Each Sunday after Kristin’s mom confided to me, “I’m going to be a grandma,” I would check during mass to see how Kristin’s pregnancy was progressing. Kristin and Ken’s baby would be welcome — the first grandchild — coming into the world with a mommy and a daddy, doting grandparents, aunts and uncles in abundance. It all seemed so normal and right — the way it ought to be for every baby.

Having a baby is always a step into the unknown. There are no guarantees, but this baby seemed destined to be born to healthy parents and well-cared for, both emotionally and materially. To my way of thinking, little Olivia would be born under the protection of God’s umbrella. She would have what God had planned for every baby.

Children are not dropped out of the sky but are born into families, to be nurtured by a mother and a father. Nor do they come without instructions. In fact, God has really gone out of His way to provide a manual for living, not leaving us to our own devices. He has sent us his son, Jesus Christ, and the guidance of Scripture.

Some might say we should call the Ten Commandments the “ten prohibitions.” “Thou shalt not!” Thou shalt not!” Thou shalt not!” Whatever happened to freedom? Whatever happened to choice? How limiting they are! But, like the Operator’s Manual for your automobile, the Ten Commandments are instructions from the Maker and are ignored at our peril.

Scripture repeatedly tells us to obey the Commandments “so that you may prosper.”

It is pretty clear that not stealing, lying or murdering works to the advantage of ourselves and society. It may not be as readily apparent that if we do not honor God and our mother and father we are the losers. But the commandment that is really getting short shrift these days is the one that says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” as well as the New Testament admonitions against divorce and impurity.

We rarely hear the biblical terms “adultery” and “fornication” anymore. Both forbid sex outside of marriage and are deemed so irrelevant today that many people cannot define them. In fact, it would seem that our liberal culture is working overtime to make these sins acceptable and politically correct. In place of the traditional family of a husband, wife, and children, we now have “families” which consist of any group, of any sex, that cohabits for any length of time. Those folks who still consider “living in sin” sinful are called religious fanatics, right-wing radicals, and homophobes.

Nevertheless, if everyone avoided adultery and fornication, we could eliminate sexually transmitted diseases in a single generation. What a simple solution to an out-of-control epidemic, not only of AIDS but of many other sexually transmitted diseases that were either unknown or not a real problem only a generation or two ago.

What we need are safe people, enjoying sex, protected by God’s umbrella, not “safe sex” and fornication, protected by a condom. Many pregnancies (or abortions) are the consequence of the failure of “safe sex” with a condom.

When teens are promiscuous, their first sexual encounters are clouded by fear of pregnancy, disease, discovery, and loss. They cheat themselves of the joy of coming together with a feeling of rightness and security. They run the risk of losing the partner they might want to marry because they become diseased or sterile. They may miss out on college because of an unwanted pregnancy or perhaps because they are just considered “damaged goods.” Today’s adolescents need to learn that the morality they have discarded as outmoded and square was designed (by God himself) for their own good and the good of their children, because in the final analysis, free love costs too much.

Premarital fidelity is the best predictor of marital fidelity. God’s law puts a hedge around sexuality so that a man and woman may rejoice when they produce a child, and that the child may flourish, growing in wisdom and in grace. Marriage is supposed to provide a nest where children can find love and security, with both male and female role models.

The modern “hook-up” stays together only as long as both parties feel like staying together. It’s commitment the makes the difference. It’s commitment that weathers the storm. Time and time again research confirms that living together prior to marriage is associated with more (not less) marital instability and ultimate divorce. The mind-set of those entering marriage versus a “hook-up” is entirely different.

Among the saddest words I have ever read are those of Pope John Paul II who speaks of children who are “orphans of living parents.” In his very disturbing, very insightful book, Fatherless America: Confronting our Most Urgent Social Problem, David Blankenhorn notes that our present culture is seeking to “normalize fatherlessness.” “Fatherlessness”, he says, “is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society.” We have unwed fathers, divorced fathers, stepfathers, sperm bank fathers, lesbian “fathers,” and so forth. As of 1990, 36.3 percent of all children in the nation lived apart from their biological fathers. The facts on fatherless kids are very disturbing.

At the same time it calls fathers unnecessary, society seeks to lure women from the home by promising careers more fulfilling than motherhood. Those women who try to “do it all” all at once are usually stretched beyond their limits. It may sometimes unfortunately be necessary to raise a child alone, but parenting is easier and works better with a partner.

The National Commission on Children reports that youngsters in single-parent homes are at much greater risk for alcoholism, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, psychiatric illness, suicide and criminal records than are those with intact families.

God says to us: Come. Love. Enjoy. The good news is that he sent his Son to tell us how to do it. We seem to have strayed far afield. Because of the precariousness of life, with or without an umbrella, into each life some rain will fall. For the sake of the children we should provide as safe a haven as we can. Ideally, each newborn child would be blessed by a mother and a father who are filled with the love of God. Such a beginning would make all the difference in the world.

God’s umbrella is given, with love, for our protection.

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What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Mark 10:9