Like other dutiful and thoughtful dads and moms on the road, I frequently returned from trips with treats for our children. When they were young, these gifts were expected. It was what they asked about as soon as I arrived home. Often their interest was stated in an almost formulaic question: What did you bring us?
There were good reasons behind their desire for a souvenir. Besides self-interest, they felt if I truly loved and missed them (which I did), I would give them something that showed it. Love without some tangible sign seemed unreal to them. Paraphrasing a Broadway song, if you say that you love me, show me.
They were right, of course. Genuine love is creative. It is also productive and generative. It makes a difference. It is why St. John Paul II called the family “a community of love.” Papal teachings often call the family “a school of love.” It is hopefully where all of us first experience genuine love, Christian altruistic love, a love that deepens our lives.
As Christians, we know everything that exists, from the universe to our personal existence, can be traced back to an ultimate source: God’s love. God’s love is deeply creative. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here – or anywhere!
Hidden in Vatican II’s wonderful words on marriage and family life (The Church in the Modern World, paragraphs 47-52) we find, “Marriage and married love are by nature ordered to the procreation and education of children.” That single sentence was carefully constructed by a special committee of the council and not without some very serious discussion.
To grasp the impact of this sentence, we have to recall how this same idea was stated in earlier church documents. Basically it was this: Children are the result of the sexual union of husband and wife. The new conciliar teaching replaced “sexual union” with the phrase “married love.” This pointed to a much more complete, more Christian understanding of procreation. Basically, the council stated that at the source of new life is not only the joining of bodies, but an enactment of human love. The love that exists between husband and wife is holy, sanctifying and creative, and leads to the creation of new life.
Deep down, this pattern of love generating life mirrors the way God loves. God’s love is essentially fertile and fruitful. And as created in Gods image, so too is all human love. All genuine acts of human love, including those in marriage and family life, contribute to God’s good creation, now and forever.
David M. Thomas has been a leader in Catholic Family Ministry for many years. He holds a Ph. D. in Systematic and Historical Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life and as a Peritus to the U.S. Bishops, World Synod on Family in 1980. He currently serves as Theological consultant to the Bishops of England and Wales, Committee on Marriage and Family. He served as General Editor for the revision of the RCL Benziger’s Family Life Program.Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter!