How are children a blessing?
The Church’s teaching on contraception is not just a prohibition but a calling to the joy of parenthood. Procreation of children, far greater than an obligation, is an outpouring of God’s love to spouses, who in turn pour out their love to their children. Parents accordingly become mediators, instruments, and ministers of God’s love. This sharing in God’s love of His children, as is true of all instances in which we share in the administration of God’s gifts, heightens our dignity, conforms us to Christ, and deepens our self-knowledge.
The transmission of human life is a prerogative so cherished by God that it has been entrusted only to the covenantal union of man and wife. That is why openness to procreation is essential to the vocation of marriage.1 Yes, marriage is a vocation raised by Christ to the level of a sacrament. Like all the sacraments, marriage is an encounter with Christ that nourishes one’s own earthly pilgrimage as God’s life and love (grace) is poured into one’s soul. Yet God in his abundance fills the soul to overflowing, surging beyond our boundaries so that we become vessels of his love. In so doing, we become living images of Christ in the world. (more…)
My husband Joe and I have four children; a good size by today’s standards, but paling in comparison to the large traditional Catholic families we were raised in. We both would have said at the start of our marriage we wanted an even larger family, but as the realities of marriage and parenting set in, we found ourselves overwhelmed, stressed, and losing steam fast for the challenge of more children. Like many modern Catholics, we decided the Church’s teaching on contraception was simply not conducive to our needs and lifestyle, and could be ignored without consequence, so we took control of our fertility. I wouldn’t have considered doing something to permanently end our fertility, as this seemed like “mental menopause,” and I really did love kids, especially babies. But after four very difficult pregnancies and raising four children, we were drained. Accumulated stress during those years had left me depressed and anxious. Most of the time I felt like a failure as a wife and mother. My sense of humor had been my lifeline to sanity during stressful times, but during those years I often felt both humor and sanity slipping away, and that was scary. (more…)
To observe that we live in a society that is suffering greatly from sexual confusion or, if you will, sexual misconduct is not a novel insight. There is little need to provide a full set of statistics to demonstrate the consequences of the sexual revolution, for who is not familiar with the epidemic in teenage pregnancies, venereal diseases, divorces, and AIDS? Our society has undergone a rapid transformation in terms of sexual behavior, and few would argue that it is for the better. Today, one out of two marriages end in divorce. Six out of ten teenagers are sexually active. The millions of abortions over the last decade and the phenomenal spread of AIDS indicate that our society has serious problems with sexuality. In the last generation, the incidence of sexual activity outside of marriage-with all of its attendant problems-has doubled and tripled, or worse. We have no particular reason to believe that we have seen the peak of the growth in sexually related problems. (more…)
The legacy of some men diminishes with time. With others, it grows. In a century of Popes who were good men, good teachers and good fathers in the faith, Paul VI stands out for his steadfast and humble service to the truth. Many of his writings are now classics of Catholic doctrine. None drew more controversy and criticism than Humanae Vitae, his 1968 encyclical which reaffirmed what the Church believes about the conception of new life. Looking back after 30 years, however, we can better understand the wisdom and foresight of this extraordinary man of God. In a time when the word “prophetic” has almost lost its force from misuse and overuse, today we can truly say that Paul VI was prophetic in his teachings on married love and sexuality. (more…)