by Rev. George Kelly, The Catholic Marriage Manual
Your Privilege of Parenthood
If you constantly keep in mind the origin of the word “matrimony,” you will have a clear understanding of your vocation as married man or woman: your primary job is to perform the function of parenthood.
In the first chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, it is recorded that God created man and woman for parenthood, The Bible states: “And God created man to His own image: To the image of God He created him: Male and female, He created them. And God blessed them saying: Increase and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis, 1:27-28)
Man takes too much for granted the magnificent power which God has given him to reproduce human life. Every parent receives a gift far surpassing any other that humans may possess. For example, when the great Michelangelo completed his magnificent statue of Moses, he was so impressed with its lifelike nature that he threw his hammer at it and commanded: “Speak!” Of course, this creation of one of the most gifted of all men remained mute.
As a parent, however, you are a creative artist who can produce an actual human being. Great as is the privilege of bearing children, it is only a small part of your total privilege of parenthood. You are your child’s first and most important teacher—the means through which he will learn how to live on earth and to prepare for his lifetime in eternity.
As Pope Pius XI taught us, “God wishes men to be born not only that they should live and fill the earth, but much more that they may be worshipers of God, that they may know Him and love Him and finally enjoy Him forever in heaven.”
It is obvious then that your work really begins only when your baby is born. Your home becomes a miniature church; your function is to teach, rule, and sanctify in Christ’s name.
Never underestimate your power. You are the most important influence your child will ever know.
The Pleasures of Parenthood
In our materialistic age, emphasis is often placed upon sacrifices which parents must make to care properly for their children. Persons with a “birth-control mentality” stress that the family with more than a token number of children often must live in an older home in a less exclusive section; must drive an old car that lacks up-to-date conveniences; must patch up and wear clothing that richer people might discard.
Obviously, having children involves sacrifices. But the proponents of contraception ignore the truth that the joys of bearing and caring for children far outweigh the disadvantages.
Parenthood is the normal state for a married man and woman. The child is the natural fruit of their love for each other. Moreover, the desire to procreate is inborn. Even in pagan countries, the man who dies without a son and heir is an object of pity; the woman who cannot produce a child is cast away.
In your children, you will find your own happiness. As we have seen, true love can blossom only in a spirit of self-sacrifice and in a willingness to forego selfish objectives for the sake of another human being.
In performing your duties of parenthood, you perfect yourself in self-sacrifice and therefore in love. But your sacrifices are like bread cast upon the waters; they return to enrich your life a hundredfold. For children are a pleasure in themselves, a source of comfort and consolation.
Consider the home filled with happy children at Christmas; compare it with one in which the sound of childish laughter is not heard.
Your children give you a worthy goal to work for in marriage. Like the gardener tending rare seedlings in his garden, you watch each stage in your child’s development with amazement. You see results today of your efforts of weeks or months ago, and you are encouraged to look ahead to a further blossoming a few months from now.
The process of growth continues in a pattern that never ceases to delight and inspire you. The infant who has just learned to gurgle and coo now becomes the toddler taking his first step into a strange new world; soon he asks his first innocent questions about God and life; then he sits by your side, his first reader in his hands.
You see him at the altar rail as a first communicant, then with his school diploma. He undertakes his first job; soon he is no longer your dependent son, but a bright-eyed, mature bridegroom.
In all of these many stages, you as a parent can feel an unparalleled joy in the part you have played in developing this greatest of all God’s creatures—a life more precious than the most exquisite flower ever grown, more beautiful in God’s sight than the greatest painting, more inspiring than the most complex machine.
“God has thus put into the hand of the parents at their own hearthstone, a power greater than that which kings and queens wield, and which must issue in either the weal or the woe of their children. It would surely seem to be worth while to make any sacrifice of personal comfort or pleasure—to transmit a legacy of holy memories which shall be through all the years, like a host of pure angels hovering over those we love, to guard and guide them.” J.R. Miller
Some prayers for you….
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The saints assure us that simplicity is the virtue most likely to draw us closer to God and make us more like Him.
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Very wonderfully put in words, it is quite an honor and undertaking. It is not for the faint of heart! Thank you!
As I read this article, and saw these beautiful pieces of art you included, my mind went automatically to how in nature this is what momma and daddy birds do- they fight off any intruders or threats, they often take turns sitting on the eggs to hatch, or the mother broods and the father brings her sustinance, they work constantly day and night to find food for the babies after hatching, feeding them until they are old enough to take wing, then they school them in how to fly. God’s Holy ways for the human family are reflected in much of nature, almost like a handbook to reflect on in how we provide, teach and train these precious charges that He trusts us with who, like ourselves, are His to begin with. Unlike the birds, though, we have that dimension of eternal life that we must also prepare our children for-the most important job of all. May He guide each parent and grandparent in nurturing the unique soul of these little ones to our heavenly home. Please, God.