Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Happy Conception-Day

In the Pro-Life movement, much is made about life beginning at conception. Most churches, especially mine, Roman Catholicism, make a big deal about life beginning at conception, as well. But in our social practice we don't follow through. And we need to.

Today is my Birthday, March 27. I am very happily 60. It's a good milestone. No sympathy cards please. My in-laws sent me 60 dollars as a gift. I thanked them, of course. But I told them I would have been happier with 80 dollars. Not because I wanted the extra money, but because I'd be 20 years closer to heaven.

Since becoming Catholic in 1998, I'm more aware of life beginning at conception. On March 25 we celebrate Christ's conception, with the Annunciation--when Gabriel came to St. Mary and told her that she was going to be a mother. We celebrate the day that Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb. The instigation for that celebration was the Council of Ephesus (431) when, in condemning the Nestorian heresy, declared that Christ possessed the fullness of human and divine character at conception, and declared Mary, “theotokos,” the God bearer and the Mother of God. It wasn't to elevate Mary, but to protect the declaration of the divinity of Christ at conception. And so, today we celebrate Christ's Conception-Day, on March 25.

That Christ was a full person at conception is a foundational element of the Church teaching that the unborn baby is indeed, also, a full person from the moment of conception. And to abort that baby is to commit murder.

As Catholics we also celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. That Mary was conceived without sin is a point of contention with some non-Catholics, but the fact remains that her conception is celebrated on a specific day, which in Roman Catholicism is December 8.

In our modern culture today, with the pro-abortion crowd claiming that life does not begin until birth, it makes sense that pro-life advocates should reinforce their declaration about when life begins by celebrating Conception-Days. As far as I know my gestation period was normal in length, so I am going to celebrate June 27 as my Conception-Day. Our daughter, April, was born on March 21, but she came 4-weeks early, so we'll celebrate her Conception-Day on July 21. But as this idea matures in the hearts of parents, especially those that practice natural family planning, the actual date of conception may be known precisely. Write it down.

Which brings up the matter of sex, a topic that we should not shy away from so quickly. John Paul The Great, in his Theology of the Body, seemed to think that sex, especially for pro-creation was a good idea. Actually, there's probably not a pope that thought sex for pro-creation was a bad idea. Now, we don't have to get brazen or crude about it, but sex within marriage is a beautiful thing. And even though babies are conceived outside of marriage, their conception is a miracle, and miracles do not happen without God's blessing. While the act of adultery or fornication should never be celebrated, certainly the conception of a new life should be, because it is life, a life that demands all the dignity and respect of the most important persons alive.

So, I ask that we start celebrating Conception-Days. I ask that greeting card companies (both paper and electronic), encouraged by Pro-Life organizations, create and disseminate such greetings. I ask that parents start having Conception-Day parties for their children, which I envision will be great celebrations of love shown by their parents. Births, by the way, can happen with just the mother and the child present, in the same unfortunate way that there are many single moms out there raising children. Neither the birth nor the raising should be done alone, but they can be.

On the other hand, conceptions require that daddy be present, just the way a daddy should be present in raising the child. So, it is important that during Conception-Day parties, there needs to be a picture taken of Mom, Dad, and the Child. On birthdays you can take pictures of just the kid, but not on Conception-Days. We need to celebrate the family, and that includes mom and dad and children. Let's get fathers back in the picture, like they have to be in the first place. In fact, I think Dads should do the planning for such events, whether it be a special prayer and simple gift and picture at dinner, a full-fledged party, or a field trip to a museum or miniature golf. Dad does the work, but mom has to be there to celebrate.

So, Happy Conception-Day. Celebrate it. It's when a miracle occurred. It is when life began, for all of us.