NewsFri Aug 3, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST
Hope in the Midst of a Culture of Fear: Parents of Family of Fourteen Reveal Their Secret
By John Jalsevac
CHICAGO, Illinois, August 3, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - At one point in the spiritual classic "I Believe in Love," written by the French priest Fr. Jean d’Elbee, the author observes that, "Evil displays itself; good remains unknown." The point that d’Elbee is making is that because evil is not the ordinary state of things it tends to stick out, to make itself obvious, whereas because good is simply the way the world was always meant to be, it tends to go about its business quietly and unostentatiously.
Sometimes reading the news can lead one to think that the world is nothing but bad. The fact is, however, that if the world was even half bad, or even a quarter or a tenth bad, it would come to a grinding halt and fall to pieces. Hopeful stories abound, but they are not typically the stuff of the news.
Those in the pro-life movement know especially that some of the most abundant hopeful stories, but the ones that are least often told, are the day-to-day stories of ordinary happy and healthy families with parents who are joyfully open to the gift of life.
One such family is the Littleton family. Until recently the story of the Littletons was little known, except perhaps for in their own immediate community in the Chicago area, where the unusual fact that they have an unusually large family must not have gone unnoticed.
Last year, however, James and Kathleen Littleton, the parents of fourteen living children, and of an additional five who passed away prior to birth, felt that they were being called to share their unique story with the world.
The result of this call is their newly released, co-authored book, "Better by the Dozen, Plus Two: Anecdotes and a Philosophy of Life from a Family of Sixteen." The point of the book, as they say in the first paragraph of the prologue, is to share "the story of how we came to be such a large family and the truths God taught us along the way."
Better by the Dozen is a deeply profound book that has about it the refreshingly sincere air of simplicity. In fact, that is much of the charm of the Littletons, and their approach to parenting and to life in general. After all, James and Kathleen are the first to say that fundamentally their story is not an extraordinary story, or rather should not be considered an extraordinary story.
Their story is as simple as the fact that they did what they were supposed to do, and the result was what is considered in the modern world to be an anomaly. For them, however, that anomaly is just their family, the family they were always meant to have. From their perspective, the absence of a single member of their family would be an irreparable loss, and utterly unthinkable.
"We don’t wish to present ourselves as an anomaly, nor as an ideal example," write the couple in the prologue to the book, "but we would like to contribute in some way to the authentic comeback of God, then family, as the center of each person’s life and of society."
Nevertheless, Better by the Dozen tells a tale that is as truly extraordinary as only a tale about perfectly ordinary people can be. That is, it chronicles the fascinating story of two altogether normal people, deeply in love, who are wholeheartedly living the adventure of life together, holding nothing back.
In Better by the Dozen, James and Kathleen Littleton describe a complete way of being, of which the most visible result is their large family. The size of their family, however, is but a natural consequence of the fact that James and Kathleen have developed a profound philosophy of life that is centered on hope.
James told LifeSiteNews.com, we live in a "fear driven culture," a culture without faith. This culture of fear, he said, infects everything that people do, extending especially to people’s approach to love, marriage and children. People are afraid to have children, he said, for a million reasons that, fundamentally, are completely out of their control.
Faith, James said, is not only the only solution to this fear, but is the only solution that can lead to a deep and abiding happiness. Without faith the result is the impossible desire to control all circumstances, a desire that is doomed to failure, and which will only lead to despair.
Faith is something that the Littletons, who are devout Catholics, have in abundance. This faith, said James, gives them an unshakeable strength, and an outlook on life that precludes the sort of paralyzing fear that afflicts so much of the modern world. As a result, James, the father of 14 living children, when asked what the most difficult part of raising 14 children is, is able to respond with absolute honesty and humility, "I can’t say it’s really been difficult."
He admits, of course, that there have been difficult times, particularly financially. But these, he says, even though externally quite dire, did not seem very difficult to him and his wife at the time because of their deep trust in the truth that God is involved in every detail of their lives, and is personally concerned for their welfare. In addition, what people do not seem to understand, says James, is that, "the child doesn’t just come in to sap the family’s or the world’s resources, but comes into the world to contribute his or her life and talents and, God-willing, productivity, if that child is blessed with good health." The world, on the other hand, "will tell you that that child is going to be demanding, is going to have a lot of needs."
In the eyes of James and Kathleen, the additional time and money that are invested in an additional child are a small price to pay for what that child will eventually give back to the world through his or her own talents and personality.
James told LifeSiteNews.com that part of his aim in writing Better by the Dozen was to encourage people to take risks, and in particular, for those whose vocation is marriage, that most beautiful risk of welcoming new lives into the world: "What we’re encouraging people to do is to always be open to God’s will, and to bring in a bigger dose of faith versus reason alone, and to be willing to take some risks knowing that God is there for them."
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