Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day with some families

I've had a lovely day today an extra day off, lunch with a priest friend and two Catholic families who had between them nine children under eight. In Brighton families are a bit of rarity, most people live in flats in converted houses, with no lift or gardens, which mean they tend to move out when a second child comes along. Of all things, I miss Catholic families.
It was so refreshing to spend time with Magnus and Caroline, Dominic and Francesca they so obviously delighted in their own families and their faith, and seemed to welcome people into their families, they were so obviously open to life and radiated a sense of happiness.

It is often said that Humanae Vitae shouldn't be used as a yardstick to measure someone's Catholicism but actually that is a load of nonsense, being anti-Humanae Vitae was so often used by old liberals as a yardstick to mark a level of dissent, of being "thinking", as opposed to being faithful, Catholics. In so many ways it is a mark of being "new Church. Being open to Life in all its fullness marks out a Catholic from someone who merely gives the faith lip service. All the evils prophesied by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae have come true and humanity and individuals are seriously wounded by a contraceptive culture, at the very least people see themselves as having value as economic units, consumers not as human beings in relationships, as the Church sees them. There is a huge gulf in anthropology.

Scripture gives us a clear division between the Saved and everyone else, as there is between Light and darkness. So much so that early Christians divided the mankind into those who are "Alive" themselves, and the dead. Increasingly it strikes me that there is a clear divide between those are open to Life and the culture of Life and those who are not, and dwell in the culture of Death. It is not a matter just for families but for individuals and the Church herself.

Maybe more importantly for the Church; a contracepting Church is closed to the Life of Grace and simply doesn't understand evangelising and is ultimately childless. In so many ways the contraceptive culture has invaded the Church.

I can understand the fear of having children that so many Catholics nowadays seem to have, the best way of combating it is through contact with families like the ones I spent today with.


Gigi said...

My Mum was one of six surviving children and my Dad one of five. I would have dearly loved to carry on this tradition but discovered several years ago that it was not possible for me to bear children. I don't believe in regret for what cannot be changed, but I would call my inability to have children my huge regret. My sister and her husband have opted to remain childless and although I respect their decision, personally it mystifies and saddens me.
My neighbours in Brighton have six children ranging in age from late twenties to eight years; the eldest have produced the first sprinkling of grandchildren. Our houses are tight-built Victorian terraces and mine is often filled with the laughter, singing, shouting, jumping and generally the life of the kids next door. It's helped to make my house a home for me.
On the other hand, (she said, trying not to sound like Nicky Campbell), I can appreciate the facts and figures feeding some of the longstanding criticisms of The Humane Vitae: outdated, impractical, elitist etc. I see many young families and single parents in Brighton struggling to simply feed and clothe. There remains the obvious argument about bringing up baby with enough time and money or juggling resources to nurture a brood.
My neighbours would not be offended if I said they were not well off financially. Yet the children still at home are among the most courteous, kind and confident kids I have known. Their parents always manage somehow to feed and clothe them well and the house is crammed with love.
I can see that the tradition of the large Catholic family is waning and I am not blind to the economics, but I do mourn it's demise and the unfilled place at our table.

Lucy said...

The problem with people being "obviously open to life" is that there are those of us such as my husband and I who are would seem to outsiders to be an example of obviously contracepting, as we have been married for 16 years and have a 7 year old and a 4 year old. In fact we are open to life but it was not God's plan for us, it seems, and we have been blessed with children by adoption. Having a large family through adoption is far from attainable for us, so like many faithful Catholics who have not been sent large families by God, we have to face up to being judged by observant Catholics as assumed contraceptive using.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Fr Ray...we had 6 children under 6 & 12 pregnancies in 14 years...I am so grateful for the gift of fertility & for using it!

Mummymayhem said...

Thank you Fr for actually mentioning Humanae Vitae. So many priests simply don't. It leaves those of us who wish to be open to life,and struggle with it sometimes,feeling more alone than we need to.

GOR said...

To understand the ‘seismic shift’ after Humanae Vitae one needs to have lived through it. Granted contraception didn’t begin in 1968, but in the years leading up to HV there was a growing expectation that there would be a change. Because The Pill was not proximate to the marital act, it was thought that an exception might be made for that method of contraception. Expectation became conviction. It was going to happen… It had to happen... How could it not happen…? Then it didn’t happen.

Once it became known that the ‘Majority Report’ of Pope John’s, and then Pope Paul’s, Commission (trumpeted by The Tablet and the National Catholic Reporter…) favored a change, the floodgates opened. When so many in the hierarchy - even Bishops’ Conferences - openly questioned Pope Paul’s encyclical it was hard for the ordinary layperson or parish priest to know what to think or how to react.

Prior to this while a priest may have had doubts about this or other doctrines of the Church, he was careful not to let his weakness of faith influence those in his care. That would no longer be the case.

Advice in the confessional varied from “you may not…” to “follow your conscience” to “just do it”. People sought out the ‘more sympathetic’ priests for confession – if they continued to go at all and many stopped going altogether.

Inevitably, such open dissent in one matter led to dissent in other matters, as the Holy Father predicted. We are still paying the price for that.

Gigi said...

@ Lucy: I really feel for you. I often look at those who have been blessed with fertility and wish that could have been me. I hoped to have adopted by now, but I wanted to do that within a loving marriage; as I'm still single, adoption would not seem right for me personally.
Maybe God still has children in mind for me somehow!
I think what you and your husband have committed to is a beautiful and immense thing, regardless of how many children your family holds. You've given love and security, and demonstrated faith, to two children who might otherwise never have known these things.
I hope you haven't been hurt by any of the comments on this post: I'm sure that wouldn't have been Father Ray's intention and it certainly wasn't mine. Love to you and your family Lucy.

Michael Petek said...

A contracepting church is implicated in the sin of "pharmakeia", New Testament Greek for sorcery or witchcraft, by extension from the term used for a drug.

1 Samuel 15:23 says that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (Heb. kehsen), so the gravamen of the offence of contraception is that it expresses rebellion against God as the Creator of the human body by interfering with its natural and healthy activity, whether done by means of drugs, or not.

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