From the Fairfield County Catholic, publication of the Diocese of Bridgeport
While I was being introduced to guests at my younger sister’s birthday party, someone who had a little too much Pinot Grigio asked, “Is that your father?”
“Check the prescription on those eyeglasses,” I wanted to say.
I’m sure the question made Margaret’s day, although it cast a bit of a pall over mine. (At least they didn’t say “grandfather.”)
In my defense, let me point out that it was a poorly lit room, some guests had been drinking heavily and I had gray stubble on my face because I didn’t shave. You see, I wanted to look like those young hunks in GQ magazine who have sexy facial hair, but I guess my plan backfired because I looked more like Burl Ives than Hugh Jackman.
“No,” Margaret told the inquiring guest, “That’s my brother. We were born 13 years apart.” Then, she added, “I wasn’t planned.”
“Planned”—what a utilitarian concept. I doubt my parents planned her or my sister Kathy, who was born a year later on the same day. My father didn’t believe in long-range planning. He took life a day at a time, which is a lesson they taught him in Alcoholics Anonymous.
How many of us were planned by our parents? For my part, I hope I was a complete surprise, like winning Lotto or getting a flat tire when you’re rushing to a meeting.
Planned or unplanned, our parents welcomed us. They were from a different era when it was widely believed that all life, from the beginning to the end, was sacred. They also subscribed to this crazy notion that children were gifts from God.
When I thought about it, I had to admit that none of our four daughters was “planned,” at least by my wife and me. We never sat down to develop a strategic plan for parenthood with an Excel spreadsheet, a folder of Huggies coupons, and blueprints for a bigger house. In fact, we raised four daughters in a Cape Cod with three bedrooms, no dishwasher and one bathroom. The waiting lines were long and the yelling was loud.
Our daughters were surprises, and what great surprises. We welcomed them all, although we feared that four children were more than we could afford. In the end, God provided, as he always does.
Years later, however, while I was struggling to pay for college and weddings, I sometimes wondered, “Why the heck did we have four kids? A dog or two and possibly a parakeet would have been a lot less expensive.” But the truth is we wouldn’t have done anything differently.
As parents, we may not have planned those pregnancies, but God certainly did. God has a plan, and it’s always better than our plan. Sometimes, though, what He has in store for us isn’t necessarily what our first choice would be.
As he told the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
One of my “unplanned” sisters became a doctor who works in the intensive care unit and has helped many families when they’re confronting a medical crisis or the end of life. The other “unplanned” sister is a social worker who counsels families troubled by abuse and poverty. I like to think they take Christ with them in their work.
The greatest tragedy of our age is that so many children, had they been born and not aborted, could have changed the world for the better, in big ways and in small. They might have developed a cure for cancer or AIDS, and they might have brought Christ to the lonely, the suffering and the dispossessed.
Each one of us was created in God’s image and likeness with infinite forethought and love, although I confess that I seldom feel like a piece of fine craftsmanship and usually think of myself more as a Hyundai than a Porsche. But even our flaws were part of his plan, and the amazing thing is he loves us, flaws and all.
Years before Roe v. Wade and long before our society began to trivialize the sacredness of human life, Trappist author M. Raymond wrote, “Each human being is so tremendous that he or she merits a reverence that is really religious. For each is a creation of God; each a mirror of Divinity; each a feature or a facet on the Face of Christ.”
People who are forgotten by society, people who have no value in the eyes of a materialistic, status-obsessed culture are infinitely valued in the eyes of God.
Fr. Raymond also said, “From all eternity, God has had in his mind and will a specific task for you to perform for which no one else in all creation is fitted as you are. It belongs to you and to you alone.”
He’s talking about you. He’s talking about me. He’s talking about millions upon millions of “unplanned” children, whose value God understood before time began.
Or as Mother Angelica once said: “God knew you, loved you, and chose you before there was an angel, before there was a world, a universe or a star.”
Joe Pisani, a journalist for many years, is principal at The Dilenschneider Group, a strategic communications firm.