While preparing for the celebration of the birth of Christ this year, we must also think about the wonderful blessings that Joseph and Mary experienced when God chose them to be the parents of His Son. Mary, who was conceived without original sin, and Joseph, who was vowed to Mary’s virginity and to his role as foster father of Jesus, are perfect examples of both marital and parental love.
Father Maurice Zundel writes of this union, teaching, “Jesus was truly the issue of their marriage; their virginity was fruitful, their flesh exultant and at peace, in the super-eminent realization of the life-bearing impulse. And as the bond that united them was the divine Person of their Child, their marriage was at once holy and eternal, combining in a unique degree all elements of the perfect union–fides, proles, sacramentum: fruitfulness, fidelity, indissolubility.”
Professor John Witte Jr. further explains the beauty of this union, stating that “marriage is an institution of fides—faith, trust, and love between husband and wife, and parent and child, that goes beyond the faith demanded of any other temporal relationship.”
In other words, the marriage exemplified by the loving union of Mary and Joseph gives each of us a model for marriage, and that is the overwhelming awesomeness of what it means to unselfishly give oneself to a spouse in the presence of God and in a beautifully holy sacramental way.
I found this particularly relevant after reading an article published by NPR this past Sunday. The article entitled “Please, Baby, Please: Some Couples Turn to Crowdfunding for IVF” tells the tale of couples who, in a desperate desire to have a baby by any means possible, turned to fundraising techniques for assistance in paying for fertility treatments. To make the story even more curious, one of the two couples featured happens to be of the same sex. So not only is the article presenting the reader with the perceived need to turn to science to have a child, but it is involving the broader community in a practice fundamentally at odds with God’s design for the proper rights of the child.
To understand these proper rights, we must look to what the Catholic Church teaches in Donum Vitae (Instruction for Respect on Human Life):
A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child’s dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, “the supreme gift” (58) and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.
Setting aside the erosion of the definition of marriage in this scenario, we must understand the fundamental fact that no one has a right to a child. Rather, every child has the right to be the fruit of conjugal love within the sanctity of marriage. This is why the Church teaches us that “human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution.
The blithe acceptance of the enormous number of abortions involved in the process of in vitro fertilization vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure — in addition to being in contradiction with the respect that is due to procreation as something that cannot be reduced to mere reproduction — leads to a weakening of the respect owed to every human being. Recognition of such respect is, on the other hand, promoted by the intimacy of husband and wife nourished by married love.”
Keeping in mind the beautiful model set forth by the Holy Family, let us take every opportunity this Christmas season to remind our fellow human beings of the wonder and beauty of a sacramental marriage and its gifts.