Clarion Herald Guest Column, Bridal Registry
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “The matrimonial covenant … is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”
It is important that engaged couples have a frank discussion about children before getting married. For those graced by God to be physically able to have children, the question is not whether to have them, but rather when and how many.
This is a difficult decision to make, one based on church law which allows the spouses to space the births of their children, while remembering that they are sharing in “the creative power and fatherhood of God. The ‘supreme gift of marriage’ is a human person.” (CCC)
Through each stage of a child’s life, beginning with birth, there will be challenges offset by an abundance of graces.
Spouses will question if they are ready to be parents. Future moms will wonder if they’ll know how to care for an infant, providing for their basic needs.
Dads are often clueless about their roles as the father of a baby. Concerns extend beyond early childhood throughout the life of the yet unborn.
So, for those engaged and considering the decision of your lives, let’s look at the first stages of life and to what new parents can look forward.
Upon deciding that now is the right time to have a first child, the tough part can be conception which doesn’t always happen on your schedule.
Several discouraging months might pass before the wife says the shocking words to her husband, and, yes, they are shocking no matter how long you’ve tried to have a baby, “I’m pregnant!” The shock, perhaps for birth parents, is quickly overtaken by pure joy.
The waiting and the anticipation are over and the journey begins.
Suffice it to say that if the married couple was not yet planning for its first, and God decides he is now ready for your help, the shock is generally multiplied and joy is still experienced, after the father has recovered from fainting.
The next trial is labor. While men will never experience nor fully understand what a woman goes through during labor, he only knows that his wife is sacrificing incredibly to produce what truly is a gift from God.
Upon the birth of the child, all anxiety by both partners is quickly supplanted by a happiness approaching ecstasy.
Now the responsibility of being Catholic parents begins.
Your child is a gift on loan from God and, at some point, the Father will want him or her back. That won’t happen if the baby doesn’t make it to heaven.
The spouses have a responsibility to get each other to heaven and to bring their children up in a fashion that gives them the best opportunity to return to God. The first step is baptism.
It begins with the baptismal seminar. Here again, some feel that a burden is placed on them. In many cases their initial reaction is, “Why do I have to go to a seminar? I’ve been a Catholic since birth?”
The answer is that the church wants to remind you of your responsibilities and to explain the significance and meaning of every aspect of the baptismal rite.
The resulting offset to the perceived burden is the post-baptismal jubilation of knowing your child is a child of God, a member of the body of Christ who has been welcomed into the church and free from original sin.
Your child will never be any more ready for heaven than at that moment.
Since this is an article and not a book, I will leave this exercise for you:
In one column, place what difficulties you perceive, and in the other, the joys to be received for the following times in your child-to-be’s life: Catholic education, the sacraments of reconciliation, first Eucharist, confirmation, and matrimony.
I can promise you that the joy, the blessings and the graces you will receive in being positive role models, proper mentors and loving parents, will, by far, in extremes you can’t imagine, offset the “burdens” of having children.
When God blesses you with children, he’ll give you the tools to raise them in accordance with his will.
Deacon W. Gerard Gautreau is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.