in stories about discovering NFP and the fullness of the Church’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. It sounds like: Why didn’t I know this sooner? Kristi, for example, mentions learning about some of the practical and moral reasons behind abstinence until marriage but never hearing about marital chastity.

    When would be the best time to explore those topics? With pre-teens, who might not be mature enough to understand such a complex, personal topic? With teens, many of whom are still a “captive” audience? With young adults, the majority of whom aren’t going to Church anyway? Only with engaged couples, for whom it might be “too late”?

    There is a similar resistance to teaching people about the Church’s teaching on human sexuality with any level of practical detail unless they’re already married or engaged. (See my earlier comment about that being kind of late in the game.) There’s the fear that teaching the mechanics of fertility charting to single women will encourage them to use NFP as a way to avoid pregnancy while still having sex outside of marriage. The fear that telling teens too much will encourage them toward early sexual activity. The hesitance of “ruining the innocence” of teens.

    Knowledge is power. So what should we do?

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    1. I think it is never too early, because it’s not just about sex. It’s about understanding that we were made to love. I’m no expert on exactly what that looks like throughout childhood, but these are great topics that could be a whole follow up post!

      That said, little kids of course don’t need to know practical ways of how NFP methods work. But they can understand that boys and girls are different, and that God made us that way for a reason. They can understand that people who love each other sacrifice for each other, even if it’s hard some times. Teaching concepts like that I think lays the groundwork for later understanding more practical implications.

      I honestly think it is utterly ridiculous to want to prevent teens or single women from knowing about an essential aspect of health. And I think it is also ridiculous that this scares some people into thinking that teaching fertility awareness will give teens license to be sexually active. No. Raging hormones given no guidance, curiosity with no answers, and friends who are bad influences are the more likely culprit. Have you ever heard of a teen learning NFP so that they could time hooking up? I think that’s hilarious! I haven’t, and I think this perspective is based more on fear than anything. Perhaps it is a over-response to the sexual revolution – I think it is. But I agree knowledge is power. It’s similar for every person that has embraced this. It just doesn’t happen without knowing the WHY.

      Of course, I don’t think you need to know all the specifics of different NFP methods as a teen unless you’re trying to solve a health concern. But being generally aware of normal fertility symptoms is empowering and good. Since I’m single and aware enough to know what’s healthy, I haven’t learned the rules of any NFP method. I think I have an appropriate level of knowledge without more nitty-gritty details that I just don’t need to know right now. That’s what I’d want for others.

      I don’t have a one size fits all answer, but I think we all have to educate ourselves, talk about it more, and SHARE why this is so important and beautiful.

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      1. It’s funny you should mention teens wanting to learn NFP time hooking up—I actually did hear that story! I have no idea if it was true, but the myth at least exists.

        Have you heard of TOBET? Monica Ashour and her team are working on a series of books, from board books all the way up to marriage prep curriculum, that teach TOB principles on every level. I gave the TOB for Tots books to a friend for their son; everyone loved them!

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        1. Wow! I’ve only ever heard “don’t teach NFP to teens because it will help them be promiscuous” as a myth. I find it hard to believe that a teen would go through the trouble to practice it correctly when contraception is so easily accessible. But I still don’t think it’s a valid reason to keep young people in the dark. Like I said, I don’t think teens/single people need to know all the rules and details (unless they’re using their fertility symptoms to solve a health issue). But I think it’s a great thing to know what’s healthy. I think it’s an unhealthy fear to keep that from young people, and unrealistic. If they don’t hear from their parents and educators, they will seek it out and learn elsewhere!

          I have heard of those board books, and they look so cute! That’s great to hear of people furthering this message.

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  2. Wow! I appreciate your complete openness here. I was raised casually Catholic and went to Catholic school. Never once did I learn the teachings of the Church on marriage, sexuality, and family…even in my senior class where we had to carry around 5 pound bags of flour as ‘babies.’ It’s a shame that so many of us had to purposefully and actively seek the truth instead of having it presented to us in a right manner within the authority of the Church.

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