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The Standard Bearer’s Battle Hymn

October 4, AD 2012 7 Comments

Armies everywhere used to march into battle with their standard bearer (the guy with the flag) right up front.  He was the visual proclamation of who an army was. He was absolutely essential in warfare, and darn near a required part of battle  He did not fight the battle himself, rather his job for the army was to bravely march forward announcing to everyone who saw him “this is who we are and what we stand for, by golly!”  There was no mistaking allies or enemies in a time when a contingent unfurled their colors and lifted them high for all to see.

Those of us with large families are the modern day standard bearers of the Church Militant. We are an obvious physical symbol of the Church in the modern world.  Our presence loudly proclaims that we believe in the gift and value of life . After all, we have surrounded ourselves with it.

Many times in recent years, the parents of large families have been left wondering where the army has gone that we are representing.  As we face increasingly vocal and hostile opposition from a world which values self over sacrifice, our churches and pastors are silent in the face of the onslaught.

Our pastors have chosen fear over bravery.  Instead of loudly condemning contraception for the evil that it is in the world and teaching the proper place of sex in society, our spiritual leaders have chosen to remain silent rather than be unpopular.  It is easy to rail against the evil of abortion from the pulpit; it’s not hard to be against killing babies.  It takes a much stronger man to call out the evil of the Pill and the creeping destruction it has had on society.

Their example of cowardice has taught their flocks that such things are not truly important.  They have left us, the flag bearers, unprotected.  When we meet with hostile looks and unkind words at the store; nasty comments and resentment within our parishes (even from our clergy); the unceasing pressure from doctors, friends,  and even strangers to contracept; or disbelieving stares and ugly anger within our extended families, even in front of and to our children, there is very often no one to contradict them.  There is no cavalry riding to our defense.

When representatives of our modern culture condemn us to our faces for “overtaxing the planet’s resources” or ridicule our “irresponsible breeding”, our fellow Christians more often than not will simply turn away.  They are afraid of confrontation and so they back away from the battle, either because they are ill-equipped to fight it, they are scared, or because they quietly agree with the aggressors.

We, as a Church, need to do better than this.  We need to protect those who are so visible, and we need to better equip those we are sending into the world.  We need our priests to teach about sex, not just abortion, but all the moral issues wrapped up in that three-letter word.  We need to be taught about the cancer of contraception, not just once every few years when a guest speaker shows up (if he comes at all), but often and with frank honesty.

The people in the pews need to be told that this is a battle for our very souls and we need to be taught to recognize the weapons of the enemy.  There is a reason for the decrease in the number of larger families in the modern world.  It is a failure of leadership.  The faithful are not being taught that children are a gift from God and are to be treasured and welcomed that way, and so even the faithful weekly church-goers have fallen into the trap of ease and convenience.  They have been allowed to go forth in ignorance because our priests and bishops fear public condemnation, but their silence condemns us to what they fear.  Their people, the Church Militant, could be marching happily to Hell because there are too few people willing to stand in front of them and speak the truth.

We desperately need our leaders to lead.  We have read the Bible, heard the Truth and answered the call.  We are here, eagerly standing firm against a culture which it often seems is beginning to hate us.  We have answered the call.  Where is the rest of the army?  They have left us to face the Enemy and his cohorts alone.

Without an army, the guy with the flag is no longer a proud member of anything.  With no soldiers to back him up, standard bearer is nothing more than a fancy name for the target.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Frech is a Cradle Catholic who came back to the Church in 2000, and thanks God for it every day. She lives just outside Dallas with her husband, the brilliant Computer Guy, their 7 not-quite-perfect children, and an ever-multiplying family of dust bunnies. When she’s not teaching math, neglecting housework, or reluctantly training for a marathon, she’s blogging at Shoved to Them.
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  • Yup. And we’ve never even heard abortion spoken of from the pulpit. Oh, and church ladies give us more eye-rolling than strangers in the coffee shop.

  • Sarah Babbs

    As someone who struggles with infertility, who only has one child, who is nearing two years old, with no other baby on the way, I have been on the receiving end of questioning looks and rude questions from moms of many at our ultra traditional parish. I get what you are saying, but I find it really well, tiring, to be frank, of being told how large families are the standard bearers of a culture of life. What about people like me, who stand by and watch others create human beings in Petri dishes and artificial insemination, but refuse to do so, even as those people, have babies and we still wait for a blessing. It’s just so tiring to have secular culture tell us we’re crazy for not using immoral technology, we turn to catholic sources and what do I hear? Large families are the symbol of pro life culture. People who want large families but whom god has chosen not to bless, we’re all but forgotten in all this culture of life talk.

  • Sarah Babbs

    I also wanted to say, I loudly and proudly defend my friends who are moms if many, or whenever large families come up, I defend them. Buthow many moms of many have seen a woman with one or two children at church or anywhere else and assumed age contraception and was selfish? It happens. It’s happened to me.

    • Irishjules

      Sarah-thank you for saying what I have thought for so long. The rude comments from large families has to stop. They have hurt us so badly with insensitive comments like ‘well if you had a big family you’d understand’ or ‘you wouldn’t worry about how your kids dress if you has a large family’ or just ‘large family logistics are different’ or ‘your lucky you can take that trip or eat at that restaurant – you only have 2 kids’!

      Wow the hurt when my friends with many kids say things like this or ‘we are obviously open to life’! I just want to scream “I’m open to life – I expected 10 kids by now – I don’t know why I have this cross to bear but thank God that he blessed me with two phenomenal kids who would also love more siblings. I pray for the large families to be more sensitive to those of us who didn’t choose the small family do we could go out to dinner more often. God’s plan is the way it is and please be sensitive that every month I hope, pray, dream and wish to be pregnant and the morning I know I am not – I am devastated!

  • Fr. W. M. Gardner

    Dear Mrs. Frech,
    God bless you! You not only bear His standard (the Cross); but your family is also the Gospel in action. As you so eloquently stated, preaching fruitfulness in marriage is vitally necessary. But, for a variety of reasons, it is sadly lacking from the Catholic pulpit. Meanwhile, how beautiful it is when we witness the circle of marital love increasing and souls being welcomed generously into a Catholic family!
    How silly and tragically wasteful are the materialistic and sensualistic intrigues of modern man in comparison to the true charity of a generous openness to children.
    These days we must keep watch over our children and help them to recognize the hostility of the contraceptive mentality. A household that is not ready to condemn artificial contraception, abortion, sterilization and homosexuality is a place that is hostile to children. Yet those places can be very alluring to young people.
    We all need heroic virtue to serve in the army of our Commander-in-Chief of all that is good.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Our Lord said, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(Matthew 5:10-12)

    Large families may represent a prophetic witness against the selfishness, materialism, and lack of trust in God so pervasive in our secular culture, and pervasive even in many quarters of the Church.

    I say *may* represent because the only members of our extended family to have several children, when their children with little, began having trouble making ends meet and moved back home with Mom. Mom provided lots and lots of financial assistance, including tuition at the parish school (I wrote out some of the checks for her); but, as months dragged into years, I listened more and more often to the young wife’s complaints of growing weary of not having a home of her own and chafing under Mom’s rules (rules like dinner dishes must go through the dishwasher every night; little girls may not be allowed run throughout the house after-bath-naked when uncles are over visiting.) To express her displeasure at her mother-in-law, I watched many times when Mom entered the room, as the young wife angrily snatched up the little ones up and swept them from the room. It was a deliberate campaign of alienating Grandma from grandkids to punish and isolate her. Mom was no longer allowed to hold, to kiss, to talk with or to play with her own grandchildren while they were living with her. Except on rare moments when other visiting extended family members were over; on these special ocassions, such contact between Grandma and grandkids was permitted.

    The whole situation literally broke Mom’s heart, and mine, too. Mom died, broken-hearted, a few years ago, following the young family’s move to the other side of the country without ever been allowed significant contact with the granchildren again.

    I have tried with the help of God to forgive the young couple for their treatment of Mom, and have resigned her and them to the mercies of God. I can never see myself viewing any given family with a large number of children as especially holy and wonderful *just because* they have a large number of children; neither can I view any given family with few or no children as inordinately worldly and selfish *just because* they have few or no children. It’s really best, I’ve learned, to try to think the best of everyone, but to look to the Holy Family of Nazareth as our only true role model, and to assume that the rest of us here on Earth are all at various stages of our journeys.