Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

10/23/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Surrender, Forgiveness and Self-sacrifice Are The Marks Of True Love

I didn't hear any voices, I didn't see any heavenly lights, but I knew that she heard me, that she'd swaddled me in her motherly embrace.  Of course, it was still a process, learning to completely surrender and trust.  A process that we are still working through ten more years later and one that I think we will be trying to perfect for the rest of our lives.

Highlights

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/23/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: marriage, contraception, Natural Family Planning, NFP


ZEBULON, NC (Catholic Online) - Childhood sweethearts, my husband and I married for the first time at Sts. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church.  After the beautiful, two hour long Liturgy complete with crowns and chanting, my mother remarked there was no doubt we had indeed been united by this sacrament.

Unlike some modern weddings which focus on flowery arrangements, self-appointed roles and individually crafted vows, ours followed tradition with its focus on the sacramental and not so much the selves.  Of course, at 21 and 23 we'd have a lot to learn about life and marriage in the years to come.

Having married outside of the Catholic Church, our pre-cana consisted only of a few short meetings with the priest, who was to marry us.  I remember only his encouraging me to convert and little else.  We missed the boat, so to speak, on so many crucial lessons, but thankfully God always has a back-up plan.

Totally unaware of the Churches' teachings, we contracepted early on until the time when we deemed ourselves ready to welcome another family member.  What joy it seemed then to ask God to create a new life on our terms, in our time. 

However, after the death of our firstborn we began to realize that life was far more fragile than we'd considered and our well-crafted life plans disappeared with his heartbeat.  We desperately wanted more children and so I suppose our hearts were ready soil for God to plant a different kind of seed.

Browsing through a bookstore's discount bin at the mall, I happened upon a thick book that grabbed my attention.  Fertility awareness was the topic, and seeing as our attempts to conceive had taken much time and effort the first time around, it seemed the perfect read.  I gobbled up that book and eagerly applied the newly found knowledge about my basal body temperature, mucus and cervical changes.

Fast forward six years and many changes later, my husband converted to the Catholic faith and we married "for the second time" in a little chapel at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.  In truth, standing there surrounded by a few friends and flanked by a toddler and a baby, we had our marriage, which was already considered valid by the Catholic Church, blessed.  

While our "first" marriage had united us together in that permanent bond of marriage, endowing us with the gifts to live out that vocation, I believe that "second" marriage made us evermore conscious of our need to rely on Divine Providence and our responsibility to actively grow together in our faith. 

Like too many other young people, after our wedding ceremony we had created all too many excuses for sleeping in on Sundays and relegated Christ to Easter and Christmas those first few years.  Thankfully, once our family size increased, so too did our knowledge of the necessity for faith, but still missing were those hard truths.  

Though my eyes had been opened to the beauty of my fertility, unfortunately that initial method of fertility awareness was void of theological truth and thus allowed for contraceptive behaviors and devices during the fertile phase of the cycle.  It also didn't challenge us to include God in our family planning, though at the time we felt an internal stirring to openness. Thankfully, our Lord is patient and so He nurtured that sapling and in time He would redirect its growth.

By the time we were celebrating our tenth anniversary, we'd been blessed with one son through adoption, two more birth sons, and our first daughter had entered the world.  By all accounts our cup was overflowing, but in reality we were standing on the precipice of divorce, contemplating the looming pit of broken vows and broken dreams.

Well-meaning friends and family worried about our children and about divorced parents trying to raise them apart, so they encouraged us to protect ourselves.  Protect ourselves, especially, against the possibility of anymore conceptions.  Really, with four children already, many people couldn't understand why we'd ever want more.  Their advice seemed reasonable, so we took it and reverted back to contracepting during the fertile time.

We chose to work through our trial with a Christian therapist, who instructed us in reading the Bible.  Little did this faithful, Protestant therapist know, not only was he helping to heal our broken hearts, but he was leading us deeper into our Catholic faith.  For the first time, we began reading God's Word separately and together.  A deeper and more intimate relationship developed between the three of us (Christ, my husband and me) and we developed a thirst for more. 

Truthfully, I knew something wasn't right in our contracepting, but I couldn't quite figure out what that "something" was.  When I'd contracepted in our early years, I struggled with a myriad of physical and psychological symptoms as a result of the synthetic hormones.  Contracepting without hormones, I still felt unsatisfied mentally, physically and spiritually.

A couple at our parish introduced us to The Mary Foundation, a fantastic organization that gave away free audio tapes (now CDs).  For two people still emerging from the "modern theological" desert, hungry and parched, these tapes were our manna and rain.  After listening to "The Mass Explained," we ordered a box full of all their titles.  My husband listened during commutes to work and I listened while cleaning the house and pushing kids on the swing. 

Then, one day my husband came home and handed me a tape.  Entitled "The Key to Happy Families," he wouldn't divulge the contents, but simply instructed me to listen.  Perplexed by his secrecy and intrigued by his command, I readily hit the play button.  By the time the tape reel had run its course, my head was spinning.

The Pill is an abortifacient, so we could have aborted our own children?  Contracepting is a mortal sin?  A pope wrote a whole encyclical on this subject and prophesied abortion on demand, increased divorce rates, infidelity in marriages, and more.  The Catholic Church actually has a teaching on this subject? 

As a cradle Catholic, why had I not heard this before?  And what was I going to do now?

From that day forward, my husband and I agreed, we could not contracept again, not with our bodies, not with our minds, not with our hearts.  A dramatic turning point for me, I was working through my pain and was now more confused than ever.   

Alone in my bedroom, on my knees, I gave it all over to the Blessed Mother.  I told her of my fears, my desires, my weakness and I asked her specifically to align my heart to God's Will.  Pledging my fertility to Jesus through her hands, I surrendered in a way I never had before.  For the first time, I recognized and accepted my smallness.  I promised to allow Jesus to have total control over my fertility, so long as Our Lady would wrap me in her mantle of comfort and protection.

I didn't hear any voices, I didn't see any heavenly lights, but I knew that she heard me, that she'd swaddled me in her motherly embrace.  Of course, it was still a process, learning to completely surrender and trust.  A process that we are still working through ten more years later and one that I think we will be trying to perfect for the rest of our lives.

This passed June, we celebrated our 20th anniversary in the company of our 7 children.  Certainly, our married life has not been without further crosses.  We've endured the losses of five more children, we've revisited old weaknesses, we've faced the judgment of others, but, contrary to the world's idea of love and freedom, we've discovered that surrender, forgiveness and self-sacrifice are the source and summit of true love. 

At 41 and 43, we recognize that our marriage includes a  third partner, God.  He was there on our wedding day and He has been there every day since, even when we relegated Him to the back seat.  Through His Word and His sacrifice on the cross, He taught us the meaning of love and He showed us how to manifest that love toward one another. 

Freely, faithfully and fully, we give ourselves, our whole selves, to one another and to Christ, inside of our bedroom and out.  Today I understand, with a new perspective, my mother's comment on our wedding day.  Truly, the three of us were united by that Sacrament of Marriage.

-----

Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of seven living children with six more heavenly ones who intercede.  Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat and a bunch of chickens.  Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes for the the glory of God.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.



Comments


More Marriage & Family

Feminism takes a sharp hit as men fight back with Meninism Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Some men today find offense in feminist issues and have taken to social media to demand equality, with Meninism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Feminism is defined by Google as the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social and economic ... continue reading


We can all be philanthropists! Giving back to those in need has never been so simple. Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you:" Deuteronomy 16:17. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Giving back to others is an amazing feeling. Your heart expands and your mind is put to ease knowing you ... continue reading


A giant turtle in grave danger finds hope in an extraordinary savior Watch

Image of Turtles can be in grave danger if they remain flipped over for too long of a time period.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A turtle flipping onto its back, while appearing silly to viewers, can be a fatal event. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to animalquestions.org, if a turtle is unable to turn over and right themselves, they can die of starvation. A young girl from Taiwan ... continue reading


Why Catholics should think twice about the 'Elf on the Shelf' Watch

Image of The Elf on the Shelf has become a Christmas tradition for many families.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Over the last few years, a Christmas tradition has emerged in American households. Known as "The Elf on the Shelf" families set out a plush doll in their home and tell children that the doll reports to Santa Claus nightly. Now at least one professor has questioned if ... continue reading


An amazing voice in the middle of the night: A sleepy mother sings to her daughter and goes viral Watch

Image of Mother sings to her daughter in the middle of the night and becomes social media sensation.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying there are a few things that can be done to put the baby back to sleep. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - You can rock the baby, you can feed the baby or you can sing to the baby.Kimberly Henderson of Sumter, ... continue reading


Aren't women human? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights continues to use male-dominated language when outlining human rights Watch

Image of Women's rights continued to be fought for everyday.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United Nations has four main purposes. The first one is maintaining worldwide peace and security. The United Nations' most prestigious document is The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is one of the most translated and printed documents in the world.In the ... continue reading


LOL, (L)MIRL! Do you know the meaning of popular acronyms used by kids today? The reality will shock you. Watch

Image of The amount of acronyms used in text messages continues to grow at an alarming rate.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With technology becoming easily accessible to all ages, methods to good parenting are not as black and white as they used to be. Upon opening a young adult's text message today, you might find something like, "OMG, ILY LOL. WYD?" What is that? Did they sit on their ... continue reading


Make your marriage last forever with two little words Watch

Image of Being grateful in a relationship is one of the most important factors in a successful marriage.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While there's no set in stone definition on how to have a successful marriage and every marriage is different, a new study suggests couples who encompass a specific trait have more success with a happy marriage. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These couples are ... continue reading


What place do divorcees have in the Catholic Church? Pope Francis suggests lifting bans that target divorcees and those who've remarried Watch

Image of Pope Francis criticized the way the Catholic Church views those who have divorced and remarried during a recent interview with La Nacion, an Argentine daily paper.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During a recent interview with La Nacion, an Argentine daily paper, Pope Francis spoke on the challenges of his papacy, reform in the Roman Curia, and the unique pastoral challenges that both divorced and re-married couples face within the Church. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Is there a new mom in your life? Help to reduce the stress with these 10 great ideas Watch

Image of These are 10 great ways to help a new mom.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Becoming a new mother is an exciting time full of laughs and tears of joy. Becoming a new mother is also a scary time full of stress and many new worries. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Things like, are my dishes done, do I have food for dinner or did I catch the ... continue reading


All Marriage & Family News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 7:10-14
10 Yahweh spoke to Ahaz again and said:11 ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 20th, 2014 Image

St. Dominic of Silos
December 20: Benedictine abbot and defender of the faith. Born in Canas, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter