Words from Our Principal
Dear Families and Friends of Lumen,
On Monday, our Church in the United States asked us in a particular way to pray for the legal day of protection of unborn children. Our scholars’ Magnificats include some beautiful prayers for the day, such as this beautiful collect from the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life:
God our Creator,
we give thanks to you,
who alone have the power to impart the breath of life
as you form each of us in our mothers womb:
grant, we pray,
that we, whom you have made stewards of creation,
may remain faithful to this sacred trust
and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life.
The idea proposed in this prayer – that upholding the dignity of human life is part and parcel of our stewardship of creation – struck me particularly today. The idea of stewardship in our Catholic faith is at the heart of our vocations as human beings. It means that we recognize all things as given to us by God, and that treasure all those gifts by carefully cultivating them and then generously sharing them with others.
Chief among the gifts we receive from God is the gift of our vocation. Couples who become pregnant – whether the pregnancy is “planned” or not – have received from God the vocation to parenthood, and our Church reminds us that we are to be good stewards of this vocation to parenthood by responding generously to the call to be a mother or a father, cherishing our children as gifts, nurturing them as they grow, and helping them on the path towards fulfilling their own vocations.
Sadly, this vision of parenthood as vocation has seemed to be lost in our culture – with consequences that are not unrelated to a culture of abortion. A recent Newsweek article reports that online support groups for mothers who “regret having children” have gained in popularity and membership. In these groups, mothers affirm their love for their children, but their dislike of parenthood. They speak of “mourning the life [they] could’ve had without children,” feeling that their “personalit[ies have] been replaced by motherhood, and “hat[ing ] being needed [by their children] constantly.”
While the article celebrates these groups for creating “spaces [that have become] lifelines for many parents around the world,” I could not help but feel a terrible sadness in reading these stories, for several reasons. First, I am sad that mothers are experiencing these feelings: it speaks to the failures of a broken society that does not provide mothers with the support they need. Extended families and strong communities have become fragmented, and the overwhelming loneliness that mothers face is real, as evidenced by the ever-increasing rates of post-partum depression. One would hope that these realities would inspire us to advocate for cultural, legal, social, and political changes that would actually support families, rather than turn mothers against their vocations.
But I am also sad that our culture has failed to form women into their vocations as mothers – and this failure is, at root, a failure to form human beings for genuine love. This failure is, to me, most manifest in these support groups’ implication that a mother can love her children but hate her vocation – as if the feelings of tenderness and warmth a mother has for her children is what constitutes “love,” and not the self-sacrifice and generous self-gift that comes with the vocation of parenthood. The idea that one could love a person but not be willing to sacrifice for them is nonsensical from a Christian perspective; for Christians, the very essence of love is the willingness to give of self.
And it is, at least in part, from this confusion that a culture of abortion springs. Our culture can convince parents that aborting their child is a “loving” act because it proposes a flawed conception of love, one rooted in sentiment and feeling rather than in a courageous, self-sacrificial act of the will. This confusion is also at the root of our vocational crisis (whether to marriage or to the priesthood and religious life): vocations are seen not as gifts to be received but as lifestyles to be chosen, and we commit to them only to the extent that they conform to us and our desires, rather than strive to conform ourselves to them by growing in generosity and virtue.
To be genuine stewards of creation requires us, then, to bear counter-cultural witness to a different way of being in the world. This way of being calls us to recognize God as the source of all gifts and to see the purpose of our lives on earth as conforming ourselves to the vocation God has planned for us. It calls us to receive our vocations humbly and joyfully, and to give of ourselves lovingly as we steward our vocations to their fulfillment.
Our model for such a way of being is, of course, our Blessed Lady. Her recognition of herself as the Lord’s handmaiden, her acceptance of her vocation, and her joyful celebration of God’s call – “The Lord has done great things for me, and holy is His Name!” – should be our guide. If we can all make her fiat our own – “Let it be done to me according to your word” – we will have gone a long way towards re-establishing a culture of life and authentic love in our world. Let us pray for her intercession, that all parents embrace their vocations as they grow in self-sacrificial love for their children, both born and unborn.
Pax et bonum,
LVA at the March for Life in D.C.
All photo credit to George Martell