Fruitfulness and Joy

One of the perks of my job, if you will, is that most of the time I get to hear excellent homilies related to marriage and family life types of things. Every once in a while, I'll be listening to a homily that a priest or deacon has prepared for a group of engaged couples and come to the realization that he isn't talking to the engaged couples, but he is talking to me.

This recently happened in January, with a newly ordained (less than a year) priest giving a homily. As I listened, at the end of a very long day for both of us, I was listening to the homily and thinking to myself: "This is good, but not the direction *I* would have gone with this." And then he gets to the last line and I realize, it was one of those times when he wasn't talking to the engaged couples, but he was talking directly to me. After Mass, he said something about not being 100% pleased with his homily and I told him I thought it was good. He didn't ease up on himself, so I finally said: "It's because you thought you were talking to the engaged couples, but you weren't. You were talking to me."

So, what did this priest say?

One, simple little line, that shook me as if there had been an earthquake:

The Latin word for "fruit" is the same as the Latin word for "joy". 

There had been some lead up to this about fruitfulness, that I admit to not remembering well now, but as I sat there, I had to fight the tears back, not because I thought this was an insensitive thing to say, but rather because I felt like so much made sense now that didn't before.

You see, part of my struggle with infertility is wondering why it hurts so badly. While there are so many reasons, there are times when this is all I can think/pray/cry about and to date nothing quite provided an answer that was satisfactory. Why does the absence of something hurt so badly? I'm not quite sure I can put into words this question and give it the full explanation of the emotions and disquiet behind it.

What I can say is that upon hearing that phrase, The Latin word for "fruit" is the same as the latin word for "joy.", gave me, for the first time an answer that started to make some sense.

As an infertile woman, I lack the fruit of my womb. I lack the joy of my womb. I lack joy.

This made so much sense, and while the tears were those of sadness, they were also those of deep understanding, of "now I see." They were the kind of tears that soothe and heal, all while increasing the wound.

Sitting in front of a chapel full of engaged couples, I had to quickly hide those tears and prepare to move on to the next thing. But those words, they stayed with me, each beat of my heart saying "yes! yes! this is part of the sorrow."

As the weekend continued and ended, I was still so touched by those words and I started to do a little bit of research to see if I could understand these two words better. Only, I kept getting tripped up and so I emailed the priest asking for some help (I was getting tripped up on the word joy, because I knew of only "gaudium" to mean "joy" and that was all google was giving me as well.). And here is what he sent back to me (I had already explained that his homily had touched me and why) - be sure to read the part I have bolded (it is my emphasis, not his):

Ok... this is a bit of etymology.  

Gaudium means "rejoice".  It also has variants, but most often in Ecclesiastical Latin it is translated as "rejoice".  The Latin language, like English, has many words that include the concept of "joy".  

Frui - comes from Latin frūctus meaning enjoyment, profit, fruit, and is equivalent to frūg-,  which is a variant stem of fruī  meaning to enjoy the produce of + -tus  suffix of v. action.

With this understanding, the phrase "fruit of thy womb" has a fuller meaning to include the act of experiencing joy as a result of bearing a child.  

Hope this helps.  I can elaborate a little more but I didn't want to be too esoteric. 

As I read the words, the same experience happened all over again - the tears that soothed and healed while increasing the wound. They verified the exact emotion I'd had when I first heard them in the homily, and now the longer explanation only confirmed.

And while this all may seem very depressing and just one more reminder of how awful infertility really is, for me it was validation.

Validation that these tears and this pain, that I can be very hard on myself for experiencing and that I question if it really hurst this bad or if I'm just being a wuss, are real. That a lack of something, specifically a lack of fertility, a lack of the ability to bear a child, results in a lack of joy as well.

I've written before about how I have to remember that God has incredible things planned for us. Incredible things, yes, that is His promise, but not necessarily in this life, for it is not this life for which we are made. Nowhere are we promised joy and peace in this life. It is a gift, one that we cannot earn nor deserve and to not experience it is not a punishment, rather a consequence of our fallen world.

And when the gift of the fruit of the womb is denied time and again, so too is the joy that would come as a result.

The challenge for me is to realize that the lack of this particular joy, while valid and painful, need not lead to missing out on all of the other joys in my life.

Or perhaps, the even greater challenge is to find joy in His promise and allow that joy to bear fruit in my life. To allow the sorrow I experience from infertility, the sorrow of my womb, to bring life to those around me. To remember that it is mystical fertility that matters more than physical fertility. To remember that the most life-giving action in the world came as a result of pain, suffering and sorrow, for the only fertility that matters is the fecundity of the cross.

Yes, fruitfulness is joyful. But sorrow and suffering can and should be fruitful as well, and therefore it is from my sorrow that I will, someday find joy.


  1. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for Sharing!

  2. I don't think I've ever heard that before, but it's true. Fruit is joyful, and lack of that is painful. I do think that you are hitting on something even more important in reversing that. Joy is fruitful. Whatever else happens if we can find that joy there is fruit there. Maybe it won't feel like that much in the here and now, but I have no doubt that it will mean something big in eternity.

  3. Thank you so much for this.

  4. I'm glad you wrote about this, because I would have never known fruit = joy! But it makes so much sense. And I like Catholic Mutt's reflection too: Joy is fruitful. Wonderful!! This line stood out the most: "It is a gift, one that we cannot earn nor deserve and to not experience it is not a punishment, rather a consequence of our fallen world." So true. And realizing this is half the battle. Thanks for such an on-point reflection!

  5. Sometimes I cannot help but regret some of the shallowness of the English language - only one word for love (unlike Latin, with its shades of meaning) and now this connection between fruitfulness and joy. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Wow. This is awesome. I've never heard that before. If this makes sense, I think this connection actually helps me understand fruitfulness and spiritual motherhood more than I have before. Also, I've been thinking a lot (today... since I started reading this this morning, read it on my lunch break, and am just now commenting) about how this connects to offering your "first fruits" to God. Definitely something to keep thinking about...

  7. I get what you are saying but it can be difficult to put into practice or into everyday thinking. I wish I could be joyful about my IF which I know would bear fruit in that others. Right now I just push it under the rug, live my life and find joy in other things...but not in my IF. Maybe that is something I just need to work on. How would that look? Hmmm....

    1. You may find joy here on earth, but it may not be until heaven that you find joy. From our sorrow of infertility - from anything that is a struggle here on earth - we are sanctified and that leads us to heaven, which is where we will find joy.

      It was Jesus' wounds that shone with the most glory in His resurrected Body, and so too will it be for us - that which causes us the most pain and sorrow here on earth will be that which brings the most glory in heaven.

      While some of us have physical scars from infertility, we all have scars/wounds - in both our hearts and our wombs, and so I think it will be our hearts and wombs that shine with the most glory in heaven.

      (Please take this with as much worth as a description of heaven from someone still on earth should be taken...)

    2. I have heard from others that my joy may not come until I get to heaven before...I do like the way you put it...that my scars of IF will shine in heaven. However, I'm still on earth...and it is hard to remember that while I am still a conscious human with feelings it's very difficult to not want "joy" now. It's hard to keep the perspective that my IF is for the greater good of my soul. I'm pretty sure IF and not being a mother won't matter in heaven...it's all about how I lived the earthly life God gave me. So much to ponder...good stuff.

    3. None of it is easy - that is for sure! I lose this perspective, that we are not made for this life, all the time - and my blog is even titled to remind me of it!
      I think it's why I constantly come back to this topic - to remind myself because it is such a hard thing to "get." I recently told someone "I'm too human for my own good." How true that is.
      Prayers for you as you ponder :).

  8. This is a wonderful reflection!

  9. This is good! I'm grappling with a potential miscarriage where the joy/fruit of my womb could quickly turn into pain--but this is a reminder to not numb out, something deeper is happening here. Thanks for sharing Rebecca!

  10. Soooooooo good. Sometimes we just need to be validated in our pain. That is the paradox of infertility and of the cross, through our sorrow hopefully we can bring joy to others. Thank u.