The Infertility Companion for Catholics
Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples
By Angelique Ruhi-Lopez and Carmen Santamaria
Ave Maria Press, 2012
236 pages. $16.95
To order: (800) 282-1865 ext. 1 or online
The Infertility Companion for Catholics definitely delivers on what its title promises. The authors, who have both experienced infertility themselves, provide a comprehensive, informative and supportive guide to the increasing number of couples walking this often lonely and confusing journey. Not only do Ruhi-Lopez and Santamaria present practical advice and comforting words for infertile couples, they also offer challenging spiritual exercises aimed at strengthening one’s spiritual life through the cross of infertility.
The authors begin by exploring the causes of infertility and reflecting on the Church’s view that children are a gift meant to be received rather than a right to possess.
The various reproductive technologies currently offered to those seeking a child are clearly and concisely explained, as are the Church’s moral concerns about some of them.
Treatment options for Catholics are also clearly delineated, including Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro Technology), which is an effective remedy yet is almost unknown among most secular doctors.
Although the reasons why the Church objects to some assisted reproductive technologies may not convince fallen-away Catholics, the authors’ intent is not to write a treatise on bioethics; they want to serve as companions on the journey. And they do.
Each chapter ends with a prayer addressing some aspect of infertility, such as relinquishing control of one’s fertility to the Lord, petitions to the Mother of Good Counsel and a plea to end the pain of infertility. An especially comforting chapter, entitled “Infertility in Scripture,” introduces the reader to his or her “prayer companions,” various saints who experienced infertility.
Readers struggling with infertility will also appreciate the authors’ honesty in sharing the doubts, fears and temptations that they encountered in their own spiritual struggles. In the preface, the authors share the current outcomes of their situations and note that each has written certain chapters based on individual experience. Chapters include “Discerning God’s Will,” “Bearing the Cross: A Spirituality of Infertility,” “Infertility’s Effect on Marriage,” “The Loss of Miscarriage” and “Adoption.”
Ruhi-Lopez and her husband adopted their first child and then had three biological children. Santamaria and her husband, as of the book’s publication, were finalizing the adoption of twins and still experiencing infertility. While the authors’ outcomes are stated in the preface, readers may have felt more of a connection to each had they been reminded of each chapter’s authorship at the beginning of the chapter rather than in the preface.
Like well-informed friends, the authors provide an impressive list of resources for further reading or investigation at the end of each chapter. Such suggestions include books, blogs, websites, songs and lists of patron saints.
Most challenging, yet practical, is the authors’ introduction of Ignatian spirituality. Worksheets aimed at helping readers apply the Ignatian principles of consolation and desolation as they reflect on treatment and/or adoption options are provided.
The Infertility Companion for Catholics features easy-to-read bulleted lists and inspirational quotes and paraphrases. Holley Gerth offers a memorable paraphrase, stating that hope is not an emotion, but an outcome of choices.
This book is an empathetic and solid Catholic accompaniment for those holding onto hope as they confront the many choices that beset them on the road of infertility.
Mary Walsh writes from Hamden, Connecticut.