Taylor’s Voicemail about St Augustine in 50 Pages

On my birthday, March 29, 2014, the email subscribers of my blog took a vote on our next free book. I offered several free books I’d be willing to write for you as a “thank you” for your encouragement. The winning title was Augustine in 50 Pages: A Quick Layman’s Guide to Augustinianism. You can see the various book options and how the voting broke down by clicking here.

My goal was to finish researching and writing the book by the feast day of Saint Augustine on August 28, 2014. I worked hard on it and put the finishing touches on it on August 29. Do you know how hard it is to squeeze Augustine into 50 pages? 

Please Listen Here: Your Voicemail about the Book

Here’s a short 1 minute voicemail I recorded to you telling you about the book:


Click here to listen to it: Taylor’s Voicemail to you about your free book.


Augustine in 50

Here’s a photo of the final manuscript.

Augustine in 50 Pages Table of Contents

Here’s a sneak at the title page for the book:
SAINT AUGUSTINE IN 50 PAGES title page.pdf

When will you get this Free Book?

The book is finished. But as you know, I am the royal king of typos (it’s a common theme in the comments box. My dad is dyslexic. Maybe I have a little bit of it.) So I need to get this Augustine manuscript professionally edited and cleaned up. Whenever that is finished, you’ll have this free book in your hands. Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages will go into paperback version and will be available for purchase at amazon soon. Thomas in 50 Boxshot Cover 165 no background

If you still want a free copy of Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages, sign up and get it here.

Godspeed, Taylor Marshall PS: I shared this on Facebook, but I really felt that Saint Augustine was in the room with me when I wrote this book. It was a very supernatural sensation. The closest experience I’ve had as an author was writing The Catholic Perspective on Paul and my new fictional novel about Saint George, Saint Christopher, and Saint Nicholas (due after Thanksgiving).

Question: Should the new title be SAINT Augustine in 50 Pages or just Augustine in 50 Pages? The reason I ask is that Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages doesn’t have the “Saint” in front of it. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This week: Your Brainwaves During Prayer

This week’s podcast episode will explore the latest brain science regarding brain states, prayer, meditation, and mental health. I’ve been studying this issue some and I want to share what I’ve learned through my successes and failures in mental prayer.


I’ll explain why I think sleep is essential mental health and a powerful prayer life.

Look for this podcast on Wednesday Sept 3!

Read reviews of the podcast series here.

New Content Changes at taylormarshall.com

We’re excited to announce some new content features here at taylormarshall.com. I think you’ll love these new ideas and get more value from the content.

Currently, email subscribers receive a theology/philosophy blog post on Mondays and an audio/mp3 podcast on Wednesdays. This won’t change. You also receive free books and resources from time to time. (Saint Augustine in 50 Pages is written and almost ready to send out to the email subscribers!!!)

In the future, look for shorter mini-posts and what I’m calling “audible essays.” These audible essays will be podcasts but in a shorter ‘raw’ essay format. Maybe 5 to 10 minutes. My team will also record short “visual essays” as well.

Thank you for reading taylormarshall.com and look for new things soon!

Taylor Marshall

Become a free email subscriber and get a free book: sign up here.

#047: Don’t Swallow the Camel [Podcast]

My goal this week is to talk about ‘cleaning the inside of the cup.’ I’m going to talk about my own struggles with hypocrisy and how I’m trying to overcome it. In Matthew chapter 23, our Lord Jesus Christ warns the Pharisees about cleaning the outside of the cup, but not the inside. He also warns us about not swallowing the camel. We’ll look at these passages and try to see what Christ is teaching us.

Lord Jesus Christ warns the Pharisees

Click to Listen: #047: Don’t Swallow the Camel


 If the audio player does not show up in your email or browser, please click here to listen.

  • Proverb of the week: Prov 22:10
  • Featured Segment: Don’t Swallow a Camel
  • Announcements:
    • I just joined the Faculty for The Rome Experience 2015 Theromeexperience.org
    • Pilgrimage with Taylor to the Holy Land! Feb 1-11, 2015 renewal baptismal vows at Jordan River renewal marriage vows at Cana Bethleham, Nazareth, Galilee, Jersusalem, Mount of Olives, Golgatha, Holy Sepulchre Reserve your spot now by going to: pilgrimages.com/taylormarshall
    • New Saint Thomas Institute, Waiting List is currently available for those that want to reserve a spot: newsaintthomas.com
  • Tip of the week: Split up Mental Prayer into 2 Times
  • Latin word of the week: Gluttio
Are you enjoying this podcast? Please share it on Facebook by clicking here.

Please Share Your Feedback:

  • 198,757 downloads on iTunes as of today.
  • SHOUT OUT: A huge “shout out” to all 220 (!) of you who wrote amazing 5-star reviews at iTunes. Please rate this podcast by clicking here and then click “View in iTunes.” From there you can leave a review. I appreciate you for this! Thank you!
  • SUBSCRIBE: Please subscribe (FREE) to this podcast in iTunes and get a new podcast every Wednesday.
  • SURVEY: Please view our Podcast Listener Poll by clicking here.


Tell your thoughts about this podcast by leaving a comment below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Podcast Archive

# Title Released
046 The Secret Life of Thomas Aquinas 08/22/2014
045 Did Saint Paul Teach Once Saved Always Saved? 08/06/2014
044 How to Escape Joyless Catholicism, Part 2 07/30/2014
043 How to Escape Joyless Catholicism, Part 1 07/24/2014
042 Golf Cart Saint 07/15/2014
041 5 Intellectual Virtues and Pornography, Art, and Culture 07/02/2014
040 Taylor and Joy Talk About Their Marriage 06/25/2014
038 Should You Budget Time 06/04/2014
037 The Theology of Vacation, Leisure, and Recreation 05/28/2014
036 Noah Movie Review – Rock Monsters? 05/21/2014
035 Children Need Fortitude 05/14/2014
034 Jokes of Saint John XXIII 05/07/2014
033 Divine Mercy: 5 Common Questions 04/30/2014
032 4 Sections of Hell 04/23/2014
031 Meet The Saint Version of You 04/16/2014
030 Should You Be an Optimist? 04/09/2014
029 Finding Fellowship like Samwise Gamgee 04/01/2014
028 Demons, Snakes, and Ticks: Lessons from a Hunting Trip 03/26/2014
027 How to Make an Eternal Impact with Your Life 03/19/2014
026 Thoughts on My Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe 02/26/2014
025 Why is the Catholic Church Roman? 02/19/2014
024 The Seven Lies We Believe About Our Failures 02/11/2014
023 How to Restart Your Mental Computer 02/06/2014
022 Top Five Productivity Tips from Thomas Aquinas 01/29/2014
021 Did You Miss God’s Plan for Your Life? 01/23/2014
020 When Prayer Becomes a Chore 01/15/2014
019 12 Attributes of a Baptized Christian 01/08/2014
018 A Podcast Against Bitter Catholics! 12/30/2013
017 Mary’s Painless Delivery of Christ Explained 12/18/2013
016 Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Luke (Plus How to Set Goals) 12/11/2013
015 Total Consecration to Mary 12/04/2013
014 What’s Your Apostolate? 11/27/2013
013 6 Items for the Liturgy of Your Life 11/20/2013
012 Why You Should Be More Creative 11/13/2013
011 Why Did They Stop Teaching Virtue? 11/06/2013
010 How Do Saints Hear Our Prayers? 10/30/2013
009 My Opinion of Martin Luther 10/23/2013
008 My Top 5 Daily Prayers 10/16/2013
007 Your Guardian Angel 10/03/2013
006 How You Can Convert 7 Billion People 09/25/2013
005 3 Strategies for a Marriage that Sings! 09/18/2013
004 4 Step Plan When Family Leave the Faith 09/12/2013
003 5 Tools for Deep Daily Prayer Life 09/04/2013
002 Three Tips to Increase Your Passion for Life 08/28/2013
001 How to Find a Spiritual Director 08/18/2013

I’m honored to a faculty member for the Rome Experience for seminarians. I’ll be teaching a 18 class course in Rome for seminary credit based on my book The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity.

About The Rome Experience

The Rome Experience is a cultural and spiritual pilgrimage for diocesan seminarians.

Founded in 2007 at the request and under the direction of the Bishops Advisory Board, the Rome Experience provides seminarians preparing for the diocesan priesthood the opportunity to contemplate and nurture their divine call to the priesthood and to holiness as they pray and study in the heart of the Catholic Church, beside the Chair of St. Peter, and at the tombs of the saints and martyrs.

The program follows the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy’s Directory for the Ministry and the Life of the Priests (2013), and is inspired by the thought and work of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, who dedicated many years of his life to caring for the spiritual and human needs of diocesan priests, and remains a spiritual guide for many priests today.

A cultural and spiritual pilgrimage for diocesan seminarians

Through the Rome Experience, seminarians have the opportunity to pray and learn at some of the holy and historically significant sites of Christianity, including the Shrine of St. John Vianney in Ars, France, the major basilicas of Rome, the Catacombs, and many more.

As a pilgrimage experience, The Rome Experience encourages the seminarians prayerfully to discover the hand of God in his Church and to receive a stimulus for their spiritual lives and ongoing formation. As pilgrims, they will benefit more deeply from:

Spiritual Formation

5-day retreat in Ars, France
Daily schedule that includes Holy Mass, the liturgy of the hours, mental prayer, and the Holy Rosary
Sacrament of Penance, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and spiritual meditations
Living in close proximity to the Holy Father
Pilgrimages to churches and tombs of the martyrs and saints

Seminarians from across the United States
Daily prayers, meals, and classes
Movie nights
Sports and hiking excursions
Cultural & Intellectual Formation

Being immersed in the cultural history of the Church
Experiencing the beauty of the Church’s art and architecture
Academic courses:
History of the Church and Papacy
Biblical Theology
Christian Art and Architecture
Expert instructors from the United States and Rome
Guided tours and excursions to religious and cultural sites
Papal liturgies and audiences
Visits to Vatican Congregations
The Rome Experience is designed to complement existing programs of formation in diocesan seminaries for students who have completed at least their first year of theology.

Monday, June 8 – Friday, June 12, 2015
Monday, June 15 – Friday, June 19, 2015.

in Vatican City, CIAM (Centre International Animation Missionnaire)

Date: June 7, 2015—June 20, 2015
Event: Rome Experience
Topic: The Eternal City: The Theology of Rome
Sponsor: The Rome Experience
Venue: CIAM (Centre International Animation Missionnaire)
Location: Vatican City
Public: Private

Is Star Wars Christian or Anti-Christian? Should the Force be with you?

I’m pretty pumped. Start Wars Episode VII is in the works. I’m super excited, but I know that not everyone shares my geeky expectation. Some folks have serious theological disagreements with Star Wars. We’re going to try to rescue Star Wars today using a little Thomas Aquinas…


Star Wars VII is going to be directed by JJ Abrams (new Star Treks, Super 8) and will include the original cast with the likes of Harrison Ford, Mark Hammil, Carrie Fisher, and even new faces like Andy Serkis (the actor who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings).

andy serkis as gollum

Hopefully Andy Serkis was not cast for the part of Jar Jar Binks. Just sayin’.

Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) have over the decades expressed concern that the worldview of Star Wars does not conform to the Christian worldview. I want to look at this concern, and then try to rescue Star Wars for all you Christian Star Wars fans (yes Greg Willits, I’m looking at you).

The mistake that people make when getting all down on Star Wars is that they make this equation:

  1. Christians have God
  2. Star Wars has the Force
  3. But the Force does not map on the biblical doctrine of God.
  4. Therefore, Star Wars teaches a false worldview, a false theology, and must rejected as evil!

Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

May the Force be with you: What the heck is this Force?

Let’s start with what the Force is not?

  1. The Force is not a personal God to whom one prays.
  2. The Force is not omnibenevolent or ‘all good.’ There is a ‘dark side’ to the Force.
  3. The Force is not just for good guys. Bad guys use it, and apparently use it more powerfully than the good guys.

It seems that the force is really an impersonally energy source. You can seem immediately that this does not jive with a Judeo-Christian understanding of the universe…or does it?

Christian Star Wars fans: Do not fear!

Let’s look again at the anti-Star Wars argument:

  1. Christians have God
  2. Star Wars has the Force
  3. But the Force does not map on the biblical doctrine of God.
  4. Therefore, Star Wars teaches a false worldview and false theology, and must rejected as evil!

Let’s flip this around. Let’s say that the Force stands for something other than God. Perhaps the Force is neither a spiritual entity nor a divine essence. What we need is to find in the Force an analogy to our current Christian worldview.

Pause: I realize that we don’t even really need to do this. It’s a fictional movie saga that’s fun and mythical. But to appease those that want to have a philosophical justification, here goes.

There is one thing in our universe that maps perfectly with the Force. I’m going to go down the Thomas Aquinas trail, so please follow me.

According to Thomas Aquinas (and the Catholic tradition), humans and preternatural spiritual beings (angels and demons) have a power that stretches beyond the faculties of all other natural things and species. This special faculty shared by angels, demons, good men, and evil men is called intelligentia. This word comes from two Latin words:

inter + legere

inter means “between” (like interstate) and legere means to “choose, pick out, or read.”

Intelligence, then, is the ability to choose between or to discern.

This is a power (or might I even say force) given to us by Almighty God. Your dog, cat, fish, and cactus plant do not have it. We do have it. You guardian angels also  has it.

Since we have intelligence or rationality, we can manipulate our environment, manipulate nature, manipulate objects around us, and manipulate other people. Our influence over creation through the reign of rationality can be really good, but it can also have a dark side…

The Passions and the Force of the Intelligence

According to Thomas Aquinas, there are eleven passions. Emotions like fear, joy, and anger. Because of original sin, these passions interfere with our rational intelligence. We eat too much ice cream, scream at other drivers, and cry over silly things. The passions twist and thwart the force of our intelligence so that we do dark things.

The Dark Side of the Force

We have perceived that the myth of the Force in Star Wars is not God or the Holy Spirit, but instead it is the shared experience of human and angelic rationality. This is why evil characters try to get good characters over to the dark side of this force by moving them to passionate anger, rage, covetousness, or lust. We see that the Sith Lords even overtake the entire Empire by manipulating others through this force of rationality. It happened to the Empire in Star Wars. It has happened to every human society. The only way to have the “Empire Strike Back” is to rule the passions rationally through right reason and prudential thinking. So being trained in the force is really just using the intellect to habituate virtue in ourselves and in society.

The dark side of the force is like the dark side of human rationality. Rationality is a good, but it can be twisted and abused for evil – always through the corruption of the passions/emotions.

Reassessing the Force as a Christian Analogy in Star Wars

Someone might say, “Yeah, but Yoda can move rocks with the Force and Luke can stand on his head with the Force. What does that have to do with rational intelligence?”

I answer, “Right you are. Yessss.”

But there is more to it. We humans have used our minds to accomplish all sorts of impossible things like fly in airplanes, walk on the moon, split atoms, and explore the ocean floor.

Battles, scientific miracles, healing – all these are accomplished through the force of right reason.

The lesson is that it is intelligence rightly used that accomplishes great things. In Star Wars, we see that the Force is the power rightly used to bring a civilized society into a civilized society. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Aquinas would applaud George Lucas’ depiction of “the Force” as the only power to order society – because all these philosophers realized that it was true rationality that provided humans with law, order, and civilization. Even natural law requires rationality to see it.

Star Wars actually gives a pretty accurate political picture of how human intelligence can be thwarted to accomplish society evil. Evil politicians are always flexing the force of their intelligence. When men appeal to the “dark side” you have bad things happen like this:

So next time somebody at donut hour after church says, “Yeah, I used to love Star Wars, but I don’t let me kids watch it. It’s so unbiblical,” brush off your philosophy skills and go to work. Remember: Force does not equal God. Force equals human rationality.

And remember, next time you turn into a rage monkey and start living according to your passions, you’re becoming more and more like Darth Vader. Don’t do that! You may not have a death bed conversion where someone takes off your helmet and give you a last chance.

Want to learn more about Catholic philosphy, theology, and Thomas Aquinas, join the New Saint Thomas Institute and take classes online: New Saint Thomas Institute Waiting List.

Please share this post with your friends on Facebook by clicking here.

Question: Okay, let’s talk about it. Do you think rationality or intelligence is the right lens through which to analyze Star Wars? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

#046: The Secret Life of Thomas Aquinas [Podcast]

My goal this week is to introduce you to the “secret” life of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It’s not really a secret if you know where to look. However, Thomas Aquinas is one of the better known saints, but few people know anything about his life.

Aquinas Cropped 470 wide

Click to Listen: #046: The Secret Life of Thomas Aquinas


 If the audio player does not show up in your email or browser, please click here to listen.

  • Proverb of the week: Prov 27:5
  • Featured Segment: The Secret Life of Thomas Aquinas
  • Announcements:
    • Pilgrimage with Taylor to the Holy Land! Feb 1-11, 2015 renewal baptismal vows at Jordan River renewal marriage vows at Cana Bethleham, Nazareth, Galilee, Jersusalem, Mount of Olives, Golgatha, Holy Sepulchre Reserve your spot now by going to: pilgrimages.com/taylormarshall
    • New Saint Thomas Institute, Waiting List is currently available for those that want to reserve a spot: newsaintthomas.com
  • Tip of the week: Get an Audio Bible
  • Latin word of the week: Bos, Bovis
Are you enjoying this podcast? Please share it on Facebook by clicking here.

Please Share Your Feedback:

  • 197,223 downloads on iTunes as of today.
  • SHOUT OUT: A huge “shout out” to all 219 (!) of you who wrote amazing 5-star reviews at iTunes. Please rate this podcast by clicking here and then click “View in iTunes.” From there you can leave a review. I appreciate you for this! Thank you!
  • SUBSCRIBE: Please subscribe (FREE) to this podcast in iTunes and get a new podcast every Wednesday.
  • SURVEY: Please view our Podcast Listener Poll by clicking here.


Tell your thoughts about this podcast by leaving a comment below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Saint Helen: A recommended book, Evelyn Waugh’s Helena

Today is the feast day of Saint Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great. She is the matriarch of Christian Europe and the finder of the one true Cross of Christ in Jerusalem. Here’s a post I wrote before on how Saint Helen found the original cross: it’s a great story.


I’m particularly obsessed with Saint Helena and Constantine because I’m polishing my historical young-adult novel on Saint George, which includes the likes of Saint George, Saint Christopher, Saint Nicholas, Saint Helen, Constantine, et al. It’s the story of Saint George’s coming of age, virtue, and martyrdom (and yes it has a great dragon in it).

It’s a fun novel for young adults and adults. Look for it on amazon after Thanksgiving!

One book that inspired me in particular was Evelyn Waugh’s historical fiction novel Helena. Waugh took the historical early 4th century and fictionalized it. He’s known for his acclaimed bestseller Brideshead Revisited, but I dare say that his Helena is as good as, if not better than Brideshead. Helana novel is a history lesson and entertainment all rolled into one. If you’re looking for a great novel with Christian themes, please read Waugh’s Helena.

Blurb from book:

Evelyn Waugh, author of the internationally acclaimed bestseller Brideshead Revisited and one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, considered Helena to be perhaps his finest novel. Based on the life of St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine and finder of the true cross, this spiritual adventure brings to life the political intrigues of ancient Rome and the early years of Christianity.

Helena is the intelligent, horse-mad daughter of a British chieftain who is suddenly betrothed to the warrior who becomes the Roman emperor Constantius. She spends her life seeking truth in the religions, mythologies, and philosophies of the declining ancient world. This she eventually finds in Christianity—and literally in the Cross of Christ.

Here’s the link to the book in amazon.com: Waugh’s novel Helena. Enjoy it!

Question: Have you read this novel? What did you think? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What’s your favorite piece of religious art? Vierge Consolatrice by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

What’s your favorite piece of religious art?

I tend to gravitate toward Marian art.

My favorite religious artist is William-Adolphe Bouguereau. His depictions of Our Lady are not just sentimentally pretty. His brushstrokes are powerful and delicate. Perhaps his power and delicacy is what mirrors Mary’s delicate power so accurately. I can imagine graces flowing through his fingertips, into the bristles of the brush and spreading over the canvas.

Vierge Consolatrice by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Here’s my favorite painting by Bouguereau. It brings tears. I think it’s the most powerful Catholic painting of all time:

Vierge Consolatrice

Vierge Consolatrice by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

It’s the Vierge Consolatrice in French or “Virgin Consolatrix.” She is the Consolatress. I try not to look at this painting too much because it overwhelms me.

A mother casts her depressed frame on the lap of Mary. She is still young. She is still pretty. Her dead three-year-old lies pale and cold on the floor. She wears a dark dress of mourning, but she is unveiled and tormented. Bare foot and bare armed. Her breasts are directed to the baby she suckled (knowing Bouguereau’s style and personality, this detail is intentional).

You might expect Mary to be whispering quietly into the ear of the distraught mother. You might expect for Mary to be petting the hair of the tormented woman. Instead, the Mother of God has an expression on her face that I have seen a few times on my wife’s face and upon the countenance of other impressive and powerful women.

The expression is mixture between the rage of a mama bear and the tenderness of a school girl. I’ve seen this look on my wife’s face when her baby is hurt very badly and something needs to be done now. Purity blended with power. Bouguereau is so good, it almost looks like a photograph.

Vierge Consolatrice, her face

This expression is the female face of power. Her eyes. Her mouth. It looks like an angry compassion, but completely calm. She says with her face, “This has to stop right now and nobody on earth, and no demon, and no creature better get in my way. “My little one needs me.”

Her hands are raised to Christ. You can tell what she is paying: “My Son. Bring comfort.”

Of course, Mary watched her innocent Son die cruelly outside of Jerusalem. She is the perfect lap to cry on.

The face is incredible but there are a few more details to note:

Vierge Consolatrice

  • Mary is wearing a dark color that matches the mother’s dress of mourning.
  • Mary’s foot seems to be touching the child - a moment of connection.
  • The roses seem to have fallen from the hands of the mother. These are prayers of the mother to Mary that have fallen upon the child.
  • The child is spread out on (or in) the mantle of Mary.
  • The inscription beneath the child reads: Mater Afflictorum or Mother of the Afflicted

The artist by these symbols is saying that the child is saved and protected even though the mother cannot see it. The child is in the fold of Mary’s mantle and covered with roses. The child is in bliss. The mother is the focus of the Virgin’s prayers.

Question: What is your favorite piece of religious art? Why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

NFP and Serious Reasons…What are these reasons?

Do you need a reason to morally practice NFP or Naturally Family Planning? My post about the sinfulness of contraception and sterilization (Read: 6 Reasons Why Contraception is Sinful) stirred up some comments about natural family planning (NFP). Some have claimed that NFP is abused just as much as artificial contraception. So today we’ll look at NFP and the Catholic Church’s serious reasons or just causes for NFP.

In this post we’ll look at the teaching of Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI on the reasons for NFP. I’ll also share some personal thoughts about it all.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a popular contemporary term for “periodic continence.” NFP works by observing the cycles of a wife’s fertility (charting oral temperatures, measuring cycle length, and journaling interior fertility signs), and then avoiding the nuptial embrace during her times of fertility so as to avoid pregnancy. In NFP, the husband and wife abstain from the nuptial embrace altogether during the time of the wife’s monthly fertility (usually 7-12 days).


Pope Pius XII Who Gave Us the”Serious Reasons”

The Church allows married couples to practice periodic continence only for what the church calls “serious” or “just” reasons. These reasons were listed by Pope Pius XII in his “Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives” from 1951. Granted, a popes address to “Italian midwives” is low on the the pole when it comes to magisterial statements. It’s not a universal statement. Nevertheless, it’s helpful to begin our investigation here.

Pope Pius XII NFP Serious List (1951)

Pope Pius XII’s list from his “Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives” in 1951:

Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.”

Pope Pius XII gives us these four reasons:

  1. Medical reasons
  2. Eugenic reasons
  3. Economic reasons
  4. Social “indicator” reasons

Pope Paul VI NFP Serious List (1968)

paul_vi_-_official_portraitSeventeen years later, the serious reasons (seriis causis) were repeated by Pope Paul VI in his groundbreaking encyclical Humanae Vitae.

With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts (seriis causis moralibusque praeceptis observatis), decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” (HV 10).

Here Pope Paul VI mentions “serious reasons” (seriis causis) with four kinds of conditions:

  1. Physical conditions
  2. Economic conditions
  3. Psychological conditions
  4. Social conditions

It seems that Pope Paul VI has in mind the four reasons listed by Pope Pius XII with the additional help of “psychological” and the omission of “eugenic.” However, we can discern that medical, eugenic, and psychological belong to the one “medical” genus of reason/condition/cause.

I think we can simplify the lists of both pontiffs without doing injustice to either.

NFP Serious Reasons List: Simplified and Harmonized

  1. Physical conditions (including “Medical” and “Eugenic”)
  2. Economic conditions
  3. Social conditions

Note that NFP or “periodic continence” in itself is morally neutral since observing a woman’s cycle and remaining continent are morally neutral. Therefore, NFP is not intrinsically evil. Artificial contraception (condoms, the pill, interuptus) are intrinsically evil because they directly intervene in the natural process. Artificial contraception obstructs the natural act either through devices, chemicals, or direction intervention. So then, NFP can be used when there is a proper “serious” circumstance, and the Holy Father provides four such circumstances. Let’s go through these four grave reasons.

1. Physical (Medical and Eugenic) Medical reasons for NFP would prudently weigh whether the mother’s life is in jeopardy or whether a circumstance would endanger the newly conceived child’s life (eg, the mother is going through chemotherapy or other treatment that would damage or kill a newly conceived baby). In regard to serious medical reasons, Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae n. 16, also spoke of “reasonable grounds for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife.”

The Catholic Church recognizes tat psychological problems are serious. This might include not only the mother’s mental health, but also the father’s mental health. If either parent is depressed, schizophrenic, suicidal, etc. parents should prayerfully delay pregnancy “with due respect to moral precepts.” For more on “Catholic parent mental break down,” please check out my post on GBS: George Bailey Syndrome.

With regard to what Pius XII calls “eugenics,” if the couple would pass on dangerous birth defects or perhaps has a history of serial miscarriages, then parents might prayerfully delay pregnancy “with due respect to moral precepts.” Jennifer Fulwiler has an excellent post on NFP and her own personal experience with NFP, medical problems, her babies, and “hope vs. risk.”

2. Economic (Poverty and Debt) Economic reasons touch on whether the married couple is too poor to provide for a new child. Obviously, an economic “serious reason” does not to the inability to pay for fishing boats, fancy prep schools, a new hunting rifle, or Lilly Pulitzer diaper bags. We’re talking about falling below the poverty line within one’s culture. There is no point in comparing poverty in one nation to poverty in another. It depends on where you live. A family earning $20,000 in the United States would be “rich” in Indonesia – but they don’t live in Indonesia. They live in America! American parents must buy minivans, pay the mortgage, buy clothes, etc. in America at American prices. So we shouldn’t say, “Even poor Americans are richer than central Africans, therefore, poor Americans can’t have recourse to NFP.

If a married couple are subsisting on government assistance, then they should delay pregnancy “with due respect to moral precepts.” There is one element missing from today’s discussion on Catholic marriage and family and that is debt.

Financial debt is a grave evil. The Bible often speaks of the danger of personal debt:

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

Young people often entangle themselves in debt, and I personally believe that debt is the #1 reason for young people today avoid marriage. If 25-year old Tom has $18,000 in credit card debt and $45,000 in college debt, and 22-year old Sally has $5,000 in credit card debt and $52,000 in college debt, then they would begin their married life with $120,000 of debt! That doesn’t even include a mortgage. It’s a difficult subject, but my personal belief is that priest should not marry people with large debt amounts.

We don’t allow people to enter the priesthood or religious orders with stacks of debt, why then should we allow people to enter into a the sacrament of marriage burdened with debt. It’s hard to fulfill the vocation of having a large Catholic family if you begin with piles of debt. Nevertheless, some financially prudent couples find themselves drowning in debt for no fault of their own – often with insurmountable medical expenses for themselves or for their children. This is an economic evil and such families might consider the delaying pregnancy through NFP.

3. Social (Upheaval and Persecution) The Holy Father refers here to social disorder. Social disorder doesn’t include, “the Democrats won the Presidency again.” Social disorder refers to serious problems in which raising children would be almost impossible: Concentration Camps. Religious persecution. Forced relocation. Famines. Living under China’s one child policy.

The growth of a family presumes a natural habitat for the family to flourish. When this habitat is removed or destroyed, it is not prudent to introduce children into the world. If a Chinese mother must worry about forced abortions for her next pregnancy, clearly this is a serious cause! No one would fault her for using NFP.

My Thoughts on the “Big Catholic Family”

Marshalls2013 (40)

Disclaimer: We have seven children. Do I ever get nervous about having more? Yes, I do. Does the thought of ten children sometimes scare me? Yes, it does. However, I try to make a trustful surrender of my will to God’s will. When we had five children, all we had to be reminded of is the fact that St Thomas Aquinas was number six in his family. St Therese de Lisieux (Doctor of the Church) was the ninth of nine children. St Gabriel Possenti (patron of handgun owners!) was number 11. St Catherine of Sienna (Doctor of the Church) was number 23! We should be grateful to these saints, but also to their parents who were sacrificial in their generosity.

Saint Pius X was number 2 of 9 children. So, yes, it can be worrisome and scary. Yet God will always equip you with new graces. Earthly life is short. Eternal life is everlasting. Can you imagine having the everlasting glory in heaven for having been the parent of St Therese of Lisieux? What joy her parents must now experience. St Basil the Elder and his wife St Emelia had nine children – five of which are canonized saints! So you never know. Trustful surrender. It won’t be easy, but it will be full of joy – both in this life and in the world to come!

Please also explore Taylor’s books about Catholicism at amazon.com.