“Sons are a bounty from Yahweh, he rewards with descendants; like the arrows in the hero’s hand are the sons you father when young. Happy the man who has filled his quiver with arrows of this sort; in dispute with his enemies at the gate, he will not be worsted.”
We traveled as a family to Rome at the end of the Jubilee Year 2000. The Italians were fascinated with our family. Italian women would spontaneously reach over to “mother” one of the little ones by tucking a scarf in or putting a blanket around them. Many asked to take our picture.
So, how did we come to have nineteen children? As Kathleen explained, I started being open to having more after our first, as I naturally loved children. What difference would a few more make? After my reversion to the Catholic faith I began reading the Church’s teaching on life.
I learned that each person is created in God’s own image and likeness, unique and unrepeatable, with a unique irreplaceable mission from God for the good of the world and salvation of others, that one person’s value is greater than the entire created universe, which will pass away, while the human person will exist for eternity.
God chooses to let us decide whether a particular person he has thought of for all eternity even comes into existence.
I also learned beautiful truths about the gift of human sexuality: “The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life.” (CCC 2363) Of course, the Church allows spouses to space the births of their children for just reasons via natural family planning.
Kathleen and I came to not simply obey a set of laws, but rather to live the freedom of love. The Church is not an institution. The Church is the person of Jesus Christ, of God himself, of which we make up his Mystical Body.
One of my favorite scriptures is about the disciples crossing the lake with Jesus asleep in the stern (Mark 4:35-4). “On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him, just as he was in the boat.” Yes, leaving the crowd. We want to be in control. Surrendering to our Blessed Lord includes pain and purification, but for our good.
Even nature provides examples. If the majestic trees of the forest were to grow safely in greenhouses they would never mature. God does not want us to be potted plants.
“There were other boats with them.” When we strive to put God and his will first, others will be invigorated and emboldened.
“Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat.” It can seem difficult to do God’s will, to die to ourselves. These are opportunities to grow and exercise our spiritual muscles.
“But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.” Sometimes it seems like the Lord is not there, as if he has abandoned us, unaware of our dire situation. But he is always supremely interested in every detail of our lives, always in absolute command.
“Master, do you not care? We are going down!” Yes, he cares, but he permits situations that are opportunities to be transformed into Christ.
“And he woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped and all was calm again.” Nothing can harm us when Christ is in our boat, nothing!
“Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’” How many times does our Blessed Lord have to intervene before we stop being terrified, before we have a living faith that permeates every aspect of our lives?
There is only one power that can stand in the way of God’s will. It is the gift he has given us, the gift of our free will.
We must continually pray for the grace to exercise this gift in accordance with Almighty God’s will.
Kathleen and I have many times been challenged about the size of our family. To help demonstrate that our choice was in accordance with God’s will, I take out a picture of our complete family, or point to the children, and ask which of these should not have been born?
Overpopulation is a myth with grave societal and economic consequences. The prevalent culture of death, the abortion and contraception mentality, breeds selfishness and self-centeredness, which results in increased fear. This is a volatile and disordered recipe for evils such as abortion, euthanasia, and wars to flourish.
We never would have had this many children if it were not for a God who always provides for our needs, a God who tells us not to worry: “Set your hearts on his kingdom first and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So don’t worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:16) God tells us the same thing he told the Blessed Virgin Mary through the angel Gabriel: “Nothing is impossible to God”. (Luke 1:37) We must believe this. God does not lie. He is the Truth. He who is Generosity Itself, will never be outdone in generosity. Trust him!
Our Journey from the Lie of Contraception to Nineteen Children
BETTER BY THE DOZEN, PLUS TWO: ANECDOTES AND A PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE FROM A FAMILY OF SIXTEEN
By James and Kathleen Littleton
Copyright © 2007 by James & Kathleen Littleton
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