My switch from selfish feminist “have-it-all” career woman to “open-to-life” Catholic homemaker undoubtedly represents an extreme conversion of heart. Like many young women today, I grew up in a culture that told me I was in control of the number of children I would have, and that marriage was whatever I wanted it to be because girls could do anything boys can do, only better.
Since I don’t do anything half-way, when I was lost, I was so lost. By worldly standards, I was successful and should have been happy, but when you live in darkness, no matter how much you try to smile and appear the way you should, you know there is sheer terror to face in quiet moments alone.
Fortunately, in being so lost I was able to see the light more brightly.
I remember the moment my eyes were opened about children and marriage during my conversion to Catholicism. I literally picked the Catechism up off a shelf and read one sentence. “Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.” Children are gifts, not commodities, not burdens, not schedules – precious, good gifts. My thinking reversed immediately.
Today in discussions about natural family planning (NFP) and Catholic teaching, peoples seem to suggest that being open-to-life is the key to happiness. Just have babies and you’ll be happy! I’ll tell you a secret — that’s not true. Yes, following Church teaching is wise because it is wisdom straight from God, but finding happiness is not like finding the assembly instructions in a box to build a dollhouse. Happiness is not built by inserting slat A into slot B.
While raising a lot of kids does gives me an inexpressibly joyful life — a glimpse of Heaven itself – I’ll be the first to tell you that it is also unimaginably hard. On any day, there is pain, exhaustion, anxiety, fighting, discord, and heartbreak. I’ve spent my time curled up in tears begging for mercy.
Guess what? I survive it with my family — and that’s the beauty.
There never was a time when the salvation of souls did not impose the duty of sufferings. That’s what brings us closer to Christ and infuses us with strength. We lift our eyes trustfully to Heaven and offer these sorrows to Him who will reward us abundantly with graces. The key to happiness was received by Peter, and to find it we must grow in the embrace of the Church and Her Sacraments.