a convert and since my Confirmation 8 years ago Ive gone back and forth
between strictly following Church teaching and barely going to Mass.
I recently started seeing a therapist three times per week and have been
making progress. Im trying hard and I do want to heal more than anything.
Im finally coming to terms with the severe physical abuse, sexual abuse,
emotional abuse and neglect I suffered during my childhood. My parents, the
abusers, were fanatical born again Christians and much of the abuse I suffered,
although not all, was in the name of their religion. They were also drug
and alcohol abusers. Because of all this, I have a hard time believing in
God, or at least a loving one. When I can believe in God, I can only feel
fear and resentment. This makes me sad because I want to have God in my life.
I just feel He wants to punish me.
One of the things Im struggling with, as far as the Church is concerned,
is birth control and family size. Sometimes, I want to be a good Catholic,
even though I dont really feel it, its more of an intellectual
decision. Other times I dont want religion at all or find New Age type
thinking appealing. My husband (also Catholic) and I have three children
all under age 6 and I feel that given the psychological issues Im trying
to deal with I cant handle more. Sometimes, because of the anxiety
I suffer and the mixed up emotions I experience, I can barely handle my life
as it is. I always wanted a big family (I felt so alone as a child) and had
I not begun this process of psychotherapy I probably just wouldve had
more children for the wrong reasons (mainly fear of being alone). Now Im
starting to see that I need to work on myself first. But at the same time
I feel guilty for not being open to life. Also, we use the withdrawal method,
as opposed to NFP, to prevent pregnancy, and I feel much guilt for this
My real question is: Im very, very interested in psychology. I want
to heal and eventually I want to help others heal. I want to be a therapist.
I was studying to be a therapist in college, but I couldnt face my
own problems so I changed my major to math. Ive been a stay at home
mom since my first son was born, but I want to go back to school (not
immediately, but in the next couple of years) and slowly (one class a semester)
work on my Masters so I can eventually become a therapist. But this would
most likely mean no more kids. This causes a lot of fear for me that Im
letting God down (the same God I can barely believe exists). I feel like
Im being selfish by wanting to go back to school. I know I get my rigid
religious beliefs from my parents, but Im so confused.
I know my question seems vague. I guess what Im asking is, is it okay
for me to stop at three children and pursue a career?
our question about children and
career seems vague because the matter of your
faith, which underlies this question, is vague.
And your faith is vague because your parents faith is even more
Even though your parents claimed
to be born again, its clear from their behavior that they
had no clue as to what Christianity really is. Sexual abuse, physical abuse,
emotional abuse, neglect, and drug and alcohol abuse are all
grave sins; they are
evil, and being aspects of the demonic, they are
all fundamentally opposed to Christianity.
Begets More Abuse
Parents who abuse their children
are themselves suffering from profound emotional pain, but, rather than seek
to face up to and heal that pain, they express
their frustration at having been psychologically damagedmost likely
when they were children, by their own parentsby lashing out in
anger to hurt and damage the world around them.
Children are convenient targets of this frustration because they are helpless
and pose no threat in return.
Its important for you,
therefore, to understand that when your parents abused you, they werent
trying to help you become a better person; they were simply taking out their
frustration on a convenient target, inflicting hurt on you for their own
This irrational abuse therefore,
has nothing to do with your being punished by God.
Marred by Sin
Now, it often happens that
bad things happen to innocent people, but God never
does anything to hurt us. God does everything for our good, to lead us to
holiness. Every trial that we experience
can lead us to spiritual purification and growth if only we bear the trial
with patient endurance and trust in God. And
this gets us to what Christianity is all about.
God created us through
love, so that we might be able to share in His love.
He gave us free will so that we would be capable
of love. But with the capacity to love comes also the capacity to reject
love, and this capacity to reject lovethat is, to hateis called
Therefore, all of us, just like
your parents, naturally respond to being hurt by wanting to inflict injury
in return. This natural tendency to make ourselves feel good at the expense
of othersand sometimes, even at the expense of ourselves, through
We have no way to pull ourselves
out of our natural tendency to sin. But God, in His love for us, sent His
Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem us from
our slavery to sin. Through His Incarnation as a man, He took our sins into
His own Sacred Heart and, without any
hate, showed us how to love Him as He loved
us, even as we hated Him.
Christianity calls us away from
sin. It calls us to repent our capacity
to hate others and to repent our capacity to hate ourselves. It calls us
to invite Christ into our hearts so that we can love Him and love ourselves
and love others, as He loves us. It calls us, through our very being, as
it is transformed in Christ, to call others to repent their sins so
that they, too, can be transformed in Christ.
Notice, here, that your parents
did none of this. There was nothing of love in their actions. They didnt
love you; instead, they poured out their hatred for themselves and for their
parents onto you.
So be careful, therefore, not
to think that your parents behavior was representative of
If you wish to belong to the
true Church, then, recognize that your parents behavior was sinful.
Understand this from the depth of your heart, and accept it without
You might wonder, though, why
God allowed the abuse to happen to you. Well, maybe God was waiting for someone
in the familythat is, youto get the courage to say,
Im sick of this intergenerational abuse! I will be the
one to put an end to it. I wont pass it on to my
Then call upon Gods grace
to give meaning to your suffering and forgive your
parents for what they did to you; that is, purge from your heart any desire
to see them get paid back for what they did to
and resolve to make love the emotional basis of your
lifeand from there on pass on love, rather than abuse, to those around
you. If your parents are still alive, pray and make
sacrifices that they might repent their sins and surrender their hearts
to Christ in loving service to Him.
OK. So far, so good.
Now lets turn our attention
to your children.
You know, from your own
parents behavior, how not to raise children.
In the real Church, there is
only one reason to have a child: to bring a new soul into the world so that
it can love God through a life of Christian purity. Such a life requires
sincere reverence for all the fruits of the
Holy SpiritCharity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Longanimity (forbearance),
Goodness, Benignity (kindness), Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continence,
and Chastityand all the Sacraments of
the Church. And the only way for the child to acquire this reverence is to
learn it by example from the parents. Therefore, to be
responsible to your children, you, of necessity,
must live a holy
In regard to chastity in a holy
life, we can say, in general:
If you are not bound
by the vows of Holy Matrimony, refrain from all sexual activity.
If you dont
want to have children, dont get married.
If you are bound
by the vows of Holy Matrimony, all sexual activity must be open to
If you are bound
by the vows of Holy Matrimony and
dont want any more children, refrain from all sexual activity.
So what do you do if you already
have children, and you havent lived a holy life, and your
children themselves arent living holy
Well, in such a case, your
career, as it were, is to bring your children to conversion and into
the Church. Dedicate yourself, like Saint Monica and
Saint Rita, to the full-time task of living
a holy life yourself, of being a humble, sincere example to your children
of total love for and trust in God, and of praying
constantly and making sacrifices for your childrens repentance and
When you have fulfilled your
role as a mother, and all your children love God through lives of Christian
purity, then you might think of a secular career for yourself.
But, in your case, it would be
a disaster, both for yourself and for your clients, if you became a
psychotherapist without having first
overcome your illusions about sexuality. Without
knowing what love really is, you cannot teach your clients to loveand
you will be held responsible by Christ for leading them astray, because not
teaching others to love is a defilement of love. Moreover, you have the same
obligation of love to your children and to teach
them love, for the sake of their souls, because leading a new soul to love
God is the sole reason for bringing a child into the world.
1. This is not as easy as it might sound. There
are a multitude of unconscious ways to keep alive your resentments:
argumentativeness, competitiveness, disobedience, protest, offenses to chastity,
immodest clothing, smoking, eating disorders, illicit drugs, alcohol abuse,
tattoos, body piercing and disfigurement, shoplifting, gambling, risky thrill
seeking, time-wasting video games, occupational failure, and on and on. All
of these self-defeating behaviors make a mockery of love and have in common
one unconscious intent: to throw your failure back into your
parents faces as evidence of their failure to live a life of
genuine love and mercy.
2. Surprises can always happen. Therefore, if
you arent prepared for an accident, then dont engage
in sexual activity.