Relaxation takes many forms. From exercising, to reading a good book, to sitting on the beach watching a beautiful sunset. There are wonderful ways to unwind in our lives. Since the birth of the newest addition to our family, I have now found a new one – giving a bottle.
There is something rewarding about fulfilling the needs of our children, no matter how mundane they may seem to be. (Of course, certain ones take precedence when you have a newborn.) Nevertheless, taking the time to serve our children is quite a blessing.
Since my wife nurses, I try to take advantage of any opportunity where I can offer our daughter her feeding through a bottle. Holding her in my arms, as she caresses my thumb and pinky, guiding the bottle into her mouth and holding it there, is truly an experience to bask in. I enjoy having this time to just sit, relax, and stare into her eyes, filled with wonder, and think about the future that lies in store.
These moments of blessing, privilege, and happiness that come with being a parent only strengthen this vocation, making it ever more essential in today’s world. This is because our society tends to place the parent’s significance above the child’s. Stressing birth control, artificial conception, and abortion, rather than Natural Family Planning, NaPro Technology, and adoption can often cause a misguided sense of entitlement.
I recall a time when I used to teach high school morality. I always seemed to enter into more spirited dialogue with my students whenever issues pertaining to marriage and human sexuality came up. Many became outraged that the Church would meddle in these sensitive and emotional (not to mention private) aspects of one’s life. However, rather than continue this manner of discourse, I would attempt to express the clarity, compassion, love, and logic of Holy Mother Church.
The Church takes these matters seriously, striving to uphold the principals of human dignity, sanctity of life, and human sexuality. Seeking medical treatments and procedures, which do not eliminate the conjugal act, are warranted (as is the promotion of adoption when these methods prove unsuccessful.) While others may refer to infertility as a disease that needs to be bypassed, the Church offers an approach that inspires faith, love, and hope.
Christ hears the cries of parents having trouble conceiving, and His Church offers guidance and encouragement to help them through this struggle. Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute, has devoted his career to helping couples conceive, and his methods are renowned. (He has even achieved success with women who have previously been unable to conceive through artificial means.) This is because he works with the woman, her body, and her husband, alienating no one. This upholds the dignity of each and respects the natural order of life.
There exists the need for a stronger understanding (and appreciation) for marriage and parenting as a vocation, and not a lifestyle. Therefore, addressing the gifts and responsibilities is necessary. We are called to remain faithful in exercising them, especially when it comes to having children (and raising them).
I am always reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend of mine during our freshman year of college. I had gotten to know her mother during the summer since I had a job on campus. One day, I mentioned to my friend that I noticed the resemblance between her and her mother. She responded that I was not the first to say this, and then informed me that she had been adopted. This was more than a coincidence. This was providence.
Many are familiar with stories about couples who had chosen to adopt, believing this was their only way of fulfilling their desire to become parents, only to become “expectant” parents after the adoption process was complete. God knows what we seek, but He also knows what is necessary now. It is our duty to pay attention and honor this, “…for I will honor those who honor me…” (1 Samuel 2:30 NAB).
Married couples are called to be open to love and serve children, all children. I do not recall the priest asking at our wedding, “Will you lovingly accept a specific number of children, born only of your wife?” Although our temporal world likes to place convenience factors on practically everything, including children, God does not operate under such arbitrary regulations, for His ways are truly above our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The openness to children expressed by the Church speaks volumes of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. Though we are one Body, we are composed of many parts. Each part plays an integral role, and with Christ at the head, helps contribute towards a greater sense hope for the world.
Our world, at the present time, is a fallen one and I firmly believe that children offer the hope we are in need of. That is why it is imperative that they recognize their importance and their value. Too often they fall into despair due to a barrage of images and rhetoric that demean life, and put into question its meaning. Reducing human existence to a right or a material element, which could be created, dismantled, or destroyed according to one’s desires, is a sad reality.
As I look at our youngest child, made in the image and likeness of God, and created in accordance with His will, I am humbled. Not only does our Lord create masterpieces in our children, but He invites us to participate in the process. This awe inspiring reality should neither be overlooked nor taken for granted.
At the same time, we should not ignore the other equally fulfilling opportunity to embrace life through adoption. The families who have been guided on this path demonstrate tremendous examples of selfless love. I cannot say whether or not our family will travel this particular route. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I will sit, relax, look into the eyes of our future, and continue to serve those I am called to.