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Is there Anything Wrong with Remaining Childless?

November 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Drs. Franks, Marriage Spirituality

Dear Angela and David, there was an article in TIME Magazine a few months ago about how a “childfree” life is so fulfilling. I’m recently married, and I have to confess that I’m scared about having kids. Is there anything wrong with remaining childless if one doesn’t contracept in order to do it?

Angela says: The TIME article is called “The Childfree Life.” Its main point is that kids require lots of sacrifices, and (brace yourself!) some people don’t enjoy sacrificing. Such people have discovered, as one of the interviewees says, that being a mother requires giving everything, and she just doesn’t want to give quite that much.

I’m allowing myself that moment of snark, but I don’t really mean to write a tsk-tsking post about those people who are so selfish. Because, after all, those people who don’t enjoy sacrificing are, well, every human being who has ever lived, with the exception of Jesus and Mary. Those people include me. Ever since the Fall, people have found self-gift distasteful. And hard. And have needed to be dragged into it kicking and screaming. And kids do that for us, really, really well.

We all, in other words, tend not to find self-gift fulfilling. Thus, the TIME article posits that a particular fifty-year-old childless female is “not only fine–she is fulfilled.” And by what measure? A consumerist one: she can spend money and eat gourmet food and travel and do all those things that self-evidently equal “fulfillment.”

All those are terrific things in themselves, and I enjoy them myself when I’ve got the time and money to engage in them. And yet … add them all up, and they still don’t equal “fulfillment.”

Our problem is that the measure of self-fulfillment has become that of consumerism. Not: are we free enough to love? But when we mix things up like this, we are splashing in the shallows of life, when we are in fact called into the deep waters of adventurous love.

Sociology, in what I call the quantification of the blindingly obvious, is only now catching up to the truth that, in fact, self-gift alone makes us truly happy. Studies now prove that selfless and generous people have happier relationships and are better to live with than selfish and stingy people. Wow, who knew?

The article finds it puzzling that “in America, at least, womanhood equals motherhood.” As limiting as such a social script might be, I’d take it any day over the actual dominant paradigm. Womanhood certainly doesn’t equal motherhood in the script of pornography. In porn, women are relentlessly reduced to sexual objects, and motherhood is the ultimate turn-off. In our pornographic culture of death, children are the supreme inconvenience–they do, after all, force men to be more than the sexual consumers of women–and the results aren’t good for women, who have that distressing habit of birthing children.

Women won’t be liberated by “freedom” from children, for two reasons: children aren’t the problem, and self-centeredness isn’t freeing. The only liberator is Jesus Christ, who frees us from our prisons of selfishness through the love that He is. When our horizons are contracted to the limits of pleasure-seeking and comfort, He opens us up to the wide expanse of the Father’s plan of loving goodness.

 

David says: Here’s the irony. The world thinks it’s cornered the market on sexual pleasure. But as Aquinas and Augustine both make a point of saying, sexual pleasure would have been far more intense before the Fall than it is now. Why? Because the sexiest thing of all is losing yourself in the intimate interiority of reality. And to get inside reality, we have to use our intellects: pay attention, ask questions, be ready to wonder. Intellect gives rise to the most intense delight.

Sex involves much of animal need, especially in the male. That is perfectly good, for we are animals after all. But we are spiritual animals, and our sexual desire and need should be completely inflected by our eros for reality. What do you really want in sex? You want the other person. But that is a spiritual or intellectual desire. You want to get inside the other person, or be filled by the other person, but unless sex is the expression of a spiritual communion that already exists, it cannot serve such intimate penetration and reception. Outside the realm of spirit, the realm of knowing and loving, it is still surfaces upon surfaces. Knowing and loving are what make sex sexy.

It’s quite understandable for you to be afraid about your fertility: Angela and I were too. But let your love for your spouse draw you out of that culturally conditioned fear. Growing marital love awakens us to the thrill of reality, kickstarts the eagerness to fall headlong with our beloved into a future beyond our control. As long as you stick to natural family planning, you will find, as we found, that reservations about having children begin to lose their force. You start being less strict about the fertility window, and what God designed all along will win out in the end.

Marriage is a decisive step out of consumerist contraction. Of course, a man and a woman are married only when they are open to being instruments through whom God the Father can work His loving will to bring more children into existence.

For that, in the end, is what all that sexual desire in us is for. Why is it so strong? Because the Father just loves babies, billions and billions and billions of them. It’s that yearning for more persons, for more knowing and loving, for more wonder in the world that is the truth of the human sex drive. What an awesome Father we have!

 

Art: Die glückliche Familie, signiert, bezeichnet C. Schweninger Wien, Öl auf Leinwand, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Drs. Angela and David Franks

Drs. Angela and David Franks are theologians who are married to each other. Angela is the author of "Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility" and her NEW BOOK Contraception and Catholicism. She has appeared on Fox TV, EWTN, Pat Gohn's "Among Women" podcast and Al Kresta, and been published in various periodicals including "The Wall Street Journal", "Magnificat", "Crisis", and the Witherspoon Institute's "Public Discourse" journal. She is a professor and Director of the Master of Theological Studies for the New Evangelization at the Theological Institute for New Evangelization (Archdiocese of Boston). David is Director of Certificates at the Theological Institute and a full-time faculty member of St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Boston. He is a contributing author to the "Philosophical Virtues and Psychological Strengths" book and several "Magnificat Companion" books, Chairman of the Board, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., and a former Baptist. Both Angela and David are regular columnists for "The Boston Pilot" newspaper and teach for St. Joseph College in Maine and the Archdiocese of Boston's permanent diaconate formation program. Together, they've hosted two Catholic TV Network series: “The Future Begins with Love” and most recently "Christian Witness." As public speakers, Drs. Franks have appeared in numerous venues, including the National Right to Life Committee conventions. David and Angela homeschool their children and welcomed baby number six to their family in 2013! They blog at drsfranks.com

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  • Jeanette

    “For that, in the end, is what all that sexual desire in us is for. Why is it so strong? Because the Father just loves babies, billions and billions and billions of them. It’s that yearning for more persons, for more knowing and loving, for more wonder in the world that is the truth of the human sex drive. What an awesome Father we have!”

    Absolutely beautiful and undeniably true! Thank you so much for this post Drs. Franks.

    • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

      Daddy loves babies! We are all His babies! We love you Daddy! :))

  • Rosemaid

    Amen to this article. I’m glad the author brought out the fact that children are the outcome of true marriage where each partner is giving of themselves to the other.
    Fr. Barron also has commented on this same “Time” cover story. Here is the link if anyone cares to listen.
    http://wordonfire.org/WOF-TV/Commentaries-New/The-Childfree-Life-A-commentary-by-Fr-Barron.aspx.

  • Camila

    Dear Dr. (Mr.) Frank,

    I can’t help but to comment.

    1) WRT to sex before the fall. I don’t know that Adam and Eve even had intercourse before the fall. It probably would have been more intense, but they didn’t need intercourse for their fulfillment. Their lower appetites were in completely subject to their higher faculties and as such being completely in union with God would have kept them utterly satisfied – they needed not intimacy with each other they had it with God who fulfills all their desires. We only know of them having intercourse – immediately AFTER the fall and their expulsion.

    2) WRT to the Father desiring billions of babies – I don’t know about this. Babies are good and a gift, but they need to be saved. There is no point in having billions and billions of baby if they are supernaturally dead and receive not and live not in union with God. The celibate and consecrated life is superior from the married life. Both are GOOD so as Augustine explains, we are not comparing a good with an evil. But the non-(natural) child bearing, sacrificial, consecrated life is superior to the married child-bearing life. One provides the means for supernatural life-giving fruitful life – the other a natural means of life-giving life and hopefully supernatural too.

    3) The Holy Family is the model for families – a continent marriage. This is also seen in the lives of many married saints who sacrificed the intimate union for the sake of the kingdom.

    • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

      You bring up great points! Would love understand how to reconcile these. Why are celibate and consecrated vocations called superior? What does superior mean?

      • Camila

        ” As a way of showing forth the Church’s holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ’s own way of life, has an objective superiority. Precisely for this reason, it is an especially rich manifestation of the Gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church’s purpose, which is the sanctification of humanity. The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery, will be achieved and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, abut will be like the angels of God” – Pope John Paul II in Vita Consecrata

        • franksly

          Great quotes here, Camila. The consecrated life is objectively superior because the vows require more sacrifices–family life, material goods, and (here’s the rub!) one’s will. Those sacrifices point to life in the “future age,” as JPII says. But that objective superiority does not mean that everyone in that state of life is personally superior to everyone in the other states of life. 🙂 Holiness–i.e., love–is the only marker by which we will be judged.

          • Camila

            The consecrated who vows poverty, chastity and obedience is freer than the married who is called to provide materially for their family. For those attached to family life, material goods and one’s will, then yes, these can be a great sacrifice. But for those detached of these goods, is free to soar and sees in them a hindrance and no longer sees them as a sacrifice. So the superiority (in my personal opinion) is not because of the sacrifice of these goods, but in that they are free to live as they will for all eternity. They are detached and wholly given to the reality to come, to their Divine Spouse, whom will be theirs for all eternity. Their consecrated reality points to a reality not of this world – the better part, Who will not be taken from them – thus its superiority.

      • Camila

        “If anyone saith that marriage state is to be preferred before the state of virginity, let him be anathema” – Council of Trent

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          One contextual caution here. This anathema was issued in response to an attack on the validity of celibate life…

          • Camila

            Thanks Dan, your point magnifies what I’m trying to say!

      • Camila

        “This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, and we have already said, revealed by our Divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solmenly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy council of Trent, and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers of the Church.” – Pope Pius Pius XII in Sacra Virginitas

    • jcsmitty

      I’m not sure I agree that the “celibate and consecrated life is superior from the married life.” The “superior life” would seem to me to be the life that you, personally, were called by God to live. He calls you to your vocation, which you can accept or reject, but accepting His call is what would make you the happiest. St. Theresa of Liseaux’s parents, Louise and Zoe Martin, were each attracted to the religious life, but decided in the end that marriage is what they were truly called to. The fruit of that marriage was not only the Little Flower, but her beautiful sisters.
      God did intend that man should not be alone, and what more beautiful gift than to be co-creators with God in the bringing of new life into the world?
      My last comment: Let’s not forget that even celibate religious are also spiritual mothers and fathers.

    • A. Crawford

      1) Isn’t this viewpoint slightly Gnostic? Adam and Eve had their bodies before the Fall. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God told them. That command was given before the Fall. Further, if they didn’t need intimacy with one another, why did God create Eve after having shown Adam his inadequacy by bringing all the animals before him to be named? The two were apparently in a union with God that is difficult for us to comprehend here and now, but it apparently wasn’t the beatific vision, as Adam and Eve still had to pass their test, which they failed. (Cf. what St. Thomas Aquinas writes about the angels and their test–he says they did not have the beatific vision before 2/3rds of them passed their test and 1/3 of them failed.)

      2) This implies that God doesn’t love people before they’re saved–which is all of us because salvation is not completed until we’re in heaven. If he hadn’t loved us, he wouldn’t have redeemed us, which he did. “Be fruitful and multiply”–indeed, he does love babies! This does not mean that he calls everyone to motherhood and fatherhood, not even all married couples. He denied children to my husband and me, for example, but he has made our marriage spiritually fruitful. Nonetheless,it doesn’t seem theologically sound to say that he doesn’t love babies because they’re born in sin.

      3) Marriages, in the teaching of the Church, are not complete until the couple has had intercourse. The will of God, for the vast majority of married couples, is to have a normal sexual relationship and to have children. The Holy Family had a unique place in the economy of salvation–it invites us all in to that family which is the Communion of the Saints. St. Joseph’s call was singular and unique, as was St. Mary’s.

      • franksly

        Re: point 3: to be precise, a marriage is made in the vows, which is why tribunals deciding “annulment” cases pay so much attention to the vows and to the state of mind of the persons making the vows on the wedding day. This is also why Mary and Joseph were really married. Intercourse makes the marriage indissoluble. It’s an interesting distinction, one that gives food for thought …

        • A. Crawford

          Can you elaborate on this a little bit? I don’t see how it can be *merely* intercourse that makes the marriage indissoluble–otherwise there would be no point, in annulment cases, in looking at possible state-of-mind reasons for declaring that a valid marriage did not exist, presuming that in most cases the couple did consummate the marriage. (I realize this is getting a little off-topic, but I need to understand this because I catechize university students and make every attempt to render faithfully what the Church teaches. If you want to email me privately, I assume you have my email accessible.)

          • LizEst

            Until Angela can get back to you, I’m just going to list a few Canons from Church law here:

            1056-“The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament.”

            1057-§1. “The consent of the parties, legitimately manifested between persons qualified by law, makes marriage…”
            §2. “Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable covenant in order to establish marriage.”

            1061-§1. “A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.”

            1141-“A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.”

            So, when someone seeks an annulment, these things, or the lack of these things have to be proved or disproved. And, Angela is absolutely correct about the vows and the state of mind of the persons making the vows on the wedding day.

            One thing that greatly helped me with these things were two courses: Canon Law, and Marriage and Canon Law. If you are able to take a few Church law courses, I believe it would also greatly enhance your understanding of these things.

            Hope this is of assistance…in the meantime! God bless you, A. Crawford.

          • A. Crawford

            Thank you very much for posting these things. I did understand them previously, I believe. I know the state of mind is important, also–if it could be proved that a person was married against his will, the marriage would be considered null, for example. It was the statement “intercourse makes the marriage indissoluble” that threw me. Here is my understanding, and I want to know if I’m misunderstanding: IF the matter and form of the marriage are valid but no intercourse has occurred, the marriage may be annulled. IF the matter and form of the marriage are deemed to be invalid because of the state of mind AND intercourse has occurred subsequently, the marriage may be annulled. Isn’t that correct? Therefore, it is validity-of-matter-and-form + intercourse that makes a marriage indissoluble. Right? Hence, though it may not be legally correct to say that the marriage isn’t completed until intercourse has occurred, it seems to me to represent the reality in a way that most people can understand. But I can see what Dr. Frank is saying about a valid marriage having taken place before intercourse–because doesn’t a full annullment process have to be done, not a simple declaration of nullity that takes little time? Doesn’t the full process have to take place, though, in a circumstance in which the state of mind is determined to have caused invalidity, even though intercourse has occurred?

            Bottom line: is my understanding essentially correct? And if so, what is the best way to express it to my students without using the term “completed”? 🙂

          • LizEst

            OK. Let’s see if any of this helps.

            It’s the valid consent of the man and the woman that makes the marriage valid. So, even before the marriage is consummated the marriage is valid under the proper conditions. One of those conditions is that the man and the woman have to be able to consummate the marriage. If the man and woman cannot consummate the marriage, the marriage is still valid. In this case, the question becomes whether or not they knew they could not consummate it (this would invalidate the marriage because at least one of the parties could not give proper consent–so, it goes to the question of valid consent). If the marriage cannot be consummated and neither party knew about it before hand, then, if I am not mistaken, the marriage can be dissolved. It’s not common for the Church to dissolve a marriage, but it does happen.

            If the marriage has been consummated, but there was a defect in the consent of the parties involved, then it’s invalid. But, all this has to be proved.

            If the marriage is valid (consent) and intercourse has taken place, the marriage is ratum et consumatum and cannot be dissolved.

            So, let’s look at your particular statements:

            “IF the matter and form of the marriage are valid but no intercourse has occurred, the marriage may be annulled.” No, this is incorrect. The marriage is valid. No declaration of nullity can be given; however, the marriage may be dissolved because it is NOT ratum et consumatum (translation: valid and consummated); it is simply ratum (valid) but not consummated.

            “IF the matter and form of the marriage are deemed to be invalid because of the state of mind AND intercourse has occurred subsequently, the marriage may be annulled. Isn’t that correct?” Yes, this is correct.

            “Therefore, it is validity-of-matter-and-form + intercourse that makes a marriage indissoluble. Right?” Correct.

            “Hence, though it may not be legally correct to say that the marriage isn’t completed until intercourse has occurred, it seems to me to represent the reality in a way that most people can understand.” This is not a good way to talk about this. My advice is to get rid of the term “completed”. It’s just confusing. The Church doesn’t talk about marriage this way. So, explain it the way the Church does and there will be less confusion. To use the term “completed” injects another concept into the discussion and just muddies the waters.

            “because doesn’t a full annullment process have to be done, not a simple declaration of nullity that takes little time?” This is a confusing statement. What most people refer to as a ‘full annulment process’ IS a declaration of nullity. I think what you mean is that some declarations of nullity are easier done than others because things are very cut and dried. It’s not simply saying that there was not valid consent. Invalid consent must always be proven (hence the process), unless there was no sacramental marriage…such as a civil marriage. But, one has to be careful also about sacramental marriages, because there are dispensations from form in the case of mixed marriages, etc, which make the marriage contract valid and also other circumstances where marriage is considered valid (the specifics are canon law and would take too much time and space to get into here).

            “Doesn’t the full process have to take place, though, in a circumstance in which the state of mind is determined to have caused invalidity, even though intercourse has occurred?” Yes, the invalidity of the marriage must be proven in all cases, except where it is cut and dried that there would not ever be a valid marriage (such as the civil marriage I referred to above).

            So, bottom line is your understanding is fairly correct… but needs refinement. Here is what, I believe, you need to understand firmly: (1) Don’t use the term completed. It’s too confusing. Just catechize using the correct terms from the start. (2) All invalid marriages must be proven invalid, unless the marriage could not be valid because of cut and dried cases, such as a civil marriage (if you need to know more about other cut and dried cases, please check with a canon lawyer). (3) Valid marriages that have not been consummated can be dissolved but can not invalidated. (4) What you term annulment is technically called a declaration of nullity in all cases, whether that declaration results from a cut and dried case or whether that declaration results from a declaration that has to be proven, which will be many, if not the majority, of the cases. (5) A dispensation of form does NOT result in an invalid marriage.

            Sorry to be so long-winded, but I hope that helps. Since you are catechizing, you need to be certain about what information you are getting across to others.

          • A. Crawford

            Thanks for posting all of that (you don’t have to apologize for posting a lot! it’s helpful). I understand everything, I think. Because of working with people who are coming into the Church, we run into some of these situations, where the marriage wasn’t valid for one reason or another, and they have been–as you termed it–cut and dried, which minimized the process. I think I have a good handle on it now. Thanks again, very much, for taking the time and effort to clarify!

          • LizEst

            You’re quite welcome. All the credit goes to the Lord. I thank Him for my excellent canon law professors who were very precise about the distinctions involved and taught us well. God bless you in your ministry, A. Crawford.

    • Jeanette

      Re Point 2) – Gen. 1:28 “And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.”

    • RobinJeanne

      They would have had intercourse becauses first command to them was… ” be fruitfull and multiply” the second command was to” not touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil” I agree with your statement that it would have been a more intense love making because they were free from sin and could give themselves totally. Our woundedness keeps us from enjoying that kind of oneness… all we can do is dream of it (hence why romace movies are so popullar.

      • Camila

        Adam and Eve only started ‘multiplying’ after the fall.

        • RobinJeanne

          God’s command to be friutful was before the fall… she didn’t get pregnate till after the fall

          • Camila

            Adam and Eve only had 1 commandment: Not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

            It was a blessing that God bestowed upon Adam and Eve to “be fertile and multiply” – it was not a command.

          • drsfranks

            This is probably an open theological question, whether Adam and Eve would have had intercourse and children pre-fall or whether it was an allowance for after the fall.

            Many of the Church Fathers argued that reproduction would have been non-sexual if there had been no fall. But John Paul II in the theology of the body decisively sides with the idea that sexual reproduction is part of God’s plan “from the beginning.” I agree with JPII–not as though he is thanking me from heaven for that! 🙂

          • Camila

            Scripture is clear. They had children after the fall. What’s open about this?

            Yes! A blessing is a gift (not a command).

          • drsfranks

            The “open” theological question has to do with the hypothetical: if Adam and Eve had not sinned, would they reproduce sexually or not? That is not answered in Scripture.

            The “possibly open” part has to do with whether JPII’s decisive treatment in the theology of the body of sexual reproduction as something pre-lapsarian has now closed the previously open theological question–and closed it in favor of saying that intercourse occurred before the Fall. 🙂

            I personally haven’t resolved that latter point. TOB is authoritative, but whether it is in all its details is a slightly different question.

          • A. Crawford

            For what it’s worth, here is the sequence: Genesis 1, creation account: vs 26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image…'” vs. 27: “So God created man in his own image…male and female….” vs. 28: And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”

            This has been translated in the imperative in the English. I don’t read Hebrew, but I think this translation is most likely correct because in Everett Fox’s *Five Books of Moses* it’s translated “Bear fruit and be many and fill the earth….” This seems to me to be both a blessing and a command, pre-lapsarian. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t understand what is inferior about sex that one would have to posit that it wasn’t in God’s original plan. I used to hear that some of the Fathers also speculated that sex would have been much more glorious before the Fall. Is that a myth?

            It seems clear to me that children were in the plan from the beginning, not only because of the “Be fruitful and multiply” command but also because, in Genesis 3:16, as part of the curse, God said that the woman would bear children with pain, as though that would not have been part of an already established process of childbirth.

            Doesn’t the Church teach that a couple must be open to life when they marry and that children are to be accepted as a gift and a blessing from the Lord, and that the Lord loves them? I understand that children are not a right–the Catechism is clear on that. It also refers to the transmission of human life as a “duty” (section 2371) and says that “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in *large families* [emphasis in original] a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity” (section 2373). Thus, it seems to me that rather than characterizing the having of children as an act of our free will, it would be more accurate to characterize it as acknowledging that we must align our will with God’s (as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says is the purpose of prayer)–i.e., we must understand that the whole process originates with God and ends with Him, and that we must conform with both His command and His gift.

          • LizEst

            Well put. Thanks A. Crawford…and God bless you!

          • Camila

            A. Crawford,

            You say “I don’t understand what is inferior about sex that one would have to posit that it wasn’t in God’s original plan.” This is your interpretation. This is not what I said.

            From the Catechism “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful.”

            “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead.”

          • A. Crawford

            Right. I wasn’t replying to you on the issue of inferiority about sex so much as commenting on what the Drs. Franks had said about what some of the Church Fathers said. I don’t recall your having said anything about it not being in the original plan…perhaps you did.

            Yes, about children being a gift. Agreed. (As I said, the Catechism is clear that children are not a right.)

          • LizEst

            I believe it was a command, just like when God said, “Let there be light.” That’s a command even though it’s not phrased as such. Common thinking is that commands have to be directive to be commands, but they don’t have to be. Anyone who has been in the military will tell you that a superior can command just by saying they wish so and so, let it be so, or you are commended for doing thus and such. Many religious orders have the same understanding. It’s the same thing as when Dan granted me a particular type of access to this site. He didn’t say, “I don’t want you to do thus and such with this access.” He said, “That DOESN’T mean I am asking you to do anything with it. I am just making it available to you…” That’s a command.

            The Jewish people have also seen those particular words as a command for thousands of year. In the Tanakh translation of the Torah, it says that the “root [word] of Eden denotes fertility” and “The division of humankind into two sexes is closely associated with the divine mandate to Be fertile and increase. In Jewish law, this is a positive commandment…” So, God placed Adam and Even in the very garden of fertility, part of the divine plan…part of his directive to be fertile and multiply.

          • Camila

            Liz,
            When God says ‘let there be light’ light is. Period. He moves the thought from His divine mind and speaks, instantly His word becomes (visible) reality. (Not sure He even really needed to speak per se – He could have just willed it.)

            Anyway, being fruitful is not a command (to use your term) in the same way the creation of light was a command. He depends on our free will to co-create a human being. He made it that way.

            Fertility is a gift, which comes with it a responsibility of parenting. He can’t order/command us to have children. He has allowed this gift to be exercised within the context of a family where man and woman would chose to participate with Him in co-creating other humans and consequently becoming parents. He can’t force us to be parents.

          • LizEst

            You’re right. He can’t force us. But, he can command us. He can’t force us to take up our crosses daily, but He does command it. He can’t force us to love our neighbors as we have been loved by Him, but He does command us.

          • Camila

            I insist Liz. God blessed Adam and Eve with the gift of being able to multiply. This is not a command in which they were obliged to obey. As they were commanded not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

          • Camila

            In other words, this is the distinction between the marriage at the point of only vows and consummated marriage.

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Liz – do you have any sources on the Fathers or other authorities that read this as something beyond a blessing? I know that Jerome in one of his letters calls it a “decree” but all the other mentions I have read leave the plain meaning of “blessing” without modification and without drawing the blessing to a command. To be clear, I have never really explored this in detail. However, I always read it as a command until this thread and checking on a few references in the Fathers.

          • Camila

            Dan,

            You will need to differentiate 2 concepts:

            1) God’s blessing of fertility
            2) The duty of the spouses

            Here’s what I mean by this. One idea is the gift of fertility (from God to men), ANOTHER (completely) different idea is the concept of duty towards each other (from one spouse to the other FREELY given and mutually consented to in the Sacrament of Marriage).

            “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife.”

          • Camila

            Dan,

            BTW – the whole idea of NFP hinges on this concept of gift and (a deliberate discernment) participation in the power of creation (co-creation).

          • LizEst

            Well, I’d have to search. This is when I wish I had Logos software so I could use all those resources and also use the reverse interlinear Bible to look up these words!

          • Ben Dunlap

            St. Thomas Aquinas seems to take it for granted that it was a command — in the course of citing St. Augustine he calls it a “mandatum” in the reply to the 2nd objection of article 2 of Question 98 of the First Part of the Summa: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP098.html#FPQ98A2THEP1

          • LizEst

            Thanks for sharing that Ben. God bless you.

          • Camila

            Hi Ben (thanks Liz for digging this up),

            So are you saying then that St. Joseph and our Lady sinned for disobeying God’s command (‘mandatum’) and living a continent marriage and not having children by coition?

          • Ben Dunlap

            Hi Camila — no, I’m not saying that at all. Just pointing out another thread in the tradition that sees Gn 1:28 as a command.

            I’m wondering if one can draw much in the way of general principle from the continence of Our Lady and St. Joseph — they had a very particular reason for remaining continent, one that no other couple will ever have. Also, Our Lady was in fact fruitful in the basic bodily way (as well as other more noble ways).

            As far as Adam & Eve go — I don’t see that the comparison to consecrated celibacy gets one very far. Prior to the Fall they neither suffered from concupiscence nor toiled for their sustenance. Which is to say that they already enjoyed, in a more excellent way, the benefits that fallen man seeks in the consecrated life.

            In any case they weren’t celibate, they were married. I suppose they could have practiced perpetual continence, but to what end? And what would the point of their reproductive organs have been?

          • Camila

            Ben,

            My concern with the article all along was that there is absolutely no problem in being ‘childless’. I think it is a very hard case to make on the joys of a large family. There are many (I have one myself). But I believe it is a much easier case (more persuasive, if you will) what the ‘dinks’ (double-income-no-kids) have to offer.

            What I was trying to demonstrate is that couple may indeed decide to live a continent marriage and as a result would be childless. They in fact would be answering and living a higher calling, a supernatural calling. Historically, many of the married saints (repeat, saints) chose continence. St. Paul talks about husbands living as though not having a wife.

            The key to convincing young folks to ‘not be childless’ is OBEDIENCE. It is not trying to make having tons of baby look good. Babies are loud, demand a ton of time and energy, are in constant need. The joy and blessings of having babies is found in the same joy and blessing of living within the boundaries of the teachings of our Church. Obediently and with docility embracing the teachings from our Church founded by our Lord Himself. —-this is my opinion so feel free to disagree with me—-

            Our church is in a deep crisis; where contraception (an intrinsically evil act) is accepted with absolutely no qualms by many (many) of our priests, let alone the laity. This is causing havoc in our ability to understand our faith and accept what God has for us. We won’t become a holy people while we hold on to contraception.

            So, my point with the whole idea of blessings and command was to in a way to push the envelope, if you will in the direction that is Holy good! Children are a blessing, couples are given the choice to have or not children, they are however NOT given a choice to have contracepting marital intimacy.

          • Ben Dunlap

            Thanks Camila for your lengthy reply. I agree with what you say about contraception and also about the challenges of having a large family (I too have one and know the challenges well!).

            Perhaps it will be helpful to distinguish between what we might call “partial” continence and “total” continence.

            I can see why a couple might choose to remain “partially” continent — for an extended period of time or even indefinitely, beginning at some point in their already-consummated marriage. They might choose this out of religious devotion, or simply to postpone childbearing, or even as a natural development related to advanced age. I suspect — though I may be very mistaken here and would welcome correction — that the married saints you mention practiced this sort of continence.

            What I don’t understand, and suppose is quite rare even among canonized saints, is total continence — i.e., never consummating the marriage at all. I know the Church has permitted some couples to contract a “Josephite marriage”, and so I will grant that it has some mysterious place in God’s providence, but I don’t think it is a point of reference for all the faithful, the way true consecrated celibacy is. Rather it must be some sort of rare and special path, an exceedingly strange and radical sign of contradiction that is somehow needed in a certain time and place — just as the original Josephite marriage was a devout response to the Holy Family’s unique situation.

            I say this because the procreation and education of children is, in principle, the primary end of marriage. This is both good philosophy and traditional Catholic teaching and, I’d venture to say, the common-sense intuition of the vast majority of people throughout all of history. It is, as Ralph McInerny has said, just what marriage is *for*.

            In fact it’s my understanding (though I am by no means a canonist) that entering marriage with the intention of deliberately remaining childless can actually invalidate the marriage — which is why, again to my knowledge, a Josephite marriage requires a dispensation. (And that itself would be another sign that such a marriage is not an ideal for others to aim toward).

            It is for this reason that the Church teaches that contraception is wrong: Marriage is supposed to produce children, and acting as though one is married (i.e., having intercourse), while deliberately frustrating the purpose of marriage, is a perversion that can’t lead to true happiness.

            I agree that obedience is important but it’s also very important to see that the teachings we obey are reasonable and conducive of true happiness. I don’t think that most people (Catholic or not) truly believe, deep down, that a childless marriage is a flourishing and happy marriage — because we can sense intuitively what marriage is for, even if we aren’t willing to say it out loud.

            To my mind the rhetoric of “lots of babies” is useful in this context. A large family *is* beautiful, troubles and all, and the rather desperate spray-tan glamor of Time magazine can’t compete with this genuine beauty, which resonates with a normal person’s intuitive sense that children are the good and proper fruit of marriage.

          • LizEst

            Your understanding of what could invalidate a marriage, which you stated above, is canonically correct.

          • Camila

            I suppose a couple who mutually agree to forgo children after their marriage (and forgo consummation and any marital intimacy) for the sake of God’s kingdom wouldn’t be too concerned with a valid marriage.

          • Camila

            BTW – Isn’t it part of tradition that the wedding Jesus and our Lady attended at Cana was of one of the apostles whom Jesus called to follow Him and thus never consummating his marriage?…. (I may be totally off the mark here…I’ll check into this.)

          • Camila

            And if this is true. I find it funny that the moment where marriage was ‘raised’ to the dignity of a sacrament is actually of a non-consumated marriage.

          • Camila

            Ben,

            If this genuine beauty of ‘lots of babies’ you talk about is so attractive, then why don’t we see the majority of Catholic families with large families? After all, the beauty you talk about would radiate and make it look so desirable that many would want to imitate, I suppose.

            My opinion.
            The beauty of a large family is the same beauty of the crucifix. You don’t look at Christ for the first time and jump for joy and say ‘yes, that is what I want to do with my life’. But mature Christians desire that folly, the folly of the Cross. You see, the beauty is found in the sacrifice. In the obedient sacrifice. In the complete self gift.

            So no, I will never agree to try to make the troubles of a large family look cute and pretty. It isn’t. It is a lot of hard work and sacrifice. We Catholic don’t proclaim a resurrected Christ, we proclaim a crucified Christ Who resurrected.

          • Ben Dunlap

            I agree that large families aren’t obviously beautiful to many modern men. But my point was that they are genuinely beautiful nonetheless — not cute or pretty, but rather abundantly fulfilling the natural purpose of human existence, which is to propagate the species and to increase the multitude of individuals with immortal souls (I am stealing again from St Thomas Aquinas here).

            This is quite different from the cross. From the natural perspective the cross is entirely ugly and pointless. We see its beauty only from the supernatural perspective.

            Even the difficulties and sacrifices of having a large family can be seen as ordered to natural goods that are worth sacrificing for — such as the material and emotional support that a large extended family can provide as its members age. The mature Christian can also find immediate spiritual fruit in the challenges of family life, but that’s a bonus, so to speak.

            And I am proposing that many people, indeed most, recognize the natural goodness of family life in some way — a gut feeling if nothing else — but are not confident about this because of the constant lying of the culture of death. If this were not true the culture of death would not need to be advanced so violently and relentlessly.

            So it needs to be said, exuberantly by those who are living it, that large families are good and beautiful — not to gloss over the difficulties involved but because it is fundamentally true, and (again, my suspicion) *most people already know it to be true*, if only in a vague and inarticulate way.

            This rhetoric need not be opposed to the call to obedience and sacrifice but it seems to me to be preliminary to that call.

          • Camila

            Dear Ben,

            You say “So it needs to be said, exuberantly by those who are living it, that large families are good and beautiful — not to gloss over the difficulties involved but because it is fundamentally true, and (again, my suspicion) *most people already know it to be true*, if only in a vague and inarticulate way.

            This rhetoric need not be opposed to the call to obedience and sacrifice but it seems to me to be preliminary to that call.”

            It has been my experience that when I have guests stay with us and see the amount of work it is to keep up yet they see and witness the fruit (in the kids and the orderly joyful life) there is something that prompts them to seek more. How can there be such order and joy in a family so big?

            I have had strangers stop me in the grocery store and or park to say ‘oh, you are the mother of the boys so and so and the girl so and so, right? Oh, I love teaching them…. I smile and praise God.

            I never omit the hardship, Ben. It is in the loving witness that people’s hearts are touched. They see the suffering behind the joy, they witness the sacrifice behind the fruit and that is what compels them.

            I have many pictures of beautiful pictures of us – in fact a whole blog. But when I look at it something in me realizes that while it is true that there is much joy in our family life. There is much suffering too.

            So when friends come over and witness. They are left refreshed and willing to embrace a little more suffering, a little more sacrifice. Some who have sterilized themselves have confessed they wish they had not; and wished they had more children.

            At the end of the day, what compels my heart to suffer is not the ‘beautiful’ family, but our Lord Crucified. My flesh wants one thing, my soul another. I look at our Crucified God and find comfort and strength in His obedience. Obedience even to die on the cross. So I submit my flesh and will to the obedience of His church – come what may. And that has been the source of my joy – and the source of my family’s joy.

            This joy sustained by sacrifice is what I have found to be profoundly powerful to move people’s heart and desire something more than what the culture of death deceitfully promises.

          • Camila

            Another example:

            I teach CCE to teens.

            When I started teaching them, they had already received their first confession. When I asked them how everything went the moaned and many said they didn’t like going and they don’t want to go again.

            A few classes into our course and I walked them through an examination of conscience. Gently and lovingly showing them why the Church teaches what she teaches, thus forming their consciences towards and obedience to the magisterium.

            Peppered throughout the class I witnessed these teenager exclaim “I need to go to confession” … or “Oh, I need confession”…. or “wow, really?! when can I go to confession?” You see, it wasn’t me painting a beautiful picture of virtue that converted them, but the reality that God desires their allegiance. An allegiance that is shown by our actions, even if it means to go against what we desire and want. In other words, obedience.

            Yesterday I read to them the story of the prodigal son and demonstrated just how incredibly loving our Heavenly Father is and how torn we are and how much we need His grace. Again, you could see the teens engaged and understanding. They know sin, Ben. They need hope that Someone greater than them can lift them from their misery. But it is in showing just how miserable we are, in our sin, that we can see that we need a Savior.

          • RobinJeanne

            I’m not trying to be difficult. No one knows how long they were in the garden before they sinned. It could have been years. I’m just saying I’m sure they did make love prior to sinning, because how else could they “multiphy” if they didn’t make love?

            Commands aren’t always about “don’t” it can be “to do” such as “honor your Father and Mother”

            I was responding to your comment ” but they didn’t need intercourse for their fulfillment. Their lower appetites were in completely subject to their higher faculties and as such being completely in union with God would have kept them utterly satisfied – they needed not intimacy with each other they had it with God who fulfills all their desires. We only know of them having intercourse – immediately AFTER the fall and their expulsion.”

            They did need “intercourse” to multiply. God desinged us for being one, fitting perfectly together… but without lust…. just perfect love and desire for each other.

          • Camila

            RobinJeanne, You are speculating – even in contra what Scripture says. You are free to do so.

            I will speculate too. My speculation is that prior to the fall Adam and Eve were contemplatives par excellence. The union they experienced (even more profound than the best contemplative who ever walked this earth ie. St. John, St. Teresa, St. Catherine etc…. Except for our Lady of Course – who btw did not have original sin! So her experience in contemplation would probably have been comparable to Adam and Eve’s.

            There. That’s my speculation – just like yours (but I will take the opposing point of view) Cool?

          • Camila

            Speculating further… because of the tremendous gifts they had – and the union they experienced, the fact that they disobeyed and sinned is justly rewarded with great punishment, no?!

          • RobinJeanne

            Yes… 🙂

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Is the biblical record that detailed?

          • Camila

            Dan,

            Genesis Chapter 3 verse 23: The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken. When he expelled the man, he settled him east of the garden of Eden; and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

            Genesis Chapter 4 verse 1: The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel.

            (New American Bible)

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Very good – driving and didn’t have memory. Probably should stop looking at my phone on the road!

          • LizEst

            Yikes! Should????

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Ok – safe and sound at a restaurant now.

          • LizEst

            Mangia!

          • Camila

            Cheers!

      • Camila

        St. John of the Cross says

        “As for children, there is no reason to rejoice in them because they are many, or rich, or endowed with natural talents and gifts, or because they are wealthy. One should rejoice in them if they are serving God. Beauty, riches, and lineage were of no help to Absalom, David’s son, since he did not serve God. The joy he found, therefore, in these goods was vain.

        It is also vain to desire children, as some do in upsetting and troubling the whole world with their longing for them. For they do not know whether the children will be good and serve God, or whether the expected happiness will instead be sorrow, or the rest and comfort, trial and grief, or the honor, dishonor. And because of the children they might, as many do, offend God more. Christ says of these people that they circle the earth and the sea in order to enrich their children, and they make them children of perdition twice as much as they themselves.”

        (from The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Chapter 18, number 4)

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          🙂

  • jcsmitty

    This article brings to mind a question I heard just this past weekend. A very devout young Catholic couple wondered if it would be OK to use NFP on their honeymoon so they would have some time alone in their marriage before having a family. They very much want and intend to have children, but just wanted some time alone first. Would that be wrong?
    As it turned out, they heard a Catholic commentator suggest that NFP “without a really good reason,” would be wrong–so they decided they would not use it on their honeymoon. I guess it all depends on what you consider “a good enough reason” to delay having children–and their reason wasn’t “critical” enough?????

    • franksly

      There is much pixel-ink spilled on this vexed question of “good enough” reasons. The Church carefully does not providea calculus to determine those “good-enough” reasons; it is left to the discernment of the couple, because what is serious for one couple is not serious for another perhaps. My personal, albeit strongly held, belief is that NFP weeds out non-serious reasons. You can’t go on contraceptive-autopilot with NFP, and sooner or later sex will win out if the reasons aren’t serious. 🙂

      • $1650412

        :o)

  • Jim

    So Time Magazine has discovered that freedom from children makes us free to consume, which brings fulfilment? What about the lessens that Candace Bergen taught us back in the 90’s, that the point of having children was so that they could make us feel fulfilled – as long as they didn’t get in the way of our careers, of course?

    Angela, you are spot on: love is not love unless it is self-sacrificing love. A childless couple may love each other with authentic, self-giving love. But if that love is authentic it will bring about in the lovers an openness to new life.

  • Jean

    You have explained marriage and the true meaning very well and how important it is in the rearing of children within marriage. However I feel I must point out that human beings are not animals. Human beings are born with a soul but animals are not. Sexualty is a gift from God given to animals and to humans. Aminals use this as animals but human beings use this gift in the procreation of babies in the Love of God. We are made in the image of God so therefore human beings should never be referred to as animals.

  • Midget01

    I personally think God understands your fears and reservations. I think the issue to look at though could become a fear that places a mistrust not in yourself but eventually blocks your trust in God. I don’t think God gives everyone the gift of parenthood but if He should gift you he also will give you the skills to meet those needs and with prayers you need to trust. I think to purposely avoid is selfish but to totally trust and no children should arrive is God’s way of saying I have other things for you to do. In this day and age too many people put everything else before the Lord and this can be called selfish. I just need to do one more thing before we start having kids. I am just doing birth control so the ones I have can have things in life that I didn’t have but what they really need is you. Trust in the Lord – you shall not tire. Peace Midget01

  • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

    This post really speaks to me…I lived a very “free” and exciting city life of travel and constant consumerism that I feared giving up so much that I postponed having children. My husband and I really milked that time, but it was also a risk because I had friends with fertility problems and I didn’t know if I might encounter the same. Through the grace of God, I was easily able to have two children, one right after the other, and they are my greatest blessings. Giving birth to them was the spiritual pinnacle of my life! However, parenthood does mean self-sacrifice…especially if you are used to limitless freedom. I have collapsed in tears many a night. However, I have never experienced God closer to me. In the joy of my little ones innocent faces, I see the purest unconditional love and on the difficult days, I use my “crosses” as opportunities to become less self-centered, more Christ-like and more aligned with Christ’s suffering. As I always say, “When life brings you to your knees, you might as well pray!” Finally, I still know childless couples who seem happy and enjoy all the perks of a stress-free life but I don’t envy them anymore. When you are in love with your spouse, it is natural to want to have a child with them. We can never go back and actually see our partners as children, but through our own children, we get the opportunity to see glimpses of our youthful selves. So, I would say that whenever you feel fear remember that it is an absence of love and trust. I had the same fear but I took the leap in faith God has infinitely rewarded me.

    • franksly

      This is beautiful, Pamela. Thanks for sharing. I agree that those of us who have had a lengthy taste of the “child-free” life often find it harder to transition into parenting! (Or marriage, for that matter.) It’s one reason why late marriages can be so challenging for people. Not impossible, of course, but they come with their own challenges.

      • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

        So, true, franksly…I hadn’t even thought about the marriage part! That comes with its challenges as well, especially since we are more “formed” (or in less delicate words “set in our ways”) the longer we remain single. However, I still encourage my older single friends to never give up hope that God might have a soul mate for them, waiting around the corner. We can learn a lot from our spouses and grow closer to God through them. I am very grateful that I met my husband when I was self-sufficient and successful (and had “sowed my oats”, let’s say) but most grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be a mother at the time of my choosing. However, this isn’t always the case, so all we can do is keep putting our faith in His will and trust His path for us, no matter where it leads…

        • LizEst

          ps, Pamela: franksly is the avatar for Drs Franks, though only Angela’s face is shown.

          • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

            Got that! Thanks Liz. Weird world we live in of avatars and code names. Still not up to speed on that part. Didn’t want to “dis” the responder but later realized the responder was the author. Sorry, Dr. Franks!

          • LizEst

            I don’t think Angela took it as being dissed! I just thought you might not realize that. The avatar name strikes me as perhaps something like “speaking frankly” about something…but, in this case, they would be “speaking franksly”! Talk about not being up to speed! Ha! I just figured that out this afternoon.

            ps. My best friend in kindergarten was named Renée. So, I always have a soft spot in my heart for someone that has that name. God bless you!

          • franksly

            Not dissed at all. 🙂 In fact, I have another Disqus avatar that is for both David and me, and I’ll be sure to sign in under that one next time …

          • LizEst

            See Angela’s comment below.

  • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

    Oh yes, and I strongly recommend the book “The Fulfillment of All Desire” (especially chapter 10: Growing in Freedom) by Ralph Martin…written by the father of SIX kids!

  • ed mays

    Ed. So some of my married friends who have no kids are condemned for it? What is being said here? You have no children so you are living an unfulfilled life? These good friends are wonderful people and, of course, the subject is not discussed. Their decision and no one else`s.

    • jcmeg56

      I heard no condemnation by the authors in this article, Ed. On the contrary, it is a delightful and insightful exhortation to true fulfillment for those in the married state of life. This site is for those who recognize that they are on a journey towards Christian Perfection whose goal is union with God. Childlessness is a choice one is free to make, but it is a different path than the one being discussed here.

    • enness

      Where are you reading condemnation here?

      Where does the Author of Creation fit into “their decision and no one else’s”? Did they ask Him? It may be that they are wonderful people, as we all may be. But we are not called to be merely wonderful people, we are called to be godly and holy — in other words, saints. People who love His will, and will it willingly, so to speak.

    • Ben Dunlap

      In the Catholic marriage rite, the couple solemnly and publicly affirms their willingness to have children before exchanging vows.

  • Aimliz

    We started having children a little later in our marriage. Our
    marriage was not fulfilled until we had our children. I don’t like to
    give advice, but I would say, don’t wait. I have a friend who
    desperately wanted to have children but they waited for about 10 years.
    Then she found out that she is unable to bear children. They are now constantly trying to fill that void.
    I’ve heard so many people who have waited, say they regret it. You can’t go back and turn back the clock.
    Also, in my experience labor, delivery and recovery were easier the younger I was as well.
    Be not afraid! you’ll fall in love with your kiddos 🙂

    • KayeStar

      Not always. That’s not everybody’s experience.

      • Aimliz

        I apologize if my post reads like I am speaking for everyone. My comments are from my own experiences and those of my ones.

  • KayeStar

    Fulfillment is different for each person. You cannot tell another person what fulfills them because you are not that person. Speak for yourself, not everyone else. {Kayestar – please be cautious of your tone. You are more than welcome to comment here but our standard of dialogue is one of charity and respect. Please read our FAQs before you comment again}

  • Katie H.

    This would be a valid point if the, “sacrifice” were actually something worthwhile and best for the greater good. [Kate, your tone and approach to this discussion falls outside of the bounds of charity. You are welcome to comment here but please read our FAQ on our approach to discussion on this site. We really don’t allow personal attacks.]

  • Aimliz

    I recently heard a priest speak about parenthood, in a way I’ve never thought of. He said that being a parent puts you on the road to saint hood, because Jesus said what ever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me. When you take care of your children you are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving them shelter. And children along with the poor are the least of our brothers and sisters. They need us. They need our love.

    • LizEst

      Beautiful! Thanks for sharing elbam…and God bless you.

      • Aimliz

        Thank you Liz! God bless you too 🙂

  • $1650412

    I think there is a lot wrong with remaining intentionally childless in marriage without grave reason, or without some natural, unavoidable unexpected impediment. It is completely contrary to the theology of marriage. The husband-wife-child relationship is the icon of the Holy Trinity and every Christian family should image this to the world if possible- is a quintessential preaching of the gospel in its primal form. Not only that, but if one understands God’s heart and mind as so clearly stated in Sacred Scripture on the matter, it is a no-brainer that having children is a most desirable life path. Children are gift, a reward, and the ONLY natural work men and women cooperate in with God that is of eternal significance and value to Him. Children, and lots of them, are always the most coveted among blessings counted as testimony to God’s great favor and blessing, And of course, it is by way of a child that salvation comes to mankind.
    Our cultural problem, in fact, alot of our cultural problems are because we have almost completely lost touch with the joy in having the really wild card (and I do mean wild!) of children. We prefer our control- to their chaos- and in the midst of the pristine order we have micro-managed in the first world through our control right into social schizophrenia. And as Catholics we have relegated the Prince of Peace in his little gold house to a cry room off to the side somewhere… because we have somehow forgotten that unto us a CHILD was born and unto us a SON was given, and someday the government will be upon His shoulders and and He will reign on David’s throne forever, but it still shocks us when some little boys pick their noses in the front pew or have to be spanked because they refuse to become saints on command the Mass.

    It is one thing not to have children because that is not God’s will for your life, It is altogether something else to just choose not to even ask Him about it, or even worse to just tell Him to talk to the hand because it’s your body, your marriage, and not your preference, not His province.

    (*I’ve been married a really long time and I have an excessive number of children- I know stuff, especially about little boys who pick their noses in Church. ;o) )

    • LizEst

      God bless you, Jo, for your long marriage, the “excessive number of children” (your words not mine) and the stuff you know about little boys who pick their noses in Church! Great stuff…serious and funny, too! In all this, as well, we must always have great compassion for those who have made mistakes in their lives. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” (Luke 15:7).

      • $1650412

        Listen, the fact that I am even still married proves there is a God, not that I am exceptionally virtuous at married life (now, my husband might be a living saint)- I only mentioned it because experience does have some merit in these discussions at times. And there isn’t anyone who sympathizes more with a soul terrified by the idea of having children than I do. I am not the woman with the holy horde who is now the poster family for piety- oooohhh nooooo! I am the woman camped out in the back of the ‘training room’ getting ready for my subsequent career in calf-roping, working up a sweat with my four year-old thinking ‘I am supposed to know what I am doing with this, I am a veteran doggone it!’ I have been doing this forever, why do I look like such a novice?- well, every child is the only one of his or her kind, duh!!
        My point is that God is Sovereign, and even though this world is what it is, and we all struggle with worldly things- worldly influences and realities- all of us, me, my family, my church, my kids, and my grandchildren (I have those, too!)- God is for us, He has given encouraging assurance in His promises about children and provision and we can do the best we can to get on board with that- REALLY get on board with that, and move our culture in conformity with God’s values- in an authentically human direction without fear. We have to retake the spiritual ground that we have lost to secular humanism. Right now we are treading water at best-

        • LizEst

          Not disputing anything of that, Jo. I was commending you and enjoying your experience and your humor. That’s something to celebrate as well: keeping your faith, your wits about you and your sense of humor. I loved what you wrote. Sorry if that didn’t seem clear. God is absolutely Sovereign. You’ll have no argument from me there. He is also Mercy Itself. If someone has not lived up to God’s laws and then realizes their mistake(s), seeks forgiveness and amends their life, God runs to meet them while they are still far away. We are to pick up our cross daily and do the same.

          God bless you, Jo! It’s always wonderful to read your comments. I look forward to them! ; )

          • $1650412

            Amen! -and thank you! And I appreciate exactly what you have said here-

          • LizEst

            ; )

          • $1650412

            I must have been on a roll there Liz airing a little of my inner Dominican or something…:o)— I am back to rooting around in my mental closet for more inner Franciscan or Carmelite!

          • LizEst

            Ha! How many orders are there in there?!! : o

          • $1650412

            It’s like an interior box of chocolates, right? First aid kit?

    • Aimliz

      Awesome posts Jo! I love your courage to speak the truth. Thank you for being a living example of the gospel! It is nice to hear that we all have trials in child rearing as well. I like to tell folks, that I used to come home dragging because I did accounts receivables for a company. What a drag it was to experience the dishonesty of the world, through money collections. My job as a mom is tough, but out weighs what I used to do 1000 times over. Awe the joy of nose picking… Girls do it too! 🙂

  • Elena

    I just recently discovered this site and landed upon this discussion today. I am a 61 years old practicing Catholic woman, married 40 years to a devoted and self-sacrificing Jewish man. We are childless. I am willing to wager that people who say they have issues with the kind of sacrificing we are discussing are using it as a cover (knowingly or not) for deep rooted psychological confusion, pain, humiliation (and perhaps more) experienced as children or young adults in a family that was dysfunctional in one way or another. Even in “good” Catholic church-going families with kids that go to parochial schools… infidelity, alcoholism, workaholism, terrorism, a society that does not value life, etc. can result in the “fear of having children” mindset. It can take years of self-examination to uncover flawed thinking and by then it may be too late. Let us pray, the young people today abandon the advise of “reality” TV and self help books and instead, seek Lord and professional help.

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