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Archives Natural Family Planning Week 2021:To Have, To Hold, To Honor
Children are a gift from the Lord

July 28, 2021

By Suzanne Pietropaoli
Natural Family Planning Director

A conversation with a friend made me realize how unusual my childhood was. Not for any bad reason, but simply because it was so filled with children. In the (largely Irish) Catholic enclave where I grew up in coastal Massachusetts, children – like the sunshine, the sand, and the salt air – were everywhere.

Blessed with eight brothers and sisters, surrounded by families that included six, eight, or ten children, I never lacked for playmates.

But there was an added vibrancy, a pulsation, to life in our small town as one family or another seemed always to be welcoming a new baby. What excitement that generated among us children! No matter that we all had younger, even infant, siblings at home; we were quite enchanted by each new arrival. Even now I can see myself, circa 1965, part of a small crowd of children gathered around a cradle, silent with wonder as we met a family’s newest member. Then, as if seeing such things for the first time, we would ooh and aah over the tiny fingers, the downy head of hair, the color of her eyes. It was like Christmas!

No one needed to convince us that children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). How amazing to have been formed in a world where, despite the inevitable human flaws, children were welcomed and cherished, blessed to grow up in homes with the mother and father whose love – together with God’s – had given them life. Not surprisingly, these same families overflowed the pews at Mass each week, dressed in their Sunday best and exceptionally well-behaved. Some families even spilled over into a second pew.

All this came to mind recently as I pondered Bishop LaValley’s pastoral letter for NFP Awareness Week 2021. What a clear teaching, and what a clarion call to all of us to seek first the kingdom of God: “It is only by taking the time to reflect on Scripture and on the life of Christ, by praying regularly and celebrating the Eucharist, will I gain the humility to allow God to be God and not me.”

This decision to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, to choose his ways and thoughts above my own, is central to discipleship, whatever one’s vocation.

But as Bishop LaValley reminds us, this can be especially challenging for married couples in a culture that “tries to distance itself from the Divine,” especially in matters of sex and family planning. In contrast, he writes, “NFP is about fidelity to God and making God the center of married life and love.”

After all, God created us male and female in his image and willed that sexual union should reflect his own free, permanent, faithful, fruitful love – a total gift of one spouse to the other. That gift is seriously incomplete when fertility is deliberately withheld.

Our wise and loving Creator designed sex for the permanent union of husband and wife, and he chose to make it both love-giving AND life-giving. To deliberately interfere with the life-giving reality of sex is to say NO to God. Contraception and sterilization emphatically reject the beautiful plan of God: he clearly made a mistake in connecting sex and babies, but medical technology lets us correct the “error” – or so we imagine. The real error lies in thinking that we know better than the God who created us. And contrary to both common sense and God’s word in Scripture, we even buy into the cultural myth that a child has no intrinsic value but is a threat to be protected against.

Bishop LaValley calls us instead to think with the mind of Christ. In the Gospels, Jesus commands, “Let the little children come to me. Do not shut them off, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” How blessed I was to have been formed by a community that so warmly welcomed children! Similarly, what a blessing it has been in NFP ministry, to accompany couples seeking to live in harmony with God’s plan for life and love – and to watch their love, and their families, grow.

By drawing closer to the Lord who made us, may we rediscover the truth, of which we are so beautifully reminded in Vatican II’s GAUDIUM ET SPES (50, 1) : “Children are the supreme gift of marriage, and contribute greatly to the good of their parents.” And to all of us.

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