Large Families — A Sign of God’s Blessing

Texas Bishop John W. Yanta, of the diocese of Amarillo, called for special attention to the importance of family life during the year 2007, in a pastoral letter issued early in January.

"Every child is a gift," Bishop Yanta wrote, pointing out the blessing of a large family while at the same time acknowledging the challenges faced by parents of big families. He encouraged his parishioners not to be afraid of having many children, saying "it takes strong faith to have a large family."

Bishop Yanta emphasized the necessity of family prayer. Her also stated that family life is essential in teaching children moral values and training them to recognize their social responsibilities and the need to care for the weak and vulnerable members of society, Bishop Yanta said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society."

"The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor."

As well, the life of the family is the model for all relationships, Bishop Yanta said, providing the context in which to understand the Christian teaching that all human beings are members of one family in Christ.

"In our brothers and sisters we see the children of our parents; in our cousins, the descendants of our ancestors; in our fellow citizens, the children of our country; in the baptized, the children of our mother the Church; in every human person, a son or daughter of the One who wants to be called "our Father."

"In this way our relationships with our neighbors are recognized as personal in character. The neighbor is not a "unit" in the human collective; he is "someone" who by his known origins deserves particular attention and respect" (CCC §2212).

 

Read the full text of Bishop Yanta's message.

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  • Guest

    It is articles like this that breaks my heart.  As a woman who was unable to have more than one child, it is painful to read a priest equate many children as a sign of God's blessing.  So what does that say about me?  Am I less blessed because I was only able to carry on child?  This is very sad.

  • Guest

    Samsmom,

         I agree with you completely.  My husband and I have been only conceived once in the almost three years that we have been married, and our one conception lead to a miscarriage at 4 weeks.  Yes, it does take a strong faith to have a large family.  But it also takes a strong faith to deal with infertility and resist the temptation to engage in unethical technologies to promote a pregnancy.   On Catholic websites there is a lot of attention and commendation given to people with large families, but very little acknowledgement to people like us who are faithful to Church teaching and open to life, but who have not been blessed with lots of children.  This is very sad.  If there was more support for infertility within the Catholic Church, then maybe there wouldn't be so many Catholics who give in to procedures such as IVF in which human life is highly devalued.  If mother with large families are heros, we are also heros for staying strong in the face of infertility with very little support from Catholic resources (but lots of support from God and his Blessed Mother).

  • Guest

    I have 10 children, 2 in heaven and 8 here with my husband and I on earth.  I have little understanding why God would not allow children to faithful, desiring Catholic couples.  I have little understanding as to why He has given me so many, I am so unworthy of His trust in raising souls.  Please do not believe that the bishop's remarks were directed at you.  They were directed at a culture that values children like it values the newest car.  Where people shop for traits in petri dishes like they shop for trifles on the Internet.  He was speaking to a culture that is intentionally barren.  You are heroes!  Your faithfulness in such circumstances will create in you a holiness that will open the gates of heaven.  Thank you for acknowledging your pain in the open so that we can better understand and learn compassion.

    God Bless You!

  • Guest

    To Samsmom and Claire – Having been raised in a medium sized family (5 kids) I have seen your behavior before. Sort of like the time I cried at another kid's birthday party because he was getting all of the presents (including one that I had wanted badly for some time). No matter how jealous or angry I got, my wise mother made sure that I understood that there would be a time and place for me to experience "blessings" but that this was not it. What is sad is that you can't tolerate the Church rightly extolling the openness to life which allows us to accept the blessings of a loving God.

    I re-read the above article twice to see what "sadness" I missed the first time thru. Nowhere does it say that those who are not given the gift of a large family are somehow less blessed or even cursed as the two of you seem to imply. The Church also constantly teaches on the value of suffering, actually calling it redemptive.

    While I applaud your faithfulness to the teachings of the Church as evidenced by your struggles with infertility (and the suffering that entails), I also would admonish the two of you not to allow your feelings on the subject to lead to what amounts to an attack on a faithful bishop for stating what the Church teaches.  

    Respectfully.

  • Guest

    Dear ladies,

    My wife and I have likewise been unfortunate in having no children together. But we do our best to remember that <a href="http://www.catholicexchange.com/node/8711">whom the Lord loves, He disciplines</a>, and that He gives us the blessings that are most good, for us and for His glory.

    I'm not anyone's spiritual director and I won't pretend I know how this will work to His glory, but I remain confident that it will.

    In Christ's love

  • Guest

    There is much wisdom in what kcagent and Arkanabar say. 

    Samsmom and Claire — have you looked into adoption? Do you have extended family nearby?  Do you have godchildren?

    We've sponsored children from other countries to stay in our home.  We have eight children, but the extras have alway been wonderful.  I'm sure we'd adopt more, if or when we have room.  The extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles are also a great environment to live and learn God's plan for life and love.

    It seems clear to me the bishop was not insinuating less blessing for those without children, but rather encouraging those with large families as well as addressing those who don't "get it" – not Claire and Samsmom — those who ignore or are ignorant of the teachings of the Church and close the door to new life in their marriages and lifestyles.

    Let's spread the good word about big families and encourage those who God chose to have them!

  • Guest

    Kcagent,

         I certainly can tolerate the Church extolling the openness to life.  My husband and I are open to life, and we applaud those who are as well.  And as I said, mothers with large families are heroes.  I am just looking for some aknowledgement and support toward those of us who are open to life but who have not been blessed with large families.  Part of the Church extolling the openness to life would be to see more discussion about how to cope with infertility in the face of pressure to engage in "treatments" that disrespect life.  There is very little discussion of this compared with the applause that is given to large families.  I would like to see more balance.  I was not attacking this bishop, I was just pointing out that there is a lack of balance.  How dare you compare my struggle with infertility to a child who is jealous of another's birthday presents?  The longing for a child far surpasses any desire for material goods, and it is also a much more holy desire than the desire for material items.  And if I were  just a spoiled, selfish child jealous of another's blessings, I would go ahead and create lots of embryos in a petri dish just so that I could carry one of them to term.  But I haven't done that, because I realize that my desire for a child, though a morally justified desire, does not justify the disrespect toward and destruction of human life.  You could learn a lot about compassion and Christian charity from the woman who posted the comment above yours.

  • Guest

    Sharon,

         Thank you so much for your understanding and compassion.  I am very sorry for your two losses, but I'm sure that your babies are praying for you from Heaven.   

  • Guest

    Protect the Rock:

         Yes, my  husband and I are in the process of discerning adoption.  Thank you for your concern.
     

  • Guest

    Claire,

    You guys are heroes!

    We will be praying for you.

     

    PTR!

     

    PS I don't think kcagent intended to cause you pain.

     

     

  • Guest

    Please, when you are discerning adoption, consider older children, children with physical/mental problems, groups of siblings, etc.  Sometimes these children come with a price (in heartache) but always they come with a need that cries out to be filled.  My two children were siblings adopted together when a relative died and there was no one else to take them together.  It was not always easy and there were some problems that could never be overcome, we just had to learn to live with them the best we could.  Perhaps, in your sorrow and pain, God is preparing a place for one (or more) of these beloved children.

  • Guest

    Mallys,

         You're absolutely right.  Recently, on a Catholic Fertility email group that I belong to, we were discussing an article that features Father Groeschel and Padre Pio, which is titled, "Don't Ask Why, Ask What", meaning ask what am I supposed to do with this cross?  Adopting a hard to place child very might be what God intends for us.  We will keep it in mind.

  • Guest

    PTR,

        Thank you so much;  I greatly appreciate the prayers!

  • Guest

    Claire and Samsmon,

     

    Thanks for sharing your life. It is a real blessing to hear the struggles you go through. Still I am wondering what is wrong with the article. Just because not everyone recieves a blessing does not mean we should not celebrate and desire that blessing. If someone is blessed with great musical talent would it be wrong to write about it because some of us are tone deaf? Would it be wrong to encourage others who have such talent to make the sacrifices needed to develop the talent? It seems like those who can have children need to be encouraged to sacrifice and actually have them. The Bishop's words are very helpful towards that end. Sure more big families will make your burden of a small family seem harder. Still we need to rejoice when our brothers and sisters get good gifts and not become envious. God will allow your life to be fruitful. If not in the area of children then in some other way.

  • Guest

    Hi Randy,

         There really isn't anything wrong with the article.  It just struck a nerve because, as I mentioned, this site and most other orthodox Catholic resources are bombarded with articles commending large families, but very few that discuss situations regarding people like us who are open to life but are not blessed with children.  I would really like to see this addressed more, because there are lots of Catholics out there who engage in illicit reproductive technologies, and I think that if there were more support and validation from Catholic sources, this would be somewhat alleviated.  It is really a pro-life issue, when you think about the embryos that get destroyed through reproductive technology.

  • Guest

    I'm in the unique situation that I am expecting my ninth child, but all three of my siblings are infertile.  I feel blessed to have brought nine nieces and nephews into their lives but they can't take them home, nurse them from their own bodies, and raise them. I can't imagine the pain that they must feel with the announcement of each new pregnancy.  Thankfully, they have always been able to celebrate publicly with us, but there must have been many moments of "Why not us?" and some tears shed in private.  I am so proud of the fact that none of my siblings has ever taken the route of illicit reproductive technologies (a real tribute to the education given to them by my parents, I think).  But like the women above, they have been questioned and 'beat up' by a society (and a medical community) that has NO idea why anyone would want to deny themselves children under any circumstances.  Two of my siblings have spouses who are not open to the option of adoption, so they are in a place where they are asking themselves, "What do I do with the rest of my life without the children that I always thought I would have?"  It's a big question and there are no easy answers. 

          I just have to add that I think we need to be careful to keep these two subjects somewhat separated because of the fact that feelings can be easily hurt on both sides.  The letters from Claire and Samsmom were very hurtful to me, even though I understand (although second-hand) their pain.  Obviously, the original article was hurtful to them, even though they agree with the fact that large families are a blessing.  May God bless us all as we make decisions regarding our vocations that will take us along the journey to heaven. Laughing 

  • Guest

    Kjbrown,

         I'm sorry if my post caused you any pain;  it was not my intention.  I am very happy that you are able to be empathetic with your siblings, and that they have been faithful to the Church's teachings regarding reproductive technology.  My brother and sil just last week gave birth to a child conceived via IVF.  Ironically, they had three years of unexplained infertility, and right before they completed their IVF cycle, their infertility was diagnosed as male factor.  My brother was treated with antibiotics for a prostate infection, and both he and my sister-in-law have acknowledged that they probably would have conceived spontaneously once his infection was treated.  Why they didn't cancel the IVF and give it another 6 months, after waiting so long for a diagnosis, I can't fathom.  But, the bottom line is that they ended up with 18 embryos. Two were transferred, and one miscarried early on.  The other 16 are currently frozen and will probably never see the light of day.  I can't tell you the anger I feel toward them for having such a selfish disregard for life.  The day my neice was born (10 days ago) I was very depressed thinking how it was just the "luck of the draw" that she was allowed to live rather than one of the other embryos.  And I will admit that I have had plenty of moments of jealousy toward them;  it doesn't seem fair that they have done something immoral yet they are blessed with a baby, yet I have been responsible about the situation and I do not have a baby (other than the one that I miscarried at 4 weeks).  I am happy to report that I have now gotten past the jealousy and I have been able to separate my feelings about their bad choices from my feelings about my neice.  I am now very excited about her, and I feel very attached to her despite the fact that I have only seen her in pictures.  I have framed her pictures and have them displayed all over my house, and I can't wait till I go to visit her next weekend.  I tell you this just to reassure you that I'm sure that your siblings have had their moments of pain with all your pregnancy announcements, but I am also sure that once they have bonded with each of your babies their joy has probably overshadowed their pain.  That has been my experience, despite the fact that my situation is complicated by my anger toward their involvement in IVF. 

  • Guest

    I suppose it is the common mindset that when large families are praised for their openness to life, we begin to look around and (wrongly) wonder why others do not have large families. I myself have only three, even though I wanted many more. I know several families in my church who have 6 or more, and I feel uncomfortable around them because they are always talking about babies (or at least it seems that way to me).

    Some of the hurt comes from others, who callously ask us why, but a lot comes from within ourselves, when we ask God why.

    I still want more children, but I have resigned myself to my infertility, and try to offer up those twinges of regret for others.

  • Guest

    So write an article encouraging people with fertility problems to stand against IVF.  I'm sure there are many others out there who would be inspired by your story.  I'm sure  you could get such an article posted on catholicexchange.

  • Guest

    I do not think that faithful infertility and faithful fecundity are opposed.  Indeed, I believe they are opposite sides of the same coin.  They both withness to the Culture of LIfe.  Further, in general the bishops pay little attention to the issue of fertility in marriages at either end of the spectrum.  This is a sad irony since one of the ends of marriage is procreation.

    I have personal experience with this subject as many of us do.  My dear friend from our newlywed days conceived quickly 3 months after marriage while using NFP to postpone pregnancy.  She was elated, but I thought she was stupid to have relied on NFP as birth control.  Our first children were born 18 days apart 18 years ago. 

    She said she wanted as many children as God would give her. (She is the youngest of 12 children and all the other sisters had infertility.)  I told her that I wanted 4 children:  2 right away and two later…."I liked to travel and liked material things"  I joked.

    Well, as God would have it, she and her husband went on to have secondary infertility!  The Holy Spirit broke my "stiff neck" and I went on to have 9 more children so far.  She adopted 2 children from Korea and then God gave her a miricle child.  When her sister was dying from ovarian cancer my friend prayed for a miricle for sister.  Her sister died at 44 but my friend conceived a daughter the last time she saw her sister!  That child is now 8.  My friend never has conceived again.

    My friend, has been a faithful witness to me of the pain and suffering of infertility, and the acceptance of God's Will.  I am constantly reminded of my sinfulness whenever I have to announce a new pregnancy to her.  I am also reminded of the Divine Mercy every time I kiss my latest newborn. 

    My life's unfolding is a mystery to me.  However, I do know that if I get to heaven, my friend's heroic witness to God's Will and the Culture of LIfe will have played a large part in shaping my soul.

    I will offer up the hardships of raising 10 children for you sisters who are living out the other side of the coin of life.  I cannot imagine the graces you are receiving through your heroic struggle to be faithful.

  • Guest

    It's hard to be single, and want to be married and have a family…It's hard to see others with children, who declare they don't want more…These are the poeple the bishop is speaking to, but they don't listen….Either they're not in church, or they think they've done 'their share.'

    Have any of you hoping to conceive or trying to maintain pregnancies contacted Dr Hilgers, who works with NaPro ?  Totally accepted and approved by the Church.  Also, check out One more Soul, for doctors who can help

  • Guest

    Regarding the 'unused' (sorry for the word) embryos – if you can carry children, you could adopt them, or others.  There are several programs for this.  I can tell you of several things that affect women's fertility: weight, progesterone levels, thryoid issues, insulin issues (one woman I know had PCOS, went on metformin and conceived right away.  She carred the child, no problem), endometriosis (which can be helped with progesterone)  I am not saying those are anyone's issues, it's just that far too many docs jump on IVF right away.  Many Catholics don't know the church's teaching, so they think this is a 'medical miracle.'  They don't think through it all.  If you don't fix the issues, 'even' IVF fails.  SO – fix the issues, and conceive naturally.  A woman I know miscarried twice, then with the help of a doc, worked to have 3 children (no IVF).  I am not saying all issues can be fixed – but you need God and you know it.  Thank Him for the 'gift' of drawing closer to Him during these trials.  I say this as a woman with endometriosis. 

    I am disheartened by the uncharitable responses here towards women who are expressing something that is very very painful.  These are not children wanting toys at a birthday party – these are the women of the Bible crying out to God for what their soul seeks.

    When you count on God, and it doesn't seem He answers, while every day we hear of a very young mother abandoning her child, you have to wonder.  One wonders how to facilitate adoptions between those who want to adopt and those who are going in to abortion clinics.  I have read of studies of women who laugh three times a day and it reduces their stress (cortisol effects everything).  Acupuncture can help.  If you search through older posts of ewtn.com faith questions, others ask for help also.  I am trying to remember the one thing a doc discovered, that is a clue, while others are still recommending IVF.  There are several books about achieving pregnancy naturally.  There is the prayer to St Gerard, and there is the prayer of St David, regarding infertility.  Search for them on the internet.  In the meantime, fight the urge to have pain rise, try to feel joy as you help out an overwhelmed mother with her very large brood (or medium sized).  Donate time and money to crisis pregnancies.  God will reward you, however He does.  He knows what is right for you, and rewards the faithful.  These are not lectures – this is what I try to do.  God bless.

     

  • Guest

    naprotechnology.com

    priestsforlife.org/articles/paulviinstitute.htm

    fertilitycare.com

    fertilitycare.ie

    cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=20781

    amywellborn.typepad.com/openbook/2005/06/ivf_questions.html

     

  • Guest

    I have been ill and I haven't had the opportunity to keep up with this discussion.  Thank you Claire.  I can't really add much more to you responses.  You seem to have understood what I was trying to say.  I was not trying to start a discussion about the haves and the have nots.  I am not trying to imply that I am, or those like me,  are cursed.  I am not, as it was so unkindly put, a child “jealous and angry” because of my small family.  It is attitudes such as those that keep women like Clare and I in silence.  I just wanted to comment that the Catholic Church states quite often that large Catholic families are a sign of God's blessing. I have yet to see one article, one bishop, one priest saying that small Catholic families are equally blessed.  That is all that I wanted.  The bishop’s words are correct.  And I commend him for speaking out in this society about being open to children, but I am saddened that he could not include small families as well.

     

    I also did not intend to start a discussion about adoption or about licit fertility treatments.  In my very humble opinion, my heartbreak over infertility cannot be healed by adoption.  My body, as God gave it to me, does not function properly in order to carry a child to term.  I have had to accept this. I have read our scriptures about suffering being redemptive many, many times.  I have suffered through 6 late term (10-12 wks) miscarriages.  Many times I spend my tearful nights reading them.

    Samsmom

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