She went from feminist divorce lawyer to devoutly Catholic homeschooling mother of eight
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March 24, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — If anyone had told Sarah 20 years ago that she would one day become a Catholic stay-at-home mom of eight children who educates the youngest ones at home, she would have either laughed at a good joke or become furious.
“This was in no way what I wanted to do,” Sarah told host Maria of the new Catholic YouTube channel One of Nine in an episode last week. “I didn’t want to — certainly didn’t want to — be a stay-at-home mother and I couldn’t have imagined having a large family.”
As a young person in the late 1990s, Sarah loved to party with her friends, listen to music, go to pubs, and have a “good time.” It was at her Catholic school that she says she lost her faith.
“I went to Catholic schools. Although I had some really wonderful friends and really had a great time in many ways, you know — but that was where I lost my faith,” she said. “I don’t really feel like I got much of a formation in the faith, certainly not from school. We weren’t really taught the faith at all. We were taught a little bit of Bible study, some values, Catholic ethos, but we weren’t really given much grounding in the faith.”
Sarah used homework as an excuse to no longer go to Sunday Mass.
She went on to university, to law school, and eventually became a successful solicitor. During her time a school, she became a feminist who aspired to having a successful career.
But there were times when a little niggle about what she was missing would unexpectedly enter her heart.
“I remember once at law school, I was at the photocopier, and I had a big pile of folders on my hip. And I was just waiting my turn to do some photocopying. And I remember this guy at law school said to me, ‘Are you sure you want to be a solicitor? I reckon you’d make quite a nice mum,’ because of the way I was holding the hips.”
“And I was furious with him, like [you’ve just made] a sexist comment.”
Sarah said that “deep down” inside, however, she would’ve liked to be a mum, but she would’ve never dared tell anyone about her secret.
She eventually got into divorce law, which she said she was “very committed to and loved it.”
“I was in the women’s refuge once a week [helping] women who were suffering domestic abuse. And that was a really valuable work, but a lot of it was divorce based.”
It was when a Jewish co-worker joked with Sarah about her being targeted for excommunication from the Catholic Church on account of her work with divorce cases that she realized just how ignorant she was about the faith. This happened in 2002 when Pope John Paul II said that Catholic lawyers and judges should “refuse divorce cases” and “should avoid being personally involved in anything that might imply a cooperation with divorce.”
“I didn’t have a clue,” she said. “I wouldn’t have understood why. I mean, it was a real ignorance. And, it’s to my shame because I was an intelligent girl. I could have found out all of these things, but I just chose not to.”
Sarah began to rediscover a glimmer of her faith at 26 when she went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. At the time, she was toying with the idea of becoming Muslim for its “structure and identity.”
“I went to the Grotto and I basically told Our Lady that I was making a bit of a mess of it on my own and I’d really appreciate her help. And, I just wanted to hand everything over to her and [for her to] try and sort it all out and find me a Catholic husband.”
She began to attend Mass again, hoping that “Mr. Right” would somehow show up. She found that she was attracted to the Catholic families she would see in Church.
“Mr. Right” never showed up at church, but at a wine bar. Sarah met him in the context of a blind date that had been set up by a friend.
“A friend of mine at work had been at law school with Tom. And, when I said to her that I wanted to find a Catholic husband, she said ‘Oh you’ll love Tom. He’s Catholic. Oh, I think he’d be perfect for you.’”
“And, we hit it off immediately. I knew straight away.”
When asked how she knew Tom was the right one, Sarah replied: “I felt sick, like gut-wrenchingly sick, as soon as I saw him. But I was absolutely filled with joy, nerves, and like an electric shock or something. I just knew.”
Four and a half weeks later, Sarah and Tom were engaged.
Then they were married. Sarah still wanted to be a career woman. But then the babies started coming and she found her heart begin to “soften” a little toward the idea of mothering her children full time.
“I was very adamant that I wanted to pursue my career because I was really enjoying it and really got a buzz out of the whole scene of being a young lawyer going to court quite a lot, all that sort of thing. But [baby] Thomas came along.”
It was because of announcing her pregnancy to her boss that Sarah lost the new position that had been carved out specifically for her in a legal department.
“When they found out I was expecting, they changed their mind and I lost my job,” she said.
The feminist inside of Sarah was mad.
“I was furious, absolutely furious. I mean, the real kind of feminist streak in me was furious. How could this happen? It’s completely against the law, just because I was pregnant.”
She delivered baby Thomas, expecting to go back to work once the baby had become established. But God had other ideas.
“I was so adamant, though. That’s what I was going to do. And then, within a few weeks of Thomas being born — I think maybe five or six — I found out that I was pregnant with number two.”
“A real surprise. Amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that’s actually impossible, isn’t it? But it wasn’t.”
Sarah realized that with two young babies, she wasn’t going to be able to go back to work anytime soon.
“My great plans of having a career and not being one of these kind of stay-at-home moms just didn’t happen.”
Two and a half years later, baby number three came along and Sarah found that she had changed in her outlook. The “feminist” in her was disappearing “very quickly,” and the “mother” was beginning to become more and more prominent.
“The more and more — now with hindsight — I look at it, God really managed things there, and the situation wouldn’t allow me to go back to work.”
During this time, Sarah was learning more about her Catholic faith, especially the Church’s teaching against contraception. It was during a post-natal check-up of her second baby that Sarah was asked by a midwife what method of contraceptive she was going to use. She researched various methods and decided upon “the pill.”
“When I addressed it to Tom, he said, ‘There’s no way we can use contraception, it’s against the Church’s teaching.’”
Sarah said she was so “completely shocked” by his unexpected answer. “I just didn’t realize that this was a thing.”
“I was thinking, ‘Well, we can’t just keep on having baby after baby.’”
It was at this point that Tom told Sarah about how one of the mechanisms of the pill is to act as an abortifacient when in the case of the sperm and egg uniting the uterine wall is made hostile to the implantation of the newly conceived embryo.
Sarah remembers being horrified.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was horrified, absolutely horrified.”
With the help of her husband, Sarah began to look into what the Catholic Church actually taught about contraception. Expecting to find just a big “no,” she was surprised to find that the “no” was rooted in a profound “yes” to the meaning and purpose of human sexuality from God’s perspective.
She discovered Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which the Church teaches that using contraception is always and in every case wrong for the reason that it blocks the marital act from its God-given procreative purpose, contradicting the husband and wife’s promise to give themselves to each other totally and unreservedly, where nothing must be held back, including one’s own fertility.
“It was absolutely life-changing,” she said. She now realized that instead of the Church being “against everything,” it was “actually for women, and for babies, and for families.”
She read in Church documents phrases that she had never heard before, such as a woman’s “God-given dignity.”
She said her “legal mind” helped her to see the logic behind the Church’s teaching.
“It was so logical. It was logical and it was beautiful. The logic is beauty, it really is, when you see it. And that can only come from God. It was like a ‘Wow!’ moment when everything changed.”
Sarah then wondered why she had never heard these teachings from the pulpit.
“How come priests never speak about this? How come it’s all in the dark and no one knows?”
Using her legal skills, she wrote to her local bishop a five-page letter explaining the evils of the contraceptive pill and why the Church is right to be against it. She chastised the bishop for his silence on the matter and for the silence of the clergy.
It was around this time that Sarah and Tom decided to be totally open to however many children God would send them.
“That’s our whole marriage. We’ve just been open — more than open to new life — we’ve been open to God’s plan. We didn’t even make a decision, actually. We’ve lived in a way that we’re open to God’s plan. So, we’ve had — we’ll have — the children that God sends us.”
Sarah said that being open to God’s plan doesn’t mean having as many children as possible, but it means allowing God to be the planner.
“I remember someone saying, ‘Oh golly, what on earth does that mean, having twelve children in a row?’ But, it isn’t like that because God doesn’t just give you twelve children in a row. They’ve been spaced out naturally by breastfeeding, but also there have been miscarriages, and there have been periods where it just hasn’t happened, where I haven’t conceived.”
“God’s managed it. It really hasn’t had to be planned at all.”
Near the end of her testimony, Sarah related her belief about how God works in the lives of those who are earnestly seeking to live a life pleasing to God.
“If you leave a crack open for God, he will get in there with his Mother, Our Blessed Mother, and they'll just, you know, blow your life up. And, it will go their way, if you let them — it’s just the smallest opening, and they’ll take over.”