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.