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Pope Pius XII on large families January 21, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Domestic Church, family, fun, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, Papa, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

In very early 1958 – just months before his death – Venerable Pope Pius XII gave an elocution to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy.  It is very refreshing to hear large families and the generosity of spirit they normally entail lionized and extolled to the entire world.  The address is very generous in its praise of large families, which seems an appropriate response to the hostility such families often experience at the hands of the world.  My wife sent this to me, and I thought you might find it edifying, as I did:

“Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church; happiness flowers in them and sanctity ripens in favorable soil. Every family group, even the smallest, was meant by God to be an oasis of spiritual peace. But there is a tremendous difference: where the number of children is not much more than one, that serene intimacy that gives value to life has a touch of melancholy or of pallor about it; it does not last as long, it may be more uncertain, it is often clouded by secret fears and remorse.” [Interesting comment given what I said here.  Pope Pius XII seems to have understood human psychology similarly to me, at least in this instance]

“It is very different from the serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives. The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.

“Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them.

“And the hopes soon become a reality when the eldest daughter begins to help her mother to take care of the baby and on the day the oldest son comes home with his face beaming with the first salary he has earned himself. That day will be a particularly happy one for parents, for it will make the spectre of an old age spent in misery disappear, and they will feel assured of a reward for their sacrifices.

“When there are many children, the youngsters are spared the boredom of loneliness and the discomfort of having to live in the midst of adults all the time. It is true that they may sometimes become so lively as to get on your nerves, and their disagreements may seem like small riots; but even their arguments play an effective role in the formation of character, as long as they are brief and superficial. Children in large families learn almost automatically to be careful of what they do and to assume responsibility for it, to have a respect for each other and help each other, to be open-hearted and generous. For them, the family is a little proving ground, before they move into the world outside, which will be harder on them and more demanding.”

All of these precious benefits will be more solid and permanent, more intense and more fruitful if the large family takes the supernatural spirit of the Gospel, which spiritualizes everything and makes it eternal, as its own particular guiding rule and basis. Experience shows that in these cases, God often goes beyond the ordinary gifts of Providence, such as joy and peace, to bestow on it a special call — a vocation to the priesthood, to the religious life, to the highest sanctity.

“With good reason, it has often been pointed out that large families have been in the forefront as the cradles of saints. We might cite, among others, the family of St. Louis, the King of France, made up of ten children, that of St. Catherine of Siena who came from a family of twenty-five, St. Robert Bellarmine from a family of twelve, and St. Pius X from a family of ten.

“Every vocation is a secret of Providence; but these cases prove that a large number of children does not prevent parents from giving them an outstanding and perfect upbringing; and they show that the number does not work out to the disadvantage of their quality, with regard to either physical or spiritual values.”

———-End Quote———-

I really like that bit towards the end.  What a charitable elocution on the family!  We hear very little from Church leaders today about the beauty of large families or the benefits they bring to children, the Church, and the world.  We generally hear, instead, about how children are expensive, about the threats people pose to the environment, etc.  So this is quite nice to see, even if is almost 60 years old.

I am also impressed with Pope Pacelli’s degree of understanding of family dynamics.  I have been waiting for a while now for a certain sermon to get posted online, but I was very impressed by the priest’s very subtle and wise comments on family life and spousal dynamics.  I had actually wondered for a bit if he really understood, but I walked away from that sermon knowing he really, really did.  Pope Pius XII seems to have understood quite well, too.


1. MFG - January 21, 2015

Pope Pius XII’s comment on loneliness among those in small families (vs large families) is seen plainly in Ireland which has had an epidemic of youth suicides. Most Catholic Churches there have hotline posters in the vestibule to try to address this issue. While I’m sure drugs and other ills contribute to this problem, what the Irish need aren’t posters or hotlines but the gospel!

2. TG - January 21, 2015

Thanks for the post. I was amazed to hear there were 25 children in St. Catherine of Sienna’s family. I wonder what Pope Francis thinks of that. The term “breeding like rabbits” came to mind. (Sorry but I can’t get that term out of my head. I don’t agree with what he says but I do find some of what he says funny because of how it’s expressed.)

3. cg - January 21, 2015

Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses.

4. wegzumhimmel - January 21, 2015

From the blog “the eye-witness”:

Some Catholic writers are pointing to Pope Pius XII’s words on large families, which were laudable and are much needed now. Alas, when push came to shove Pius did not build upon those noble words and when asked once by a interviewer what he meant by a “large” family, he famously said, “about four”.

I relate these things to you now because someone is going to throw that in your face when you bring up Pius’ words. I say this not to denigrate him but only to point out that he was not immune from some very fuzzy thinking at times. And I am not of course referring to that preposterous nonsense that he was somehow “indifferent” to suffering Jews. [I once asked my mother why there were only four children in our family, a cheeky and untactful question, I know. Her answer was “because that is what Pope Pius thought would be enough and she, like a good Catholic, obeyed him.]

Pius himself came from a family of four so perhaps that had something to do with his unfortunate remark.


Tantumblogo - January 21, 2015

And interestingly, while Pope Francis had 4 siblings, I believe 2 died quite young? So he was, in a sense, from a family of 3?

Yes, fuzzy thinking was entering in even before 1962.

5. steve - January 21, 2015

December 28, 2014 A.D:

Pope Francis addressed large families…called for Catholics to form large families…praised Catholics who cooperate with God in the formation of large families.

Pope Francis also exhorted the state to foster the formation of large families.

“Dear parents, I am grateful to you for the example of love towards life, that you preserve from conception to natural end, despite all the difficulties and burdens of life, and that unfortunately, the public institutions do not always help you.

“Each family is a cell of society, but large families are a more rich cell, more vibrant, and the State has an interest in investing in it.”



LaGallina - January 21, 2015

Yes, and he also said we shouldn’t breed like rabbits. Hmmm. It’s funny how one drop of poison can ruin the whole punch.

Dismas - January 22, 2015

No accident. Dialectic.

6. Baseballmom - January 22, 2015

I love the phrase “and their renunciation of costly amusements…” Costly amusements are precisely what children from small families are given to replace siblings…. Sad. Four children IS a large family these days… We had twice that and now are so blessed with 10 grandchildren… If folks only knew…

Let us not forget the pope’s famous interview (yeah, I know… “WHICH ONE???”) where he said that the two greatest problems in the world were youth unemployment and the loneliness of the elderly… Um, well, ya think maybe more youth would be employed if there were more PEOPLE in need of goods and services???? And maybe, call me crazy, but just MAYBE if thems old folks had more than 1.7 kids they might not be so darned lonely????? Like I says…. Call me crazy!

7. Kevin K - January 23, 2015

Great post!

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