by Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Culture, Society Should Follow Families’ Lead on Kids

A blessed Fourth of July and summer!

I was home in St. Louis last weekend, a cherished, enjoyable family reunion like most of us celebrate these happy weeks of summer.

As I sat on the porch with mom and the family, although baking in the microwave of my hometown, it dawned on me that all of us were smiling, concentrating on the same thing: the kids!

My nine grand-nieces and nephews, the oldest only eight, were having a ball in the sprinkler, playing games, downing hot dogs, watermelon, and ice cream. As happy as they were, we adults were even happier watching them!

It dawned on me that their parents—my nieces (my only nephew, Patrick, is only ten)—were beaming as they watched and played with the children. Even more significantly, it dawned on me that those kids were the center of their lives. They lived for them; they would die for them.

They come by that naturally, because their parents—my own brothers and sisters—raised them that way. No surprise! Our own folks—our mom and dad —raised us that way!

I celebrated Sunday Mass at the local parish, and was pleased to hear the pleasant praise of babies crying! The parish was filled with grandparents, parents, and kids!

Week before last, I had an enlightening meeting with a dozen or so priests to discuss vocations to the priesthood. Thank God for the ones we are getting, but, we asked, why are there not more?

Our astute vocation director, Father Chris Argano, made an observation so evident that we tend to overlook it. When parents have only one or two children, they can be tempted to be reluctant to encourage their children to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated religious life. They rightly want grandkids. The statistics, Father Argano told us, show that vocations still usually come from larger families!

Catholics are traditionally known for having a lot of kids! When people introduce themselves to me, often they grin and tell me, “I’m one of five kids (or more). I come from good Catholic parents.”

To view marriage as intended by the Lord for the procreation of children, to welcome babies as God’s gifts, for a couple to trust that an openness to new life is an essential part of their marriage—very biblical; very Catholic.

Fifty years ago this month, soon-to-be Pope Saint Paul VI reaffirmed this baby-centered worldview in his encyclical Humane Vitae. When he worried that artificially preventing birth would result in a demographic winter, a diminished regard for the lifelong character of marriage, a lessening of respect for women, and an increase in promiscuity, people sneered that he was an old worry wart.

I’d say he was a prophet! Countries in Europe now have a higher death rate than birth rate; divorce hovers at about 50 percent here in America; and… then there’s the “me too” phenomenon showing a shocking abuse of women.

The last couple of weeks, we’ve seen the nation concentrated on children taken from the arms of moms by immigration officials, and on nine year olds trapped in a mine in Thailand. The world rallies around kids! That’s a good thing!

History has at its center—when B.C. becomes A.D.—the birth of a baby, Jesus.

Families have as their center the kids. So should culture and society.

Our Catholic view that “it’s all about the kids” is a value worth defending!