“God will continue to bless us for cooperating with his plan for our lives”
by Joe Hendrickx
Joe Hendrickx | Director of Evangelization of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Fargo
Here’s something I always ask when reading any type of advertisement: what’s the motivation of the author, selling or sharing? Have you ever read an ad that sings the praises of a particular product, and then it closes with, “And you can buy this product from us for just ___!” Other ads sound similar, only the author is not making a profit, he simply wants to share some knowledge that has improved his life. I see these two stark differences in the messages promoted 50 years ago by the makers of the birth control pill and the pope.
Contraception has been around for centuries, but a new and improved version of artificial contraception via the birth control pill became available and was well marketed during the 1960s. The makers of this pill gave many promises as selling points, such as saying that the pill will strengthen marriages by taking the anxiety out of pregnancies, as pregnancies will only occur when the couple chooses.
Conversely, Pope Paul VI came out with his own predictions, referring to what would happen if the pill was widely used. If you only have a minute, Google “Humanae Vitae” and just read article 17, “Consequences of Artificial Methods.” Then look around at the world today and see for yourself who’s predictions came true. Briefly, some of the things he predicted: there would be an overall lowering of morality, men would see women as objects of pleasure, and marital infidelity would increase.
As my wife and I continue to teach Natural Family Planning (NFP), we get to see more couples hearing the beautiful truth of NFP, and typically for the first time. We’ve seen many couples stop using birth control, and they’re the ones who have smiles on their faces and peace in their hearts. The couples who are hesitant, have told us that they stay on birth control out of fear. Birth control isn’t 100% effective, but they’re led to believe it is, and then these couples think, “if I give this up, then I give up control over one big part of my life, my fertility.” Of course, folks who have already come to the realization that we can’t have full control over our lives actually experience a type of liberation from embracing this knowledge. One of the fruits that comes with this is increased faith in God and trust in his providence.
Often times the simplest explanation is best. When we work with couples learning NFP, we explain a little bit about Theology of the Body, the harmful effects of artificial contraception, and Church teaching. However, I probably receive the most positive feedback after simply sharing, “We believe that God will continue to bless us for cooperating with his plan for our lives. So far, that certainly has been the case.”
We are backed by the most important reasons to live the Christian life, which is the best life. With this confidence in mind, we know that we could share the truth about the best way to live, but why should we? Why should we share the Gospel, or the truths found in Humanae Vitae?
I recently heard a chilling story by Steve Ray in which he illustrated one reason to be bold in sharing the faith. I will close with this story, written from my perspective.
Experiencing a “reversion” just seven years ago has left me with a number of old friends who are nowhere near Christian. This fact remains: The truth has a name. It’s Jesus, and this truth will set you free. I’ve experienced this and continue to experience it every day of my life. What about those who haven’t? What about the friends I know outside of religious circles – the ones with whom I’ve never had a serious conversation about the faith? Why should I put our relationship on the line for what will most likely be an awkward conversation about why I’m Catholic and why they should be too?
Humor me for a moment as I picture myself at the end of my life, up in heaven, able to see a friend who is on his descent into hell. He says to me, “Joe! How is it that you’re in heaven?!” I reply, “I lived my life based on the Gospel. On Earth, I knew Jesus, and I loved him. He’s given me new life. This is my eternal reward.” My friend will say, “You knew it! You knew that Christianity was really real, and you never told me?!” I will simply say, “I didn’t want to offend you… I wanted to be politically correct. It was frowned upon to have religious conversations… I’m sorry.” The last words I’ll hear from him will be, “You’re sorry?! I’m in hell! Damn you, Joe Hendrickx! Damn you…”
Joe and his wife Jolene have been married for five years and have three children: Heidi, Carmen, and Miles. Joe currently serves in full-time ministry at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fargo as the Director of Evangelization.