The Washington Post offers a daily summary of the news through a sister publication called Slate Magazine. It seems to be aimed at the trendy young adult who are looking for daily news sound bytes and entertainment. Unlike many other young adult news services that tend to be quite edgy and sarcastic (The Onion for example), Slate actually does report news, albeit at times slanted towards a particular political disposition.
One of the top twelve stories for today: Young People Clueless About Babies. Well duh!!! The English paper, Guardian originally published this story entitled, Childbirth a Mystery to Young Brits.Whether it be Slate or the Guardian reporting the story both publications seem to be in awe of some of the following statistics:
- 20 percent of British 18- to 25-year-olds found that more than 20 percent think pregnancy lasts for 12 months
- 10 percent believed eating red meat influenced the sex of a baby and half expected a baby to walk and talk within its first year
- 20 percent of the childless respondents thought the umbilical cord was a musical note
And it goes on. Now, I am curious about two somewhat obvious questions in my mind. First, “Why are they surprised?” and “Why would the media outlets think that our youth and young adults would know anything about babies except how to abort them and prevent growth and eventual birth through the use of contraception? Maybe it is me, but I see a direct and logical correlation here.
For the last 50 years in the United States we have actively been at war with the most defenseless in our society – the unborn child. As we discussed on Tuesday, contraception among this demographic is at an all-time high. We have spent our time teaching women how to turn their wombs into a “embryo non grata” locked-down facility and our men how to use women for a quick cathartic romp in the bed. It is a simple military principle. You do not consort with the enemy – babies in this case. The womb which was meant to be a haven of safety, comfort, and the pride of parents has become a multipurpose chamber of torture, death and an inconvenient medical procedure to be endured by many women and in some cases enforced by men.
All our culture has really taught, and continues to teach, our youth is that the marital embrace is not really for marriage and not really an embrace – more of a drive through. Arguably, most Catholics do not know that there are two goods to the marital embrace: 1) procreation and 2) unity of the spouses. Most get their hackles up when they hear this because the common perception is that the dictatorial old men in Rome are saying, “The marital acts is only for children.” Please! They are not that stupid or naive. The procreative good is higher than the unitive good because in theory, children outlive their parents and continue society. The Church also realizes that if you remove the possibility of children from the equation (this is not to be confused with those who by an act of nature, accident or genetics are unable to procreate) the spouses are apt to use each other thus destroying the good of unity. Holy Mother Church wants spouses to come together in the marital embrace: Respecting the creative power of the body; Respecting the beauty and freedom to say, “yes” or “no”; and Choosing to come together out of love and in truth. Most profoundly, she realizes that among all the earthly symbols for the Most Blessed Trinity, the martial embrace is the best that we have – even though every analogy falls short.
To be honest, the above statistics were the good news. Here is the bad news:
- 26 percent of the female respondents admitted they would consider plastic surgery after giving birth in order to regain their pre-pregnancy body shape
- 27 percent admitted they would consider genetic engineering if it meant a better-looking baby
I wonder if our fanatical view of needing our bodies to look a certain way has anything to do with this? For the past twenty years of ministry, I have worked with too many to count men and women (young and old alike) with poor self-images. They all have something in common: they believed that in order to recover a healthy self-image they needed to look a certain way through exercise, control of food and/or compliments. Akin to this is also that you cannot be critical at any point but must tolerate the self-destructive patterns in thinking and attitude, and even sin. Unfortunately, that is bad Catholic psychology. Even more unfortunate is a society that encourages it, which at the end of the day is really called the sin of vanity. The individual who needs (or believes they need) to look and act a certain way or needs an inordinate amount of affirmation will never have a healthy self-image. They will on the other hand develop a very healthy narcissistic personality and cultivate the malignant cancer called vanity. Why? Because instead of justice being the virtue that stands guard at the gate of our heart, vanity takes its place and protects the lack of a good self-image (based on truth and reality) by demanding a skewed sense of justice. And what does that skewed sense of justice allow? It turns in on itself and others – it cannibalizes the psyche and relationships that can actually bring about healing. Without going completely off topic, a healthy self-image is the product of an intimate relationship with Christ who gives us the grace to then view ourselves as we truly are: the good the bad and the ugly.
Do you know what the actual sin Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure said caused Adam and Eve to fall? It wasn’t pride but vanity. They continue on to say that pride is at the core of concupiscence and all sin but the actual sin was yep, you got it, vanity.
Back to our regularly scheduled program…
What do the statistics tell me? Two things. The first is that we need to engage the Culture of Death to teach the joy of children. Many young adults and teens I meet do not even want to hold a baby because they might make a mistake or the baby won’t like them (If that were the case I should be devastated since every child cries when they see me – including my own). They are afraid of the child. Perhaps because they intuitively know that from the time they began school they have been taught that children are a burden and will interfere with their bucket list and social lives. Maybe by holding the baby they will discover that what the culture had said about them and babies are lies.
Secondly, we need to elevate motherhood back to its proper place – and that does not mean Mother’s Day. My second oldest, when our fourth was born, saw my wife’s belly and exclaimed, “What happened to your tummy Mommy!” Immediately she responded, “The wrinkles are God’s gift to me to say I am a Mommy and continually remind me even when you leave the house and have your own children one day.” Me, the heartless-one, walked out of the room with a tear in my eye humbled by this profound truth. It is true that for 99 percent of women who bear children, their bodies never return to what society calls their “former glory.” But Scripture says,
Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. (Psalm 127:3)
Ladies, if any man tells you that you are less beautiful because of giving birth, they are idiots and do not deserve you. Please quote me on that. You have participated with God in the act of creation and should be proud of it! Also, just because the man can successfully procreate does not make them a father. They need to follow through in providing, educating and protecting you first, and then your children, till death provides the vacation he has always been hoping for.
Once the child is born many parents hit the panic button because now the question is “How are we going to pay for them or their education?” It is not unreasonable to think this. When I say, “God will provide” I am not being trite or saying don’t give money a second thought. Those who know my family know how the Lord continues to provide for us. Husbands and fathers, why is your wife worrying? Your job is to alleviate that. It may mean working two jobs. That’s okay, you were built for that. It may also mean you do not get to have a man cave. That’s okay too, being with your family is more important. It could mean that you have to do without. That’s even better because you are instilling in your family what it means to sacrifice and grow in virtue.
My prayer for all the teens and young adults is that you find a spouse who loves you for who you are and desires to bless all of us with many children (in that order please: Marriage then children). Teach your children and every teen and young adult you meet to love children and to have a brood. The world would be a lot happier place with smiling babies around us. As my best man reminded me on my wedding day, “Be fruitful and multiply.” So being obedient, we replaced ourselves and had two more. Not only did God bless us with fantastic kids, they want kids too.