Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Catholic, Humanae Vitae, married love, procreative, self-gift, The Splendor of Love, unitive
Last week we introduced Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila’s pastoral letter The Splendor of Love, written in honor of the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. His purpose in writing the pastoral letter was “to affirm the great beauty of the Church’s consistent teaching through the centuries on married love, a love that is so desperately needed today” (SL, 5).
This week, we will continue looking into Archbishop Aquila’s pastoral letter by delving into the goodness of sexuality and how couples can proclaim the splendor of God’s love in their marriages and families.
The Goodness of Sexuality
Archbishop Aquila states that when “God reached the pinnacle of his creation, he chose to fashion in his image and likeness, male and female” (SL, 19). Scripture tells us that at the end of each stage of creation, God proclaimed what He had made “good” (see Gen 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 24). Only after creating man and woman, did God exclaim that His creation was “very good” (Gen 1:31).
“God is love” (1 Jn 4:8), says Scripture. Pope Benedict IXV taught that the vocation to love “makes the human person an authentic image of God: man and woman come to resemble God to the extent that they become loving people” (SL, 20). “Not only does human love point us toward the eternal,” says Archbishop Aquila, “but in the family, the joy of eternity is glimpsed on earth” (SL, 21).
Pope Benedict XVI said that it is in the family that “man discovers his…identity is founded on being called to love, to receive himself from others and to give himself to others” (SL, 21). Gaudium et Spes, (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), states that “man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (GS, 24). It is only through this sincere gift of self that man and woman can find their true purpose and meaning in life. This total gift of self participates in and manifests the divine love to which man and woman are called.
As a young priest, Saint John Paul II had an inner call “to prepare young people for marriage [because] it is necessary to teach them to love” (SL, 23). This is the “essential point of Humanae Vitae,” says Archbishop Aquila, “love is something that must be taught, and that includes the truths God has woven into love and sexuality” (SL, 23). “In Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI teaches us the truth about married love, listing its four essential qualities: it needs to be fully human, total, faithful, and fruitful” (SL, 25). Archbishop Aquila goes on to say that these four properties of love offered in Humanae Vitae help us to understand “the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of sex” (SL, 26).
“Because God designed sex to have both a unitive and procreative dimension,” says Archbishop Aquila, “man cannot separate them without causing real damage” (SL, 26). It is apparent that contraception thwarts the procreative aspect of sex but it also “harms the unitive dimension” (SL, 27) says Archbishop Aquila. Husband and wife in their one-flesh union speaks a language of the body, says Saint John Paul II, that “communicates the total gift of self, including their fertility, without any limits or restrictions” (SL, 27). “Contraception introduces a falsehood in to the language of the body…damage[ing] the conjugal act of the spouses, which lies at the heart of their intimacy and is the sanctuary of life” (SL, 27). “This makes contraceptive acts ‘repugnant to the nature of man and of woman’ and contrary to God’s plan, as Humanae Vitae states” (SL, 27) says the Archbishop.
“Following God’s plan for our lives leads to happiness” (SL, 37), says Archbishop Aquila. He goes on to say that “sharing in God’s creative love by bringing the gift of new life into existence is one of life’s greatest joys and an ‘extremely important mission’” (SL, 37). “This mission flows from the very nature of married love” says Archbishop Aquila, “which at its heart is a communion of persons shared between the husband and wife and the path by which they are called to grow in holiness” (SL, 37).
Proclaiming the Splendor of God’s Love
In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, Blessed Paul VI taught that “the Church’s mission is essentially one of evangelization, the sharing of the Good News of our salvation,” this includes the good news of “the truth about human love and sexuality” says Archbishop Aquila (SL, 40). “Every Catholic has a mission to live and share the good news of God’s plan for human sexuality…which will help people to overcome the many burdens and wounds that follow from our broken families” (SL, 40).
Archbishop Aquila calls for married couples and parents to “witness to what God has done” in your own lives and to live” out Christ’s teaching” in your “family and work” (SL, 40). As the primary educators of their children, parents “have the responsibility of helping them come to a mature understanding of sexuality and family life” (SL, 41). Careful attention should be given to “helping your children understand and avoid the dangers of pornography addiction and casual sex” (SL, 41). Archbishop Aquila tells parents that “your relationship teaches your children about God’s love and forms in them their understanding of the Christian family,” demonstrating to them “the reality of marriage as a complete gift of love to the other” (SL, 41). “It is from you that they will come to an “understanding of what it means for love to be fully human, total, faithful and fruitful” (SL, 41).
To engaged couples, Archbishop Aquila has this to say:
I encourage you to make the most of your preparations for marriage. Jesus is the source of true love, the one who heals us of our sexual wounds and enables us to give ourselves more freely and fully in love to one another. Living according to God’s plan for your life and staying united in prayer are of fundamental importance for a successful marriage. Use your engagement to grow in prayer together and to develop chastity, a virtue that will continue to guide you in self-control throughout your marriage. God is calling you to nothing less than a complete gift of yourself to each other, which you must freely choose and embrace in service to your future spouse. SL, 48
In closing, Archbishop Aquila called Humanae Vitae “a gift of the Church and for the world, a courageous prophecy about the beauty of human life and married love…a great light in the midst of a dark and confused world when it comes to human sexual intimacy” (SL, 50). He says that the “splendor of God’s love shining in our hearts enables us to embrace the truth about sexuality and marriage and leads us to imitate the generous, sacrificial love found at the heart of the Trinity” (SL, 49).
We pray that your marriage and family will give witness to the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May God bless you as you live out the truth of God’s plan for human sexuality.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Diocese of Rome, June 6, 2005.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the John Paul II Pontifical Institute, May 13, 2011.
 St. John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Ch. 19.
 Humanae Vitae, 9.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 1.