There used to be a time when being Catholic meant coming from a large family. The Church’s teachings on birth control and all children being a blessing from God led to some pretty big dinner tables around the world, particularly in agricultural communities where more children also meant more help with the planting and harvest. Over the years our communities have transitioned from agricultural to industrial to suburban living, and the need for farm labor has dropped. Mothers that once stayed at home with their children are now in the workforce, with the cost of daycare playing a large role in determining the size of today’s modern family.
Families with more than 2 or 3 children are often looked at with suspicion, as if having more children is somehow bad, or even immoral. There are even those extremists that blame everything from global warming to the breakdown of society on overpopulation. But let’s be perfectly clear here. Choosing to honor God by having as many children as He will bless you with is not the problem. Take a look at any large family and you will see some of the most environmentally-conscious, thrift-driven people on the planet.
There was an article in the paper on Sunday, Mother’s Day, about a family that after having six biological children, decided their family wasn’t complete and they went on to adopt nine more kids, many with special needs. Their adopted children are almost all older kids, the kids that struggle with finding homes. Some had already been placed in adoptive families but the relationships weren’t working out. This family, the Reeds of Beaumont, California, is a God-send to these children. You can read about their triumphs and struggles on their family blog, Smiles and Trials.
Just thinking about 15 children in one house is mind-boggling. The logistics of making school lunches alone would challenge me. And then there’s dinnertime! But somehow, they make it work. The dad, 41 year old John Reed, has the right perspective. When talking about feeding his large family, he simply says “what’s one more potato in the pot?” Good point.
How many times are we kept from helping others by worrying about who is going to help us? In other words, when we’re called to help, do we do a mental balancing of our checkbook before we open our hearts? But that’s only natural, you say. I’ve got children of my own to feed, a mortgage, a sick mother…. Natural, yes. Godly, no. God knows what you have before he asks you to share. God knows what you’ve got on your plate before he puts more in front of you. God knows.
If worrying about your own needs is keeping you from meeting the needs of others, you’re underestimating God. Do you really think he’s going to let you suffer because you were generous to someone in need? Both scripture and the Catechism tell us otherwise. “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities” (CCC 2447). The Catechism goes on to list these works of mercy as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. The model for this teaching comes straight from the mouth of Jesus, who in Luke says, “he who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:11).
Is this easy? Not always. But God definitely gives credit for trying. And remember, “what’s one more potato in the pot?”