Having children and raising them is a sacrificial act, or, rather, an unending series of sacrificial acts over many years. One must give of oneself, all of oneself, daily, hourly, minutely, to the new life, or lives, that one bears. Once that baby comes into the world, you’re in it for at least 18 years, and even well beyond that, certainly in an emotional way. For once a parent, always a parent.
But there is joy galore to be had in family life lived well, in good humour, with all its ups and downs, its exuberance, and seeing one’s children’s children in a happy Jerusalem. It’s certainly a path to heaven, which is more the point.
For it is the loss of the transcendent – a purpose to life that extends beyond its temporal borders – that is mostly responsible for Canada’s dropping fertility rate to suicidal levels, signifying a demographic disaster of Cretaceous proportions – 1.33 children per woman. Replacement level is at least 2.1, and a healthy demographic well beyond that.
What we have is the 4 – 2 – 1 problem, which is the inverted pyramid model the Chinese communist government enforced: Four grandparents, two children, and one grandchild. We are now reaping what we have sown, and the future is not only not bright, it’s almost non-existent.
In the good old days – which acronym spells ‘God’ – it was a real pyramid: Four grandparents producing twelve (give or take) children, and, all things going well, at least thirty grandchildren, if not many more. Go forth and multiply – there’s plenty of room and resources, and lots of children to provide many more children, along with vocations to spiritual fatherhood and motherhood, in many ways more fruitful than the genealogical sort.
As the Quebec band Mes Aïeux sang in Degeneration:
Ton arrière-arrière-grand-mère, elle a eu quatorze enfants
Ton arrière-grand-mère en a eu quasiment autant
Et pis ta grand-mère en a eu trois c’tait suffisant
Pis ta mère en voulait pas ; toi t’étais un accident
Your great-great-grandmother, she had fourteen children; Your great-grandmother had almost as many; And your grandmother had three it was enough; And your mother didn’t want any; you were an accident
These sad effects of la revolution tranquille – Quebec’s rejection of the Faith of her ancestors – pretty much sum Canada’s problem. For if there’s no heaven, as Lennon mused and Nietzsche thundered, then what’s the point? If this life is all there is, then gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why bother with diapers and dishes? As one homeschooling mother mentioned, she spent her life immersed in various forms of liquid, not often of the most pleasant sort. But this mother is one of the most joyful people I have met. And this, before we begin to ponder the joys of sacrificial celibacy offered to God, Who always repays a hundredfold, flowing over.
In one of those many paradoxes of Christ’s words, to find ourselves, we must give of ourselves, and he who seeks his own life, will lose it.
Hedonism – that one’s pleasure and ‘fulfilment’ are the only purpose to life – may seem good at the start, traveling hither and yon, perhaps studying in a leisurely way, eating, drinking, loving, merrymaking. Until one’s youth passes away – more vivid for women, with the biological clock ticking – and you realize that your golden chances have passed you by. To wake up well into middle age with the sinking awareness that one was just a slave to one’s own selfish desires with not much to show for it, is not a pleasant prospect.
Is it too late for Canada’s own ‘middle age’? Perhaps, for demographic death spirals are difficult to reverse, and at some point, nearly impossible. But that word does not exist in the Catholic vocabulary. I know many families having lots of children across this fair Dominion, in joyful, boisterous households. As for those who have rejected what God had intended for them, well, it’s never too late for anyone, even at the eleventy-eleventh hour. All He asks is one act of metanoia, turning to Him with all our heart, and salvation is ours. It’s just better if we bring many children – biological or spiritual – along with us.
And the more, the merrier.