Big Families

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You probably saw the Time magazine cover last summer—the one with the overhead shot of a beautiful, tanned young couple lying on a sunny beach. Alone. Just the two of them. On vacation. Or maybe it’s just an ordinary Tuesday afternoon for this carefree, childless couple. That was the cover story: “The Childfree Life—Having It All Without Having Children.” There’ve been a ton of stories like this one in the last couple of years, each of them extolling or defending the choice that many couples are making not to have children. They use arguments like this: You can take more vacations if you don’t have kids. You can further your education (and career) if you are childless. You can have more and bigger “toys” for yourself. Not having kids is good for the planet because your “family” uses fewer resources like water, energy and animal protein. The fringe proponents of the childfree movement even have names for parents. Breeders. Mombies (mom + zombies). And other names I can’t share here. They point out that there are currently more than 7 billion people on the planet. So what. In the end it’s not about overpopulation or diminishing resources. There are arguments to show the earth could easily support 3 or 4 times our current population. Our beliefs about having children reflect our answer to the most profound question of all: “Why am I here?”

Time was when being Catholic meant coming from a large family and growing up to have a large family of your own. Today, a glance around most American parishes will rarely reveal any families with more than a couple of young children. My own parish, thankfully, is a bright exception to this trend. We have lots of young families with four or five or more children. Yet nationwide statistics show Catholic families to be only slightly larger than the 2 kids most families believe to be the “ideal.”

Why is this happening? Are Catholics using artificial birth control? Undoubtedly. Are Catholics having abortions? Tragically, yes. In the generation since Humanae Vitae (1968) it’s becoming hard to distinguish Catholic families from others, at least based on the number of children they have. And if we, as a Church, aren’t open to he gift of life, are we really Catholic anymore? Perhaps you’ll disagree with me. Surely artificial contraception can’t be that important. Yet we know that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary’s openness to the gift of life that allowed Salvation to be born. A contraceptive mentality, in contrast, puts “me” at the center of things and not God’s will for my life. It takes God out of my most intimate relationship with my spouse and it degrades our shared intimacy into mere self-seeking pleasure. This same mentality will seep into the other areas of our lives making them, as I see it, smaller and duller and more limited. And sad.

Next time I’ll be sharing the insights and understandings of a young mother. My niece Katie and her husband John have four children under the age of ten. I think her words will touch your heart, as they did mine. As you gather together around your Thanksgiving table next week, take a moment to reflect on what your children mean to you and the blessings and challenges they’ve brought with them. What if your had more children? How would having a larger family have changed your life?

“In today’s context, a family made of many children constitutes a witness of faith, courage, and optimism…which represent richness and hope for the whole country.”
—Pope Benedict XVI

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rose1929
    Dec 03, 2013 @ 17:54:45

    I am 50+ years old and was only able to have two sons who have brought immeasurable joy into my life. I would have liked as many as God willed but He willed me to bear a medical cross instead, but gave me stepchildren later.
    Sadly, my stepdaughters left the Church over the birth control issue. My ( birth) son said something so basic about the faith after finding out that his stepsister and his formally Catholic brother-in-law (who had been his confirmation sponsor) had had a vasectomy. He said “what about *GIFT* is so hard to understand??” This is what seems to be missing in the current discussion. Children Are A Gift, and isn’t it at least RUDE to refuse a gift when it’s given? (leaving sin out of the question).
    Also I’ve noticed that the contraceptive mentality is, by definition, a desire not just to plan births but to PLAN EVERYTHING. And if a disabled child or even a “poorly timed” child comes along ‘By Accident’ then a correction via abortion is necessary to keep to the plan and control of one’s situation. Surrender to God’s will is an utterly unimaginable idea nowadays….very, very sad.

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Dec 03, 2013 @ 17:57:55

      I agree with you. We are seeing so many younger folks (I’m 55) leave the church or stay but go against the church’s teachings. Sad. And the abortion prevalence among us is about the same as in non-Catholics as well. Prayer and teaching are needed! Thank you for reading my blog and for your thoughtful words. God bless you.

      Reply

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