Saturday, 8 October 2011

"Preach the Gospel at All Times, If Necessary Use Words..."

A Catholic family who travel in a mini-bus: Witnesses to Life and Faith
This quote, much loved and often banded around in the Catholic world, is attributed to St Francis of Assisi who, having humbly and prayerfully wandered an Italian town, presumably somewhere in Umbria, absolutely silent and in his habit, told astonished enquirers of his behaviour that he had preached to the whole town.

This evening, having earlier made the Rosary Crusade from Westminster Cathedral to Brompton Oratory with a large throng of Catholics, praying the Rosary and singing hymns to Our Blessed Lady, I went to a restaurant, Bella Pasta in South Kensington, to be precise, with my fiancee and her family. Half way through the meal, a family of nine arrived at the restaurant and sat next to us.  The waiter had to arrange another table so that the whole family could be seated. I thought that this family might just be Catholic and might just have been on the Rosary Crusade and this was confirmed by the mother who was wearing a Miraculous Medal and the parents themselves when I, er, asked them.

It need not be said that large families - this delightful couple have seven delightful children - are extremely rare. They are, perhaps, as rare as Franciscan friars wedded to Lady Poverty wandering towns barefoot, but, my oh my, what a wonderful sight they are to behold! It appeared to me that their love and cherishing of the gift of life and their generosity to God shone forth like a light in a dark World. Everyone is used to seeing a family of two or three sit down at a restaurant. There is nothing ordinary or particularly counter-cultural about it, though in Brighton, of course, families do still run against the grain.

A family of nine, however, can turn a whole room on its head, a whole restaurant stop and wonder, and doubtless, a whole parish stand back in awe at what, today, is something like a modern day miracle. No, today, it is a miracle. It is impossible to sit with or near a family of nine and not be changed in some way, not be struck nearly speechless by the holiness of life and the generosity with which such couples live. To top it all, the children were well-behaved and the parents had this air of simplicity, humility, charity, strength and joy. They weren't stressed out and manic or fretting. I expect that, interiorly, this was rather the disposition of those who witnessed the family and reflected upon their own lives which had not borne such visible fruit - in terms of new life - and in terms of the spiritual fruits of the Holy Spirit Who has so graced this couple with jaw-droppingly bewildering peace and serenity. The children seemed to take care of themselves and the parents chatted while the mother fed the newest born on her high chair. Far from being in any way depressed, or encumbered, or 'burdened' this family radiated with joy, peace and love. Then, to double top it all, the mother told me that she home schools the children! She's a wife, a mother and a teacher to her children! Amazing!

Large families: consigned to history or due a glorious resurrection?
I told the couple that my parish priest always talks about how he prays the Lord would send him just one large family because it would teach the Faith better than he ever could and asked if they'd consider moving to Brighton! They said they couldn't afford it and they're moving to another more affordable county anyway.

I am sure the Priest in question will not be embarrassed when I say that now I understand exactly what he meant. This family and all those who are like them, who are open to life and who co-operate joyfully and generously with God's plan, are holy, heroic, saintly, counter-cultural, life-giving to the World and the words attributed to St Francis of Assisi can equally be said of them! For wherever they go, Christ's message of salvation, redemption, life, faith, hope and charity follow in their wake. They are the future of the Church's evangelical mission, as much as are those who follow Our Lord in Priesthood and Religious Life. They are Evangelists yet they need not say a word!

In order for people to see the Catholic life lived - to see Faith in action - these families must surely be esteemed and honoured by the Church which has given them the Graces to respond to God's call and be held high for the Church and the World to see their light.  For the message of the Gospel is a challenge to us all: Do we choose Death, or do we choose Life?  Do we say "no" to God? Or do we say "yes"?  Do we trust that God will provide for all of our needs? Or do we not trust God's promises? Are we selfish and self-centred? Or are our lives centred on Christ and His love? The family I met tonight indeed preach the Gospel at all times and they do not have to use words. Wherever they go, they teach.

The rejected encyclical: Humanae Vitae
They may be a living embodiment of what the much hated by liberals encyclical, Humanae Vitae, taught us, but they appeared to me to be the happiest family I have ever met. Pray for large families and if you are a priest, if you don't already, pray that your parish may be gifted with one and you never know, the Lord may send you great teachers of the Faith who can do more walking into a Church or parish hall, than a thousand homilies could ever achieve.

To married brother and sister Catholics, I urge you, if you are generous enough to live the Catholic Faith with great joy and for your family to be abundant and fruitful then do it quickly, before the Government bans large families and endorses the Optimum Population Trust's two child per family quota campaign! I pray their plans fail! As it stands, the country's average birth rate is so low that the population is struggling to replace itself anyway, apart from Muslims, of course.

Ultimately, this family and families like them are also the Church's answer to the proposal to legalise 'gay marriage', because they have refused to go with either the 'spirit of the age' or its evil pseudo-religious twin, the 'spirit of Vatican II' and are immensely loyal sons and daughters of the Church. Both the 'spirit of the age' and the 'spirit of Vatican II' divorced both marriage and human sexuality from their primary function - the procreation of new life - children. It will, perhaps, surprise nobody to hear that they attend the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday at 9am at their local parish Church in Northamptonshire. May God bless them and all couples who are open to the gift of new life and who endeavour to be faithful to God's loving plan for them. May their holiness of life continue to awaken in the hearts of men and women the flame of hope and the light of the Gospel. If we refuse God's gift of life then it is us who are poor and in the words of St Paul, 'to be most pitied'. I know that some will read this and call me a vile hypocrite because I'm not married and I have no children. All I ask you to do is pray for me, a poor sinner, that God may complete His work in me, for His Eternal Glory. It's incredible to see what you can make out of a white van, isn't it!?


TheCatholicYouth said...

its not as terrible as people paint being in a large family. I myself come from a family of 12 children and know its not that hard. It hasn't always been sunshine and butterflies for my dad but God always finds a way to provide for us, that's what He does when you try to do His will and despite all the work my father does he still takes time to teach us the faith and how to be the best version of ourselves. I will pray for my mother to become a saint because she took the pains of labor (no twins,how many times?), paid no attention to the insults and ridicule people passed and God has blessed her with youthful looks because you would never believe she has 12 children if you see her, contrary to the popular belief of going fat once you give birth. I do not always fight with my brothers and sisters as many presume, we have days we disagree but you learn a lot and you are also well equipped on how to relate with people of different personalities because you have a variety in a large family. I will not say I shall have 12 children of my own but what I do know is whatever number God gives me, i'm willing to accept because being in a large family is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I am Not commenting to shower praises on my family but just to give hope to those who are open to family life and for them to understand its doable, that's why i'm sharing my experience, hope it inspires someone.

Oliver said...

We, Father Marc & Valerie Toussaint Oliver, are proud to be the parents of the father of this family, the parents-in-law of his dear wife, and the grandparents of all their 7 beloved children! Thank you, Blogger, for affirming their beautiful and faithful witness to Christ and the Church.

umblepie said...

Great post, very inspiring to hear of this large and happy Catholic family. Congratulations to you all for participating in the Rosary crusade.

Grey Nomad said...

The 8am Sunday EF Mass at the Oxford Oratory is always well sprinkled with large families. It is, I agree, a great joy to behold such a sight. Well groomed and the young girls with heads covered - even the toddlers. That so many heroic mothers home school as well, it amazes me. That God is at the centre of their lives is plainly obvious.

Physiocrat said...

This mother you were speaking to put her finger on the problem when she said that she could not afford to live in Brighton. For the past forty years British governments have resolutely pursued anti-family policies by the simple measure of allowing - encouraging - housing (land)costs to spiral out of control.

You cannot get more anti-family than that. It is a deadly attack on the economy of the family. Which is why we Catholics have a duty to understand what is happening in the realm of economics.

Sandy Grounder said...

Thanks for this great post. As you and Fr Blake suggest, a large family like this one says more about life, faith, hope and love than any number of books and homilies. May God bless them.

Anonymous said...

Dear 'Bones',

May I congratulate you on a wonderful and inspiring post. I concur heartily with all the positive things already posted here.

Just one query, mate. I had, several days ago,spotted a set of wonderful pictures of the procession from Westminster to Brompton Oratory. My question is: was this a normal,annual procession organised exclusively by the Oratorian fathers, or was there also input from the new/prospective 'anglican' Ordinariate? Also - were the numbers greater than usual, or are those large hordes the norm?

Tony from Oz

sevensheaven said...

I am the mother of this family and this link was sent to me by my sister in law. I am so amazed and grateful that my large brood prompted such a lovely pro large family article!! No one who knows us would probably call us serene, but I am grateful for the compliment! It is a true struggle to open ones self to God and have the family he sends, but I wouldn't be without a single one of them. I am so encouraged that the site of us has inspired you and that despite the anti-life world we live in you saw us the light of Christ. We are so pleased we decided to take the children for dinner, even though it could have been very stressful!! I must confess that when we arrived the waiter said that we had to wait till for a table to go before we could be seated. He thought better of it and decided to squeeze us next to you. I told him that once you saw us you'd soon leave!! How pleased I am that that was not the case! If ever we are in Brighton we will certainly look up your parish. God bless you and thank you for your generous and right thinking on family. As my husband say, a man used to be measured by the quivers on his bow.....what has happened to the world?!

The Bones said...

It was great to meet you!

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