Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 13, 2009
More prayer = end to contraception
'Cafeteria Catholics' meditated on God's word and found beauty of Church's teachings
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
After a parish mission led her to pray daily, Patty Schneier slowly came to see the truth and beauty of the Church's teaching on contraception.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
By all outward appearances, Patty Schneier, her husband Larry and their three children were a “good Catholic family.”
They received the sacraments faithfully and regularly, prayed together as a family and gave their time, talent and treasure to the Church. But in secret the Schneiers did not agree with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, specifically ignoring the teachings on sex and marriage.
“We ignored the Church’s teachings on contraception, and we had used the pill and condoms on and off in our marriage for 13 years,” she says. “We were cafeteria Catholics who, like going through the cafeteria line, selected and chose which items we wanted.”
Schneier remained unconvinced even after she became familiar with the Church’s theology behind sex and marriage. At one point she challenged God to prove that his commands aren’t a burden. To her surprise, God did prove it in ways she never dreamed of.
What Schneier discovered in Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body changed her life, renewed her marriage and set her off on a new ministry sharing the beauty of Church teaching about love and life.
Schneier, a housewife and mother of three from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, shared her personal testimony with about 60 people at St. Thomas More Church April 2.
INTENSE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
In January 2002, Schneier began an intense spiritual journey when she and her family decided to attend a parish mission given by the Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life.
The mission inspired her to search for some holiness in her life, something she thought was beyond her reach because she only knew how to search for missing homework and missing socks.
The parish mission taught her that without reflective, meditative prayer daily she would die spiritually.
Finding time for this seemed impossible for Schneier but she decided to give it a try. She found a quiet place at home and began a morning prayer time in which she read the daily readings of the liturgy. She began to journal as well.
It began innocently enough. But soon it became increasingly difficult and painful as Schneier began to wrestle with the whole issue of contraception in marriage.
Day by day, as she prayed, Schneier felt God was coming after her. In all Scripture passages, it seemed, God was talking directly to her. In John 5.3 God was calling her to obey his commands, which “are not burdensome.”
Schneier doubted that. She perceived the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage as a huge burden. “I knew 90 per cent of modern married Catholics used some form of contraception,” she said. “I was one of them.”
Schneier thought that contraception was not a sin, as it was not really a teaching of God but a man-made law. “The Church should just butt out on this one,” she thought. “This is between me, my husband and God.”
At this point Schneier challenged God to “prove that it isn’t a burden to follow the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage.”
By the time she came to Psalm 50, she knew God was talking directly to her when the Scripture spoke of those professing God’s words in name only.
She saw this in her own use of contraceptives. “I had cast out God’s words regarding sex in my marriage and he was disciplining me.”
Thankfully, through a friend, she was led to the book: Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching by Christopher West.
This book explained why the Church says what it says, in words that pierced Schneier’s heart.
After finishing Christopher West’s book, Schneier and her husband were both filled with shame, regret and guilt for having settled for a counterfeit for 13 years.
Pleased as they were at finding the truth, the couple was left with one remaining question: “Why haven’t we heard this before? Why didn’t we know that the Church really did have some good news about sex and marriage?”
The answer lies in our own stubbornness, Schneier said. Having grown up with contraception, “we didn’t care to look.”
Shortly after, Schneier was introduced to Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. “And when I learned of a love that was free, faithful, total and fruitful — the real meaning of love — I wanted it,” she told participants.
“I wanted that kind of marriage and for the first time in my life I saw the beauty of the Church’s teachings.”
She and her husband Larry received the sacrament of Reconciliation, threw out their contraception, and have never looked back. “It was the best decision we ever made.”
JOY AND UNITY
Clearly the issues of sex, marriage and contraception — once a wall of dissent for the Schneiers — opened the doors to a totally new spiritual life for the couple.
The first and most immediate effect was in their marriage.
“I never dreamed there could be so much joy and unity in my marriage,” she said. “Our entire family life has changed; the way we parent our children has changed.”
The couple set about following NFP and found it was not the burden Schneier had feared.
On the contrary, it opened a whole new world for them, making them feel like teenagers again, becoming more affectionate with each other and with their children, who were now drawn into family hugs and kisses.
The second major effect was that Schneier began to see the Church in a whole new way and became open to discovering the richness and beauty of the Church in all of her teachings, traditions and devotions.
“I have simply fallen in love with Jesus Christ and his Church.”
Daily Eucharistic adoration, daily Mass, the rosary, the lives of the saints, the Bible and Catholic books are now an important part of Schneier’s life. She had never read a Catholic book or cared to read about the lives of the saints in the past, despite being heavily involved in the Church since age 15.
In her 90-minute presentation, Schneier said her journey, her coming home to the Catholic Church and coming into full communion with the Church has been the greatest joy and discovery of her life.
“God has given us a huge blessing for something I thought would only be a burden.”