There are several articles here on the CatholicMatch Institute that urge singles, widowed, and annulled Catholics to wait until marriage for sex. Most focus on either the negative aspects of premarital sex, or focus on the value of sex for spousal union/bond. I agree with all those perspectives, but on this Father’s Day I would like to focus on the role and value of parenthood.
Each child is a sign of the exponential love of his or her parents. When a child is conceived, that baby’s DNA is uniquely different from both mother and father. This person is unrepeatable, meaning, if lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or abortion, he/she are in God’s hands, but we will not see them again here on earth. This unrepeatable person then becomes a physical witness to the love of his or her parents. His or her very existence is the perfect, indivisible unity of marriage, made socially public for the world to see. Each child shares in common the representation of that indivisible unity and selflessness.
When parents create a child, the child not only grows to love them back, but also any siblings he or she may have. That child then grows up to love a limitless amount of other people, as well as God. The greatest gift children offer back to you in recompense for their lives are pushing your limits to love past anything you could accomplish without them. There is no sacrifice that measures to the total gift of self through parenthood, except the priesthood. Those children will also learn to love in the same self-giving manner as the parents by growing in their presence.
Marriage is the proper context for having children, because it demonstrates on a societal level the trust and commitment you have for one another. Without that trust and commitment to the spousal unity, the child’s very existence becomes a contradiction. God takes one moment of trust and love from parents through sex and creates something infinite and divine (our eternal souls). It is easy to say in a moment that you love or trust someone. Those words can be repeated by anyone with vocal cords, but not just anyone will be willing to make that commitment public in the way of exchanging vows for the world to see.
Sex only makes sense if the couple is truly committed to one another for their lifetime, otherwise, there is a direct interruption in the cycle of love (especially when contraception is used). If that commitment to marriage is not made because of fear or doubt, then that means the fear or doubt grew greater than the love the couple shared. Children are deserving of a much greater, stronger love; love that is unconditional.
If the couple is not ready for the commitment of marriage, then why go through the motions of permanence through sex? What are you trying to communicate with your body in that context? What mixed signals are you sending? Love requires the gift of total self, not partial (as with contraception).
The very act that God created to be unifying in a marriage will be a source of division for unwed couples. God can, and will still, create life. This is a mystery, but God always gives us opportunities for heroism, because perfect love desires opportunities for goodness, even out of sin (as he did with the Original Sin and sending his Only Son to take our place on the Cross).
What about children who are conceived in less than perfect love? If we fail to love as we should, God will keep providing opportunities for us to succeed, even through the conception of children. This child becomes a symbol in the flesh to the parents, and to the world, of God’s unfathomable love and mercy for them, even though they lacked that love for each other. This child is a gift of hope. Perfect love desires the other person’s well being above their own, including giving birth. Perfect love can be practiced by anyone, but it is not present in sex outside of marriage. As long as there is breath in your lungs, there is hope for mercy and a chance to change how you communicate with your body.
Learn how to show respect for mothers and children (unborn and born alike). Every woman holds the potential for motherhood, if not biologically, then spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. There is great beauty, power, and strength in that gift. Revere it; protect it; honor it. Instead of treating children like a burden, or an undesired consequence in a list of STD’s and STI’s of premarital sex, treat them like ambassadors to Heaven. For the well-being of children, wait to have sex until the proper context—marriage.