In my last column, I wrote a response to Mary from New York, who asked me about the point of a Catholic marriage between a man and a woman who are unable to have children.
I told her that God always brings new life out of sacramental marriage, when a husband and wife give of themselves in complete openness to God’s will. If He doesn’t bless them with children (or even if he does), He will use their love to bring His Divine life into the world.
After I wrote the first column, I got to thinking. This doesn’t just apply to childless couples; it applies to couples with children—especially when they leave their childbearing years behind—and it applies to those of us who are single.
In that article, I quoted a priest who once told me that today we have a lot of physical conception without spiritual conception. What God needs from us is the openness to conceive spiritually and to allow ourselves to become vessels through which He brings His Divine life into the world.
We can all do that. We can all be “spiritual” mothers and fathers even if we aren’t physical parents.
So how do we do that? Well, first and foremost, we have to take our focus off of ourselves. Believe it or not, I have a favorite line in the documents of Vatican II. (What? Doesn’t everybody?) Gaudium et Spes 24 says that “Man, being the only creature created for his own sake, finds himself only in a sincere gift of himself.”
In other words, we find real fulfillment through giving ourselves in love, not through obsessively focusing on our own selves, our pleasures and our satisfaction. Narcissism is the road to misery.
We must first give ourselves to God. By surrendering our will to His, we can “give” ourselves to Him just as a wife gives herself to her husband.
This is done formally through consecration, when a single person vows to remain celibate and gives himself or herself only to God. It can also happen informally when we tell God, “I don’t know what my future holds, but I surrender it to You, to help bring Your love into the world.”
Once we surrender our wills to God, He is free to work. He “conceives” His love within us, and with our cooperation brings that love into the world.
I have seen tangible evidence of this in my own life. During speaking engagements, I’ve seen God work in ways that couldn’t possibly be “me.”
I also saw it during the month I was privileged to be “Mommy” to the 3-year-old girl that I unsuccessfully attempted to adopt. In both cases, I was called to step significantly out of my comfort zone, to “give myself” in a way that went beyond the ordinary.
In both cases I had to leave the final result up to God, doing my part (with a lot of His help), and then surrendering to Him when the situation moved out of my control.
Physical fruitfulness comes with pain—the pain of labor. Spiritual fruitfulness will often come accompanied by suffering. Just as a woman considers her labor pain a small price to pay for the miracle of her child, we can also realize that our sufferings are mere “labor pains” that God will use to bring His love into the world.
To quote a line I saw on Facebook this morning, “we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
And, with a lot of faith in Him and His plan, that life will be fruitful—in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine with out Him!