More on being open to life

More on being open to life

Apropos of an earlier blog post and comments on my blog, Danielle Bean responds to a reader who asks her about the internal struggle between being open to life and loving a big family while worrying about the challenges that a big family brings.

Danielle’s response is very good primer on the danger of the wrong attitude about NFP as well as how it helps with openness. She acknowledges that NFP is more difficult than simply popping a pill and requires some work, which often leads to couples ignoring certain signs.

I think that with NFP, there wind up being many “accidental” pregnancies that are not truly “accidents” at all. Couples often know when they are bending or breaking particular rules or not paying close enough attention to fertility symptoms and lo and behold—a pregnancy results!

This might lead to a great deal of frustration with NFP, but as I said, I think it is a good thing. NFP is not fun. This fact likely encourages many couples to be more generous in planning their families than they would otherwise be. The seriousness with which most couples learn and use NFP is usually directly proportional to the seriousness of their reasons for using it. Personally speaking, if conception did not come easily for us and my husband and I had to actively plan every single pregnancy in the way people using artificial birth control do, we might have 3 or 4 children by now. We surely wouldn’t be expecting our eighth. We would be missing out and wouldn’t even know it.

Be sure to read the whole thing (which is only a couple more paragraphs than I’ve quoted here).

The comments on the blog by her readers are hit and miss, but she does highlight one particularly good one.

The kids have taught me so much about God. My 5 year old insisted on giving me a toonie ($2 Cdn. coin) for my birthday. I knew this was half of her entire savings. At first I didn’t want to take it from her but she insisted. I took it and said to myself, I’ll just find a way to give it back to her. And since she was so generous I would give her back $5. It took a while to sink in but I realized this is how God takes care of us. What father would not repay his generous child? Since that day I no longer worry. If we generously turn everything over to God, He will provide for us in abundance.

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  • What are couples to do?

    The short answer is “abstain”.

    Is it easy?  No, it is not. 

    And yet the Word of God tells us that the path to salvation is narrow and hard.

  • Carrie makes excellent points regarding economic stress.

    We are blessed with 4 children and it is has been a HUGE challenge to provide for them these past 25 years. Paying the mortgage on our very modest house has sometimes been close to impossible. Refinancing, living on credit, all the fun stuff.

    Our 2 oldest had to borrow for college. The oldest owes $60, 000 (that’s sixty thousand)for Franciscan University and the second will owe $100,000 (one hundred thousand) when she graduates from Seton Hall University.That is WITH a generous gift to each of them from an inheritance. Sure, they could have gone to state schools but Franciscan’s cost was equal to what she would have paid for state school in Massachusetts, and Seton Hall’s program is far superior to what state school’s offer in my daughter’s chosen field. They made the choice to go into serios debt to go to college, and yet I wonder how this will affect their child-bearing possibilities.

    Today’s paper had an article about the cost of daycare – average is $10-13,000 annually for a child in Massachusetts.

    I get really annoyed at people who think you can just ‘live simply” and get along. Not in Massachusetts, that’s for sure. My husband works like a dog and without overtime we’d be on food stamps (oh yah, been there, done that)

    Financial distress is a valid reason for postponing pregnancy.

    I bet I’ll get a few replies on this one !!!

  • Carrie:

    I’ve known people who would rather accept God’s will than take the initiative to better their own situation.

    You mean accept what they think is God’s will. It is never wrong to do God’s will. The trick is accurately discerning the Father’s will for us. Sometimes His will is that we suffer. It was for the martyrs. It was for His Son.

  • I’m out of a job. I’ve been meditating a lot lately about the will of God when He asks you to suffer sacrificially, especially when you have a child. This is not an esoteric concept for me.

    I’m just saying that we are always to accept the will of God no matter what. Recall that martyrs throughout history have included entire families.

    I’m not aying the will of God always entails suffering, but sometimes it does.

  • Since we have number six on the way, yes, SIX, and live on one income I think I can weigh in.

    Our oldest (twins) will be 21 when this baby is born.  Our (currently) youngest daughter will be eight.  We are paying for one college education for our oldest daughter (my son is a different story for another day).  We homeschool our three youngest, and live in Georgetown, MA, 1/4 mile from the 4th most affluent town in MA (Boxford).

    If it gets TOO BAD economically, then we simply will pull up stakes, cash in on what’s left of our house, and go South. (we almost did this after the Gay Marriage debacle anyway).

    We did the abstinence/NFP thing for years, but we still open to kids.  We figured if God wanted us to have more, we’d take them.  I’m 44 and Jeanne is 40, and we have a strong suspicion our new baby is twins (you know… more eggs released as menopause approaches).  Our town is getting more and more affluent every day (we live here because it was the only place we could find a house we could afford at the time that could comfortably house our entire family).

    Just because the world has changed, doesn’t mean our faith has to change.  Both spouses don’t have to work.  All of our wants aren’t needs.  We need to live our lives open to life (and believe me, we’ve had years of discussion on this), and accepts the gifts God gives us, whether we asked for them or not.

    There are thousands of people looking to adopt also.  People are going to Asia and Eastern Europe all the time.  Couples longing for babies.  There is always this option, isn’t there?

  • Ellen,

    Your point about being a good student and being offered scholarships just plain is not true. Sorry. My girls were both honors students, in the top 15% of their HS classes. They both scored very well on MCAS tests. Both had decent SAT’s.

    yes, Massachusetts does offer “free” tuition now to students who score in the top 10% on MCAS to state universities. However, read the fine print !!! What the parents still need to come up with is room and board (about 10 grand annually) PLUS EXHORBITANT FEES – to about 6 grand per year. So what they get is alomost equal to what I would pay to send them to Franciscan – but I still DO NOT HAVE AN EXTRA $16,000 per year tp spend, so it gets borrowed.

    As for scholarships, it all depends on how well endowed the college is. Franciscan has VERY LITTLE $$$ to give away (prpbably because their alumni are stretched supporting their own families)so very few academic scholarships are given, and very few need based scholarships also. The only help we got was $3000 per year plus my oldest worked as an RA so got free room and board the last 2 years.

    One thing that works against you BIG TIME with financial aid is owning your own home. Schools assume you can just borrow against it to pay for college. believe me, I know this to be true.

    Seton Hall has more $$ to give away, so my second daughter got about $10,000 in scholarships, both academic and merit-based on her service to the school. Still, she has to come up with 25,000 per year.

    Please don’t throw out all catholic colleges because they are not Franciscan University, Honestly, my daughter at Seton Hall has been very well formed in her faith at Seton Hall and has truly grown into a fine Catholic young woman. Her opportunities for service far outweigh what Franciscan offered. Plus she is involved with FOCUS and has weekly Bible study, praise &b worship, etc.

    people assume that all those at Franciscan are just fabulous, well grounded, well formed catholics. NOT SO !!!!!! My oldest was an RA there and she could tell you stories that would curl your hair and make you think twice.

  • Eileen: I have not said anything to the contrary. I have simply stated the truth that we must always do God’s will, and that the difficulty is in discerning what His will actually is. His will may be to have more kids. His will may be to abstain and not have more kids now. But His will must be done and His will is never evil.

  • Eileen,

    Believe me, if I could have sent my kds to college without loans I would have done it. But that is not my state in life. My husband is a letter carrier and I work in a library. He is college educated and I am not.

    That being said, that is God’s will for me and my family. We have sacrificed greatly just to keep a roof over our heads, and I know in my heart we gave our kids what they needed. we have taught them the value of a dollar and have not given into their “wants”. They are definately not spoiled. I hope we have instilled a work ethic in each of them.

    We feel we have accepted all the children we can provide for. I wish I could have had a dozen and provided for them, but I cannot.

    I have brought our decision before the Lord and asked His forgiveness. I have received his forgiveness and His mercy. Many priests have told me to accept this and move on.

    Good advice.

  • Jeanne:  Get a life.  I don’t care if you are preventing or not.  That’s between you and God.  It think the original point beyond of this thread is to be OPEN to life.

    If you are not open to life (i.e.  Using the procreative tools God gave you for their intended and not solely for you sexual satisfaction), and since I don’t know you I don’t know if you are or aren’t, but if you are 100% not open to life, then you should abstain, period.  Anything else is hedonism.

    If you choose not to have kids, and go the NFP route (choose not to have intercourse except when you are not fertile), then you are still open to life.  How so?  Because you still give God the opportunity to throw a strike, if HE so chooses.

    There, you wanted a response, you got one.

  • Joe,

    let’s not condemn anyone of being “hedonism” – like you said, her decision is between her and God.

    One thing I continually remind myself is that I do not know the circumstances of anyone’s life.

    In this case, we do not know that NFP is not being practiced. And she is right, if she is preventing it is her own business.

    I agree that many well-meaning catholics are way too judgemental when it comes to artificial birth control.

    let’s all take the planks out of our own eyes.

  • Jeanne,

    Move on. No one here has said that people who don’t have children are not real Catholics, especially when those people are prevented because of ailment or other reasons beyond their control. You are creating straw man.

    You need to get beyond the unreasonable anger you keep spewing out on everyone, imagining you’re being attacked when you’re not.

    For your own good and for my sanity, I’m going to ask you not to post on this topic any more. If you want to respond to anyone do it in email. Any comments you post here will be deleted.

  • Since I’ve told Jeanne she is not allowed to comment anymore, we should all probably not write comments to or about her either. I will say that Jeanne revealed on a previous thread that she and her husband cannot have children because of a medical condition.

    All further communication with Jeanne can be done through email. Any comments directed to her will be deleted.

  • Leave it to the lovely Mrs. Bettinelli to comment with firm logic and sensitivity.


  • Perhaps the bottom line on NFP is this. God has “the final say” … If the couple contracepts, they “stay His Hand” – there is a firm “No” to conception. NFP says that God has the last word; there’s no wall, literally or figuratively.

    I am sure things like this already exist, but wouldn’t it be great if wealthier Catholics who have the means would look around and pick up the tab for the education of children of larger families. Nothing bureaucratic, just simple loving kindness. A pipe dream, perhaps.