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The Example of Large Families


By Nancy Harvey | May 2002
Nancy Harvey died on July 23, 2001, of complications from pneumonia and kidney failure. A convert to Catholicism in 1996, her writings appeared in First Things and Human Life Review.

“It’s silly to believe that birth control is wrong — as silly as believing it’s wrong to eat oranges.” This was my first belief about birth control. It was so much a part of the culture, so accepted by all the good people at home and at church, that questioning it seemed ludicrous. Of course, we Protestants (as I was then) knew the Catholic Church was against it, but as far as we knew, only so there would be more Catholics.

In college I went to Bible studies with devout Christians. “How should we then live?” was the question. What would God have us do about the details of our lives — the rude roommate, the pressure to cheat, the professor who ridiculed Christianity? What should we study, and what jobs would allow us to best serve God with our talents? Since we were single and chaste, we did not discuss birth control. That could wait for a later stage of life. Yet once I was at that stage, in Bible studies with married Christians, the topic never came up. God was Lord of our lives, but He never intruded into the bedroom. It was taken for granted that two children, two years apart, was the leading of the Holy Spirit — the responsible way to live.

Then my husband and I met a Presbyterian pastor who was going to let God plan his family. He married a woman with the same goal, and over the years, we watched the children arrive (eight at last count). On a mid-range pastor’s salary, he supports his family. His wife teaches them at home — a job that uses both creativity and intellect to the fullest extent.

Whenever I visit, the benefits of a large family — and the beauty of children — stare me in the face, with sparkling grey eyes, gentle brown eyes, and lively blue eyes.

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