"So, how does it feel to turn fifty?" In my case, that question would have been answered several years ago. Depending on the current age of each individual reading this article, the exercise of answering it seems either a distant memory, a far-off future event or just around the corner.
Objects like buildings also mark momentous anniversaries (2016 was the Centenary of our church). Official documents and writings often receive fresh consideration and reflection, in light of what has taken place since their original composition and/or publication. Questions may be asked, such as: "What prompted this writing?" "What kind of attention did it draw?" "What does it have to say to us now?" "Was it in any way prophetic?"
And so it is that 2018 marks the 50th. anniversary since the publication of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae by Blessed Paul VI. Since it was promulgated when I was 5 years old, it has been around virtually my whole
Bishop Robert Barron, in an online article entitled "Paul VI: Prophet" (November 38,2017, available at
www.wordonfire.org) advises us of the benefit and the wake-up call that awaits us who take the time to read or re-read the document, beginning with section 17.
In that section, the Pope basically explicates what is very likely to happen-- from this vantage point, we can fairly confidently say HAS happened-- when, within the relationship between man and woman, the two fundamental goods of marriage: first, the intimate union of the man and woman and secondly, openness to children (procreation) are separated.
Here is a preview: "... a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her his partner whom he should surround with care and affection." Sadly, as report after report of the exploitation of women in society are coming to light, we would have to be rather good at self-deceit not to ask: what trends of culture have contributed to this?
Rightly we honor mothers on this weekend. All the same, let us recognize that while brunches and bouquets can be a very kind gesture, what will truly be treasured by those who have responded to the magnificent call to motherhood is the daily acknowledgment of their sacredness and the promotion of an authentic feminism in our society, which rejoices at the capacity of woman to bring forth life, with the integral involvement of man, both as partner in conception and companion in parenting.