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Cases of Childlessness

—Geronta, a husband and wife that both have Mediterranean anemia [1] asked us if they should try to have children. We told them to ask their spiritual father.
—Spiritual fathers should not tell such couples not to have children. They must guide them in
philotimo, so as to struggle in abstinence (to abstain), and with discernment grant them economia.
—Geronta, there are couples who, although they live very spiritually and want to have children, are not able.
The reason God does not give children to some is so that they will love all the children of the world as their own and help in their spiritual rebirth. There was once a man without children but, when he would walk out of his house, all the children of his neighborhood would run to him and surround him with such love. They wouldn’t let him leave and go to his job. See, God didn’t give him his own children but graced him with the blessing of loving all the children of his neighborhood as a father and in his own way to help them spiritually. The judgments of God are fathomless.

In addition, God may not give children so that an orphaned child might be helped. I once met a good Christian man who was a lawyer. Once, when I passed through the city he lived I paid him a visit and in his great kindness he forced me to stay over and receive hospitality at his house. I also met his spouse who likewise resembled him in virtue. And, while from the wife I learned of the spiritual life of her husband, from the husband I learned of the spiritual state of his wife. Later, I learned about the both of them from many other Christians who know them well and whom they have helped. This man of God honorably worked as a lawyer. If he saw that someone was deceitful not only would he not take his case but he would sharply renounce them in hopes that they would come to their senses. If he saw someone who was guilty but repentant, he would try somehow to reconcile things or to reduce the sentence. If he saw a poor man unjustly accused, he wouldn’t take any money and would try to vindicate him in court. He lived very simply and therefore the little money he made was enough for him with enough left over to help poor families. The house of this faithful lawyer was literally a spiritual oasis in the Sahara of the city. The poor, wounded, unemployed, and those with domestic problems would gather there and he would support them all as a good father. He had acquaintances in different places so that, whomever he called on the phone with a need–to help with those who were sick, etc.—never told him ‘no,’ because everyone loved and honored him. His wife also worked in her own way. She would help poor children or children who had difficulties in their studies. They thought of her as a mother. She once, however, expressed to me a complaint. “Father, when we married” she told me, “I resigned my job as a professor because I said I’d now become a good mother. I even asked Christ to give me twenty children, but unfortunately He didn’t even give me one.” Then, I told her: “Sister, you have more than five-hundred children and still you are complaining? Christ saw your good intention and will reward you. Now that you’re helping with the spiritual rebirth of so many children, you’ve become a better mother than many other mothers and have passed up even mothers of many children.[2] You will also have a greater reward, because with the spiritual rebirth the children are reassured eternal life.” In the meantime they had adopted a little girl and had signed over their inheritance to her. She cared for them in their old age and, when they reposed, went off to a monastery–although their house was like a monastery, reading all the services as they did. For vespers and compline they had other brethren in Christ but midnight office and orthros the three read themselves. These blessed souls gave rest to so many suffering souls. May God also grant them rest.

That’s why I say that the greater and better parents of big families are those who were spiritually reborn and who help in the spiritual rebirth of children all over the world, to ensure their souls in Paradise.

—Geronta, some people who aren’t able to have children of their own, think about adopting a little child.
—Yes, it’s better to adopt. They shouldn’t insist on their own will.[3] That which man wants is not always the will of God.
—Geronta, should the adoptive parents tell the child that they adopted him at a certain age?
—It is better to tell the child once he is old enough. But what matters is to love the child greatly and appropriately. There are children who live with their actual parents but who love other people more because their own parents don’t have love.


[1] Mediterranean anemia (also known as Thalassemia) is a genetic (inherited) blood disease, particularly prevalent among Mediterranean peoples. In Europe, the highest concentrations of the disease are found in Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Crete.
[2] A family with many children (πολύτεκνη οικογένια) in Greece is seen as greatly blessed. As is said in the Orthodox sacrament of marriage: “Bless this marriage, granting to Your servants long life, purity, mutual love in the bond of peace, enduring prosperity, the blessing of children and the unfading crown of glory”.
[3] I.e. persistin
g in the hope that the mother will one day conceive.

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