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 Dr. Rory Donnellan (Australia):

We only have 6 children at the moment – ages 7 months to 9 years – so may not be the best placed to give advice on the benefits of a big family. However, we have found frequenting the traditional Latin Mass and the Sacrament of Penance to be very beneficial to fostering peace and joy in the home. We go to the traditional Latin Mass as a family every day and partake of the Sacrament of Penance once a week. Like the Mass and Holy Communion, Penance helps overcome venial sins, and should not be seen as unnecessary if you don’t have any mortal sins to confess.

We also pray the family rosary every night sans the luminous mysteries/chaplet of Pope John Paul 2.  All our children have been born at home and the older ones are all homeschooled using the Our Lady ofVictory program [Adfero note: we use this program as well, and highly recommend it].

At our first homebirth we had a midwife in attendance, but subsequently only the husband (I’m also a medical doctor) has assisted with deliveries, making birth a more spiritual  experience.  We had a midwife booked for our second baby, but by the time she arrived on the scene, the baby was already breastfeeding. The midwife had all the delivery-gear in her car, so I had to rush out to get a clothes-peg on the clothes-line to clamp the cord, and then head into the kitchen to get a knife to cut the cord. A mechanic was waiting at the front door to help service the tractor that morning, and wouldn’t believe my excuse about assisting with delivery, until I produced the newborn baby!

Later that same morning, one of our jersey cows had difficulty delivering her calf, and so I was again called to assist with a birth – this time with the help of ropes and a vet. Unfortunately, we have found that some Catholic mothers who are traumatised by difficult births in hostile hospital environments are (understandably) anxious about the prospect of having more children, and more easily tempted by the allure of natural family planning.

Unlike the Novus Ordo crowd who seem quite content to wait for months, we have always tried to organize the Baptism within 48 hours of birth. Our second child (Philomena) was a particularly easy delivery (all over in under an hour) – and so we managed to have her Baptized (in the Traditional Rite of course) within 24 hours of birth!

Another tip to enjoying a big family – toss out the television if you haven’t already done so.

As your family grows, you may start getting teased about the need to get a television. We have never had a television in our home, and never felt the least bit deprived in that regard.

Apart from the cows (and a jersey bull who ensures no cow ever practices natural family planning either), we also have 8 horses – one for each of us. We used to own sheep until recently.

You’d think that our jersey bull or a couple of the stallions would cause the most grief, but they’re not even in the same league as the feisty ram, who persuaded us to sell the entire sheepfold. That ram would charge anything that moved including our young children, and even took on our Landcruiser headfirst a couple of times while we were driving near his ewes.

If our family was crammed into a small suburban block, we may have succumbed to the NFP temptation, rather than the more difficult trustful surrender to Divine Providence.  However, on a farm, children can help milking cows, training horses, building cattle yards, mending fences, making and selling hay etc etc – apart from their in-home chores. With so much to do, who wouldn’t  want more little helpers?

A word of hope to those having trouble conceiving. We too had trouble conceiving in our first year of Marriage, until an old Priest gave us a “fail-safe” blessing with a relic of St Gerard Majella. 

The priest warned that once the blessing of children took effect, there was no way of extinguishing the candle. Fortunately we don’t ever wish to limit God’s blessings.


Liam Ronan said...

Very inspiring and practical advice, Dr. Donnellan. I agree with the tip about chucking the TV too!
God bless you and yours.

Karl said...

Makes me want to emigrate to Australia.

Thom said...

In addition to throwing out the TV, I encourage Catholics to use very restrictive ad blockers in their web browsers. What's the use in not watching TV, if you'll see the same junk, or worse, on your computer screens? Our homeschooled children use the internet from time to time, so this is a practical requirement.

More specifically, a good ad blocking set up is:

Mozilla Firefox web browser
Add-ons: Adblock Plus (with EasyList subscription -- do a web search for it), CommentBlocker, Flashblock, Remove It Permanently (to zap immoral images that may sneak through), and BetterPrivacy.

Martin said...

I was shocked to learn that reference to a devotion promoted by Blessed John Paul is lauded here. That is progress.

I have a serious concern, and this family, are a work in progress, and I am sure that daily others encounter, as I do, people who feel their Catholic upbringing was too pressured and stifling. May be the whole family can voice their experience of the reality on the ground lessons can be learnt, and not before.

There is a sound reasons why the individual actions, and piety, of people currently living should not be given as examples of model living except under the complete cloak of anonymity. The judgement may prove to be premature, or eventually seen as boasting.

May I suggest, in good faith, the editors revisit how such stories, which may ultimately prove to be what is intended, are presented, and only do so with substitute names or anonymity afforded.

I think someone wise and holy said, if I were to boast I should boast of The Lord.

Adfero said...

Martin, they can remain anonymous, or they chose to use their names. It's up to them. I don't see how if they chose to use their names it would diminish the message.

Martin said...


May be I mix in the wrong circles but I find people who present themselves openly as role models prove not to be so. Some of your commentators are mocking the humility of The Bishop of Rome, and suggesting it is a sham.

I note it even happens on a post about the place/sanctuary where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered! (Although my comments on that Sacred Space didn't get past the moderators.)

There is a reason why the lives, and writings, of possible Saints are subjected to intense scrutiny. They may be no more than Whited Sepulchres, and many people from outwardly happy families are in Counselling.

In such things, the actors in the drama should not decide their story is for a bigger stage.

People mock humility and on the same blog allow model people to parade themselves?

The Bishop of Rome, has a proven track record as a Pastor, and some deem him not humble, and self proclaimed models of family life are openly paraded.

Just saying....

Jack said...

I am curious to know if those families who say "toss out the television" mean don't subscribe to cable/satellite television shows; or, do not actually have a TV in the house?

How would you watch The Passion of the Christ, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Babette's Feast, Bella, For Greater Glory, A Man for All Seasons, Into Great Silence, etc.? There is nothing quite like a 60" Plasma HDTV to enjoy what Pope Pius XII was talking about in MIRANDA PRORSUS.

Happiness and Peace in the home is achieved through the acquisition of virtues. This can be done "crammed into a small suburban block" or living on the land. The wheel of fortune spins ... hold on tight and you'll find happiness and peace ... no matter whether you are down under ... or right side up.

Adfero said...

Martin, I'm sorry, but I find these stories, as a father of a growing family, incredibly helpful. Clearly, so do others.

If you can't get passed seeing their names, and conjuring up some reality that we're holding them up as idols, I would kindly suggest simply not reading these posts.

Columba William said...

I find these stories very helpful.

However, I must say that I find the throwaway reference to "the Novus Ordo crowd" to be unhelpful. This is not the way to win people to traditional Catholicism!

Kathleen said...

May God continue to bless this good family and all the lovely families that have been kind enough to share their stories here!

What a tremendous act of charity on their part!

With all the darkness in the world these kinds of stories are like a precious gift. It's just this sort of evidence that God does still love us, in the midst of this wretched age, that bolters Hope!

Stories like these all bring tears of joy to my eyes at the gifts of Our Merciful God!

That someone would project dark motives on these kind acts leaves me dumbfounded.

Hayfarmer said...

Picky picky people--has Rorate been invaded by Fr Z fans? Why not take the best of each comment without parsing the motives? Personal asides and criticism of references to NO are not becomming traits of those who frequently contribute to this treasured blog!

Kathleen said...

Why indeed Hayfarmer.

Why is it that a series of posts that should be a moment of light in a dreary world seem to instigate the pattern of response we've seen with these posts.

I won't fall into the posters pattern of projecting motivations upon others but it would seem to me that it would do all of us some good to think good and long before we post.

Oh and in my post above bolter should be bolster (doh!)

Adfero said...

You should see some of the comments we block!

These are the same people that would complain about the taxes when they won a $100 million lottery ...

Mary Kay said...

I find it fun to read these stories. That doesn't mean I would embrace the same lifestyle. It just shows that there are ways for each temperament to live out the Catholic life. It reminds me of how big the Catholic world really is, and also to pray for these families' success. We all know how hard it can be to live any Catholic life right now. We need some saints, and I hope these families will produce a few!

Sancte Alphonsus said...

Jack, I'm w/ you on the TV thing. Under no circumstances will I allow cable or any network television in our home but we do have a TV and DVD player in order to watch things that I have personally screened and have deemed acceptable to enter into our home.

There are some good things to be watched and I fear that completely depriving children of legitimate usage of television (for example) could possibly have negative consequences. I'm personally more along the lines of Fr. Rippberger's recommendation which consists of proper usage of all things good within due moderation of Christian virtue.

Even though my children get to watch their fair share of good DVD's it's rather alarming to see their eyes fixed to the television when we go to a family member's house (where they're not so picky) or out to eat where they have televisions in every corner. I would personally fear to see their reaction had they no experience at all in watching proper televison. They have learned to turn their heads when they're out and about and inadvertently see something offensive on a screen.

If total negation of TV seems to work for whomever's family - more power to you! My own thought is to not deprive a legitimate good but to use all things for the good within the limits of Christian moderation - whether that be TV, alcohol, tobacco, food, etc..

Adfero said...

We also have one TV. Done Catholic cartoons (EWTN has good ones). Other movies allowed too. Watching Ben Hur now!

Jordanes551 said...

"People mock humility and on the same blog allow model people to parade themselves?"

Your accusations against people you've never even met really are out of line, Martin. There has not been a single instance of any family in this discussion "parading themselves" and not a single one has boasted. They are simply responding to an invitation to offer helpful parenting advice.

benedictus said...

We do not have a tv at all, but we do watch some movies and shows on the computer. Honestly though I wouldn't loose any sleep about not watching movies at all, even the "good" ones like "Man for all Seasons". In my opinion, the medium itself is mind numbing, no matter how good the content is. So No body will be worse off for not watching movies. But you will definitely be better off by not watching the Lord of the Rings ;)

mjh said...

Getting rid of television programming in my home was the best thing I have ever done. I use it now to watch an occasional movie on the life of a saint or some other similiar topic. I urge everyone to give some serious thought to either reducing their TV time or getting rid of it.