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Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen Speaking on Contraception

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Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his own productive way, really took the definition of the word "prolific" to new heights. When one considers all the wholesome books, tapes,and videos he has authored [combined with his TV and radio programs] - all with the objective of guarding and nurturing our faith , one sometimes wonders how or when exactly he might have ever had time to eat or sleep. As I type this, I'm looking (a little downcast) at my 3 DVD set of Father Andrew Apostoli CFR 's, ARCHBISHOP FULTON J.SHEEN, A PROPHET FOR OUR TIME , which I still haven't even had time to open or watch , although I bought it almost 4 years ago . And now there is already a newer film of him available for purchase entitled Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All  (  doh  ) . As weird as that may seem, it's even weirder because I have never been on what one might refer to as a "Bishop Sheen restricted diet" . . . just the opposite actually. There is just so much excellent material available.

Bishop Sheen, in his Life is Worth Living  series , gives a most compelling talk on contraception, which evolves into something far greater - a beautiful in-depth overview/explanation of love and family life. This talk can be listened to on a YouTube post presented directly below. What is unfortunate concerning any of the available written transcripts of this talk which I have (tried to) read to date, is that they are chronically, inordinately inaccurate. That is lamentable, because good written transcripts allow us to take in the message at our own speed- instead of the speed of the audio. Good written transcripts allow us to rewind without rewinding . . . and to hear a soft-spoken phrase or word  without straining. This talk on contraception is so prophetic/edifying/pertinent for our times, that I decided to put in the  hours and transcribe the presentation into writing myself , in the event that it may be of some value to others. The transcripts follow directly below this YouTube presentation.

God Bless.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, please pray for us.

Transcripts to Venerable Archbishop Sheen's Talk on Contraception

Bishop Sheen, Contraception

“ Peace be to you . The subject about to be discussed is birth control. The words are not very proper; first of all because those who believe in it, actually believe neither in birth, nor in control. Therefore we shall never use the words again – they are finished .

We propose first to answer one or two objections or false philosophies about the subject of the purpose of marriage. The first is this – married couples will often say : ‘We cannot afford more children , therefore we have a right to fondle with the levers of life.’ Those who make a statement of this particular kind probably never think of the terrible principle that they are annunciating , namely the primacy of the economic over the human.

Now, just suppose one put that into practice in other walks of life. Suppose a family had 5 children, but they had enough money to buy only 4 hats. Do you think that they would be permitted , or should be permitted to cut off the head of a child, in order to bring the economic to the level of the human and the human to the level of the economic ?

Suppose a husband says that he can no longer support his wife . Ought he be entitled to shoot her ? What is forgotten here, in giving the primacy to the economic is that we receive blessings as we put ourselves in the area of God’s love . A waif on the street does not receive food clothing and shelter as a child in a family , because that waif is outside of the environment of love . So too, to the extent that we put ourselves outside the environment and the area of God’s love , we exclude those Divine assistances that would otherwise come to us.

Those who put the primacy upon the economic are really not interested in saving , or earning. They are interested in spending – and it is that which dictates the frustration of life: There is a brood of idle passions and a desire for more credit and more clothes and more selfishness which dictates their philosophy. They believe that they are free therefore, as we said , to manipulate life and part from God’s laws because it is only Catholics that are bound by the laws of fruitfulness of marriage.

 So they say that Catholics are opposed to any frustration of human life in marriage – that, indeed is true . But, it must be remembered that those who are not Catholics are no more free to violate God’s natural laws than anyone else. It just happens that the Church is defending here, a natural law . And because we are about the only ones who are defending it, there are some who are led into the error of believing that the opposition to the frustration of love is purely and solely a Catholic doctrine. We could conceivably reach a stage in the world where Catholics alone might  believe that 2 and 2 make 4 , and that grass is green in springtime . These are principles which belong to the natural order ; so is the principle that marriage is destined to be fruitful.

Just suppose that a vast majority of people went around with their eyes blindfolded, and their ears plugged up. We would very soon have a papal encyclical which would oppose that. And the Church would say, ‘ It is not right to blindfold your eyes or to plug up your ears : Does not reason, does not the natural law tell you that the eyes were made for seeing and that the ears were made for hearing ? Therefore you must allow these organs to work out the function for which God created them.’  There indeed would be many that would say , ‘ Oh the Catholic Church is opposed to eye control. The Catholic Church is in opposition to ear control. ‘   Certainly ! . .  because reason tells us why these organs were made.  So too, a husband and wife were made in a certain way and God created male and female in a certain way and therefore these organs are to be permitted to function according to the way that God made them.

What are we going to make this world – a universe in which we pick up violins and bows and never produce music ?  A universe in which sculptors pick up chisels and never touch them to marble in order to create a statue ?  Are we going to have trees blooming, but never any fruit ; signposts that lead nowhere ?  Is life and love to be reduced to a kind of an epidermic content and contact – without any fruit, or purpose ?

But that is all negative - we must always take the positive position. And on this particular subject of the fruit of love we will describe and annunciate two sublime teachings :

  • One – love in marriage creates the deepest kind of unity,
  •  and secondly - that deep unity of love, by its very nature , tends to an incarnation .

 We said that love in marriage creates the deepest kind of unity of love . We might also say, by the way, that this particular point that we are to develop proves also that there is not to be a union of sexes outside of marriage. Have you ever noticed that scripture nowhere speaks of marriage in terms of sex ? . . . But always in terms of knowledge ! Why is that ?  Well first of all, let us prove the point : The book of Genesis for example said, ‘and now Adam had knowledge of his wife Eve and she conceived’ . . . ‘ had knowledge of her ’  . When the angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Mother that she was chosen to be the Mother of our Blessed Lord she asked, ‘ How can this be since I have no knowledge of man ? ’  Notice here that there was no question of the ignorance of conception , but of some deeper mystery . So St. Paul says , ‘ husbands, possess your wives in knowledge ‘.

Why is marriage spoken of as knowledge ? Well, for this reason: Because one of the closest forms of unity in the natural order is that which comes from knowledge. You look out on a flower or a tree – you know these things. They enter into your mind. There begins to be a unity, and the closest kind of unity in the natural order is between the knower and the thing which is known : You cannot think of anything more close, than the union of your mind with that which you know . So sacred scripture compares marriage to knowledge because marriage produces a unity and it demands fidelity. When a man knows a woman there is a unity that is created between the two that is like to the union of the mind and that which is known. That unity is so close, so intimate, that it may be used over and over again but it never again may be reacquired.  They are two in one flesh. From that point on there is nothing that happens to a woman , that does not happen to the man that made her a woman . He made her a woman – she made him a man.

And just as you are always indebted to the one that gave you the knowledge about Shakespeare – namely your alma mater, so too, one is always indebted to the one that created that unity between the two. The resulting psychic changes indeed are great , but they’re great also in the order of the body. The woman can never again return to virginity. The man can never again return to ignorance. Something has happened to make them one and from that oneness comes fidelity – so long as either has a body. They can never put themselves back into a state that they had before. Therefore , it is not just an experience – it is a bond that continues to exist as long as life itself.

In married couples this union is very deep, and that brings us now to our second point : that all love tends toward an incarnation. Thus far we have spoken of the love of husband and wife creating a deep bond of unity – unity of love. Now we want to show that this love naturally tends to diffuse itself . Everything that is good diffuses itself. The sun is good – it diffuses itself in light and heat. A flower is good- it diffuses itself in perfume. Animals are good – they diffuse themselves in the generation of their kind.

Man is good. His mind is good . His mind diffuses itself in thoughts. God is good.  God diffuses Himself not only in creation : From all eternity, God has an eternal Son . The source of all generation is in God. Let not therefore husband and wife be told that ‘procreation is an imitation of the beasts of the field’ . It is rather, in imitation of God, who from all eternity has an eternal Son ; a Son to whom He can say, in the agelessness of eternity ‘ Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee – This day without beginning nor end. ’

Now this power of generation which is eternal in the Godhead is communicated to man’s mind, it is communicated to the body of a husband and to the body of a wife. As God Himself said, ‘Shall I make others bring forth children and myself be barren?’ Therefore the power of generation is not a push from below – it is a gift from above. Not only do we find therefore that the motive power for begetting children is in the Trinity, but it is also in the Incarnation because all love ends in an incarnation – even God’s : God so loved man that He became enfleshed in a human nature. What is our Blessed Lord ? – God’s Love incarnate!  God’s Love  walking this earth in the form and habit of  man.

You see how beautiful love is ? If one could give a definition of love, in the light of the Trinity and of the Incarnation , it might be that love is mutual self-giving which ends in self-recovery. It is mutual self-giving because no one is good unless he gives. But if love were just mutual self-giving, it could end in exhaustion. Therefore, love is a mutual self-giving which ends is self-recovery. In the Trinity, there is the giving of the Father to the Son, and of the Son to the Holy Spirit, and there is the self-recovery in the sense that the Holy Spirit is the bond which unites Father and Son - a unity of love. And so too it is with husband and wife. There is a mutual self-giving of husband and wife and that mutual self-giving ends in self-recovery - which is the child.

 The thrill of a farmer as he sees a grain of wheat he planted coming into life . . .  the joy at seeing a geranium bud in a tin full of earth on a tenement window sill . . . the ecstasy of a saint at seeing a sinner –dead in sin, responding to prayer and beginning to live and pray : All of these are earth’s witnesses to the inherent happiness that comes to anyone who sees life springing, sprouting or aborning. Love does not mean just the joy to possess – it means too the will to see a new life born out of that love ; to see someone created in one’s own image and likeness.

And what is the child then ? The child becomes the bond- the union between the husband and wife. The child unveils the fatherhood of the husband and the motherhood of the mother.  There is a new relationship created : Not only did the father make her- his wife, a mother, the child made him a father. You see love becomes a kind of an ascension from the sense plane that goes back again to God. Children are almost like beads in a Rosary , binding together the love of husband and wife.

Love always demands something unrevealed. It flourishes only in mystery. No one ever wants to hear a singer hit her highest note nor to hear an orator tarry passion to tatters – to very rags. One never wants to see the infinite denied, or life’s urge still , or a passion blotted. One wants to see an unfolding . . . and enrichment and enfleshment of love. And that is what happens in marriage when there are children . One distinct mystery after another is unfolded : There is the unfolding of the mystery of the body. Then there begins to be the unfolding of a new mystery – the mystery of motherhood and the mystery of fatherhood. And then when the children have to be trained there comes the mystery of father-craft and mother-craft; new areas of exploration are opened up and there’s never dullness.

Indeed a husband, after a time, may become dull to the wife and the wife to the husband, but, when the children are born , the first boy , well, he begins to be the new life of the husband all over again, and the wife becomes very pretty once more – in the daughter. And as each child is born, they bind together husband and wife as a reflection of the binding love of the Spirit of Truth. Then because each child has a soul to save, then there becomes an awakening  of  sweet responsibility in the father and the mother.

As Khalil Gibran wrote, when he spoke of children he said :

‘Your Children are not Your Children

 They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.’

(*Above, Bishop Sheen has quoted almost the entire Chapter 4 from Khalil Gibran’s  ever-popular 1926  literary masterpiece, THE PROPHET )

And that is the story of life: God sets up the target. You are the bow and your children are the arrows. They have a Messianic mission in your life. They represent the conquest of love over the ego. They symbolize the defeat of your selfishness. They represent the victory of charity. Every child begets sacrifice , tends toward an incarnation, and every child becomes for you a pledge of your own salvation.  .  .and how happy you will be on judgment day when God says to you , ‘ Your love has borne fruit. ’

If God did not bless you with children in any case , then  always rejoice that you never buried love in a napkin or sent it back again to God from which it came . . . darkened.”

    " . . . you should know that there is present with you the angel whom God has appointed for each man . . . This angel, who is sleepless and cannot be deceived, is always present with you; he sees all things and is not hindered by darkness. You should know, too, that with him is God " . . .   - St. Anthony the Great   

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