Rorate Caeli

St. Robert Bellarmine on One Wife and a Large Family

While reading St. Robert Bellarmine’s superb Commentary on the Book of Psalms, I came across a passage that struck me as worthwhile to share with readers. The Society of Jesus has produced two Doctors of the Church, and it would be wise for today’s Jesuits, at all levels, to drink in their healthful doctrine.

127:1 “Blessed are all they that fear the Lord: that walk in his ways.”

          … He then says, “Blessed are all they,” be they men or women, great or small, nobles or plebeians, learned or unlearned, in one word, all without exception; then alone will they be truly happy, that is, fortunate, contented, joyful, in the very best possible temper, a thing so much coveted by all, when they really fear God; that is, when they dread offending him, and, under the influence of such fear, never fall from God’s grace, which is the fountain of all good. Now, a sign of such fear is “to walk in his ways,” because such holy fear springs from love; and the Lord says, “If you love me, keep my commandments”; and again, “He that has my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me”; and again, “He that loveth me not, keepeth not my commandments.” …

127:3 “Thy wife as a fruitful vine, on the sides of thy house. Thy children as olive plants, round about thy table.”
          The second blessing enjoyed by the man “that fears God and walks in his ways” consists in his having only one wife, should he ever marry; and, in marrying, that he will be influenced more by a desire of propagating the human race than by any sinful or unworthy desires, as the angel admonished Tobias when he said: “Thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust”; and Tobias himself truly said, “And now, Lord, thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity.” He, therefore, says, “thy wife,” not thy wives or thy concubines, “as a fruitful vine,” with a large family, like a fruitful vine that sends out a number of branches, “on the sides of the house”; a domestic wife that stays at home, looking after the business indoors, while her husband cares for the business outside. …

          The third blessing, the education of the children, is now introduced. They who fear God and walk in his ways will not only have many children, but they will be well brought up and educated, because they will be taught, from their earliest infancy, to fear God and to walk in his ways. He, therefore, says, “Thy children as olive plants, round about thy table,” that, by beholding them all together, eating with them, and living with them, you may have the greater pleasure and enjoyment with them. …

127:6 “And mayest thou see thy children’s children; peace upon Israel.”
          … Another addition to the happiness of the blessed in their country above [the heavenly Jerusalem] will consist in their beholding there “the children of their children”—that is, not only those who, through them, were born to God, but also the children of those children who, to the end of the world, shall have been brought to God, and will thus have cause of rejoicing for them all as if they belonged to themselves.

True wisdom from a great Jesuit saint, who understood how blessed by the Lord are Catholic men and women who, fearing the Lord and walking in his ways, remain faithful in marriage and bring many children into the world and into the Church—in spite of all the hardships and sufferings it entails, even at the hands of those who should know better.