When I get in touch with Rosa Pich by Skype during Holy Week, I discover that she is on holiday with 12 of her children in Torreciudad, a shrine dedicated to Our Lady in northern Spain. “We are trying to return to normal life,” she says, following the death of her husband, Chema, of liver cancer little more than a month earlier. “We have cried a lot, we have prayed a lot, but life continues,” she says. “I have come to see that when God gives you a cross to carry, he always gives you the grace you need to bear it.”

Rosa is a supernumerary member of Opus Dei and is the ninth of 16 siblings. Chema Postigo, who also belonged to Opus Dei, came from a family of 14. They got married young and aspired to have a family as large as those they came from. Their first child, however, was born with a congenital heart defect and was not expected to survive for long (although she actually lived till the age of 22). The second and third children died in infancy. It was then that a doctor advised the couple not to have any more children.

But after much prayer and discernment they decided against this advice. “Nobody other than the spouses should enter the marriage bed,” she explains, “not the doctor, or one’s mother or mother-in-law, or the priest.” Rosa and Chema resolved not to give up on their dream of a large family and went on to have 15 more children, all alive to this day, aged now from 25 down to seven. They became the parents of Spain’s largest family and have appeared in documentaries in several countries including one made by the BBC.

How did they manage? They lived in an apartment in Barcelona with five bedrooms: two for boys, two for girls and one for the couple. In one of the boys’ rooms, there is a four-level bunk bed and another two-level bunk bed with a spare bed for guests, since their children are positively encouraged to bring their friends home to play and to stay the night.

Each of the older children is assigned a younger sibling to look after, ensuring that they make their bed, eat enough, do their homework, clear their toys and get their clothes ready for the next day. Chores in the house are distributed monthly according to a schedule which is agreed by all. This allowed Chema to have a full-time job and Rosa to work part time in the mornings, while they spent many weekends travelling the world to help other couples make their families a success through a programme developed by the Family Development Foundation (FDF).

Rosa’s daily schedule entails getting up early to go to Mass, then on to work as a sales executive in a textile firm, getting back home for lunch. Meanwhile, the children help each other to get up, have breakfast, and travel to school and university.

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