Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

10/23/2012 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Marriage & Family

Indian toddler with severe water on the brain survives surgery Watch

Image of Surgeons carried out a series of operations to reduce the size of Roona's head. Sent home after surgery, her parents were warned she had little chance of survival.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With a freakish head 37 inches in circumference, a three-year-old Indian girl has underwent surgery to reduce her deformity. Arduous hours of surgery later, she's smiling for the first time with a more normal-sized head. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


European Court of Human Rights: Europe CAN NOT be forced to recognize same-sex 'marriages'

Image of Marriage IS between a Man and a Woman ONLY.

By Adelaide Mena

Is the disordered homosexual lifestyle destroying our great American culture? Strasbourg, France, (CNA/EWTN News) - The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the refusal to recognize same-sex "marriages" does not violate the European Convention on Human ... continue reading


Are You a Ready or an Unready Catholic?

Image of

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

There are many Catholics who are "unready" Catholics, that is, operating under ill advice or bad counsel.  They have adopted the counsel of sophists, satanists, or doubt-sowers, and have departed as a result from the teachings of the Church.  Their ... continue reading


Andrew M. Greenwell on Same-Sex 'Marriage': Framing the Issue Right Watch

Image of

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

The first step for a Catholic to recognize his obligation to oppose same-sex "marriage," if he does not see it or comprehend it, is to rid himself of the flawed moral heuristic (a moral rule of thumb or short cut) some ideologue has chosen and which may be blinding him ... continue reading


Pacing a New Online Relationship

Image of Pacing an online relationship is different for each couple.

By Catholic Match

Every couple that meets on CatholicMatch moves at their own pace. For some, it's important to move from online connection to a face-to-face date as soon as realistically possible. For others, it's important to let things grow gradually. Matt and Katie fell into the ... continue reading


The example of the Holy Family: Do you follow it?

Image of The Holy Family is the ultimate example for us to follow in our daily lives. We need a daily reminder of this.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There is no community as sacred as the family. When we reflect on the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph, we see modeled for us how to be as a member of our own family. Whether we're a father, a mother, or a child, the Holy Family shows us how to be. It is ... continue reading


Michael Proposed With A Video

Image of Michael and Laura.

By Catholic Match

Laura was tired of the dating scene or at the very least the relationship scene. By the time the 24-year-old from Maryland got to CatholicMatch, all she wanted was to go on some dates with nice guys, but to keep it casual, just have dinner, and maybe hear that she was ... continue reading


Children: The Crowning Glory of Marriage Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

The American cultural lens of late has warped the way in which children are viewed to the point that they are seen not as gifts but as burdens. Many people no longer recognize children for who they are: precious jewels of indescribable beauty and worth whose growth, ... continue reading


How One Couple Met, Fell in Love, and Met the Pope

Image of Deanna and Michael with Pope Francis.

By Catholic Match

Deanna, 24, and Michael, 28, had never dated before they meet each other on CatholicMatch. Michael had been discerning the priesthood for four years, and it seems God had placed a bubble around lovely Deann a saving her just for Michael. They were married on October 5, ... continue reading


June is Global Heartbeat of the Family Month, but what is it? Watch

Image of What is the heartbeat of your family?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A few readers have messaged Catholic Online, asking about Catholic Online's "Global Heartbeat of the Family Month" celebration, what it is and how it works. We wanted to take a moment to share our vision with readers so each family can participate. LOS ANGELES, CA ... 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, Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
2 rescue me from evil-doers, from men of violence ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-46
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 30th, 2014 Image

St. Peter Chrysologus
July 30: St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church ... 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