Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rabbit Questions

"God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this."  --Pope Francis

Like Simcha Fisher, I don't tend to get worked up over the Pope's words off the cuff, I presume the Pope was trying to make a distinction; it didn't quite work as the Catholic internet exploded.  Rabbits, Rabbits,  RabbitsRabbits.   Most seemed to understand the Pope's comments to be about how we're not merely creatures, we're not merely breeders, we're supposed to be open to life, but the demand isn't for every family to be the same.  I thought I'd ignore the great lupine battle of our time, but it kept popping up in all the places I frequent.  

So I read the full text of the Pope's interview.

I paused when he talked about a woman expecting her eighth, and having had multiple c-sections "tempting" God.  My brain started churning on things, on questions I'd pose to Pope Francis, if I had the luxury of time to just talk with him about this sort of thing. 

Because these are the sorts of questions that don't come up in NFP classes or pretty much anywhere.  

People who follow the teaching of the church have limited licit options if they are married; abstinence, NFP, and other charting methods for monitoring fertility.  Even being open to life, those practicing NFP occasionally misread, misinterpret, or in the moment, ignore or forget when it is a fertile time in the cycle.  
These misreads or missteps or errors in judgment about when it is a fertile or infertile time to engage in licit sex can lead to children. 

At that moment, the woman and man, if they follow the church, must accept the gift from God of the new person's existence.   It happens. It happens often.  It is part of why much of the world has rejected NFP, because they don't want to have to rely on their own wills to limit family size.  It's not fool proof, and love often makes us fools.   Having done NFP for now going on 18 years, I can say, it's 90% successful, but we still have ten kids from that 10%.  

It's not that we wanted to have a big family, we were simply welcoming when we received the gift of children, (sometimes more gracefully than other times), but they're all wonderful, they're all miracles.  They each teach us different lessons, and together, they keep driving us deeper into communion with God, and each other.  

If the family is the domestic church, then we simply have a bigger parish than most but each parish is designed to bring all of its members to Christ.  Were we tempting God by being open to life?  If we were, it was unintentional, in that neither my husband nor I thought, forget my health issues, let's have a van full of kids!  

Perhaps a better way of approaching this subject would have been to teach in the Marriage Preparation course and the Confirmation course about the discernment process itself.   Perhaps we should be reminded that as adult married Catholics that we're required to be fully integrated in our faith, to attempt to align our faith with reason and desire, and that it might require sacrifice.  Sometimes, even great sacrifice.   

But what is that sacrifice?  And how do we know if it is God's will?

The big question broke down into these smaller ones.

1)  Since all children are gifts from God, all souls are intended.  While that doesn't mean "breed like rabbits," it does mean, accept what you receive, cooperate with God's will (being open to life).  If we accept these two things as truth, isn't what your family size is as  result, theoretically whether you engaged in a rigorous cost/analysis of your family life or not, God's will?

2) How does one discern "tempting" versus "trusting?"  I say that not because I want to be a jerk.  Being open to life does not mean you must have children, only that you must be welcoming to children.  What circumstances or moral judgment makes the act of being willing to have children "tempting God?"   

3) The third question stems from some of the conversations spawned by discussion of the Pope's remarks.  Whenever the subject of big families come up, there are comments about the down side of having many children.  Stories of children in large families feeling neglected or of kids leaving the faith because the life of their parents seemed too hard, or tales of the children becoming estranged because they didn't get enough attention or discipline or love from Mom and Dad, make me worry.   

In fairness, I have diaries expressing these very fears dating back to 1997, when we were expecting our third.   One of the comforts or consolations I take in the process of parenting this large family, is the belief that God will make this possible even if I've mucked it up, because the only way it is possible, is with God.  I know I will muck it up but I also know, God's grace will make this possible despite me.  

Which brings me to my third question.  What would the Pope would have us do, if we have in the past "tested God" and thus failed, and therefore have more children than we would if we discerned, or what should be expected of those who for whatever reason, do not have discerning temperaments? 

One last thing, I love this pope and trust his deep love of this Church, of the whole flock he's been asked to shepherd.  I have no problem with him being the Pope, nor is my faith shaken.

 It doesn't mean I don't have questions.  

1 comment:

Your Husband said...

Magnificent piece. Thank you Country Bunny! The problem with the age is that what passes for "responsible" is often a look into the future and despairing of the amount of work and other risk entailed in taking the less certain path, we turn from the straight and narrow, and into darker places. By allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the potential "responsibilities," we deprive ourselves of the opportunities of love and joy that come with every act of creation, birthday celebration, achievement, sacrament, Christmas, and Easter those otherwise unmet rabbits would have brought. There is a graver danger of looking into the palantir, and thinking you can see the future, and are being responsible, you instead let a bit of fear, darkness and despair into your lives, and begin erecting barriers to your spouse, to love, and ultimately to God. Don't let the short term good (apparent responsibility) be the enemy of the perfect (sacrificial love).

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