What a great way to start an article! Bravo, Therese. For those of you who don’t know Therese, she’s a journalist at Denver Catholic. She used to blog for FOCUS and was known for her authentic, vulnerable writing. She has a knack for taking conversations that are simmering on the periphery and bringing them into the forefront of Catholic conversation.
That’s why I picked this article. It’s not necessarily the most personally vulnerable or edgy piece I’ve ever read on NFP, but it is the first honest article that wrestles with the lived experience of NFP I’ve read by a Diocesan news outlet.
I believe that the Church is entering a new season in its life. For lack of better terminology, I’ll call it the post-Culture War Era. For the last half century, the Church in America has been fighting the Culture War. We’ve been primarily concerned with defending the faith, and doing so through politics and apologetics. There is a place for both in the life of the Church, but they were over-emphasized to the detriment of the lived experience of discipleship.
We fought tooth and nail to prove to Protestants and the rest of the world that we were right and they were wrong, never mind the fact that the music at our parish is terrible, the architecture is laughable, the homilies are boring and unrelatable, and that our parishioners are leaving in droves. We would cover over these things by saying things like: “If people just understood the mass better, the mass would stop being boring.” I’ve been Catholic my whole life and was raised by a theologian. Sometimes mass is boring, and when that happens, it’s usually because the liturgy was unintentional and bland, not because I didn’t know enough about transubstantiation. The post-Culture War Church is pausing for a second and wondering why our arguments aren’t being effective. It’s a great opportunity to take a good hard look at our reflection in the mirror. We’re haggard, wrinkled, disheveled, and look like we haven’t showered in 2000 years.
We got so caught up in arguing that we lost our ability to look at ourselves and acknowledge the messiness of Catholicism’s lived experience. Thankfully, this is changing.
It’s changing because modern man doesn’t want perfect, white-washed, meticulously proven facts anymore. The culture has changed. After a couple centuries of massively up-heaving warfare, industrialization, globalization, the internet, and big marketing, we’ve grown disillusioned with our rational ability to understand and be sure of anything. We’ve come into contact with a rich diversity of beliefs, a multitude of contrary ideas and thoughts. We are suspicious of every message, and test its perceived value not by the air tightness of its argument, but by the authenticity of its bearer.
Struggling with our faith, and showing that struggle is actually what humanity in the post-Culture War Era is looking for.
Those who try to live NFP in their marriages struggle. That’s the truth. We have to be OK with showing that, or else we will have NO credibility with a world who’s done with perfection. We have to show our wrestling so that those of us who struggle don’t feel like we’re alone. We have to show it so that we can give others insight into the actual lived actions and perspectives that can carry us through their own trials.
That’s why I love that Therese Bussen is willing to go there and open up the conversation to the Diocese of Denver and to the rest of the world.
Keep on wrestling with the reality of the lived gospel, Therese. You are giving us all a voice.
By Marcellino D'Ambrosio
CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows