"Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full." (Jn 16:24)
I have a great joy to share with the world, a joy that by all accounts is undeserved. October 26th marked the Golden Jubilee of my parents' wedding! Their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered around them to share our deepest joy for their fifty years of grace and blessing! Our joy is full indeed.
Joseph Euteneuer and Mariann (pron. Mary Ann) Selter were married at St. John Berchmans Church in Detroit, Michigan in the year of the Sputnik launch when "Ike" was president and the US population was only 172 million. (Now it has surpassed the 300 million mark.) They hurriedly set about to increase the population with seven children of their own! Those were the days before the "overpopulation" crisis was manufactured and people actually wanted to bear children — in abundance. But it was not out of social conformity that my parents had seven children of their own. They gave life so generously because they love life! Specifically, they love being givers of life, a precious vocation that many are called to but few have the courage to embrace with the generosity of my parents. Due to Depression Era health problems, my father was an only child and my mother was one of just two, so their love of children was born out of an understanding of what a true gift a brother and sister can be to a child.
My father has spent the better part of forty years continuing to give life to young kids through scouting, helping to form them in one of the most family-friendly programs known to man. Countless generous hours are given each month to this work but not just in his retirement: I remember Dad telling me, during the busiest part of his life, that he worked his forty-hour job as an engineer and then volunteered another forty hours a week or so to the scouts so that his sons could participate in activities with their dad by their side. Scrap books full of pictures of Dad and us on camping trips are witness to the fact that we had a devoted and loving dad always present in our formative years.
Mom's vocation has been bound up with taking care of the most vulnerable of God's children. She nurtured not only her own seven children but has lived a life of total self-giving to the real needs of others. As a young nurse in labor and delivery, she held and loved the little ones that were her charge. As an experienced nurse, she cares for the dependent elderly whose needs are sometimes as critical as the babies'. I recall the many, many years when Mom worked the night shift, slept while we were at school, and took care of all our needs as if we were the only ones in her life who needed anything. Never a complaint was heard. Hers is a life of tangible love — good measure and flowing over, as they say.
For fifty years Mom and Dad have sowed and the rest of us reaped the benefit. Isn't that the way love works? Now it's time for us to give back. I tell people who are less than generous with their call to childbearing that you really only reap what you sow in life. "He who you sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully," says St. Paul (2 Cor 9:6); and truly there is no greater return on investment than the willingness to sow bountifully the seed of children for God.
Dad has just passed the eight-decade mark and Mom is following along behind him in years, but it is a certifiable fact that this perennially-young couple will never be in need of anything even though the years advance. They have secured their future, at least temporally, by having kids. Their hope now is that they have given their children the proper moral and spiritual foundation to assure that they will have a group of loving little ones praying them into heaven on that day that they are called Home. It's a good bet in my book.
Oh, and by the way, if anyone ever asks me where I got my pro-life credentials, I don't try to explain myself. I just tell them that Dad stands out in front of the local Planned Parenthood in the hot Florida sun every week to remind the world that evil has its consequences; and nurse Mom still gives ultrasounds to women in crisis pregnancies at the Pregnancy Care Center that her priest-son founded across the street from an abortion mill.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, right?