Giving life

Extract from a conference given to missionary sisters by Rev. Edward Leen, C.S.Sp.

Fr. Edward Leen (1885–1944) was an Irish Holy Ghost Father, academic and one-time missionary. He is best known for his spiritual writings and conferences.

The transmission of life

We are born to live, not merely to exist. God is infinitely good, liberal and generous to the last degree and knowing what a splendid thing it is to be alive with “the life which is truly life”, He destined us for that also. God, being infinitely good, with this infinite goodness, desires that other beings should experience the same life.

Begetting human life

When it came to creating human beings, God conceived a glorious plan ... He created only one man and one woman, and arranged that these two should be capable of transmitting life to other human beings, and so filling up the empty places of the fallen angels. He gave to these two the power to be instruments in transmitting life to others, which is the grandest of prerogatives and God's greatest gift to creatures. It is the greatest of all powers. We human beings have this advantage over the angels that we can be agents in producing life—life that can become, by sanctifying grace, a participation in the life of God. God wishes to see around Him innumerable reflections of life. It is not without meaning that God has cast around with lavish hands such an amount of life: the ocean teeming with life, the earth with such an immense number of living things, each filled with happiness. For life is happiness...

It is God's plan that man and woman should be drawn to one another and to unite in order to co-operate with God in giving life to a greater number of human souls... God did not envisage merely the birth of a child. He saw that child in terms of its ultimate purpose. He meant that child to have every opportunity to achieve its final destiny. It should not, when born, be left to chance, but should have the care and training that would help it to live properly and achieve life eternal. In order that that purpose might be realised, it required the co-operation of man and woman and, therefore, God ordained that having performed the function of life-giving, they should work for the child’s education. He ordained that every child should have the care of the man and wife who gave it birth, until it could manage its own life by reason of its previous training. This training is a long process. It requires the lifelong fidelity and partnership of both parents in marriage ... Parents do not co-operate with God unless they are faithful to their vocation. If, through selfishness or worldliness, they exercise the act of marriage and frustrate the result, they are standing in the way of God's plan, strangling His creative work...

Seeing that God’s interest is that the child should come into the world and that it should have everything possible for its training and formation in order to attain salvation, God ordains the condition of marriage. If a child is born outside marriage, it is deprived of what it has a right to—the loving care of a father and mother. To deprive a child, that God loves, of its rights is a grievous sin. The salvation of any child is jeopardised if it has not the proper care and education and that education is found in the home… Hence, God forbids gravely the relation of man and woman outside marriage. This relation [of transmitting life] in marriage is holy and blessed and it is perfectly good in itself. There is nothing in it that is not in accordance with the designs of God. That is the reason why, when it is used outside God's plan, it becomes abhorrent in the sight

of God. It is the misuse of a sacred thing, the desecration of a sacred thing.

Begetting Divine Life

The next point is this. This power of transmitting life is so grand that we cling to it most intimately. There is in every one of us the instinct to transmit life. It manifests itself in many ways. Horace says, Non omnis moriar ("Not all of me shall die"). The desire not to die wholly is innate with us. Marriage normally fulfils that desire, but when we make a vow of chastity, we renounce the power of giving life, and the satisfaction connected with the exercise of that power. But there is nothing sterile in God’s plan. If we gave up a power, it is to get it back in a higher form. And so it is here.

Fecundity of chastity

If we make a vow of chastity, it means that we are giving life in a larger and wider sense. We make this vow in order to have hearts and minds free, in order to vivify more widely than married persons. Married persons can give physical life to a certain number and they can foster Divine Life in them by educating them in view of their supernatural destiny. But for us [religious], all limitations are struck aside and we go out with the purpose of giving to all with whom we come in contact, sparks of life.

At the moment [Fr. Leen was preaching this conference to missionary Sisters] I am striving to communicate life to you—to vivify you. Your purpose is the same, here and in Africa—to give Divine Life, to procreate and vivify a great number of children of God and your vow of chastity enables you to do this. Every woman has the power to beget, if not in the body then in the spirit, and no woman can beget in the spirit unless she moulds herself on the virginity and maternity of Mary. Each woman's virginity is to be for her the source of her maternal power—by another of the many paradoxes of our religion! Mary, a real child of this earth, elected virginity. This meant far more than the mere avoidance of marriage. It meant that everything in her soul of “woman”—of affection, of devotedness, of self-sacrifice, of tenderness—would be Godwards, consecrated to God. It must be the same with us.”

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