The Radical Notion that Children are People

Have you seen this article? It’s about a woman in Australia, Jayne Cornwill, who, after having three sons, travelled to the United States and paid $50,000 to guarantee that her next baby would be a girl through sex-selective in-vitro fertilization.

Now, there are a lot of sad and scary things in that story. Simcha Fischer did a really great job addressing them last week.  First, I hope Ms. Cornwill’s sons don’t know how disappointed she was in them; especially her third son, whom she considered aborting after finding out he was male. For another thing,  there is the tragic loss of the tiny babies that were discarded as medical waste during the selective IVF process. And frankly, I don’t even understand how this woman gets through the day since her happiness seems to depend so much on things going according to her own plan—my  own plans rarely last more than ten minutes before falling apart.

But today Dwija over at House Unseen wrote this fantastic little post about how our children are not about US all the time, and I wish I could send it to this poor woman. Dweeja is right: children are people, too! They are individuals, fully as human and important as we are, and they do not exist solely for the sake of their parents. They are not just our little helpers, they are not only our little mini-me brigade, and even when they ARE doing us good and teaching us how to be better people, that is not the whole “why” of their existence.

As Dwija put it, “After all these years it has finally occurred to me that God gave these kids to each other as siblings just as much as he gave them to me as children.  I am for them as their primary educator and caregiver, sure.  But they are not always for me.  Sometimes they are for each other.  Sometimes they are for their friends.  Sometimes what’s happening is a growth in their relationship with God.”

She’s right.

We parents are entrusted with raising and teaching our children, but ultimately, we are only their stewards. They exist with their own inherent goodness, and their roles in the world will be much grander and more complicated than we can foresee. They are their own persons, even when they are “our” children. We do not get to fence them in, to make them all about us–and we do not get to decide on their identities or their personalities.

Jayne Cornwill seems to believe that children are just another commodity that can be chosen off a shelf—do I want the blue one or the pink one? The tall one or the short one?—instead of precious individuals, to whom God has given an identity and a destiny all their own.

This is one of the most troubling aspects of language like “reproductive freedom” and “choice”—because the truth is, we DON’T really have a choice in who our children are. They are not supposed to be “just what I wanted!” Their dignity as people doesn’t depend on our wants or hopes or dreams. We can help mold them and care for them and teach them good habits, but a lot of their identity is just who they ARE—the personality and temperament that God gave them. We do not get a vote. We do not get a choice.

The choice we do have, is simply to accept our children for who they are, and to love them as hard as we can.


CC 7 Quick Takes #1

Linking up for “Seven Quick Takes” with Kelly while Jen is out conquering the world…

1. I can hardly wait for this weekend. I’ve been wearing my old back-up pair of glasses for about three weeks now, ever since my son broke my current pair. Plus I’m out of contacts. Tomorrow is the glorious day when I get to pick up a new pair of glasses AND new contacts. Hopefully they’ll all be rose-colored.

2. Blog Spotlight: I’m an alum of Notre Dame (Joke: How can you identify an ND grad within 5 minutes of meeting them? … Just wait, they’ll tell you), so I’m going to point you towards to of my favorite blogs by other Irish alumnae: Katrina at Cedars and Tiny Flowers, and Meg at Held by His Pierced Hands.  Katrina and her boys are so cute and friendly, and her pictures always make me Domesick. She makes me want to move back to South Bend so we can be besties. Then there’s Meg’s blog, which always gives me so much to think about; her devotion and confidence in God are so inspiring. Her story is incredible. Go check ’em out.

3. It snowed here last night. It’s only mid-November! Oh wait–you don’t know where I live. Welp, time to out that little piece of info. I live near Philadelphia–we aren’t supposed to get snow until next month. All the weathermen promised that the Polar Vortex thing was so last year… I’m skeptical.

4. This article is a fabulous look at marriages portrayed in the arts, and how TV shows and movies can have a really profound effect on social attitudes.

For those of us who are married, we need to give ourselves permission to live transparently before our neighbors, letting them witness our marriage’s imperfections and tensions, as well as the moments of grace when God rescues us from our worst selves. We ought also to support those whose marriages are breaking or broken.

As always, we should seek every opportunity to lay down our lives to serve our neighbors, gay or straight or otherwise, offering them the hospitality of Christ in witness to the fatherly love of God. Nothing good will come of holding onto stereotypes. Our neighbors are not our enemies. They are men and women made in the image of God and beloved by him. To them we owe the same kind of humble love that Christ has shown us.

In the end, faithful artistry together with faithful living may well enable our neighbors to imagine life not “just as it is” but as the triune God would have it.

Read it all.

5. Related to the previous take: who can tell me how I can make those block quotes appear in a smaller font size? They’re HUGE! I don’t see an easy adjustment option in WordPress here. (Blog noob alert!)

6. It is pie season. In case you’re wondering, this is THE BEST pumpkin pie recipe, and Smitten Kitchen’s pie crust recipe and tutorial have never let me down.

7. I just want to say that I am really glad to be blogging here. I hope you enjoy reading–and please, let me know your thoughts! It is a fact universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of a new blog, must be in want of comments and validation. Gimme.

(No seriously, though–this writing project feels GOOD. Come, Holy Spirit, and keep my fingers from typing anything too wrong. I’m grateful for this opportunity!)

God, the Universe, and Everything

I love this story. A Jesuit brother named Brother Guy Consolmagno who works as a Vatican astronomer is being awarded on Thursday one of planetary science’s most illustrious awards, the Carl Sagan medal. That is awesome in and of itself of course–astronomy is fascinating, and it’s great to see a Catholic brother being recognized for excellence in the field–but the best part about it is that it’s another piece of evidence to support the idea that the Catholic Church is not anti-science; in fact, it’s very, very pro-science.

To quote the Detroit Free Press article:

Last month, Pope Francis made headlines because he said that evolution is not in contradiction with church teaching. The pope, leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, said the universe wasn’t created by God’s “magic wand.”

Consolmagno said he’s constantly battling the unfounded perception that Catholic teaching is incompatible with science.

“There’s nothing new in what he was saying,” Consolmagno said of the pope. He noted that evolution is based on genetic theory, first discovered by the Catholic monk Gregor Mendel, who died in 1884.

“But so many people have bought into the lie that science and religion are opposed, so the pope has to keep reminding the world otherwise,” Consolmagno said.

Everyone remembers the dust-up between the Vatican and Galileo–and that was a mistake, no doubt. The Church changed its tune after a hundred years or so, and did eventually issue a formal apology to Galileo. But Roman Catholic clerics have contributed a lot to scientific progress over the years, as well, and somehow that seems to have escaped society’s notice.

There’s only one reality, and the truth can’t contradict itself. Science and faith need to complement each other; they reveal different aspects of the world, but they’re both talking about the same world. They can’t truly disagree. Where there are apparent conflicts between religion and scientific discovery, it means we need to do some more thinking and studying, not stick our fingers in our ears and start singing “La la la, I can’t hear you!”

As Catholics, we believe that God is the source of Reason, and that his creation reflects a divine logic and meaning. We do not side with the creationists, who insist that dinosaur bones are a demonic trick to deceive us about the age of the Earth. We say that science is good, because it reveals truths about God’s creation, and therefore can help inform us about the Creator. Studying the universe–whether looking at the big, interplanetary picture like Brother Guy, or studying microscopic organisms in a lab–is a good, worthwhile, Catholic pursuit.

Bravo to the Vatican astronomers in general, and Brother Guy in particular!