01 December 2008

Blessed be the name of the Lord

I like to think that we who scrutinize our own procreative faithfulness carefully are sensitive to the fact that only God can give life. Simply counting children is not a valid assessment of a couple's procreative ethic. There are such tragic realities as infertility and other impediments to the blessing of children, and only the crassest of critics would make assumptions as to why a husband and wife have the family they do based solely on visible information.

This illustrates how insensitive, offensive, and hurtful it is when our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in our own confession, are so quick to criticize a parish with a modest, steady, or declining membership. What does someone outside a parish family know of that family's internal life? It is just as foolish, uncharitable, and potentially cruel to judge a congregation by its communicant count as it would be foolish, uncharitable, and cruel to tell a random childless couple that they should repent of their refusal of God's gifts. Must every family be huge? Plainly God does not give a plenitude of children to every couple. It is presumptuous and abusive to demand of either a husband and his wife or a pastor and his parish a fruitfulness which a man's will is powerless to generate.

Like many childless couples who are misled by conventional wisdom to pursue children through questionable or immoral reproductive technologies, some parishes seek to grow through ill-informed or even theologically dangerous practices. Many couples come out of years of fertility treatments with crushed spirits, wasted bodies, and empty bank accounts, childless nonetheless. So do many parishes sell their catholic birthright for a mess of zeitgeist pottage with no change in numbers to show for it. Their time cannot be reclaimed, and the damage must be corrected through great effort for those willing to bear the cost of repentance. They languish alone, stories untold on convention screens or in official publications.

God grant us all to trust, be content, and offer him thanks whether he gives in staggering abundance or withholds his hand, and to think and speak of all other families in charity.


Joy said...

You got that right, sister. Rare is the confessional LCMS mega-church. Only about half of our rostered members are active. The non-active half calls at 3 a.m. for whatever the current crisis is. And my man dutifully puts on his clerical and goes. Or they come to have their babies baptized and then never step foot in again, despite copious invitations (not to mention the fact that they promised to faithfully bring the child to God's house).

If I sound bitter, maybe I am. But I know it's like this in any parish. God bless all the under-Shepherds who truly love their flocks "as a father pities his children."

Blogversary said...

Very good words to read this day. Thanks.

William Weedon said...

Profound. Thanks for taking the time to pen those thoughts.

Pam said...

Amen, sister.