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:

A wise parent of a large family once said, "It is only the person with one child that goes around giving advice.  Once you have more kids, you see that no child is the same and everyone is just trying to do their best."  I am not here trying to give advice.  Rather as one who has been there, I wanted to write a word of encouragement to the parents in the trenches.

Like so many big families we know, my husband and I have found peace and joy in our home on account of our many children, not despite them.  For those who don't know Christ no explanation will suffice, and for those who do know Christ no explanation is necessary.  Thus, I don't think it is helpful to enumerate all the non-essential particulars of what our day looks like or what rules we enforce.  The tips and tricks we use to make our life easier don't create a happy home.  Happiness comes from God alone.

I'm not telling you something you don't already know.  I'm just calling your attention to the happiness that comes from the graces of the sacramental is the peace and joy of freedom from sin.  All unhappiness in the family comes from sin.  A family freed from the selfishness of contraception, unfaithfulness, abortion, divorce etc. is 100 times happier than most.  So, for us Christians the only obstacle to having our family rest in that peace of Christ is looking outside our own family, to the world, for any answers.

For a long time I asked the world this question: On what terms will you accept my family as truly happy? What do I need to do or say to convince you that children are indeed a blessing? I concluded that I would need to look "put together" at all times, explain to baffled neighbors all the benefits of having siblings, prove myself the perfect housewife, and make it my duty to never give someone a reason to think badly of large families.  

Well God quickly delivered me from such petty concerns with a huge dose of reality.  Taking care of kids is hard--doing it while trying to make it look easy is even harder!  I thought about all the ways I could keep up with people's high expectations of big families, and realized I would actually be compromising my family in some way just to keep them happy.  I saw that I was enslaved by living in the minds of others, and I could find no peace within me until I let go of trying to gain acceptance. 

I thought about how Christ did not make sure His robes were perfectly ironed before making His appearance at the Resurrection.  He never hid the "hard stuff" or covered His wounds to make Himself more appealing.  He said to remember that if you are a stumbling block to others, it is because He was first.

So I stopped concerning myself about how others would perceive our family.  I stopped leaving people with the impression that all it takes to handle the challenge of a big family is to "just get organized."  When someone says, "I don't know how you do it," I say, "I'm not doing it.  Or at least, I'm not doing whatever you think I'm doing.  This is really hard.  And it really hurts.  I cling to God and He blesses me with a happiness that makes it all worth it."  When anyone expresses horror at the sacrifices required to have children, I remind them that they have no problem with the nobility of a soldier making sacrifices to preserve the lives of others.  No one questions what it takes to be the C.E.O. of a multimillion dollar company.  We have the lives of these beautiful children entrusted to us, and they are each worth more than a million dollars.

You wouldn't say no to someone handing you a hundred dollar bill.  I'm not about to say no to God handing me another "million dollar" baby. 

Do I convince them of anything? I don't know and I don't care. I give them the truth and return to my happy home that has nothing to do with their acceptance of it.  Then I leave it up to God whether they have met Jesus in me today under the appearance of the Suffering Savior or in the glorious form of the Risen Christ.

So...if you are looking for a way to have joy in your family, remind yourself that a happy and peaceful home is already yours.  And know, that the light at the end of the tunnel is not the day you get to stop making sacrifices. It is Jesus saying, "Well done my good and faithful servant."