Rorate Caeli

Guidance for young parents: how to raise a big, holy Catholic family (ongoing series)

After posting a video of a Catholic family with 15 children -- that boasted eight religious vocations -- we asked our readers (see here) to write into us and share their stories on what it's like to raise a big family, and what they did or are still doing to make their family holy, happy and peaceful. Here is one of those stories.

Please consider sending your story to Rorate (see here for very flexible instructions) to post in this on-going series to help inspire young Catholic couples to forgo the abuses of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and simply go fourth and multiply with faith and confidence in a loving and all-knowing God.

To view all of these stories, click the "The joy of big families" tag at the end of this post. For those who have sent in stories, we will post soon:

Written by anonymous:

We have 8 children, 5 boys and 3 girls, who range in age from 16 down to 1.  The last two pregnancies were very hard on my wife and she feels overwhelmed most of the time.  We homeschool them (5-6 of them this year) but we've turned to a few online classes to help with the older ones.

Their behavior is average at home (we think), but we always get compliments on their behavior when we are out and about.

We aren't good about doing family projects like gardening or farming or some awesome business, but partly that's because I help with quite a bit of the education of the older ones.

There's only so many hours in the day ...

I'm not always the best example to them, but I try to be a good dad. Sometimes they get scolded harshly when they shouldn't, but I apologize afterwards if I've been wrong.

They aren't theologians or spelling bee winners or going to college at 14, but I think they know their faith and what's right and wrong.  I hope they will choose the right when they are adults.  We don't take great trips to historical sights as a part of their education, but we do take a week for Catholic Familyland every summer.  We go to the Traditional Latin Mass in Lansing every week and we all like it a lot, but even after the doughnuts-bribe, some of them don't like the 45min drive each way.

It's a lot of work and at times it seems unbearable.  It's not ever easy and it's rarely "fun" by the world's standards.  But we can take joy in the fact that we are doing our best to discern God's will for our lives and are pouring ourselves out like a libation to do His will. What greater joy can there be? 

I figure that at my judgement He won't ask me where we went on vacation or how many got their PhD's, but He will be talking to me about their eternal destinations...  So with that as our focus we will keep going until we get to that judgement.


jac said...

I just have a dinner yesterday evening at home with an old lebanese friend who had been previously a business contact. He came with his wonderful wife and their 8 children (nextly 9). This holy catholic family is amazing with confidence in their Faith and reliance on Jesus an Mary.
They are facing everyday the hostility of the libanese muslims but they don't care since that situation is lasting since centuries in their country.
I understood how different is our situation in an old christian country like France which is slowly and silently apostazing under the soft and scornful persecution we are undergoing here from the media and the more atheistic governement we got since centuries.
With the easy and comfortable pillows of "love", "don't judge", "don't offend", the catholics are self-silencing and quietly self-excluding themselves from the political sphere.
The french catholics, including myself are tepidous, no longer confident in the future, only one in ten goes to mass on sundays, they allow their few children (due to the widespread contraception)living promiscuous lifes and those quickly get rid of the few remains of the Faith their parents bequeathed them.
Unless the persecution becomes bloody like in the Lebanon, our Faith is dead.

Long-Skirts said...

Anon. wrote:

"He won't ask me where we went on vacation or how many got their PhD's"

God bless you.


When you meet
Our Lord someday
And when He asks of you,
"What did you give your children
For the shadows of the valley to get through?"

"Only the best
Of everything
No sacrifice too much!
Digitals, sports, extra activities
Through the valley they'll be in touch."

But when the shadows darken
And hearts & eyes are blind
Can worldly touches help perceive
What's coming
And what's behind?

For in the darkness no activities
Digitals, sports or things
Downloads, work-outs, artistic endeavors
Will not
A true peace bring.

They still will have their failures
But a foundation in the Faith
Will sustain -
And Upon this Rock the shadows of shock...
If you gave them the BEST they'll reign!

JTS said...

Thank you for your honest account of your life with 8 children. It sounds quite stressful for you. Is it absolutely essential that you homeschool the children? I don't mean to be rude or anything, but I'm thinking of the load that would be lifted if you sent them to school. Homeschooling is almost 100% at the TLM near to me but it might be because Catholic schooling is 'Private' here. My children are at Catholic school and it is VERY expensive. It's a Jesuit school and the religious education is acceptable. They mix with children from Catholic families but few attend weekly Mass. The academic education is very good though and far superior to anything I could give them at home and that is the main reason I send them to school. I know that when I have attempted to do a bit of extra work with them at home it is very difficult. The little ones interfere and distract the older ones etc. etc. i'm not a very organised person so I really couldn't see it working for us. I do not have any problems with parents homeschooling their children but I know I'm not good enough and I'd hate for the children to miss out on a decent job because of me. Some of the home schooled children at church have gone on to university so it worked for them. The fees are a big burden for us here though, so I guess that is stress in a different form. In England Catholic schooling is free, so that would be nice. It's Catholic in name only though, I hear, so as always the religious instruction has to be reviewed and reinforced at home. No doubt you've already thought about all this anyway. As they say, things will get easier when the last one gets to be 4 or 5 years old. Lots of people have told me that even though children might get a little wild and mischievous at home, if they are well behaved outside the home you are doing a good job. So you must be doing well. Hope your wife is not too overwhelmed. God Bless your family.

Thom said...

I doubt very much the anonymous writer was looking for advise from people who cannot know him or his situation. I thank him very much for posting this -- it speaks of the challenges of bringing up a large family in these perilous times. It is worth all the hard work and stress to bring our precious little ones to heaven in the end. In other words, don't be stressed if they're not worldly successes -- keep your eye on the most important goal: heaven.

That said, all homeschooling parents that I know also want to their children to reach their full potential even in worldly matters, if possible. For Catholics, though, this is secondary.

Sancte Alphonsus said...

JTS, (and others on the fence)

If you have children then you have the God given right, duty, and graces necessary to educate your children. If you have access to a wholesome (read Traditional Catholic) school and can afford it then count yourself blessed but I would dare say that most of us homeschooling parents feel we're not organized enough, not disciplined enough, not smart enough to homeschool yet we do it every day.

When I think back at my government schooling (public school) days I think of how my children are getting it good. Gov't schools are nothing more than drama classes. I would rather have my children pick up the bad habits of myself (my wife actually since she's the teacher) than the bad habits, doctrine, and beliefs of some godless liberal dictator w/ a captive audience of young minds.

No you're not perfect. None of us are - not even those you think are doing a great job homeschooling. You would be VERY surprised to see the schooling habits of those 'other' homeschooling families you hold in high esteem. They're doing things you would never do in your own home school - trust me.

We all had the same reservations and concerns that you had. You could do it if you wanted to. I encourage others to do it as well with the prayerful assistance of Our Lady and St. Joseph, who home taught their Son.

jeff said...

The Restoration of all things in Christ will come from the strength of our families, or not at all.

JTS said...

The title is Guidance for young parents so presumably some advice is requested. Maybe not the anon. person, but others reading the posts and replies. People might see that raising a large family can be difficult and think about ways to make life easier. Read the original post.... the wife is overwhelmed, the husband says it is very hard and at times unbearable and they are not having fun. Reading that I wondered what could help these people? I inquired if sending them to school would lighten their load? And now it's a debate about homeschooling. I could have bet on that! I never said it was a bad idea I wrote that I had personally decided not to do it because I felt it might not work for our family. It seems however that there isn't actually any choice for the Traditional Catholic. It doesn't matter if you make a mess of it and leave the children under-qualified for a decent job. You cannot possibly expose your children to the DANGERS of school. If you do not homeschool your children you are not a REAL Catholic, right? If you send them to school it's obvious you don't care about their soul. If you want to call yourself a Traditionalist you MUST homeschool your children or you will be judged and found to be deficient. Right? Sancte Alphonsus ...... other homeschooling families I hold in high esteem ......... don't know what that means. The only homeschooling families I know are at the TLM I attend. I don't hold them in HIGH esteem and I've no idea what they're up to at home, but I note that some have gone on to university so the homeschooling must have been at acceptable standard to be admitted. I asked the question was it essential to homeschool because it seemed to be a lot of work. Anonymous poster might say, YES in our family it IS essential. Fair enough then!

De Liliis said...

Folks have you heard about the fire at the home of Little Flowers Family Press?

This is worth a blog post to help these poor people!

Sancte Alphonsus said...


Looks like you took my comment the wrong way. There is nothing to get defensive about - I'm not doubting your or anyone else' Catholicity. The decision on where to school is between you, your spouse, God, and hopefully a good spiritual advisor.

My point is home schoolers everywhere are achieving great things even with 'unqualified' and less than perfect teachers (guilty as charged). Parents are qualified in God's sight and that is the only qualification you need.

JTS said: Sancte Alphonsus ...... other homeschooling families I hold in high esteem ......... don't know what that means. The only homeschooling families I know are at the TLM I attend. I don't hold them in HIGH esteem and I've no idea what they're up to at home.

I was making a general statement that "you" (not you personally) would be surprised to find out what goes on in some of those 'other' home schooling families that seem to have it together. The fact is most home school families don't "have it together" -- they hold it together. Those 'perfect' homeschooling families - you know, the ones where the parents ARE "qualified", organized, well respected, --- well, guess what? They do things and allow things that I would never allow to happen in our home school. But it appears to work for them and that's the beauty of it - to each their own - but things are not always what they seem and you soon realize even those 'perfect' families are weak human beings like the rest of us.

Liam Ronan said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your candid and edifying account of raising such a large family.
I am the eldest of 8 children myself and I so admire the steadiness and day-to-day course corrections that parents such as yourself accomplish through the Grace and hidden designs of God.
God bless you and yours!

JTS said...

OK point taken. If people are committed to homeschooling, as you are, they are more likely to make a good job of it. I understand the negative influences children can be exposed to at school. It's my job to teach my children how to deal with things we don't necessarily agree with at home. It's a miniature taste of what the real world is like. I think about homeschooling my children if something is not going well at school ( name calling or concerns over the curriculum), but I'm not truly committed to the responsibility. Never say never. I do wonder though if ALL of the homeschoolers at the TLM are as keen as you are, or if they do it to fit in because it is expected of them as a Traditionalist.?

Adfero said...

JTS, name calling and curriculum is the least of our concerns. Our children losing their souls is the top, there's only so much a parent can debunk in a couple of hours each day when they learn heresy for 8 hours a day.

JTS said...

That's true Adfero that's why my children are at the Catholic school and not the local government school where God is not even mentioned. By concerns over the curriculum I'm meaning in particular religious instruction and sex education. I'm keeping a strict eye on what's being taught and what's not. I'm on the look out for heresy. I can honestly say that I am happy with the school so far in ALL curricular areas. They have Mass EVERY Friday morning (NO) which is rare in most Catholic schools. So far so good. Believe me though, if there is ever even a whiff of heretical teaching or behaviour I will be down on them like a tonne of bricks and have no hesitation in removing the children from the school. Just by the by...... the school chaplain is from Brasil. He's only 27. He knows Latin and Classical Greek very well and his homilies are very informative, I've actually learnt a lot of new things about old familiar gospel stories. Shame he is stuck saying the NO Mass.

Sancte Alphonsus said...

JTS said: I do wonder though if ALL of the homeschoolers at the TLM are as keen as you are, or if they do it to fit in because it is expected of them as a Traditionalist.?

I've never known anyone to make such a big, life changing, decision to simply fit in - but I suppose it could happen. Most of the people at our FSSP parish send their kids to one of two Catholic schools (one w/ traditional leanings) while only a small handful home school. Every one kind of does their own thing. I even know of an SSPX guy who sends his kids to a local secular charter school. I'm sure that makes a few eyebrows curl being SSPX.

Mrs C said...

My children are still very young but I have observed my parents struggles and successes as the eldest of their six children.

I agree with Sancte Alphonsus that in a healthy family, where there is no traditional, orthodox and academically rigorous school available, home schooling is preferable.

However, the other commenters overlook some additional factors important in determining whether children will keep the faith or not as adults.

There was a study that found one of the main reasons (51%) given by young adults for leaving the faith was an unhappy childhood. In distancing themselves from their unhappy childhood and home, these young adults also distanced themselves from their faith.

This was certainly the case in my family. My mother stopped coping at some point and our childhood was fairly miserable. Now only two out of her six children are practicing Catholics.

It's not enough to teach your children the Baltimore catechism and protect them from secular culture. You need to give them joy. They need to see that we can flourish - and be truly happy - in Christ and that this true joy is better than the superficial and short-lived thrills of the world.

If one is homeschooling but not coping, one should think about ways in which to cope better - whether it be sending your children to a Catholic school for 12 months or hiring outside help (say a cleaner for the mother or a tutor to teach math or latin).

You can homeschool and give your children a letter-perfect formation but if you're miserable, they will be too.

I say this as a future-home schooler: be careful not to make a god out of home schooling.

Dave Eddy said...

My wife and I have 10 children, 6 boys and 4 girls. My wife teaches a very full load of classes at an SSPX school and the children have all attended there. We have worked very hard to ensure that the Faith, including its incidentals and trappings (from hymns to church picnics, to Catholic friends having bonfires on our property, to late night group study sessions with classmates) are ingrained in them and part of the integral fabric of their lives. We have been very concerned with keeping the Faith from being the club with which to beat them. Five of the children are either in College or on to careers, and our oldest has 4 1/2 of his own. Finances have always been very difficult, but St. Joseph always takes care of the last possible moment. All of the children have so far embraced the Faith and it is a great consolation to us that it seems to be, not merely an exterior element, but a fully intertwined part of them. We have had no vocations so far, but our two youngest sons have both indicated an inclination to the priestly life. The first will likely go off to test a vocation at the seminary in a couple of years, after finishing high school. All of this might sound as though we are a model of virtue and order, but this is unfortunately, not the case. Chores are rarely completely done, arguments about the silliest things are far too common and there never seems to be a moment, apart from rosary, that the walls do not ring with the cacophony of life in our home. All said, my wife and I consider ourselves as some of the truly blessed families in the entire world.

jeff said...

Dear Mrs C,

I am sorry to hear about your unhappy childhood and the apostasy of four of your siblings.

It makes one wonder whether if your parents had had four children whether there might be four Believers in the church today? Better to raise four well than six or ten poorly.

croixmom said...

To Anon: thank you for your honest, humble post. Yours is, as Long Skirts said, "THE BEST".

To JTS: Peace and tranquility descended on our home when we made the decision to pull our child out of a parish school to homeschool. We are now starting our 9th year of homeschooling. Homeschooling allows us to live our lives, to observe Holy Days of Obligation, to not have to abide by the schedule of the institutions. Furthermore, with even one child, we could not afford the expenses associated with even public school, as opposed to homeschool. Extra bonus: we are trying to prepare our child to be a Saint. If you will, we are trying to raise a revolutionary. As a Catholic homeschooler, our curriculum is 100% orthodox Catholic, woven across all subjects. Pius XII wrote an encyclical about education. I hope you are familiar with it.

Mrs. C:
Of the families in my parish, I see the parents whose children have ALL left the Faith. And then there are the very few, humble, meek gems whose many children all still practice the Faith......
It seems that praying the Family Rosary daily is a common factor for those families whose children still practice the Faith.
Oh, and they were home schooled with a solid Catholic curriculum. And they attend the Traditional Mass.

I don't think these are coincidences.
I think it takes a really firm faith of the parents, to help guide and protect the children. Offering all for the Greater Glory of God.