A reader asks:
As I read your blog and other Catholic mom’s blogs, it seems like the majority of you have a very large family … I’m just wondering if the reason for it is because the Catholic Church is against using contraceptives or is it something to do with a Catholic family culture?
Both. We’ve talked about being open to life here before and I would link to that thread if the site didn’t act all weird when I try to (not to worry — we are still working on that stuff). But my email tells me it’s time to do it again.
Is everyone called to raise a large family? No. Are there good Catholic families with small numbers of children? Of course there are. Are there parents of small numbers of children who long for many more but aren’t able to have them? Plenty. Are large families a sign of God’s blessing and their parents’ generosity? The catechism says so:
“Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.”
When Scripture and tradition tell us that children are God’s blessings, shouldn’t we want an abundance of them? Of course Catholics may, for serious reasons, limit the size of their families through the use of Natural Family Planning (Read Humanae Vitae for the details of this Catholic teaching). However, through user error and through the natural challenges of periodic abstinence, even Catholics who use NFP generally are more open to life and more open to God’s will at work in their families than others. As a consequence, many faithful Catholics do have large families. This is not a mistake. It is a tremendous blessing. And an enormous responsibility.
I sometimes meet young moms of many-babies-in-a-row who are afraid. They lie awake at night figuring their future fertile years and fearfully calculating the number of children they could potentially produce within their marriages, and they are afraid. Because it’s hard work. Because they are exhausted. Because though they want to do God’s will, they fear the details of what exactly that might mean.
To moms who feel this way, I want to say this: Congratulations. You are normal. It is completely and perfectly normal to balk at such hard work and such a daunting task. Especially when most other people you know aren’t doing it. But if God gives you an awesome responsibility, he will give you awesome graces to go with it.
And here’s one more secret fact that’s hard to see when you are in the throes of young family life: It is quite likely that overnight you will go from counting the number of diaper changes that lie ahead and crying at the very idea … to wondering if your last baby might really be your last baby and crying at the very idea. Overnight you go from fearing God’s numerable blessings and taking them for granted to longing for just one more of them. Overnight. Early on, it’s natural to feel as though your fertile years might never end. But they do. And for some of us quite human people, it’s only coming close to the reality of that inevitable end that can make us see what blessings our children really are.
Updated again: Comments are now open! Feel free to share your charitably worded thoughts, experiences, and comments below.