Must a Catholic couple try to have children?

My husband and I have been married 4 years. I am 37 and he is 40. We do not use any artificial method of birth control, we only use NFP. We are very confident in our ability to avoid having children using NFP. My question is: is it acceptable for us to do so? My understanding is that we can avoid children if we have a “grave” reason for doing so. I have a number of reasons I would like to remain childless, including our age. I do not have an innate desire for children. I do not think I have the spiritual gifts necessary to raise them, including patience (or at least, I have not refined those gifts). I am so discouraged by all of things in the world that work against living a Christ-inspired life. It is hard enough for me to do so. I think the challenges for children must be overwhelming. I am really struggling here…

Dear C,

It sounds like you are dealing with fear here. Are you really afraid that in putting the Lord first by generously making your marriage available to Him to create new life, He will turn His back on you? It is impossible to love anyone—including God, without trust.

My parents were married during the Depression which was a very scary time to make such a commitment. They were married for five years before I came along. I remember my mother saying many times the she just doesn’t remember anything about those first five years. It’s as if her marriage only began when she had children. I see this all the time. A couple is just a couple until they have a child. Then they turn into a family.

I have three sets of aunts and uncles who never wanted children. To their dying days they were so caught up in themselves. Children draw their parents out from ego-concerns and into concern for the needs of others. Generosity and faith are what are needed here. God is never out-done in generosity. And trusting Him is the only way to love Him. He has called you to the married state. Willingness to have children is an essential part of your vocation. You have already committed yourself.

You are not in this alone. Have you ever consider the glory of having God create a new life within you? I have no doubt that this is the reason for that glow that pregnant women get. No one have ever regretted any movement of generosity toward God. And you won’t either. Just stay focused on Him and He will take care of the problems around you.

You are in my prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Scripture says, “Love casts out all fear.”
Thirty-seven and forty, by the way, are not too old for parenthood!

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