HERO—a word that conjures up dramatic images of risking life and limb to run into a burning building, or charge an armed assailant, with the only objective being to protect the life of people at risk, often people who are strangers to them. Heroism can also be quiet and persistent, even hidden from view, like the faithful care and love of a husband for his dementia plagued wife, or the selfless lifelong devotion of a parent caring for a disabled child.
But what does HERO mean, in the context of this 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae? What is an HV HERO? Who are the HV HEROES, and why is it important to celebrate them?
The teachings of Humane Vitae are as old as time, but half a century ago, Pope Paul VI responded to the decade of “free love” with the divinely inspired and courageous call to be Faithful to God’s Design. The world certainly did not hail him a hero at the time, and he must have been particularly saddened by the unprecedented level of immediate and vocal dissent from within the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI is most certainly an HV HERO of dramatic proportions, who rushed into the raging flames of the sexual revolution, because it came during his watch, and he spoke the truth, with courage and compassion.
Who are the HV HEROES? They are the men and women, who responded to the challenges issued by Pope Paul VI in Humane Vitae: scientists, priests, bishops, doctors and medical professionals, public authorities, husbands and wives, who answered the call professionally, and personally. Sometimes the response was dramatic and conscious, a life spent in deliberate pursuit of fulfilling the principles of Humane Vitae. Other times, it was unassuming and quiet, but no less courageous or profound–simply witnessing to the truth in the professional and personal situations they found themselves in, as physicians, clergy, spouses and parents.
Why should we celebrate these HV HEROES? Because we should celebrate heroism and courage and truth. The scientific, theological, and sociological accomplishments of the more well-known of these heroes gifted us with NFP methods, scientific discoveries about human procreation, and insights that gave meaning to our relationships, lives and vocations. The quiet heroes, the ones known primarily to those in relationship with them, introduced these principles into our lives. It is our responsibility to tell their stories, and to testify to the impact of their heroism on our lives.
Your HV HERO may be the:
priest who changed the course of your life
physician who restored your fertility
NFP teacher who coached you in the journey
mentor couple, whose example encouraged you
NFP pioneer, whose tenacity inspired you
parent, who instilled the virtues that would bless your life
Your HV Hero may be famous, or they may be the ordinary hero, if you will, whose witness is in the unremarkable—and yet oh so remarkable—faithful quiet service of their vocation. On this historic anniversary, let us pause to recognize these heroes, and by honoring them, shine a light on the truths they advocated. For a moment, let us turn our attention from the voice of dissent, and focus instead on those who light the way.
My personal list of HV HEROES is a long one, filled with mentors who profoundly impacted my life. Some have gone on to their eternal reward, but we tell their story, and through our efforts, we honor their contribution
Who are your HV HEROES? Go to https://celebratehv.com/submit-your-hero/ and nominate your HV HERO(es) Give the world a glimpse into the beauty of these truths, through sharing the impact on your life, of those who lived them.
Sheila St. John is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning. Initially attracted to NFP as a healthy, effective method for planning families, drug, device and surgery free, her passion for NFP has grown over the last four decades as she has journeyed with the over 800 couples she has personally instructed in its use, and been privileged to witness its role in overcoming infertility, women’s health, and the transformation that occurs in lives of men, women, and families, when we embrace God’s design for love and life.