With all the controversy surrounding the HHS Mandate happening in the States right now its made me think about how the Catholic Church and Catholics in general are being portrayed and perceived by the media and in turn society at large. Of course, I find it completely ridiculous that the stat of 95% of Catholics don’t follow the Church on its stance regarding contraception is freely brandished about by both politicians and the media. But this stupid statistic can’t help but influence peoples opinions about the Church. People with little to no knowledge of religion or Catholicism would accept this as true, and then jump to the conclusion of “geezz, that Church is so behind the times and clueless that even people who call themselves Catholic don’t follow their backward teachings.”
Then it hit me that my family is a completely contradictory example of what is publicly perceived about the Church. And not because we’re all holy and walk around covered in ashes and sackcloth. Or habits. Or floor length denim jumpers for that matter. Its simply because we’ve got 4 kids aged 4 and under.
Obviously with kids spaced thusly the first thought that enters any stranger’s or passerby’s mind is “Those people clearly don’t use artificial birth control.” Well, that may be the second thought after “What’s with the day care?” or “Why would they want to babysit more than one toddler at a time?”. There’s just no denying 4 little faces that are so close in age. The cuteness reels you in if nothing else.
This fact of being noticed and instantly judged really bothered me in the beginning. I would always think people must think we’re the stereotypical Catholics who can do nothing but have children. Then I would think people must think I’m a complete idiot who doesn’t understand NFP. Yes, I’ve had many immature judging moments of what other people may be judging me for. Twisted thinking but there you have it.
But the sad fact is that most of society assumes that practicing Catholics don’t even follow the Catholic teaching against using artificial birth control. Most everyone is now just under the impression that Catholics are simply ignoring this teaching and so it must not be important at all. The old ideas of stereotypically “Catholic” people having lots of children is pretty much obsolete.
Now I can’t help thinking that all those who casually know my family but aren’t Catholic, friends, relatives, co-workers, etc, must have that automatic thinking twinged at a little bit. They may hear those false statistics, they may believe them, but in the back of their minds maybe they think “But hey, I know those people with the 4 babies and they’re Catholic, they must believe that birth control is wrong somehow.” We are just one family, but the people we come in contact with naturally are exposed to our way of thinking in regards to being open to life and rejecting artificial birth control and we don’t even have to have a discussion about it!
When you think about it from the point of view of a person who isn’t exposed or practicing any faith seeing 4 children under the age of 4 in one family is a pretty shocking sight. Its not an evangelizing tool that’s hitting anyone over the head, its simply 4 cute babies and they’re fairly exhausted parents making their way through normal day-to-day life. Most of the time I try to shows a smile in public that tries to say, “This isn’t forced drudgery, my pregnancy and children are not diseases or parasites, my life is full and because of that I’m a pretty happy person.” Its a small witness but it can’t help but effect people’s thinking about children, life, and maybe the Church’s teaching.
Thinking about how God is using my family like this kind of blew me away. We’re a strong witness of positively accepting the Church’s teaching on birth control and living it out. We show that the Church still has people following its teaching and are willing to live their lives according to those teachings. We’re proof that marriage, family, and life do not require a pill, condom, or perfectly timed pregnancies to be happy and healthy. All Catholics who are doing their best to live according to the teachings of the Church, and the many sacrifices it involves, are a strong very counter-cultural witness in our postmodern society that continues to erode the rights and freedom to practice the Catholic faith.
We’re living in times where the family, simply by being, is a strong witness to the Church. The truth of our Catholic families is that we really are making an impact by living according to Church teaching. We are making Christ and His love known in the world. We are a witness and instrument of God’s work in today’s culture. Let’s realize it. Knowing we are working for God’s will in the world should be an encouragement to so many of us who, in living the Church’s teaching, feel a minority or looked down upon. Its a beautiful thought to know we’re bringing Christ’s kingdom through simple witness