The ways of Divine Providence are unfathomable to people without Faith. It seems unfair that those who do everything to be faithful and upright can experience rough and disproportional trials. This apparent contradiction occurred in the case of a pious family with nine children. A fire destroyed their home and left them in dire straits. It only served to strengthen their Faith.
David Goodwin and his family live in Wynnum in the Brisbane area of Australia. They are very conservative and follow the traditional doctrine of the Church in everything. The couple strives to teach their numerous offspring to follow the same path. Nine of their children survived, four did not. They dress with Christian modesty. The household has no television, video games, smartphones, tablets or personal music devices. Nor are their cell phones connected to social networks.
David, a 43-year-old doctor, is staunchly against abortion and other modern world aberrations. Belinda affirms that modern communications devices damage family life and moral development. The couple is committed to resisting the pressure to bring electronic devices into their home.
Belinda places great emphasis on the fact that the family does not have a television. This eliminates many evil influences, making the children more open to their parents’ moral instruction. She adds that “the children don’t see many of the immoral ways people live and, instead, spend their most formative years being instructed by us in what is right and wrong.”
Many people don’t realize that before all these modern devices existed, people lived very well by enjoying family life and the company of those around them. The children, generally numerous, were very close and practically self-sufficient. Thus, the Goodwin children happily accept these apparent limitations, despite contrary peer pressure from their schoolmates. The children actually enjoy each other’s company. The biggest discipline issue in the Goodwin home is that the children stay up too late talking to each other.
Some might ask how these children employ their time without modern devices. They engage in many activities. They study, play the violin, dance, participate in a rugby league, debate and do other after-school activities. Belinda said that they spend their free time reading, playing outside, playing games, reading or simply talking with each other.
The children develop excellent reading habits, now disappearing, especially among youth. Reading keeps them entertained and helps their education. The Goodwins keep a home library with a great selection of books. Handpicked books do not corrupt young people’s Faith and morals. Good books entertain them and form their character.
The most important part of their formation is religious. The entire family attends Mass, prays a daily family Rosary, regularly participates in the sacrament of confession and visits Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
All is done with balance. The older children have email addresses, as these are necessary for their schoolwork. None of the children use social media, except for Tom, who finished school.
These conscientious parents teach their children to be strong, show leadership and speak up for what is right, even when no one else does. Belinda recognizes her responsibility to provide an example for the children, “from the way I dress to the way I speak, to the way I stand up for the issues that count.”
Belinda routinely prays for God’s will in her life and that life of her family, knowing that doing God’s holy will is the surest key to happiness. She freely acknowledges that the strength to be a mother and wife lies firmly in Christ and Our Blessed Mother Mary and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church. For her, the goal of parenting is simple—getting their children to heaven.
This Catholic upbringing yields results. Seventeen-year-old Thomas, the eldest, is an example to the other children. He has developed into a man of character and strong morals that makes his parents proud. He attends Mass, goes to confession during the week, and joins the family on Sundays. Thomas completed schooling at Brisbane Christian College and now works and studies liberal arts. Like his siblings, he prays the rosary every day.
The family home overlooked the shore on picturesque Waterloo Esplanade.
It all started around 2:15 p.m. on a calm September evening. Mrs. Goodwin was resting in her room while eight of nine of her children enjoyed a day off without school, having fun together. Five of them were in an adjoining room. The two younger girls were with their mother while an older boy was praying the rosary in the basement. Dr. Goodwin and his eldest son were at work.
Suddenly, the children noticed a fire in the wall separating the two upstairs rooms. Frightened, they ran to awaken their mother. When Belina walked into the next room, she saw that the fire was spreading. She grabbed the youngest children and told the others to hurry down the stairs toward the street. By the time she took the children across the road, the whole second floor was gone.
Within minutes, they were left with the clothes they were wearing and two pairs of shoes as the children were playing barefoot.
Dr. Goodwin was attending a meeting in the city when he received a call from his daughter saying that the house was on fire. His first reaction was to tell his daughter to count the children and then count them again. He called her back a half dozen times and asked her to ensure that all were safe. When he called his son, he also asked him to get home and count everyone to make sure all were safe.
Upon arriving home, the afflicted father commented, “You walk down the street and on one side is the house, the house is burning, and on the other side is your family. In a split second, you see what’s really important.”
The family lost many things in the fire—beloved family heirlooms, jewelry, clothes, books, hairbrushes, school bags, uniforms, shoes, violins, electronics, phones and credit cards.
The Hand of Providence
It is said that Divine Providence destroys with one hand but supports with the other. Since those in the area highly esteem the Goodwin family, a groundswell of community support overwhelmed them. Within hours, the people of Wynnum, the Catholic community and other families provided a mountain of useful goods: couches, refrigerators and other materials. The local ballet school re-knitted all the ballet uniforms. The school took care of uniforms and lunchboxes, books and bags, and the music teacher organized violins for the budding musicians.
Her community’s response to their needs deeply moved Mrs. Goodwin. She marveled that people with little of their own would give so much.
The fire deepened the children’s Faith. The entire family spent an extra hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
After the fire, the Goodwins went to Toowoomba to visit David’s family for Christmas. David commented that this Christmas, they remembered the poverty of the Holy Family. Throughout their lives, he reflected, God provided for Joseph and Mary. They had to step out in Faith constantly. David drew many lessons from the fire, rejecting the materialism of modern life. The fire was a “fresh reminder of what really counts.”
In other words, one must live as a good Catholic, confident that God does provide.
And so it was for the Goodwins. Three weeks later, the family found a house for rent suitable for nine children.
Photo Credit: © Анри Гор — stock.adobe.com
Family of 11 escapes house fire by the grace of God by Joe Higgins. December 25, 2021 https://catholicleader.com.au/news/qld/family-of-11-escapes-house-fire-by-the-grace-of-god/
“Esta familia de 9 hijos escapó del incendio de su casa: una gran lección magistral de la Providencia” by J.L. / ReL 11 enero 2022. https://www.religionenlibertad.com/vida_familia/567372339/familia-goodwin-hijos-incendio-providencia.html