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I Trusted the Church Before Understanding

June 2, AD 2014 20 Comments

Child Gift

I received a gracious note from a reader who considers my column a small way to “commune with a female.” It made me smile because sometimes I’m uneasy writing about myself, but what I learn is filtered through personal experience so to know I am communing—communicating—with a sister is the best kind of compliment. She wondered about the essay that describes a woman testing faith in the laboratory of her life, particularly the test of reproduction. Yes, that test has a personal story.

My assent to Church teaching was not intellectual. It was first an act of love. I was seeking love, and I found it in the Catholic Church. When I read the Catechism, I thought the language was beautiful, but I understood little of it. One particular line shook my perspective on motherhood. “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The ‘supreme gift of marriage’ is a human person.” (§2378) This primal connection between child and marriage conflicted with my secular views and Baptist upbringing, which taught me that using contraception was acceptable, even good. Still, the idea that a child is a “supreme gift of marriage” resonated deep in my heart.

So at age 35, I opened myself to life, as Catholics say, and God gave us four daughters in five years. When I was pregnant with the fourth, I was hospitalized for mental illness because the toll was great and I was still despairing over past sins. I was urged to abort that child, but I clung to that radical Catechism one-liner. She was born healthy. Our faith bore a stronger marriage, but it also bore more testing. I’ve been pregnant six more times and only one child, a son, survived to birth. I learned that being open to life means being open to life beyond death. Today, I can easily conceive and love a child, but I cannot bear a child to birth. I’ve never been more tempted to use contraception.

But I won’t. Just as I trust the laws of chemistry and won’t mix ammonia and bleach when I clean bathrooms because I know toxic vapors will result, I trust that rejecting God’s moral laws would hurt God and hurt me, my family, my marriage, and our love. Believe me, without the guidance of faith I’ve choked on enough toxic immorality. I can now list the doctrinal reasons for the Church’s teaching on contraception—that it is a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, an objectively contradictory language to the expression of total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife—and I can list statistics that indicate women and societies suffer when conjugal love is absent, but such knowledge is not the heart of my conversion. I trusted the Church before understanding. Understanding came later. Understanding is still coming. I desire to discover more fruits of faith, which are not fruits of this world, because the fruits already granted are beyond all I ever expected. And that hope? It applies to everything, not just reproduction.

Hello, and thank you for reading. I am a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. I write from my office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge. Read more about me here, with pictures. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. "Like" my Facebook page Science Was Born of Christianity to follow updates about my book. God bless you!

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  • bill b

    Love reading you and even when I differ. How do you see a young Chinese mainland couple with wife having iffy body signals simultaneously obeying: 1. the one child policy (2 in some places) 2. the Church’s position on contraception given that HV was introduced as non infallible at its press conference by Msgr. Lambrushini ( easily googled) and 3. God in I Cor. 7:5 who says through Paul, ” 5 Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.”

    Three obediences…finicky body signals in the wife and already have one child at 18 years old. Josephite marriage is ruled out for many by I Cor. 7:5 while it is applicable to a different group later in I Cor. 7: 28. One group is told to marry to avoid fornication and the second group is told they can take marriage or leave it aside in their less sexual case. It is group 2 that can handle the Josephite marriage ( ps…Joseph was old and Aquinas stated that Mary had no concupiscence after delivering Christ….how that became a template for others is problematic. PS… I read the whole Bible. I Corinthians is like the Song of Songs….it is about sex with no mention of procreation. It assumes it in that time but neither is primarily about it.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Thanks Bill. I appreciate your comments. I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t know what I would do living under a one-child policy. I would be terrified of becoming pregnant and of watching the state kill my child. I don’t know what I would advise someone else. I used to think these things were black and white, but I realize they aren’t. That’s why I try to stick to my experiences. There I at least know what I’m talking about. (Usually)

      • bill b

        Perfect answer. And two periti from Vatican II also were stunned at third world situations around this issue. Now let me flee before any cliche answers arrive…I can’t take one more this week without sinning through contempt or extra whiskey.

        • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

          Go for the whiskey.

          • bill b

            Yes….many, not all, Celts are aware that imperfect drunkeness is allowed “in extremis”…in
            Proverbs 31:6….” Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.”
            One year I over quoted that and an angel appeared and said….”… errr ya know….there are other passages in the Bible….that one is not exactly a concise summary of both testaments”.

  • Newman

    Before I give assent I have think about what it is I am assenting to. Assenting to a proposition understood is as intellectual as you can be. I think the confusion lies in the unbiblical dichotomy between the head and heart. In other words, I think with my head and believe with my heart. What is usually meant is that belief has more to do with emotions. I was told by a preacher years ago that most people with miss heaven by 13 inches. Those who understand and believe with “head knowledge” won’t get into heaven, but those who believe there feelings will. When I was kid I learn the hard way about ammonia and bleach. I didn’t know mixing the 2 would result in disaster, but now I know and I won’t make the same mistake.

  • Bill S

    Love your articles. By the way, your dogs can and probably do love you. Love is not the sole (soul) domain of humans.

    I get from your writings the appeal of Catholicism and its ability to right the ship for those who accept it. But I’m stuck because I know that what makes it work is people surrendering to what they believe to be a higher power. It need not be a real higher power. It can be the act of trusting in it even if it is imaginary. It’s like learning how a magic trick works or where the toys come from. It fails to amaze me anymore.

  • David Peters

    Stacy thanks for sharing that you found love in the Catholic Church, and that you are still growing in understanding. It’s so cool to hear how you trusted the Church and God.

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  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    What always makes your articles so hopeful? You’re always in there with us.

    I’d be the first to argue that a priest doesn’t have to be married to counsel married people but in a sense, more qualified, as counselling isn’t advice, so he has the capacity to be more objective. As you know as a scientist, ‘Empiricism’ or experience/observation, simply aren’t the only sources of knowledge/truth, although modern day mantras.

    However, we also need people who try to walk the talk. Thank you for being so open to life, grace, and especially your imperfection.

  • Teofila

    “I trusted the Church before understanding”.

    I love it.
    It was my way, too.
    Though not so easy (I was fighting myself for some years to do it) it proved to be the best way for life.
    “”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
    To him belongs eternal praise”.
    (Ps 111, 10)
    God bless you,
    Teofila from Poland.

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  • VelikaBuna

    About 15 minutes in of the interview, there is question about Jaki, and the answer is eyeopening.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      We have limited data transfer out here on our internet service, so I cannot stream a two hour long movie. If it’s about the Fatima miracle, I haven’t read one article where any of them represented Jaki’s research on the miracle accurately. If it’s about Jaki not being a biblical literalist, there’s nothing eye-opening about that. He wasn’t.

      • VelikaBuna

        Obviously the entire video is not dedicated to Jaki, but about 5 or less minutes of it, and the question about Jaki begins around 15 minutes. So he was just like Fr. Spitzer is today. Explain the faith in scientific terms. That approach simply does not work. That is why Jaki was forced to explain the miracle of Fatima in scientific terms, and it just leaves a person flat when reading such ideas. He had to put purely naturalistic explanation behind it thus banalizing the miracle, by making it acceptable to the atheist intellects. I don’t think atheists would have any problem with Jaki’s explanation of Fatima “miracle”, because all one has to do is leave out miraculous part out and replace it with, set of fortunate natural coincidences, rare but nevertheless purely natural. Fortunate natural coincidences do not lead anyone to God, I am sure of that. Spitzer is doing the same today, setting science (modern interpretations of it) as a standard bearer of truth and he bends the faith accordingly, as long as it agrees with science. I think this is the biggest deception of the modern times, where people have started to believe that their intelligence is greater than the intelligence of God. Of course they do not formally declare it in those terms, but their actions betray them. I don’t care for Fr. Spitzer and his scientific faith, because I believe the idea is flawed on so many levels. How can a person even begin to argue for God if they accept all the blatant contradictions between the revelation and so called science. Really I detest to call most of modern stuff, science, because it is not. I think that this is also prophesied, how knowledge will increase but the understanding will decrease. I also remember reading about all being deceived, even the elect, if that were possible.

        • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

          “Explain the faith in scientific terms.” No, no, no. Neither of them do that, and both of them would shudder at such an interpretation of their work. Please do not criticize these priests until you’ve studied their work for yourself, rather than reading antagonistic second-hand accounts.

          • VelikaBuna

            All I know is that both leave me flat, because they accept atheist interpretation of science the worst faith killers, namely evolution as the origin of life and species and big bangism. They take these as facts, and then use the word of God as inferior to the science and bend it to fit the science, instead of focusing on questioning why science contradicts so much of the scriptures especially when it relates to our origins,place and purpose. I remember watching a certain Cardinal debate Dawkins on various issues, and it was clear poor Cardinal believed in evolution, so he lost before he even began the debate. Dawkins asked him, how do you explain original sin if we evolved, and how do you reconcile this with the biblical account? Poor Cardinal had no defense because he believed atheist evolution and doubted God’s account, and yet God’s account is the only reliable account. God apparently did not create Adam and Eve as is stated in the Bible, but we evolved and then God decided at a certain point, these have evolved enough and they will be my children I will breath something into them and they will resemble me. So weak and so spiritually flat. This is the common problem among people who have been dragged through the modern mud they call education these days. Human respect and cult of personality is all the rage in the modern church. By the way what do you think of this fact no longer a fact?
            http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/05/13/what-we-dont-know/

      • VelikaBuna

        So you don;t waste your time, I went back and the question about Jaki begins at 13:50.

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