Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

10/23/2012 (3 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 (3 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2016
Universal:
Respect for Women: That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.
Evangelization: Holy Rosary: That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace.



Comments


More Marriage & Family

Pastor and three sons killed in car crash following Bible college graduation Watch

Image of The Avelar family was not to blame for the lethal accident that killed four members of their family (Pastor Jeff Fugate).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pastor Israel Avelar and his family were the victims of a horrific car crash that left four dead and three in critical condition. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Following Pastor Avelar's commencement exercises in Insituto Biblico Bautista Libertad, the Freedom ... continue reading


How to stop abortions: One step at a time Watch

Image of Unsurprisingly, at 20-weeks-old, an unborn child reacts to painful stimuli (dovemed).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

At 20-weeks-old, unborn babies have the ability to suck their thumbs, yawn, stretch, make faces and react to physical pain, yet hundreds are murdered each year as they are not LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - By claiming a mother's personal choice is more important ... continue reading


Miracle for baby born without half his skull Watch

Image of Baby Will survived a losing battle against encephalocele (Reidhead Family).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Ben and Alyssa Reidhead were overjoyed to hear they were pregnant - until the doctors told them to prepare a funeral for the little life that wouldn't make it out of the womb. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During the couple's 20-week ultrasound, their son was ... continue reading


Will South Carolina be able to banish abortions forever? Watch

Image of South Carolina bans abortions after 19 weeks (photosesh).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

South Carolina legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that puts an end to abortions after 19 weeks. Dare we hope the bill is the beginning of the end of abortion? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With South Carolina on board, there are seventeen U.S. states banning ... continue reading


How far would YOU go to find happiness? Watch

Image of Indian couple has first child in their 70s (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A 70-year-old woman overcame an infertility with the help of several dead babies and one test tube baby. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Daljinder Kaur and her husband Mohinder Singh Gill spent nearly fifty years of marriage unable to conceive.Finally, at roughly ... continue reading


Abortion: Science beats death with ... death? Watch

Image of Which is worse - murdering your unborn child or murdering them before they can get a fighting chance (pregnancyandbaby)?

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Abortion rates have hit a historic low in wealthy countries - but at what cost? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - To put it bluntly, abortion rates have dropped due to a rise in the use of contraceptives, not because more women have decided that murdering their ... continue reading


First-grader boasts National handwriting award despite having NO HANDS Watch

Image of Anaya Ellick won an award for having the best handwriting despite not having hands (Facebook).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A 7-year-old girl who was born without hands beat fifty other first-graders in a national handwriting competition, proving anyone can do anything they put their mind to. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rather than accepting prosthetic hands, little Anaya Ellick ... continue reading


Man seeks bizarre RESTRAINING ORDER against God Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In a strange request, an Israeli man has petitioned for a restraining order against God.     LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Representing himself in court, the unnamed man entered the Haifa Magistrate's Court in Israel and claimed God had been ... continue reading


'The doctors were shocked': Conjoined twins share unusual bond Watch

Image of The girls may be closer than most but they display very different personalities (Caters News Agency).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A beautiful set of newborn triplets were delivered via C-section at the Tanjungpinang Regional Genearal Hospital in Indonesia. The girls were strong and healthy with ten little toes and ten little fingers each - but there was one little problem: Two of the girls were ... continue reading


The gruesome way scientists are killing unborn babies in school labratories, with the consent of law Watch

Image of A human baby belongs in its mother's womb, not a petri dish or a garbage can.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Scientists have been conducting horrifying experiments on unborn babies, fertilizing eggs and seeing how long before they die in a test tube, outside of the womb. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's sounds like a horrifying lab experiment out of a prequel to ... continue reading


All Marriage & Family News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Daily Readings for Tuesday, May 31, 2016
  • St. Mechtildis: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, May 31, 2016
  • Daily Reading for Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 HD Video
  • WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES Killer nanny asks judge for freedom because ...
  • The Visitation Continues. Learning to Evangelize from Mary
  • Christians stand your ground: Graduating class recites The Lords ...
  • Advent Prayer HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Zephaniah 3:14-18,
14 Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult ... Read More

Psalm, Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
2 Look, he is the God of my salvation: I shall have faith and not be ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:39-56
39 Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 31st, 2016 Image

St. Mechtildis
May 31: Benedictine abbess and miracle worker. She was ... Read More