Sunday, May 27, 2007

Columbo vs. Lansbury

Alright, there was a truly random conjunction of thoughts in my head. A reference was made to Columbo, in the movie Snake Eyes, this caused me to watch re-runs in my head of the one episode I remembered watching. Detective work spawned another recall loop where I remembered the one episode of Murder She Wrote which I remember watching. All of this then collided with my ever-present questions about manhood.

I don't remember either show that well, but I think its safe to say that Columbo solved his case by badgering the witness and other direct methods. On the other hand, Angela Lansbury (sp?) solved her case by coordinating many tiny pieces of information from various interviews and other, more indirect, methods. I believe this is a distinction between men and women. Men are more direct and aggressive. As a holy example, I think of St. Peter always charging to the front and opening his mouth even if he looks immensely silly. Women are more indirect and receptive. As another holy example, I think of St. Therese of Lisieux always listening and serving even those who she did not love.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Grand Mother's Day Gift

Mother's Day prompted some sad reflections on my grandmother's passing. I remembered the greatest gift I ever gave her. I gave her a $50 Home Depot gift card and the promise of a day to do odd jobs around the house for her. My wife and I then visited her and found all the little things she wanted done but which she couldn't do for herself. We went to Home Depot to buy the various supplies, and spent the remainder of the day doing the chores. It was a great gift, even though I received far more than I gave just by seeing the joy in her face as she saw these small things done for her.

Her small pension and Depression Era upbringing always kept her living simply. She went without a doorknob on the basement door for years! However, she gave generously of the great gift of joy. I am thankful to remember her and I pray the Lord keep her joyful in His house.

The Heavy Weight of Sin

I was having some random meandering sparked by the NFP Debate. There was much discussion of avoiding temptation and I realized that sin is like gravity. The closer you get, the stronger the pull. Importantly, the struggle against sin builds our faith, much as a seed struggles against the pull of gravity (geotropism, thanks Dad!) to reach the Sun. Although we pray to not be lead into temptation in the Lord's prayer, we accept that God allows temptation to happen so our faith may grow.

End of meandering spiritual thought. All unorthodoxy is unintentional.

Calling all budding writers

I have recently become an editor for LifeCycles, the PNFPN newsletter. We publish four times a year and we are always looking for articles. We discuss all aspects and methods of NFP with a preference for the Philadelphia area. We also cover NFP events and do occasional book reviews. Let me know if you write anything (or find anything) you'd like us to consider for publication.

Friday, May 18, 2007

NFP freeware, I think

I haven't followed all of the links, but this is the best page by a CCL chapter ever. Period. Never gonna beat it.

Oh, I think they have charting freeware available somewhere. It's just so darn funny, that I don't care.

The Founders

I feel I should comment on it, though I don't quite know what to say. For those new to the CCL world, John & Sheila Kippley are only names. As I have learned about them, I am stunned at what they accomplished: a multi-national non-profit organization teaching Natural Family Planning against tremendous and astounding hostility doled out by loud, established, and wealthy enemies.

They are like an anti-Margaret Sanger. The Kippleys have been happily married for many decades and quietly and constantly spoke the truth about sex and marriage. Whereas Margaret Sanger was a divorcee who slept around and loudly spoke the lies that everyone wanted to hear about sex, abortion, and contraception.

The Kippleys have parted ways with CCL and started their own blog. I believe the disagreement was between two good choices in how CCL should move ahead but I firmly back the choices of the Executive Board. It seems that all non-profits have trouble with the "retirement" of the founders and I think this article explains it well.

May God have mercy on all our failings: mine, the Kippleys, and Margaret Sanger's.

A Baby's Ice Cream

A Baby's Breath-St. Davids is having a very "fun" fundraiser on THIS SUNDAY, May 20th: Simply come out and enjoy some yummy ice cream at Handel's Ice Cream on Rt. 30 in Berwyn, PA (Open 11am - 9pm). Handel's will donate a portion of the proceeds to ABB for each purchase made with the flyer.
The flyer is posted at

Please feel free to print out extra copies to give to neighbors, fellowclassmates, parishoners.
The more the merrier! Need Directions? Try, Handel's is at 576 Lancaster Ave.,Berwyn, PA 19312

Monday, May 14, 2007

Anniversary of the Year

And last in my series of lightheartedness, I just discovered that the seventh anniversary of my engagement with Jen was also the twenty-first anniversary of my first Holy Communion.

It seems that the Lord was preparing me for my bride for many years.

Oh, and since I haven't said it on the blog yet, "Happy Mother's Day!" to the darling mother of my darling daughters.

Coincidence of the week

Within a span of eight days, I watched Osmosis Jones, Brother from Another Series (an episode from Simpsons Season 8), and Hellboy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that David Hyde Pierce voices animated characters in all three of them!

As an interesting aside, Hellboy seems concerned with the same question I've been posing myself for a while. What is a man? It is neat to see pop culture asking these important questions. I was also surprised to see that Catholicism had a prominent place in the movie. It was portrayed as protection from nefarious evil. Not bad, now if only the protagonist was not half demon...

Joke of the Day

Now that Jen and I have finished our NFP Debate posts, I'd like to lighten the tone of the blog a bit.

So Maria got up with me per our usual routine and sat on her potty. After a few minutes, long enough for me to put on my shirt and tie, I asked her to get up and wash her hands. Diaperless, she climbed up her stepstool to wash her hands. After washing her hands, she relieved herself where she stood. So I set her back on her potty and cleaned her stool off of her stool!

Ha, I kill me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

NFP Debate

I recently engaged in a debate over this post on a traditionalist group's blog. I was very sure going in that "of course, everyone needs to know NFP". After considering the issue further, I began to wonder if that was indeed the case. So, I hit the books to see if I could find evidence for the widespread teaching of NFP.

First I will try to give the highlights of the debate for those of you who don't wish to slog through it all on your own.

Their side:
1) learning NFP may tempt people to sin, either in the frank discussions involved in learning it or in the possession of knowledge about a woman's fertile times (i.e. a couple may use it without serious reason)

2) in the West, the experience of serious enough reasons for the use of NFP are so rare as to make widespread teaching of the method not just unnecessary and a waste of time, but potentially immoral, as learning it may be a temptation to sin

My basic arguments:
1) most couples will have serious enough reasons to use NFP at some point in their marriage, so it should be offered to couples at the start of their marriage

2) learning NFP in the pre-marriage period is less stressful than trying to learn it once a need arises - it's also easier as the signs confused by breastfeeding infertility, poor sleep due to newborn/infant/child sleep habits, etc.

The first thing that I took the time to read was Casti Connubii, something that's been on my "to be read" list for several years now. I then went through Familiaris Consortio. The contrast between the two is interesting, but I don't see any glaring contradictions. In 1930, when Casti Connubii was written NFP didn't exist as it does today, but still Pope Pius XI mentions and allows recourse to natural infertile periods for spacing births. Pope John Paul II had the benefit of seeing the effects of several decades of use of modern NFP, and makes quite a case for it's widespread dissemination.

I'll try to briefly reflect on what I see as some of the more relevant points in FC. In section 28, he writes, "Thus, the fundamental task of the family is to serve life, to actualize in history the original blessing of the Creator - that of transmitting by procreation the divine image from person to person. Fecundity is the fruit and the sign of conjugal love.... However, the fruitfulness of conjugal love is not restricted to the procreation of is enlarged and enriched by all those fruits of moral spiritual and supernatural life which the father and mother are called to hand on to their children and through the children to the Church and to the world." (para 2-4)

In this section we see, that while procreation is "fundamental" to marriage, the live-giving and life-serving responsibly does not end with procreation. Parents have the task of educating their children, especially in faith and morals, with an eye towards not only their redemption, but also that of the world by way of the example shown by the family. Thus, responsible parenthood should include discernment by the husband and wife of whether or not at any given time the family's life-giving service is best shown by seeking to add a new life or refraining from doing so. Parent's have a right to be able to take into consideration their ability to care for their children in such a way as to give them a solid foundation in the faith, when deciding about family size.

Section 32, para. 5-6: When, instead, by means of recourse to periods of infertility, the couple respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality, they are acting as "ministers" of God's plan and they "benefit from" their sexuality according to the original dynamism of "total" selfgiving, without manipulation or alteration.
The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self- control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity. In this context the couple comes to experience how conjugal communion is enriched with those values of tenderness and affection which constitute the inner soul of human sexuality, in its physical dimension also. In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension, and is never "used" as an "object" that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God's creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person."

Here JPII, talks about how couple's benefit from the practice of NFP, in communication, responsibility and self-control. He talks about how NFP involves an acceptance of the truth about sexuality, and respect for the wife, as her fertility is not rejected as it is with contraception.

Section 33:
(para. 3)
As Mother, the Church is close to the many married couples who find themselves in difficulty over this important point of the moral life: she knows well their situation, which is often very arduous and at times truly tormented by difficulties of every kind, not only individual difficulties but social ones as well; she knows that many couples encounter difficulties not only in the concrete fulfillment of the moral norm but even in understanding its inherent values. But it is one and the same Church that is both Teacher and Mother. And so the Church never ceases to exhort and encourage all to resolve whatever conjugal difficulties may arise without ever falsifying or compromising the truth: she is convinced that there can be no true contradiction between the divine law on transmitting life and that on fostering authentic married love.
(para. 5)
On the other hand, authentic ecclesial pedagogy displays its realism and wisdom only by making a tenacious and courageous effort to create and uphold all the human conditions-psychological, moral and spiritual-indispensable for understanding and living the moral value and norm.
(para 6) There is no doubt that these conditions must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in His grace, and frequent recourse to prayer and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation.
(para 7)
But the necessary conditions also include the knowledge of the bodily aspect and the body's rhythms of fertility. Accordingly, every effort must be made to render such knowledge accessible to all married people and also to young adults before marriage, through clear, timely and serious instruction and education given by married couples, doctors and experts. Knowledge must then lead to education in selfcontrol...(emphasis mine)

Here, we read that the Church knows that virtuously living out the marriage vows is difficult. Then JPII goes on to list some of the areas in which instruction and formation are necessary to enable couples to fully live out their marriage vows responsibly and without contradiction to moral norms. Psychological, moral and physical health are to be looked after, as teaching in and the practice of virtues. Seeing that these conditions are meet will help couples to have healthy marriages. JPII then goes on to say that knowledge of the fertility cycle should be made "accessible to all married people," and "to young adults before marriage." This sounds like a call for the widespread teaching of NFP to me. If JPII saw any threat of harm in teaching about fertility, he would not have called to it to be taught before marriage. Later, in section 35, he goes on to call for a "broader, more decisive and more systematic effort to make natural methods of regulating fertility known, respected and applied." (emphasis mine) Again we see the Pope calling for knowledge of NFP to be made more widespread, and put into use! If he was concerned about mis-use, then he would have been less forceful in his call for dissemination of the knowledge of NFP. And clearly, he believed that there are many couples for whom the use of NFP would be licit.

There are sections of FC that do remind couple's to use discernment in regard to family size. Specifically, section 34, calls couples to look to the teaching of Humanae Vitae as "the norm for the exercise of their sexuality." And later in the same section, "...
the function of transmitting life must be integrated into the overall mission of Christian life as a whole, which without the Cross cannot reach the Resurrection. In such a context it is understandable that sacrifice cannot be removed from family life, but must in fact be wholeheartedly accepted if the love between husband and wife is to be deepened and become a source of intimate joy." (para 6). So he doesn't do away with or forget about what was taught in HV. The conditions for use of NFP...just, serious or grave still apply. So we see that JPII's call for widespread teaching of NFP came even after consideration of the guidelines put forth in HV.

A summation:
There are many factors that come into play in a decision about whether or not to have another child. People must be adequately taught in order to live out their marriage vows and make responsible choices about parenthood. Part of that teaching should include knowledge of the woman's fertility. Having knowledge about a woman's fertility, and respecting her natural rythyms leads to the growth of virtue. The sense of responsibility fostered by knowledge of fertility, and the discernment called for in HV are integral to using NFP in a virtuous way. Knowledge of the Church's teachings on sexuality and responsible parenthood should be taught, including knowledge about NFP so that couple can make good decisions regarding family size and continue to live in service to life.

So, in the end, I am more convinced than ever that NFP is good, and that it should be widely promoted and taught, but only within the context of Church teaching on the family.

The Great NFP Debate

Response to Sarah's response from the RCPStudy. My words in italic paragraphs.

Sarah said...

Jimmy V.,
It's admirable to see a man coming to the defense of his wife, although I do think Jen was doing a fine job expressing herself. She is intelligent and sincere - I'm always hoping that more women will engage in the discussions on the blog.

I appreciate the compliment about my wife as well as me. I have found her to be intelligent and sincere every time that I stop the chattering in my head and listen. I was not intending to come to my wife's defense, so much as to stand with her in defending our beliefs.

You make a very valid point. There is a tendency among Catholics to believe that you are somehow more Catholic, or a holier Catholic, if you have a large family. But that is not what I believe, nor what I intended to express. One is a good and saintly Catholic by doing God's will and accepting His graces. You are absolutely right: saints have come from small families, including the Blessed Mother and Jesus Himself. Small families are good IF (and this is a big if) that is God's will for you.

Always good to have points of agreement.

I want to clarify that in my last comment I did NOT say that we should all have large families. Rather, I said that we should be "open" to having a large family. Only God determines what is best for each particular family. But that is precisely my point. IF God only gives us one or two, then we should count them as the blessings that they are and raise them to be saints. If God deigns to give us 12, then we should count them all as the blessings that they are and raise them to be saints. It seems to me that NFP introduces the idea that we can licitly control (albeit through self-control) the size of our family. My point is precisely that we should leave that up to God.

Here we start to address the misunderstanding. As my wife and I struggled with infertility for years, we learned the hard way that NFP is not control. NFP allows us to ask God for the blessing of children, explicitly, through marital relations in the fertile time. Relations during the non-fertile time implicitly accept children as a possiblity, exactly like marital relations of spouses who are unaware of their fertility. "Leave that up to God" can be said about every aspect of our lives but God still requires most of us to eat a healthy diet to stay healthy. We have to work like everything depends on us and pray like everything depends on God.

As for the firearm analogy, you're right in one sense. It isn't the direct responsibility of the instructors to teach gun-owners the morality of gun use. However, wouldn't our world be a better and safer place if the instructors did teach not only how to use a gun, but also when to use it - as a way of supporting the pastors who are responsible for teaching the ethical use of guns?

The analogy here was that NFP Instructors should not be required to pass on the teaching of the Church since catechesis is the job of the bishops and priests, much as the job of firearms instructors is to teach how to use a gun correctly, not how to use a gun morally. In both situations, the students should have been instructed in morals well before they ever approached the gun or the thermometer. However, given the current level of catechesis of the average Pre-Cana attendee, NFP instructors should pass on Church teaching as well as they can. A more ideal situation would be a Pre-Cana which passes on the morality component followed by NFP instruction which reinforces that morality and provides the physiological knowledge.

I must admit, I'm failing to understand a few of your statements.

"Procreation can be done for selfish reasons as well as holy ones." This can be true, I suppose. Although it doesn't have much strength as an argument for the widespread use of NFP. Typically I think it's unlikely that a man in our day and age is selfishly having many children. There are, I'm sure, a few out there, but not enough to warrant the requirement of all couples to learn NFP.

I disagree with her assertion that it is unlikely that a man in our day and age is selfishly having children. It seem to me that most men have children for selfish reasons, that is, having children to appease the wife or the future grandmother or having children as some kind of status symbol to show that he has finally grown up. Also, a commentor from the original post stated that he hoped God would send twins to "teach him a lesson" if he ever is tempted to think that a better car might be more desirable than another child. Learning a lesson, even a spiritual one, is still a selfish reason.

Then you said, "When you see large families, especially in the older days, they could have been a result of: repeated rapes by the husband since 50 years ago the law let a husband rule the roost..." I really don't understand what you're getting at here...

I apologize entirely for my words here, they were inappropriate hyperbole. I meant to suggest that although God loves and blesses every child conceived, he does not always bless the manner in which they are conceived (rape, fornication, ...). I further suggest that he wants us to practice holy prudence in regard to our family size and He may not be pleased with imprudent conceptions even as he is overjoyed at the birth of another soul.

I suppose large families "could have been the result of repeated rapes". Anything is possible and even the most heinous sins have been committed by someone. But do you have anything substantial to justify this claim? What "law" are you referring to? And what exactly do you mean by "rule the roost"?

As I said previously, more inappropriate hyperbole. I apologize again.

Secondly, I have to ask, what are you implying? That we should always be suspicious of large families because they could be the result of rape? Do you honestly think that a man who is so selfish as to rape his wife would want several children to have to provide for? And is this still a recurring problem today, and that's why we need NFP - to teach these men some level of self-control? Are you implying that couples who do not learn NFP will have so little self-control as to be likely to fall into a relationship of repeated rape? If you could clarify your point in making this comment, I'd appreciate it.

I hope I sufficient elaborated my point earlier. I will try to clarify that NFP use requires much self-control and develops continence every month when avoiding pregnancy. On the opposite side, practicing "temporary abstinence" can be an excuse to avoid abstaining every month by a couple with little self-control. I'm not saying that these are common occurences but merely that there can be temptation on either side.

You said "heroic virtue is not required of anyone"...What do you mean by this? We are not required to be heroically virtuous? Didn't Jesus say that we must be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect? Isn't it our duty, and shouldn't it be our desire to excel in virtues - out of love for Our Savior and in an effort to encourage others to do His will? Isn't that what the saints have done: been heroically virtuous? And aren't we supposed to imitate their example and become saints ourselves? Perhaps I'm misreading your comment.

The article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, which I linked in a previous post, covers this point well but I will try to explain. Sadly, in our modern times, nearly all external forces are aligned against the family. Especially in the Western World, there are very few refuges which can be found. Many people, including myself, feel that it can take heroic virtue to raise a large family up to the Lord. I believe, and the Church teaches, that it is not right to expect every family to directly fight this gruelling battle. By analogy, if religious orders in the Dark Ages had not retreated to their monastaries to preserve our patrimony, where would we be today? If those orders had not practiced humility in knowing they couldn't fight the battles of their time, the battle of our time would be even more difficult.

May God bless you and your family.

And may he bless you and yours abundantly.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Superman - super Dad?

Random synapses fired today and pulled up a memory about which I wanted to blog. As I try to discover true manhood and true fatherhood, I tend to harness my strengths: reading and movies. I read an excellent review of "Superman Returns" which prompted me to netflix (can that be a verb?) the movie.

Possible Spoilers! Fair Warning!

There is a scene where a family-like unit (boyfriend, mother, and son) are in mortal peril and Superman comes to the rescue. However, instead of directly saving them all himself, Superman holds on to the boyfriend and allows the boyfriend to carry the mother and son. I think this is a potent image of true fatherhood. I am completely unable to save my family from much grave harm. But if I rely on the Lord, the little I can do is valuable and necessary, for the Lord has chosen me to do it.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Couldn't resist this quiz

You scored as Traditional Catholic. You look at the great piety and holiness of the Church before the Second Vatican Council and the decay of belief and practice since then, and see that much of the decline is due to failed reforms based on the "Spirit of the Council". You regret the loss of vast numbers of Religious and Ordained clergy and the widely diverging celebrations of the Mass of Pope Paul VI, which often don't even seem to be Catholic anymore. You are helping to rebuild this past culture in one of the many new Traditional Latin Mass communities or attend Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy. You seek refuge from the world of pornography, recreational drugs, violence, and materialism. You are an articulate, confident, committed, and intelligent Catholic.

But do you support legitimate reform of the Church, and are you willing to submit to the directives of the Second Vatican Council? Will you cooperate responsibly with others who are not part of the Traditional community? - Rome of the West

Traditional Catholic


New Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Radical Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


Liberal Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Great NFP Article

Given a recent dispute on NFP which Jen and I participated in (I plan on posting about it this weekend), I thought it would be a good idea to post this article. A good friend sent it to comfort us and help us form our consciences properly.

Years of Tiredness

Useful co-sleeping tip #3: The years of young children are the years of tiredness.

A very intelligent friend of mine let me in on this secret after his third child was born. It made me realize that sleep is worth sacrificing for children. I hadn't sleep through the night before I was a father so why should I expect to after I became a father. I also willing gave up sleep in college to play video games, do homework, eat pizza, drink, and go to concerts. It seemed that I should be willing to forego sleep for my children if I was willing to give it up to beat Final Fantasy VIII. Despite the very cool junction system employed by FF VII, raising my children has been far more rewarding.

Why the keys?

Although I am familiar with the image and symbolism behind the phrase, "the keys to the Kingdom." I always wondered why God picked this image. However, after being left home a few times with Maria, I realized that my keys are the only thing I carry on my person when I am the only adult home. This is practical, since I would hate to be accidentally locked out, especially if Maria were locked in! My money, credit cards, and driver's license are of no avail to enter the house. Keys grant access. They separate who enters the house from who doesn't enter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


A Natural Family Planning course series will be offered at St. Maria Goretti Parish, in Lansdale, PA, beginning on May 17, 2007. The course series consists of four classes, spaced one month apart, meeting from 7:00 until 9:00pm. If you have never taken a class, this is a great opportunity to attend a class that is nearby. If you have taken a class, but need a little "brushing up," please register as well!
Class Dates
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Thursday, August 9, 2007
The fee for the classes and all materials is $75 per couple. If you have previously taken a Couple to Couple League course, there is no fee.
Natural Family Planning promotes a loving environment at home, is inexpensive, effective, and it helps women to gain confidence in learning more about their bodies. Please contact Kristen and Geoff Federmeier at 215.368.5411 for more information. Parents are welcome to bring babies to the classes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I'm number 3!

Check out the post that Jen wrote about our participation in the Run for Life for a local crisis pregnancy center, A Baby's Breath. I came in number 3 for my age bracket. I rule!

NFP abounds

It seems that NFP is everywhere I read in the blogosphere these days. This blog, which I recently discovered, has interesting commentary up about another blogger's post on NFP. I pray that I read more and more stories of what lead people to embrace this glorious piece of the Truth.