The Rhythm Method

Fertilization of a Human Egg

Faye, a proud ‘born again pagan,’ had to confess she owed the Roman Catholic Church a deeply heart-felt debt of gratitude. If not for their strict and rigorous teachings that artificial methods of birth control are irrevocably immoral because there is, after all, only one purpose of intercourse in a marriage – the procreation of children - then Faye would never have met Michael Duncan…for he wouldn’t have existed at all. Thankfully, the Church did, begrudgingly, approve of and suggest: If birth control were absolutely essential to the physical or psychological survival of a marriage then there was one, AND ONLY ONE, approved practice. The Rhythm Method.

Faye playfully guessed at how many of the wonderfully angelic faces were the result of ‘The Rhythm Methods’ abysmal failure. Fifty percent? Seventy- five percent? Studying the photo was akin to stepping on a Star Trek transporter pod; her thoughts disintegrating into a luminous energetic stream streaking through time and space to reassembly at a place long forgotten; her assigned desk at the prestigious San Domenico School for Girls. As one of only two non-Catholics in her class, Faye curiously observed her fellow classmates dutifully soaking in the Word of the Lord during the required hour of religious doctrinal teachings as offered by Sister Hubert, the gentle, but firm Dominican nun who ruled wisely, but compassionately, in her seventh grade classroom.

It was because of Sister Hubert that Faye created a secret tiny altar in the far back of her bedroom closet. She had taken two cardboard shoeboxes and covered them with a beautiful, hand-embroidered piece of perfectly pressed white fabric Nana had brought home from one of her round-the-world cruises. On top of this she carefully placed a miniature statue of the Virgin Mary, painted in soft pastel pinks and blues. Just before Thanksgiving vacation, Sister Hubert had given a statue to each member of the class as, “…a gift of gratitude for having such wonderful students.” Sister Hubert explained, “The Virgin Mary is always watching and listening, a kind and loving Mother to all of us. If you ever need to talk to someone, no matter what, she will be there to listen. Pray to her anytime and Blessed Mary will hear you.”

Those words gave Faye a great sense of comfort. Kneeling before this miniature shrine, she would wear a white starched and ironed pillow case on her head, secured with a black headband as though it were a veil; wondering what it might feel like to be a nun. She never told anyone about her secret refuge where she could escape when stressful, sad or scared.

Sister Hubert and her kind discipline possessed amazing power,

“Ladies, once again the Roman Catholic Church defines history. Our beloved Pope Paul VI confirms and upholds the traditional Roman Catholic rule, as outlined in his significant papal encyclical. He writes: “…each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life.”

Pausing, she looked around the room, her small rimless glasses sparkling from the glare of the overhead lights. She had perfected the art of a dramatic moment. Her impeccable posture, flowing long white robes, black veil and stiff wimple created a rather formidable presence; significantly adding to the impact of her words. The only sound that could be heard was the gentle clicking of her black rosary beads rhythmically bouncing against one another as she glided back and forth at the front of the classroom. Sister Hubert cleared her throat and continued, “Ladies, I must emphasize, the Roman Catholic Church opposes ALL METHODS of ARTIFICIAL birth control.”

Pregnant pause.

“However, it considers the Rhythm Method NATURAL and ACCEPTABLE.”

Sister Hubert, as though her words were a laser beam forever being branded onto their potentially miscreant minds, walked slowly and deliberately around the entire perimeter of the classroom before turning to the huge green chalk board. In perfectly formed letters that looked to be two feet tall she wrote:
THE RHYTHM METHOD: N-A-T-U-R-A-L & A-C-C-E-P-T-A-B-L-E, underlining the five words with great flourish as she announced, “Ladies, we will now see how Church doctrine is maintained through the discipline of science. Please open your biology books to page 19, where we will learn what exactly the Rhythm Method means, biologically speaking, of course.”

There was always an uncomfortable yet anticipatory riffle of excitement that hummed through the classroom whenever Sister Hubert approached anything close to the forbidden topic of S.E.X. It was on this day in 1968, that Faye always remembered with great fondness; for, without the teachings of Sister Hubert, she might not have known to thank the Roman Catholic Church for the love of her life. Blessed be the Rhythm Method.

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