"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." ~1 John 4:18
A lot of wonderful things have been written this week in the Catholic blogosphere about childbearing and the culture at large.
It occurs to me that the very root the issue of family size and motherhood even being an issue is that of fear. We're afraid of having too many children. We're afraid of the very process of childbirth. We're afraid of infertility. We're afraid of losing control. We're afraid of what people will think of us. We're afraid of losing our figures, our sanity, of having less money. We're afraid of anything and everything connected to this great mystery of bringing new human life into being.
We all know fear is from the Evil One. The book The Apostolate of Holy Motherhood is on my desk as I type this. There is a lovely painting of the Madonna and Child by Murillo on the front cover.
Beautiful, isn't it? You know what is absent from their faces? Fear. Mary knows that "a sword will pierce her heart." She knows the ultimate sacrifice she will be asked to make. Jesus knew from all Eternity that the moment of His Passion would come. They know that mankind would so often scorn that sacrifice, and return love with hatred or indifference. Yet they possess a perfect peace, born of their perfect love.
Love simply doesn't have any room for fear. It gives without thought for the suffering, or if it does think of the suffering, it sees past it toward the good to be obtained by it. Love can look at the cross and see beauty, not merely ugliness and pain. We can talk about the sufferings of motherhood and still find joy in it.
For us in our fallen human condition, there is inevitably suffering. For the sufferings particular to the vocation of marriage, only love can cast out the fear of that suffering. That's really the answer to the anti-child culture, is the need for love to counter the fear. Love is fruitful of its very nature, flowing out from itself. The greatest and most perfect Love is that of the persons of the Trinity. The love of the Father and Son brings forth the Holy Spirit. The love of God brought forth all of creation. The love of husband and wife is ordered toward bringing forth children.
Love is not afraid of suffering. On our human level, even though it is natural to not wish to suffer, we open ourselves to it any time we allow ourselves to love. Our family and friends will hurt us at times. People we love will die. People we love will have sufferings of their own and we too will feel pain out of compassion for them. Our anti-child culture is afraid of suffering. And fear will always shrink away from love.
When a married couple simply allows God to send the children as He wills it, we certainly do open the floodgates to a whole new level of suffering. Whether our particular cross is the pain of many miscarriages, of infertility, of having a child with special needs, of losing an older child to illness or accident, or the pain of seeing a child reject God, or whether it's simply the day-to-day sufferings of family life, we opened themselves to all of it when we made the choice to love each other and fully give ourselves to each other until death do us part. There is no going back. And we will find there is nothing to fear!