"BE HER JOSEPH"
In this short article, Tom articulates very well how a husband and father expresses his love and protection for his bride and family. I hope we can spread his message far and wide. --Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB
When we first married, my wife, Misty, and I were the typical secular couple. We relied on hormonal contraception. Due to bad side effects, that didn’t last long. Misty found out about Natural Family Planning (NFP) through a Catholic friend. Admittedly, I was suspicious of all the “hocus pocus” involving thermometers at o’ dark-thirty in the morning and observations written down in cryptic symbols on the NFP chart. That would all change in surprising ways once we got into living the NFP lifestyle.
Before having children, Misty had been an atheist and I had been an agnostic. With our first child, the miracle of life spurred a spiritual awakening in us. We realized the Holy Spirit had already led us into a Catholic life. Even after our conversion, however, NFP grew our relationship with each other and with God in ways we never expected.
We studied Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” and became excited about living out our faith and sharing it. It was thrilling to learn the compelling reasons behind the Church’s beautiful teachings on sex and marriage.
Much to my surprise, I also learned how grateful my wife was that I was willing to learn how her body worked. Sharing the family planning responsibility, as well as finding non-sexual ways of expressing affection and intimacy when we had good reasons to postpone pregnancy, strengthened our marriage and made me a better husband and father.
When we became Catholic, I knew I wanted to be the spiritual leader of our family, but I didn’t understand what that entailed besides bringing our children to church on Sunday. Through NFP and Scripture, I discovered that I had a choice in the kind of man I was going to be.
We often blame Eve for eating the forbidden fruit. But in Genesis, we learn that after taking a bite, she turned and offered the fruit to Adam, who was with her. Adam didn’t stop her and say, “This is a bad idea, let’s go.” He did not protect his wife, but stood by silently while the serpent convinced her to surrender her holiness and damage her relationship with God.
Then there was St. Joseph. When Joseph obeyed the angel who told him to bring Mary into his home, he was accepting the public shame and embarrassment of a pregnant fiancée. He sacrificed his personal honor and reputation to obey God and protect Mary and Jesus.
The choice for a husband is clear: he can be his wife’s Adam or he can be her Joseph. A man can stand by silently and allow his wife to suffer the physical and spiritual consequences of contraception. Or he can defend her virtue, body, and soul by using NFP. Today, contraception is accepted and expected. Any man who forgoes it for NFP will likely be exposed to ridicule and criticism. But as St. Joseph taught us, there are some things more important than the opinion of others. May we husbands choose to be Joseph to our wives!
Tom and Misty Mealey have four children and live in the Diocese of Richmond
A Note from Misty:
We are happy to help you spread the good news about NFP. This article has really seemed to touch people; just recently, the Bishop of St. Augustine used it in an article to parishioners. He said it should "clarify" why couples should eschew contraception for NFP, particularly husbands. Denver is also including it in their marriage prep packets.
In our years of promoting NFP as a couple, we've always found that challenging men to a more "chivalrous" role as the noble protector of their wives really resonates with them. Men are so degraded in our culture; as witnessed by TV, a man is either a buffoon to be dismissed, a chauvinist to be opposed, or a sensitive, pony-tail type to be dominated. A strong but sensitive and loving man is rarely depicted. Tom gives the men a redeeming, truly masculine vision to aim for, as opposed to those weak and undignified stereotypes. I think men are starving for someone to articulate what true masculinity is and how they can embrace it.
I am blessed beyond measure with my husband and we are both so grateful for how far God has brought us. Good luck with the article!