Three kids seem to be the socially acceptable threshold in our day. Once you hit four, people begin to think you’re shooting for a reality show. Awkward comments start to flow, e.g., “Perhaps, you need a new hobby.”
A television in every room of the house is quite all right, but a child, well, now you’re on the fringe, right next to the people who invest in survival seed banks. This summer, an old friend, whom I hadn’t seen in ages, expressed wonderment at our modest, but growing family. I smiled and said that “we’d keep going until we got an ugly one.”
One senses the mental reservations that permeate our culture. How will they get enough one-on-one time? Isn’t the earth imploding due to the weight of newborn babies? What about the overtaxed environment? Do you really want Al Gore showing up on your doorstep with the world’s last remaining polar bear gasping for breath?
And then we hear the words of Pope Pius XII who, only months before his death in 1958, addressed the Italian Association for large families: “Wherever you find large families in great numbers, they point to the physical and moral health of a Christian people; a living faith In God and trust in his providence; the fruitful and joyful holiness of Catholic marriage.”
I’ve seen this triple witness. Our parish is filled with large families. My sister once visited and was awestruck by the size of the families. I noted that those same families, by all accounts, were incredibly close, strong and happy. In a word, they were incredibly, well, Catholic.
When we were new to our community, we shared dinner with two other families; the number of kids greatly outnumbered the adults. We parents spent the first part of dinner praying, seating the little ones, preparing plates, filling cups, and then doling out seconds.
When their dinner was over, it was the parents’ turn to sit down and eat. This was the triple witness Pius XII had described. We were thanking God and serving each other, trusting that he would take care of us, and we were rejoicing in our fruitful marriages.
We are still rejoicing. Earlier this month, my amazing wife, Teresa, gave birth to Abigail Mae Pirillo. Abigail has light auburn hair and is already basking in the glow of her baptism. She still smells of chrism and we are enjoying being a family of six.
Her older sister and brothers continue to plead for a chance to hold her. Thank you, God, for this special gift.
Now, can someone please feed the polar bear on the porch?
(Joe is married to Teresa. They have four children and run a joyful home in Plymouth. Opportunities for heavenly inspired humor abound. Joe, a librarian and Teresa, a physical therapist, are parishioners at St. John the Baptist, Plymouth.)