NFP and the The Natural Family:
What does the Church teach about being "Open to Life"?
For obedient Catholics, the mention of the initials "NFP" brings to mind an immediate concept.
The object of this article is to clarify EXACTLY what the church intends when it generalizes the phrase "NFP".
Please understand this article is simply an anthology of Catholic teaching. It is not conjecture, interpretations or creative reasoning. It is simply a tool to assist you with the boiling down of what the Church really means on this most important of topics.
It’s too easy in our mind to (and in a way very good to) simply dismiss what a “person” like me – or any “person” says about such primordial and difficult issues.
On the other hand, it's also too important an issue NOT to be very well informed on the exact teaching of the Church on this subject.
In this regard, we can not simply "believe" what we hear; from some friend, family member, clergy or any other individual person.
We are required to form our conscience in the light of the Gospel, through the teaching of the Church which Christ himself founded.
In the end, issues like contraception or family size come down to your well formed conscience. That is exactly what the Church teaches:
(CCC 1777) Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil…. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
So if you want to know when God is speaking to you – it is through your conscience. But - should you always listen to the little voice in your head?
(CCC 1782) Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."
(CCC 1783) Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful… The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings (That’s all of us by the way).
(CCC 1785) In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.
So this article and articles like it are simply an attempt to form our conscience in the light of the Gospel, through the teaching office of the Holy Church.
CHILDREN: The “Personification” of married love.
Most of us never realize that the Church has a lot to say about this subject of children and even family size - The Natural Family - so to speak. The Church gives us clear direction, which really needs to be pointed out, in our own language.
We will now explore the direction the Church points us in and how we can respond to this direction.
In the corresponding article on contraception, we learned from the Catechism that Children are the natural fulfillment of marriage.
We should begin by knowing that, contrary to popular belief, while the Church does not - and should not – tell us how many children we should have, the Church does and always has encouraged us to multiply.
We know, from the article on Contraception, that we have a mission – a responsibility – a duty - to procreate. But the Church does not stop there.
It’s a sensitive subject and one that we will likely never hear from the pulpit – because priests have a responsibility to respect our freedom and be inviting to us. It’s so easy for couples to be offended by this topic because many times they have made a decision that they feel is correct and their poor formation in the truth supports their decision and it’s very difficult to return to home.
On the other hand, it’s very hard NOT to quantify this subject - and in a way, the topic really begs to be quantified.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if the Church just told us what to do – how many to have – when we can stop…?
Well – this is as close as it gets – and it goes farther than most of us have ever been told.
Let’s just evaluate the logical building blocks the Church gives us to grapple with the question of how many children should we have?
· The Church teaches us that marriage is permanent and fertile.
· The Church teaches us that sexual activity naturally leads to children.
· The Church encourages us to be sexually active with our spouses. In fact, it’s sinful, (unless approved by the local bishop), to simply abstain from sexual activity, indefinitely.
· The Church teaches us that each and every time we are together with our spouses, the sexual act must be “ordered towards the procreation of children”.
· The Church teaches us that the decision to NOT be open to having another child can not be made out of selfish reasons and that the criteria used in making the decision has to be made with generosity, with a stout heart, with wise deliberation, with an eye towards the duty and responsibility that we all have to have another child.
· The Church also states that special mention should be made of couples who fulfill their responsibility to procreate by having a suitably, even a relatively large family.
As you can see, it’s almost impossible for the Church to give us a number, because God respects our freedom, but humanly speaking, we can know that it CAN be quantified like this; more is better, if you can have more.
Openness to life – rightly and logically understood
Now, since the Church tells us we should take the good advise of others… There are a few holy people who have tried to quantify this.
Now keep in mind, they don’t speak for the Church and their opinion in this matter is not more qualified than your opinion or my opinion – but I believe they merit our respect and attention – to help us examine our conscience and form our own opinion in these matters.
Saint Padre Pio, who died in 1968, believed 8 children was an ideal family size – he said it publicly – often.
Venerable Pope Pius XII, in his address on Large Families at Tra le Visite on Jan. 20, 1958, mentions that St. Louis, the King of France came from a family of ten children as did Saint Pius X and that St. Robert Bellarmine came from a family of 12 children.
I’ll tell you a personal story on this subject: I remember one time my wife and I and our kids entered a church which has a 7:30pm mass for all of us who are not so good at scheduling….
We entered the church right as mass was beginning and were delighted that a visiting Cardinal, from Thailand was saying the mass. He was the prelate of Thailand. I believe his name was Michai Cardinal Kitbunchu. He was in our town to beg for money for his country.
During his homily, he points my family out and says every Catholic family should have at least six children. By now of course my wife and I and our children were all deep shades of red and I promised God I had learned my lessen and I would make sure we made it to an earlier mass at our own parish from that point on – which we have.
I want you to know, the church does not objectively agree with either Padre Pio or Cardinal Kitbunchu, there is no magic number - but the Church does not disagree with them either. In fact, in the eyes of the Church, they are more right than wrong.
I’ll explain - The Church encourages and supports your efforts to have children even to have as many children, as would equate with a large family.
In the (Dogmatic) Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, the Church reminds us:
“Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted.
“That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of the (sexual act), and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when, with a generous, human and Christian sense of responsibility, they (fulfill) the duty to procreate."
We will expand on this rich document later in this article but for now we should recognize that the Church does “not” simply say you can NOT use artificial contraception. The Church says you have a DUTY to procreate.
Remember, the Church goes to say that; "Among the couples who fulfill their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family.”
Nowhere, in the history of the Church have we been told that we “have to” or even that we “should” use NFP. We have merely been told that it is in conformity with morality - if we use it periodically to space the children we are open to and are ordered towards.
THAT, you’ll have to admit, is a far cry from what most Catholics today either believe or choose to do.
Arnold Toynbee was a very socially responsible English economist who lived in the later half of the 1800’s. Toynbee said: "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder"
This is very, very topical, temporal and relevant to us in the West today.
When I first began giving talks and posting articles like this one over 20 years ago, my biggest concern was the third world replacing the West from a world economic leadership point of view.
As the socio-political landscape became more clear on 9/11/2001, I (along with many others) began to pay close attention to a more pressing and insidious future.
In 2006 was written one of the most informative and enlightening pieces of journalism I’ve ever read. It was written by a Canadian named Mark Steyn for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It is entitled “It’s the Demography Stupid”:
I will now read a few paragraphs from the editorial:
“If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is.
"Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?
Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76, Canada is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is “halving” every generation.
By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%.
There is no "population bomb." There never was. Birthrates are declining all over the world--eventually every couple on the planet may decide to opt for the Western yuppie model of one designer baby at the age of 39. But demographics is a game of last man standing. The groups that succumb to demographic apathy last will have a huge advantage. Even in 1968 Paul Ehrlich and his ilk should have understood that their so-called population explosion was really a massive population adjustment. Of the increase in global population between 1970 and 2000, the developed world accounted for under 9% of it, while the Muslim world accounted for 26%. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30% of the world's population to just over 20%, the Muslim nations increased from about 15% to 20%.”
So, Europe is not producing enough babies to meet the economic needs of their society.
The Muslim world is. So Europe is importing, through emigration, at an enormous rate; Muslim immigrants from North African, Muslim countries.
And those immigrants are reproducing, in their new country at the same rate they were in their old country. You can see the writing on the wall.
In his 2004 book, "The Empty Cradle," Philip Longman (a preeminent economist and former senior writer and deputy assistant managing editor at U.S. News & World Report). asks:
"So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world. Such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually creating an anti-market culture dominated by fundamentalism--a new Dark Ages."
You know what I think is really interesting? When you go back to the early days of the George W. Bush presidency, immediately after 9/11, he had a plan, referred to as the “Bush Doctrine” (I encourage you to look up “Bush Doctrine” in Wikipedia). The president felt it was in our best interest to “spread democracy throughout the world – especially the middle east”.
The outcry was enormous. Many, many Hollywood and blue state pundits screamed “racism”. They said there is no evidence Muslims want liberty and, indeed, that Islam is incompatible with democracy.
"Incompatible with Democracy!"
Now - when you couple that sentiment, with the catastrophic demographic reality I mentioned a moment ago - you have to wonder if these Hollywood intellectuals are thinking about the fact that every day, Europe becomes more and more Islamic; more Islamic voters, more Islamic political leaders, more and more Islamic - culturally.
Europe is becoming “incompatible with democracy”.
We need to stand up and recognize that we in the West, through our selfish, hedonistic tendencies, are losing the unfinished Battle of Lepanto – and we are not even leaving our bedrooms to do it.
Please understand the US is only marginally ahead of Europe. In another few years, if we do not start having more babies, we will begin to fall into the same demographic winter our cousins in Europe are in.
It is up to each one of us to do our part to make sure this does not happen.
The basic lessons of love – and how we as humans learn them:
OK, OK, OK…
So, let’s move away from the macro view for a moment and concentrate on one of the most important micro’s in our lives – our children.
I think, one of the most overlooked aspects of the contraceptive mentality; and it prevails in our world and in our Church, are the children in a family that lives this mentality, who are allowed to be born.
What do THOSE children learn about the value of human life – or put more simply – the value of a baby brother or baby sister?
For their own marriages, how will they learn of the “total reciprocal self-giving” which the Church defines marriage as, when their parents almost brag about not having more children – “closing up shop” after two kids?
How will they avoid the pitfalls of the “culture of death” which places “material” above human life itself?
That’s one of the reasons why using NFP in an immoral way is a sin against justice. If we are arbitrary or selfish in our decisions in these matters, how can we give to our children what they may be entitled to – siblings – maybe lots of them.
And what about the child, waiting to come into the world, whose name God already knows, that we are NOT allowing to be born?
If you look at it in this way, you can see why the Catechism of Council of Trent, written by Saint Charles Borromeo in 1566, says “married persons who, to prevent conception or procure abortion, have recourse to medicine, are guilty of a most heinous crime nothing less than wicked conspiracy to commit murder.”
So we can see the mind of the Church sees the prevention of a child to be conceived (which should otherwise be at least allowed to possibly occur) as a kind of murder, because the Church (in this Catechism) does not differentiate between artificial contraception and abortion.
Again, we can see the contraceptive “mentality” - that is the selfish refusal to allow the possibility of conception, when otherwise our actions would at least allow the possibility - to be very, very dangerous indeed.
And again, consider what children learn by seeing their parents , struggling - but in love – open to another child.
It is true that holy poverty associated with a large family. This does not mean that we are required to live in abject poverty, either to be a good Catholic or to raise children properly, but it does address a dimension of Catholic austerity that we as a culture are at risk of loosing altogether.
Keep in mind one overriding fact of life: “Children learn EVERYTHING somewhere”.
They learn how to be bad and they learn how to be good. They have different strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, they learn everything somewhere.
This includes selfishness and generosity.
It is obvious that children learn best by witnessing, first hand their lessons.
We can preach all day, until we are red in the face, but they learn, primarily by a kind of imprinting what they experience first hand into their own psyche.
As an example, In my own family, I am always amazed, as my children get older, at how well they adapt to change. Not because they “Want” to necessarily, but because their heart shows them it’s the only way.
Change…., last minute changes, changes in plans, changes in seating assignments, and room assignments, and chore assignments…
Sometimes these changes seem utterly unjust – and in a real way they may be – but generally speaking, charity trumps justice and our children need to learn this l.ike never before in history.
So - their hearts soften quickly, because of the required reason for the irrational change in the first place – and they adapt.
I don’t mean to suggest that my kids are not attached to what they want – all of us are inclined towards our attachments and our attitudes and our appetites.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but people nowadays don’t deal well with change.
That’s what road-rage is all about. J In fact, it’s what “lawyering” is all about – generally speaking.
Our reluctance to Change represents mankind’s attachment to self.
So, the ability to cheerfully change – especially for the needs of others – is a holy and redemptive quality.
And it’s really hard to teach this to children – you can see that because we have so many adult “children” in the world today.
Well, rather than try to teach it – folks, it’s far easier to simply follow the bigger plan.
The plan that says, I love this girl, I want to marry her, I want to make love to her, I want to work with her and fight for her. I want to love God through her. I want to give myself to her in totality and accept whatever God has in store for me – for us – whatever “US” comes to mean.
Really, we are all children – some older than others.
We all need to constantly learn the lessons of childhood. The lessons of love that kids learn in the home are like this.
If you can imagine a nice little mountain stream, endlessly flowing down from the mountain. In the stream are the most beautiful polished rocks you ever saw. On the banks are the same kinds of rocks, but jagged and rough.
We are supposed to look like the polished rocks in the stream. That is what our Christian formation does to us. It smooths out our rough edges, removes our ugly jagged edges and prepares us for heaven, if we cooperate. This is what is called asceticism. The redemptive value of suffering.
But did you ever think about what the process was like for the smooth rocks?
It’s hard, being bounced and brushed, and smoothed, and polished and bounced and worked over again and again and again.
That’s what life is like for children (and parents) in a large Catholic home. It’s like being up on the cross with Jesus.
If rocks could talk, I’m sure the rocks on the banks would be making fun of the polished rocks, trying to convince the polished rocks and the other jagged rocks of how much more beautiful jaggedness is. How stupid the polished rocks are to submit to that kind of torture, needlessly.
I’m sure they would create an entire false catechesis about how God loves jagged rocks just as much as he loves polished rocks – after all “He made me jagged”… bla, bla, bla
The truth is, you never know, how your accepting the will of God will affect those around you , even if you are not aware of it.
Sometimes, someone seeing a large, messy Catholic family, in love with life - in love with each other - will be the straw that finally breaks their resistance to conversion - I've seen it happen - it's amazing.
What the Church really teaches about large families.
It's almost a joke in our culture really - or at least it used to be - how Catholics always have large, poor, messy families. But why is this so? Why have Catholics traditionally had larger families than other cultures within any given society?
We are now going to take Gaudium et Spes: Part II, Chapter I, Paragraph 50 – point by point –to understand the extremely powerful message within it. God loves us so much he gives us our freedom AND he shows the way to it.
50. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children.
Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.
The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28).
Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior.
Now what’s that mean? To be “ready”, with a “stout heart” to “cooperate with God’s love”?
By saying “NO - I’ve done enough?”
“two’s my limit”
“I’m closing up shop” - - - -Of course not!
That doesn’t require a stout heart.
Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.
And the HIS is capitalized in the constitution. These are His children we are rejecting. That is obviously what God wants US to decide to do for ourselves, for the most supernatural reason on earth – because we WANT to!
Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted.
So, following very simple logic, if we decide not to do this, it is improper and NOT our mission – right?
They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.
So how do we cooperate with God in this area? How do we interpret God’s love? Through generosity or selfishness? That’s all it comes down to.
Thus they will fulfill their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort.
What does that mean? It means we are going to work together with our spouse, being respectful of the natural order of things and sensitive to the others eternal destiny, and with docility towards God and his plan (which means to leave things in His hands) we will “go with the flow” of effort. We will not stress out about the unknown.
Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring.
So the Church says it in black and white that the children you already have, who will be denied all those luxuries, are not of more importance than the children you may in fact be rejecting out of material wants.
For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life.
Immediately we hear that and say “see – the Church says it’s OK cause I can’t afford them” when we should be saying “Hey, I really CAN afford them”.
Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself.
We went into great detail about this in the article on Contraception.
The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.
And I want you to remember the Church deals with a very broad spectrum both culturally and chronologically. The Church is not just speaking about pushy SOB’s like me telling you - you should have more children – the Church is also speaking about Mao Tse Tung and Hillary Clinton telling you how many children they want to limit you to.
But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.
This is a huge and very straightforward sentence folks.
“in their manner of acting” We know from Pius XII “in these matters everything comes down to intention”. So what is the intention of our actions? When we are climbing into bed with our spouse and getting frisky, what are the intentions of our actions? At that moment, are our actions “ordered towards the procreation of another child”? At that moment, are we acting arbitrarily or are we allowing our actions to be governed by our conscience which we have formed with duty towards God’s law about sex and children?
Moreover, the sentence continues by asking us are we, at that moment, by our decision to get together with our spouse or not, are we being submissive to the authority of the Church because we trust that the Church and only the Church can interpret God’s law in these matters?
Because THAT law – GOD’s law is what we are looking at next.
That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment.
What is that “truly human fulfillment”. It could not be just to have another baby, or else NFP could never be moral. The “truly human fulfillment” is our cooperation with GOD - almighty God in HIS creation – the HE wants us to – to be open to HIS children If WE CAN.
Again – it all comes down to intention. If our intention is to cooperate with a natural order of sexuality which God has established, then generally speaking, when we get together with our spouse, we will simply leave things in God’s hands. If a baby comes he or she comes – we have fulfilled our duty, with wise and common deliberation and effort.
Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when, with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of (fulfill) the duty to procreate.
I think that sentence is actually pretty simple to understand.
Among the couples who fulfill their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family.
Now look - I hate to tell you this, but THIS sentence IS where the Church quantifies this issue. Remember, the Church is ancient, and global, and multicultural and in matters of sexuality the Church is above all very, very natural.
I want to go into some detail here so as not to leave any stone unturned.
In our age, this is a very important point. St. Catherine of Sienna, is one of only three female Doctor’s of the Church. When evil forces moved the papacy to Avignon, France in 1309 it began one of the darkest periods in our Church’s history.
It was, to a great degree through the simple, persistent and powerful spiritual influence of one this one woman that caused the Papacy to move back to Rome in 1378. Now the reason I bring this up is because Catherine of Sienna was the 24th of 25 children. What if her parents had stopped after two – do you think when she was born they knew she was going to save the Church? – be canonized and then named one of only three woman who are doctors of the Church?
No – they just left it in God’s hands.
It is not difficult for a woman to have 20 or more children, in her life. So when the Church speaks of a “relatively large family”, while it may not be speaking of the upper limit, which may be 25 kids, it also makes my 11 look like it’s not so extraordinary.
Keep that in mind. But also keep in mind that:
Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen.
And this is of critical import. Openness to life, rightly understood is not an “action” it is a communion with God – between you and your spouse.
Like I always say, there is no sacrament of childbirth. Children are simply a consequence - a result of our natural, married love.
Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking.
And again, we need to be so sensitive to not only those who can not naturally have children, but also those who have made a mistake in their younger years to have say a uterine isolation of one kind or another (Tubal Ligation or Vasectomy) and can not now reverse the procedure for one reason or another.
It’s not about numbers – it’s about one number – the next “one”. It should never go beyond that.
If that process, of only concentrating on the possibility of the next “one” produces, in the end , a large family, then you know you simply did your duty to God.
But, since we rarely see relatively large families any longer, I thought we should close by looking at exactly what the Church says on this subject.
I think it’s important for us all to be challenged on these most important issues.
For example, you here all the time “children are such a blessing”. So I ask “are you open to more?’ and they invariably say “Nohohohohohoooo – “two’s my limit – I closed up shop , long ago”.
So I ask them “if someone gave you a $10,000.00 bill - no questions asked – no strings attached, would that be a blessing?”
“Of course”, they say.” So when someone, out of the blue – tried to give you your third free $10,000.00 bill, would say “Nohohohohohooo – two’s my limit?” Of course not – you would say “give me as many as you want to give me”.
Do we really view them as blessings? – That is something to ponder.
So Let’s end in the beginning.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply”.
Now, this is pretty direct.
It’s also important to remember that in the vast panorama of the human existence, God or God’s Church has never rescinded that command with anything like “multiply less”.
From Psalm 127 Kind David sings to us with “Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!”
Who, in their right mind, would go into battle with two arrows in his quiver?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church ( 2373) tells us “Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity.”
You know, the interesting thing about documents like a Pastoral Constitution,, which is the loftiest of all Church documents, is that the Church relies upon prior sources to develop and explain it’s thesis.
This particular section that we have gone into great detail studying (SectionII, Chapter I, Paragraph 50) of Gaudium et Spes, relies upon two sources. One of them is sacred scripture (from a Pauline verse related to our suffering).
The other source is a very profound and very interesting address, given by Pope Pius XII to a gathering in Rome in 1958. Pius XII, Address Tra le visite, Jan. 20, 1958: AAS 50 (1958)
So, in other words, we should pay particularly close attention to this address, which lays the ground-work for what the Catholic faith teaches about marriage and family related to the Church in the Modern World.
I beg you all to read this address – from start to finish. We don’t have time to go into much detail here.
But just in case you don’t read it, I want explain what is the central theme.
He says that providence -- to put it in human words and ideas – “is not a sum total of exceptional acts of divine pity; it is the ordinary result of harmonious activity on the part of the infinite wisdom, goodness and omnipotence of the Creator.”
So in other words this openness towards a large family is not extraordinary – on the contrary it’s the ordinary way things are supposed to be. He says God will take care of those who are faithful to him.
He says that human life is more important than any other thing on earth and that we should not worry about material possessions of any kind.
He says that times get tough from time to time, but that we can not use those difficulties to impose obstacles in the path of God’s plan.
He says that “Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church”
He says that every family, even the smallest, was meant by God to be an oasis of spiritual peace. “But there is a tremendous difference: where the number of children is not much more than one, that serene intimacy that gives value to life has a touch of melancholy or of pallor about it; it does not last as long, it may be more uncertain, it is often clouded by secret fears and remorse.”
He says these parents of many children never seem to lose their youth as long as they have children and then grandchildren in their home.
He says the heavy labors of the parents which are multiple; their real sacrifices, their renouncing of “things” they can’t afford are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that live in their hearts.
“Children in large families learn almost automatically to be careful of what they do and to assume responsibility for it, to have a respect for each other and help each other, to be openhearted and generous. For them, the family is a little proving ground, before they move into the world outside, which will be harder on them and more demanding.”
I want to close by telling you this is NOT a CATHOLIC thing – it’s a NATURALNESS thing:
Natural Family Planning
By studying this subject we see that the Catholic church is not uptight and rigid about sexuality, the way it has been accused of being. In fact the exact opposite is true. The Catholic church is above all natural, unencumbered and joyful about lovemaking. It requires an eye towards temperance and morality as all humans should but it is above all "natural".
When I speak of naturalness in marriage I mean that if we look back in our own families history we will find large families. This nation and especially our Catholic Church was built on large families.
At this point invariably people think “they used to have large families because they need help to work the farm”. Guys after researching this, I found two things.
(1) There was never a time in history where everyone a farmer. Yet everyone used to have large families. Lawyers, doctors, boot makers, coopers, bottle washers all of them seem to have had 8 to 12 kids or they would have a good reason not to.
(2) Even when they were farmers, they generally were very poor and had very small farms. The biggest problem most pioneer farm families had in this country was being able to chop enough firewood in the summer to be able to keep from freezing to death in the winter.
A child is not a productive field hand for 10 to 12 years and during that time each new child not only had to be fed but the parents had to make chairs and beds and clothes and shoes; plates, forks, spoons… for each child.
I then realized that our forefathers did not birth field hands. They raised large families; that they took pride in and that they loved dearly.
The truth is – in the old days – you used to have a good reason NOT to have another child - - - -
Now you seem to need a good reason to have one.
Please do not think you have to have a lot of money to have a large family. God always provides.
Lastly, I know some of you feel you can not have another child because of difficult pregnancies, or c-section births.
You should always “listen” to your doctor – but remember doctor’s are human – and have their own opinions and biases.
My wife had 11th c-section in 2010.
The truth is guys I do not know anyone who works harder then me and my wife.
But, I don’t know a couple who loves one another more either.
We have a messy and tempestuous life, and it feels like the wheels are coming off the wagon half the time. But I am convinced, that’s the way it’s supposed to be – the way it used to be – before we tried to control everything.
Folks, we control nothing. Christians leave the control to God.
It’s fear that wracks us on this subject.
Fear of pain
Fear of privation
Fear of imposition…
I will leave you with the words of John Paul the Great who recited it three times during his installation address from the balcony above St. Peter’s square and he recited it thousands of times during his long pontificate – speaking to each one of us - “BE NOT AFRAID”.
So, the "Formula" you were promised is this.
In a nutshell, the Church, ancient wisdom, even God himself tells us that IF you can have another child - and only you know if you can - then you should, regardless of how many you already have.