August 6th, 2008

Humble and Heroic

I have decided not to delete any of the comments in this week’s Coffee Talk. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to pick through and decide what stays and what doesn’t. But this is my space and I have been really bothered by some people’s words here, and so I will say this much:

It is not selfish for a poor mother of many to remain open to life. It’s heroic.

A woman who places her trust in God and accepts new life under less than ideal circumstances is being as generous to God, to her family, and to her community as she possibly can be.

Someone else, who has never had to decide between paying for a baby’s prescription and buying food for her family, might not understand this kind of humble heroism.

But Mary does.

At the annunciation, Mary did not tell the angel Gabriel that she needed to check her account balances and would get back to him about the whole baby idea. She just said yes.

Only someone who has never needed financial help could possibly think that anyone takes government assistance because it’s fun or because they’re lazy. People take government assistance because, for whatever reason, THEY NEED IT. They would LOVE to not need it. It’s embarrassing and humbling. It’s not selfish.

We shouldn’t be asking anyone why they need help. We should be falling over ourselves looking for ways to provide it. Where would you rather your tax dollars be spent — Planned Parenthood programs or some politician’s pet pork project?

We should be overjoyed that at least some small percentage of the money we pay in taxes is providing food and health care for families that need it. And if Catholic families with many children are some of the beneficiaries of that? Double bonus!

We need to be very careful when we talk about “responsible parenthood.” All too often, this phrase leads to the idea of preventing pregnancy as the default mode for Catholic marriages. In this way of thinking, couples must meet certain criteria, financial or otherwise, before they are “allowed” to have children. I can think of many words to describe this kind of thinking, but not one of them is “Catholic.”

I am convinced that women who accept new life when God sends it, planned or unplanned, have a special place in Our Lord’s heart. It is anything but selfish to imitate Mary’s “fiat” and her simple trust in God in such a humbling, self-giving way. It’s the stuff that saints are made of.

But to begrudge people the help they need to provide for their families while you yourself have been blessed with plenty? Now that would be selfish.

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