Archbishop: Fidelity Isn't Easy, But Worth It

Says God Is Generous With Couples Who Follow Him

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By Karna Swanson

OMAHA, Nebraska, SEPT. 5, 2010 ( It’s not easy for couples to live out the demands of the Gospel in a society that pressures them to take the easy road, but God is generous with those who continually strive to answer his call, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said this today in his homily at the closing Mass for the four-day «Celebration of Love and Life» seminar that marked the 25th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI Institute, which was held in Omaha.

Dr. Thomas Hilgers and his wife, Sue, founded the institute in response to Paul VI’s appeal to men of science in the encyclical «Humanae Vitae» to develop methods of natural family planning that were consistent with Catholic teaching. The institute has since developed the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and Natural Procreative Technology (NaProTechnology), which can help women to both avoid and achieve pregnancies without using contraception or artificial reproduction technologies such as in vitro fertilization.

In his homily, Archbishop Zimowski offered a reflection on marriage, which he called «one of the best forms of discipleship today,» as well as the «best reflection of the union between Christ and the Church.»

«We live in an era which tries to promote intimacy without complications,» he lamented. «The reality is that there are no perfect couples, just like there are no perfect disciples. There are a lot of struggling couples. It is in the struggles that discipleship is lived out and perfected. 

«In fact, the prayer of blessing over couples celebrating their marriage anniversary acknowledges that ‘amid the joys and struggles of their life, God has preserved the union between them.’ The trials or tribulations we face are rich grounds upon which the seeds of discipleship can take root.»

The president of the health council noted that the Paul VI Institute has worked to help couples struggling with fertility problems, as well as couples looking for a natural family planning method, to chose methods that are consistent with Church teaching. But he added that it is ultimately up to «the faith, the commitment, the conviction and collaboration of a couple to make the program work.»

«We know that obedience to the Gospel is not easy,» Archbishop Zimowski affirmed. «Following the Lord is not easy when there are pressures from within and from without that say ‘go the other way,’ or ‘don’t be bothered, no one else is.'»

The archbishop encouraged couples to look to Christ’s apostles for encouragement: «The Gospels show that they struggled at every point to follow Jesus. Yet he did not write them off. And it is clear that they learned from their failures. 

«It was only after his death and resurrection that they became his true followers. By looking at them we discover our own inadequacies. The Gospel offers hope to Christians who fail. Repentance and a second chance are always possible. Jesus is generous with his grace to those who strive to answer his call.»

Good Samaritan

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski bestowed on Sue and Thomas Hilgers the Good Samaritan Medal of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. The archbishop noted the institute’s work in «building a culture of life in women’s health care,» and that at times it «stood alone.»

«But with God’s grace and the commitment of the management, staff and supporters, the institute has educated practitioners, instructors, supervisors, educators, nurses, medical consultants, clergy and religious and of course touched the lives of many mothers and families,» the archbishop said.

The archbishop also bestowed the Good Samaritan Medal to Pat and Timothy Von Dohlen, who are both members of the John Paul II Life Center in Austin, Texas, which is modeled after the Paul VI Institute. 

Timothy Von Dohlen spoke Thursday at the conference on the pastoral directives of «Humanae Vitae,» in which he reflected on the appeal to public authorities. Von Dohlen asserted that «life is the greatest social justice issue,» and that Catholics must stand strong in defense of life at all stages.

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