by Joe Bollig
In her novel “The Children of Men,” author P.D. James gives us a world where humanity faces extinction because men and women mysteriously lose their fertility. As time passes, society begins to degenerate into tyranny and brutality. Individuals of the last generation to be born — the Omegas — become spoiled and violent because they were raised with special privileges. (This book was made into film, but the book is better.)
The dystopian world of “The Children of Men” serves to underscore the wisdom of the Catholic Church, expressed in “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the catechesis for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 22-25:
“Marriage is meant to be fertile and to welcome new life. Children shape the future, just as they themselves are shaped in their families. Without children, there can be no future. Children reared with love and guidance are the foundations for a loving future.”
Marriage is distinct from other human relationships because “it is the covenant built on the procreative power of male and female.” It is this married love that integrates the fertility of men and women with the sacrament of God’s covenant. It places procreation in the context of human dignity and freedom.
Marriage is more than just a social arrangement. “The marital vows are analogous to God’s covenant with Israel and the church.” The sacrament of marriage makes the power of God’s covenant fidelity and triune fidelity available to the husband and wife, according to the catechesis.
It is this spiritual foundation that makes it possible for us to go way beyond the biological necessity of joining men and women to produce children. Children are much more than necessary “Omegas” to keep the human race chugging along. Rather, they are to be welcomed as an extension of divine generosity. Augustine’s “three goods of marriage” (children, fidelity and sacrament) are all rooted in the divine plan.
The catechesis further says: “The question of becoming parents rests on the same rationale as sacramental marriage itself,” that is, “love as service, sacrifice, trust and openness to God’s generosity.”
The same love that produced the child obligates the parents to nurture their children in spiritual formation. Thus, the succeeding generations become a “chain of faith,” as Pope Francis has said. Children are thus ushered into the community of faith and a relationship with God.
Parents are the primary teachers of the faith to their children, but they are not alone. “The family, to be a ‘little church,’ must be well integrated into the ‘big church,’ that is, into the family of God that Christ came to form,” says the catechesis.
So indeed, the “Children of Men” are the children of us all. Parishes must see themselves as a “family of families” and express that love in “concrete actions of hospitality and generosity.”