This year, Respect Life month took on a very special meaning for my family. In late September, we welcomed a new baby boy into our lives. Our newest arrival joins four older brothers and sisters in this world, and two siblings who intercede for us in heaven. God has so richly blessed our family!
God reveals so much to the world in his chosen plan for bringing life into it. I am amazed at the patient endurance my wife demonstrates during her pregnancies. Her body changes in so many ways as the little life within her grows, and I cannot be more in awe of her sacrifice of self, a sacrifice which includes the loss of her very comfort.
Childbirth brings with it even greater reason for admiration for the women in our lives. How can we ignore the processes God has imprinted into mankind? Is it possible to miss how the woman’s body is designed, created to bring forth and sustain life in incredible ways? So much complexity is guided by unseen power toward the miracle of a new soul entering the world.
In pondering this gift of life, and our role in it, we must admit that many of us limit our blessings. We may give ourselves wholly to service projects, may fight to change hearts concerning the tragedy of abortion, and we may even remind others that abandonment to God’s will is essential to living a life pleasing to the Lord. Yet, somehow our certitude that God knows best can fall short when we think about the composition of our own families.
When it comes to trusting God’s judgment for how many souls he wishes us to steward, we start to get to the practical very quickly. Finances, freedom, extra work, how much love and attention we think we could possibly give, and so many additional worries move us to a place of reason unaided by faith. Our analysis quickly begins to leave God’s limitless power and grace aside.
How often do we really consider what God has invited us to participate in through the call to help bring life into the world, particularly in the context of marriage? “Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2367). Think of that for a moment – God has placed in our hands the tremendous role of cooperating with him to bring souls into the world! With all of his power and might, we, his weak creatures, are given this awesome task. Should we not view this part in the divine drama as a profound honor, a calling with major implications for our lives? Should we not, then, seek his desires for how he wishes us to undertake it?
If we believe in a God who is active in our lives, who gives us only those things designed to enrich creation and bring us to the day when we can behold him face-to-face for eternity (and scripture affirms this), how can we doubt that he will give all we need to accept and steward the children he wants to entrust to our care.
Not only does this openness to children allow us to participate in God’s divine order, but it strengthens the bond and love between spouses. “As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child, ‘as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them’” (Evangelium Vitae, 92).
We do not fully understand God’s ways, and many families are unable to have children, are physically limited in the number of children they can have, or have faced the loss of little ones before and after birth. These difficult realities in the lives of our sisters and brothers only make clearer the importance of our call to remain open to God’s designs for our families; we all discern God’s will in the unique challenges we face, and we must never assume we fully know the realities at play for others.
The Church also makes clear that we should use prudence when grave circumstances exist, but even when these considerations urge the use of natural means of family planning (NFP), we must never be led to a contraceptive mentality. Instead, our happiness is found in opening our families fully to God’s beautiful plan and desire to bless us richly for our holy trust in him.
This article was first published on November 1, 2013 in the Colorado Catholic Herald.