|Yes, Virginia. Birth Control Is Still a Mortal Sin.
The Seventh Saturday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Saint Christopher Magallanis, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• James 5: 13-20.
• Psalm 141: 1-3, 8.
• Mark 10: 13-16.
Ember Saturday of Pentecost.**
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Joel 2: 28-32.
• Leviticus 23: 9-11, 15-17.
• Deuteronomy 26: 1-3, 7-11.
• Leviticus 26: 3-12.
• Daniel 3: 47-51.
• Romans 5: 1-5.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• [Tract] Psalm 116: 1-2.
• [Sequence] Veni, Sancte Spiritus…***
• Luke 4: 38-44.
The Otdanije (Leave-Taking)† of Pentecost; and, the Feast of the Holy Emerperor Constantine & His Mother Helen, Equals to the Apostles.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Romans 1: 7-12.
• Galatians 1: 11-19.
• Matthew 5: 42-48.
• John 9: 39—10: 9.
8:30 AM 5/21/2016 — Today's very brief Gospel lesson presents to us a pleasing image: children are brought to Jesus, He lays His hands on them and blesses them. The disciples try to prevent it, and our Lord rebukes them. It's a very common image for Holy Cards: our Lord sitting on a rock or something, with little children crawling all over Him; kind of a cuteness overload.
But these Gospel lessons haven't been put together by the Church over the centuries for the purpose of giving us cute themes for Holy Cards. These three brief verses about our Lord blessing children may seem odd in the sense that, in every other instance, when our Lord lays His hands on someone and blesses him or her, it's because that person is sick or crippled and our Lord is effecting a cure. There's nothing here to indicate that these children are suffering from any kind of malady, which may be the reason that our Lord's disciples try to shoo them away. But I tend to think that the Evangelist included these three verses here because of the Gospel lesson that immediately precedes them, which we heard yesterday, in which our Lord declares that marriage is forever: the first purpose of marriage is children; without them, the whole institution of marriage makes very little sense from the Christian perspective.
Separate the act of procreation from the concept of marriage, and you reduce marriage to nothing more than a public expression of romantic love. But romantic love is just an emotion, and no emotion lasts very long. So, if marriage is just an expression of romantic love, then why presume that a marriage continues to exist after the emotions have died? Take the question a step further: if marriage is just an expression of romantic love, then why restrict it to a man and a woman? Why not make it available to any two people who love each other? Why even restrict it to two people, for that matter? Why not three or four or five?
Now, this is the National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, so it's safe to assume that no one's just going to pop in here for Mass who isn't, in some degree, passionate about his or her Catholic Faith; so, I think it's safe to assume that we're all equally distressed—as well we should be—over the attacks on marriage that we've had to endure in recent years. What may escape our notice, however, is the fact that all this is the direct result of the divorce—no pun intended—of marriage from it's primary purpose, which is the propagation and raising of children. And if you will forgive me for doing what should probably never be done in a homily, I will give you a personal opinion: that the high rate of divorce, as well as the high level of acceptance of the notion of homosexual marriage, even among Catholics, is the direct result of the failure of the Church, through her priests, to teach clearly and consistently the mortal sin of contraception. In our marriage preparation instructions, often the subject is not even addressed; and, when it is, it is confused and watered-down with inaccurate platitudes about conscience. Indeed, how many people are there who have been told, both inside and outside the confessional, that if they only pray about the matter, and decide it's not a sin for them, then they can contracept all they want and still receive Holy Communion? That has never, ever been the teaching of the Catholic Church, in spite of the fact that priests have been telling people this for decades now.
But, this is a homily at Holy Mass and not a lecture about Catholic dogma. Let it be sufficient, then, to confine ourselves to the message of the Gospel lessons: that there is an inexorable link between marriage and children, that one is defined by the other, that neither makes sense without the other, that separating one from the other is what has led to the countless perversions from which our society now suffers, and that none of these ills can be healed until the two are reunited in the hearts and minds of all who seek the graces of marriage or children.
That being said, the simple fact is that, through a monumental sin of omission on the part of the Church herself, whole generations of Catholics are ignorant of the truth about marriage and children. It's not their fault, so we must pray for them, as well as for ourselves, taking to heart the words of today's first lesson from the Apostle James: “Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved” (5: 16 Douay‐Rheims).
* St. Christopher (1869-1927) was joined in martyrdom by twenty-one secular priests and three of the lay faithful, all members of the Cristeros movement against the anti-Catholic Mexican government during the 1920s. Having erected a seminary at Totatiche, he spread the Gospel and ministered to the people secretly. When imprisoned, he was heard to shout from his cell, "I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serve the peace of our divided Mexico."
** The number of Scripture lessons for today is typical for an Ember Saturday; however, the penitential character of a typical Ember Day is mitigated by it falling during the Octave of Pentecost. Cf. the note attached to the homily from last Wednesday for an explanation of the Ember Days.
*** Cf. the homily for Pentecost Sunday for a translation of the Sequence.
† In the Byzantine Tradition, major feast days are marked by prefestive and postfestive periods. While there is no corresponding tradition in the West regarding prefestive days, the postfestive period is concomitant with the concept of an octave in the Latin Church, though it's duration is not necessarily eight days depending on the importance of the feast. The last day of the postfestive period is called the "Leave-Taking," Otdanije in Slavonic, actually a verb meaning "to return." The liturgy on the day of Otdanije mirrors that of the feast with minor variations.