About a month ago, my wife overheard some ladies at her work discussing children. One of these women remarked that “Babies make great accessories, but when they’re older, it’s not worth the work.” This comment was appalling to my wife (and to me), as devout, pro-life Catholics, but what made the comment extra painful was the fact that my wife and I have found out that we may never be able to have children of our own, despite our tremendous desire for a family. To hear someone refer to a child as an accessory was, to say the least, greatly distressing. And yet, isn’t this what Bl. Pope John Paul II warned would happen, in his teaching on the Theology of the Body?
The transposition of “artificial means,” by contrast, breaks the constitutive dimension of the person, deprives man of the subjectivity proper to him, and turns him into an object of manipulation (Man and Woman He Created Them, 123.1, emphasis in original).
In other words, the contraceptive mentality that has pervaded our culture has not liberated us, but undermined our very humanity. We see others not as people to be loved, but as objects to be manipulated in order to serve our own interests. This contraceptive mentality is behind both the use of artificial contraception, as well as artificial conception, such as In Vitro Fertilisation. In both cases, artificial manipulation of another person is at stake. And this underlying, manipulative mentality is precisely what is at the root of the thinking that considers a baby to be not a human life to be loved and cherished for its own sake, but a “cute accessory” that is scorned when the child becomes less “cute” and more “troublesome.”
Today’s Gospel recounts the Angel Gabriel’s annunciation to the Blessed Virgin that she would be the Mother of Jesus. I am thankful that our Blessed Mother didn’t respond with the same attitude so prevalent in our culture: “Oh wow! He’ll go perfectly with my new Dolce and Herodia handbag!” Instead, Mary’s fiat demonstrated her openness to God’s plan, and to His gift of life, the biological life of a son, and the Eternal Life that that Son came to bring. And I am even more thankful that, far from considering Jesus to be too much “trouble” as He got older, Mary instead stood at the foot of the Cross and let the sword of sorrow pierce her loving heart.
That these Scripture readings should be assigned to the feast of St. Dominic of Silos is one of those happy coincidences behind which the hand of God seems rather evident. It is said that the women of Spain in the middle ages would visit his shrine to pray for the blessing of children. One such mother was Bl. Joan of Aza. During a novena to St. Dominic of Silos, he appeared to her and promised that the son she had asked for would be a great light for the Church. In response, she dedicated her son to the Lord, naming him “Dominic” after the saint who appeared to her. This child would indeed go on to be a light for the Church, founding the Order of Preachers and bringing a revival of Gospel preaching to the Middle ages! This latter St. Dominic also happens to be my patron saint!
As my wife and I have struggled with our own infertility, “solutions” such as IVF, have been presented to us again and again. However, we recognise that, while we look into legitimate medical options, the only true solution is acknowledging that life is God’s gift, and that He will give it when He knows the time is right. And in the meantime, we entrust ourselves to the intercession of St. Dominic of Silos, Bl. Joan of Aza, and Mother Mary, that we would be worthy of so great a Gift.