BIG FAMILIES, BIG FAITH

Large families know that God provides

Nissa LaPoint

Everyday Jim and Teresa Major do the impossible.

They take their budget fit for two children and stretch it to provide for their brood of 12.

The Majors place their openness to life first and budget second, having faith that God will provide. And he has.

“Here I am everyday living the impossible,” said Teresa, who attends St. Louis King of France Church in Englewood. “So I know God exists.”

They call finances the “boogeyman that the devil holds up” to scare a couple into restricting their family size.

“Being open to having a big family is being open to faith from God,” Teresa said.

Families like the Majors, who are members of the Neocatechumenal Way catechumenate, said they’ve overcome fears and found the joys of a larger-than-life family.

Some are well aware of the secular world’s opinion that it’s financially irresponsible, maybe even negligent, to be open to more than one or two children.

Kali and Lane Reagan, who also attend St. Louis, will get stares over their four children. Reagan is expecting their fifth child in September.

“We get strange looks,” Kali said. “People have asked us if they were accidents or if we had them on purpose. Others have asked ‘Do you know what birth control is?’”

The Reagans have a different view.

Lane and Kali Reagan with their four children. They are expecting a baby in September.

Lane and Kali Reagan with their four children. They are expecting a baby in September.

“I think being open to life can mean so many different things,” Kali said. “For us it means five children. We’re happy to give up some of the things people think they can’t live without to have these kids.”

Budgeting to meet the needs of a growing family requires a more intentional approach to their spending, they said. They look at their budget and determine wants versus needs. They try to pay in cash. They won’t buy a new car until it’s a necessity. Going out to eat and the movies is an infrequent event. When they buy something new, they share it. The important thing is that they’re together, they said.

They love their oldest, 10-year-old Brooklyn, who keeps to herself, and Jersey, 6, and Staten, 3—their two other girls—who are “rambunctious and feisty.” The baby, 8-month-old Bronx, gets all the attention.

“For us the joy we get from our children is way more than you can put a monetary price on,” Kali said.

Lane, 33, added, “With God’s help anything is possible.”

Discovering God’s plan
Eric and Delores Benedict of Immaculate Conception Church in Lafayette are no strangers to the fear of a large family.

After child No. 6 was born, relatives and doctors urged them to choose sterilization. Delores succumbed to pressure and decided to have a tubal ligation.

“My husband and I could just sexually satisfy ourselves. No guilt—no babies,” Delores told the Denver Catholic Register.

But their marital union felt empty and their marriage suffered.

“I didn’t want Eric to touch me. Without the possibility of a child, the act was meaningless. I was so sad.”

Then Delores discovered the Neocatechumenal Way at her parish, and she and her husband had a conversion of heart. They fell in love with Christ, they said.

Eric Benedict, center above, and his wife, Delores, to the right of Eric, and six of their 11 children seated at their dining room table.

Eric Benedict, center above, and his wife, Delores, to the right of Eric, and six of their 11 children seated at their dining room table.

After attending a liturgy with their Way community, Delores asked how she could find peace after choosing to be sterile. Their pastor advised them to consider a reversal.

“We decided it didn’t matter whether we had more kids or not, we were going to get the reversal done,” she said.

In 1995, her fallopian tubes were repaired. They were blessed with five more children.

Eric said being open to God’s plan may be difficult but “God has always, always provided.”

They shared their experiences with life in a letter addressed to the pope in April.

Delores said, “We chose life instead of material things. We put God first and he has provided for everything.”

The Majors had the same experience.

While it may be scary to be open to life, it’s only led to blessing after blessing for their family, Teresa said.

Being open to life has been a true walk of faith.

“The Christian has to know that God will provide. He has to know that. That’s what faith is,” Teresa said.

 

The Reagan Family’s Expenses
Kali and Lane Reagan shared a breakdown of their regular monthly bills in providing for their four children. They trust that God will provide.

Typical month
Groceries: $500
Target and CostCo for bulk items: $275
Diapers: $85
Clothing: $30-40 for miscellaneous needs
Recreation for children: $140
Phones: $150
Cable: $150
Insurance: $150
Gas: $200
The family also pays for medical bills, car repairs, school tuition, parish tithing, birthday parties and entertainment.
Free family activities in Denver
Denver offers free activities and attractions for the whole family that won’t break the bank. Below is a list of ideas for this summer.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park in Morrison—Visit the museum and Performers Hall of Fame or take a hike through the colorful red rocks of the park. Visit redrocksonline.com or call 720-865-2494.

Denver U.S. Mint downtown—Take an hour-long weekday tour of one of only two mints in the United States. Reservations required. Visit www.usmint.gov or call 303-405-4761.

Denver Art Museum downtown—See the latest art exhibits during the museum’s free days the first Saturday of the month. Families may play games in the galleries, make art or take a tour in Spanish. Visit www.denverartmuseum.org or call 720-865-5000.

Hammond’s Candy Factory in Denver—Satisfy the family’s sweet tooth with a behind-the-scenes tour of the candy factory. Visit www.hammondscandies.com or call 303-333-5588.

Washington Park in Denver—Enjoy the expansive lawns, gardens and lake at the 165-acre park ideal for picnics, games or relaxing in the sun. Visit www.denvergov.org/parksandrecreation.

Celestial Seasonings in Boulder—See first-hand the workings of a tea production plant at one of the company’s free tours.  Visit www.celestialseasonings.com/tours or call 303-581-1266.

National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder—Learn about tornados, global warming, lightning and other acts of nature at its visitor center. Visit ncar.ucar.edu or call 303-497-1000.

 

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA