Timothy Egan, NY Times op-ed writer, reported: “Pope Francis remarked that good Catholic parents did not have to ‘be like rabbits.’ Those words would have landed like angel dust on the shoulders of my ever-pregnant mom” (“Rabbits and Rebels,” 1/30/15).
Egan’s comment contrasts a story I sent our church in 1994. “The Mahoneys and their eight children moved to Father O’Brien’s parish. When they met, O’Brien commented: ‘What a fine Catholic family.’ Mrs. Mahoney replied, ‘Father, thank you. But, we’re not Catholics. We’re passionate Presbyterians.’”
In 1994, our seventh child, Jesse, had just been born. Little did we know that Isaac would arrive two years later. Here is the rest of my 1994 article:
“Some ask: Why do the Bostroms have such a large family? Our old natures love to defend themselves. Hopefully, my response is not an exercise in self-justification. How do you explain the way God unfolds your life – and the overarching impact of the good news of Jesus? May these reflections give you a better grasp that a large family is part of God’s calling for Via and me.
- Scripture encourages us to love and value children. Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such as these belongs the kingdom of God” ( 18:16 – see also Gen. 1:27,28; 9:1,7; 17:6, Ps. 127, 128, Is. 8:18, Jer. 29:5-7, Mt. 18:10).
- Covenant theology encourages hope for our children and our children’s children.
- Our children teach us, better than any one else, what sinners we are. Apparently God knew I needed a lot of instruction.
- We need to live by faith. Trusting God with our children and with our resulting finances is a stimulus to faith (or anxiety). When Via told me she was pregnant with our fifth child, I assumed I was already at my capacity. O me of little faith. Blessedly, God showed me it was not so.
- Humility and learning to serve are Christian priorities. Our children provide the NEED. These little sinners made in the image of God interrupt my sleep and my schedule; they interfere with my time with my bride, my career, my time with friends, and my leisure. They make messes. Not only do they break my ‘stuff’, but also they may break my heart. So, they motivate me to cry out to God for humility and a servant’s heart.
- A number of friends struggled with infertility. I began to understand God had given us the “gift” of fertility. Wealth and health are blessings – but children? Yes, being used by God to bring another eternal soul into the world to love – one who might be given grace to live for His glory – was one of the most important things we could do.
- We do not feel guilty about adding to a supposedly over-populated world. We grew up being told that population is a BOMB – we saw cartoons of people falling off overcrowded earth. That is a myth. Although it is difficult to agree on the carrying capacity of earth, consider three thoughts. First, divide 494 billion sq. ft. (the size of Texas) by the current world population – 5.698 billion. The result is 1315 sq. ft./person – a 36′ x 36′ plot. Texas is a tiny portion of habitable earth. Second, apparently only 38% of our (habitable?) landmass is used well or poorly for crops and grazing. Much could improve. Finally, the problems we face are not overpopulation and limited resources but ungodliness – such as lack of human creativity/productivity, theft, greed, etc. and the resulting problems.
- We believe in birth control that does not impact a child who is already conceived. We do NOT believe that everyone should have as many babies as possible. God has different callings for different people. For Abraham and Sara it was one child; for Isaac and Rebecca – two; for Noah and his wife – three; for Jacob and his wives – twelve – the twelfth, Benjamin, was Paul’s forbearer. Sometimes, God uses large families.
- The pro-life movement changed us. We learned to love children and demonstrate the sanctity of life viewpoint in a culture focused on quality of life. I started an adoption agency. If you struggle with population issues, adopt like God did.
- Couples previously intimidated about raising children, tell us our example encouraged them to seek children by birth or adoption.
- Via’s pregnancies, though not comfortable, are not as difficult as many women experience. We have access to good medical care. Thanks to you, we have steady income.
- The support we need is not only financial; we NEED your prayers. Families can shatter. Your prayers for us are vital.
- At a 1993 family reunion we received my Mom’s Mother’s genealogy. About half the women quit having babies in their mid-thirties – the others in their forties. Really? We began exploring having children in our forties. 2015 Note: Via was 44 when Isaac was born, 1996.
- Post career people tell us children and grandchildren matter most to them. My parents (with 19 grandchildren) and Via’s Mom (with 40 grandchildren) verify this.
- We are addicted to babies’ smiles and kissing their heads.”
Welcome back to 2015. Faithful reader, how do you respond to what I wrote long ago?
Although we just celebrated Father’s Day, family size is a topic rarely discussed. While the Bible clearly speaks about marriage without children, it still promotes procreation. Dr. Abigail Rine: “The link between sexuality and procreation…the bonding of the couple and the incarnation of new life…in marriage has been severed in our cultural imagination” (“First Things,” 5/14/15). Today, sixty-one percent of us are comfortable with the idea of having children without marriage, a 16-point increase from 2001.
Much has changed since 1994. Now, twenty-one years later, some of you know our children and know why we are grateful. Contra Egan, they are our “angel dust.” Our children testify to the love and mystery in God’s calling – our decision – God’s providence.