Catholic News Service
In the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis writes much about the importance of accepting children in marriage. The chapter titled “Love Made Fruitful” focuses primarily on this point, that “love always gives life.”
The pope notes that “the family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God. Each new life allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us. It is the beauty of being loved first: Children are loved even before they arrive.”
The Bible makes the point that the person who accepts children lovingly from God is blessed. As Psalm 127:3-5 puts it, “Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them.” Genesis 1:28 says, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the importance of fertility in marriage. Quoting, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the catechism in No. 1652 says, “By its very nature, the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them it finds its crowning glory.”
The catechism adds that “children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.” In so doing, marriage is at the service of life.
The catechism encourages (in No. 1654) those who cannot have children to have a “conjugal life full of meaning,” radiating the fruits of charity, hospitality and sacrifice.
In the Catholic rite of matrimony, the couple is asked, “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his church?” In their consent to this question, the couple commits themselves to bring new life into the world.
In this way, says the catechism in No. 1639, the “covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant” with us, and “authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”
While children are to be accepted willingly and loving, Pope Francis also notes that “couples are to use their inviolable liberty wisely and responsibly” in deciding how many children to have and when to have them.
Having children brings with it the requirement to educate and nurture them, and prepare them for life everlasting, and couples must be aware of this responsibility.
(Mulhall is a freelance writer and a catechist. He is father of three children and has two grandchildren.)