Jennifer Fulwiler has been a Catholic for seven years, and has never heard a homily on contraception (neither did I, in 13 years). But that all changed for her one recent Sunday. Excerpt:

As we sat listening to Fr. Jonathan’s homily that Sunday, I think we were all surprised to hear such an open discussion of this topic. Not only did he eloquently state the Church’s teaching, but then he issued a gentle message to anyone who may not currently accept this doctrine, challenging them to reconsider their stance. In the tone of a caring father, he suggested that each of us pray for conversion within the broader issue of respect for life and human sexuality, wherever we may be in need of it. He ended by saying, “This is at the heart of our Faith, because it’s at the heart of who we are as human beings.”

When he finished, the church was still. The topic had been hotly debated all over the country in recent days, even among Catholics, and there was an electric silence as we all internalized what he had said. I think many of us also wondered how our fellow parishioners would react. There had been so much media speculation about practicing Catholics’ opinions on this issue, how would the thousand-plus people in this church, located in a politically liberal metropolitan area within the Protestant South, receive this homily?

The question was unexpectedly answered when, as Fr. Jonathan returned to his chair at the side of the altar, the pews erupted in spontaneous, thunderous applause.

Good for them. I could be wrong, but I bet no small number of them disagree with Father Jonathan on contraception, but were just so glad that a priest finally had the courage to explain and to defend the Church’s teaching, clearly and without apology. It’s always good to hear a clergyman with backbone. Once, when I was living in Florida, there was a priest in our parish who was a Roman candle of clerical liberalism, shooting wack-job heretical fireballs out of his mouth at every other homily. Once, though, he gave a powerful, well-reasoned sermon explaining the Church’s social teaching about the rights of labor, and applying it to a local situation. It was a terrific sermon, one that challenged my own prejudices, and used the authoritative teaching of the Church to change my mind. I made a point to stop after mass and thank him for what he preached. I am always encouraged by non-MTD, non-lukewarm preaching. Congratulations, Father Jonathan. (Follow the link to Fulwiler’s blog to hear the homily yourself).