Q. Tell us about your family and where you grew up.
My dad grew up as a cradle Catholic on a small farm outside Yarmouth, Novia Scotia, Canada. My mum grew up as a Baptist in Yarmouth. She converted to Catholicism before they married. Faith was important in our family. My parents started their married life on the farm. On September 6, 1936, I became their firstborn child with a brother and two sisters who followed.
We lived in Digby, Nova Scotia, which was a town of some 2,000 people. We lived a simple but happy family life and kept in contact with our grandparents. Digby was considered a good port of the Bay of Funday for the scallop fishing boats. It is located about 12 miles from a basic-training naval base. As a result, in my early years, I had an awareness of the Second World War. It intensified when one of my dad's brothers was killed in Italy.
Q. What is the story of your journey to the priesthood? How did you serve the Church?
Looking back, I would say that it started just after my baptism when my parents took me to the statue of Our Lady in that church, in Yarmouth, and entrusted me to her care. She guided me in my human development and following Christ by the example of my parents, who had a strong devotion to her and the Rosary.
The Blessed Mother also helped bring members of the Missionary Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to look after our parish. And with them brought the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception to establish a Catholic school in Digby. The Oblates and the Sisters contributed to my journey to a priestly vocation with the Missionary Congregation of Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
After high school, I pursued a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ottawa, Ontario, at an Oblate University. Shortly before graduation, I heard the call, and in answering, entered the Oblate novitiate in Arnprior, Ontario, in September 1958. It was a year of formation in the Oblate way of life, deepening of spiritual life, and involvement with the manual labor task of running a small farm and community living. It was a good year. The novitiate ended a year later, and on September 8, 1959, I took my first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Then, I returned to the Ottawa area to begin studies in Philosophy and Theology, etc. I took my final religious vows on September 8, 1963, and was ordained to the priesthood on May 29, 1964, in the family parish church, St Patrick's, in Digby. The whole day is still vivid in my mind and heart.
After a few years into the priesthood, I coordinated a marriage preparation course at St Patrick's College in Ottawa. During that time, I was introduced to the sympto-thermal method of NFP and heard some things about the Billings Ovulation Method®. In 1968, Pope Paul VI (now Saint Paul VI) introduced the prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae into the mix for marriage and family preparation.
In July of 1974, I was given a new obedience to the Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, as the Newman Center Chaplain. That gave me the opportunity to prepare Catholic graduating students for marriage. Divine Providence provided some people who were aware of the BOM, along with some who wanted to teach it and others who could train them.
Thus, I was able to teach Humanae Vitae and have it backed up through the help of local Billings teachers.
We eventually developed an organization for the province known as WOOMB-Canada, for which I am the spiritual director.
In February of 1978, I attended a conference in Melbourne, Australia, that commemorated the tenth anniversary of Humanae Vitae. That is where I first met Drs. John and Lyn Billings.
The following year, with some of the Catholic medical students' help, we invited the Drs. Billings to speak to the medical school faculty and students.
Q. The Drs. Billings were deeply committed to practicing their Catholic faith. Do you remember when they asked you to be the Spiritual Director for WOOMB-International?
It was a gradual thing. During the early years, Dr. John asked me to be a board member. As the organization grew, he quietly asked for my input when we would meet in different parts of the world.
Dr. John was very aware of the support of Divine Providence and the need to discern its movement. The spiritual advice I gave the two of them was part of my friendship with them. Sometimes we met in Canada, sometimes in the USA, in Rome or Melbourne, as the Lord provided the opportunities. Following one of the conferences in Melbourne, the Board of Directors of WOOMB-International made the position official.
It has been a privilege to have a friendship with the Billings and to have been able to serve them. They were doing the important work that the Lord asked of them for the good of the Church and the world through the Billings Method™.
Q. Tell us about the document you wrote called "Spiritual Direction for Billings Ovulation Method Teachers." In it, you have a fascinating concept of how the devil can attract us away from Billings through the enticement of other good things (volunteering at church, for example). How did that come about?
What inspired that document was an awareness of God's tremendous gift in the Billings Method™ and the importance of each teachers’ work. I knew from my training as a priest that the devil would prevent that good from being accomplished. So, I paid attention. It became clear that his strategy was to exploit the teachers' generosity by encouraging them to become more involved in other good things so that they did not have time to teach the BOM. I realized it would be essential to explain it to our teachers. So, I wrote that document.
Q. Do you see the Billings Method™ playing any role in healing our broken culture in the future?
Yes, keep in mind that grace builds on nature. The Billings Ovulation Method® shows couples how to live their conjugal love more in harmony with Natural Law. The more God's grace can work in marriages, families, and other relationships, there is greater potential for healing our culture.
To that end, we need bishops and priests to be more aware of the positive impact that the Billings Method™ can have on our culture. Once they understand that, they can hardly not promote it.
To read Father Hattie’s “Spiritual Direction for Billings Ovulation Method® Teachers,” click here.
BOMA-USA provides education and training for The Billings Ovulation Method® which is a natural method of fertility management that teaches you to recognize the body's natural signs of fertility.