Seeing the photo circulating of Cardinal Sarah, a man of burgeoning worldwide interest, praying the Rosary before the Ordinary Public Consistory for the recent creation of five Cardinals seems to have gone viral. Why? Perhaps because so many bishops today are seen as having lost interior devotion. Luckily not all are like this.
When I saw this photo of Robert Cardinal Sarah circulate on social media, I thought of St. Louis de Montfort’s devotional book The Secret of Mary which, I believe, echos St. Benedict:
When you follow Mary, you will not go astray; when you pray to her, you will not despair; when you think of her, you will not err; when she sustains you, you will not fall; when she protects you, you will not fear; when she leads you, you will not become tired; when she favors you, you will arrive safely.
Cardinal Sarah (and other holy cardinals) has a long journey ahead. We don’t know what the future brings but may he always go into this world of spiritual battle–now engulfing Rome–protected and strengthened by Our Lady.
Cardinal Sarah is a man known for his calmness, thoughtfulness, and his silence, yet he is wielding a most powerful weapon in his hands…a weapon most of his adversaries are likely ignoring as it gathers dust on a shelf. ☩
Groups for Catholics have been steadily springing up nationwide. Many Millennials, disenchanted by the beige, formless, and often ugly strain of Catholicism they grew up with in the 1990’s, seek to claim the full inheritance of the faith passed along to them by creating groups which celebrate the good, true, and beautiful all while having a great time. However, it seems–at least to me–that most of these groups are for men.
True, many of these men’s groups have formed as a way of countering the lopsided decades of wives and mothers being forced into the role of spiritual leader within families due to men abandoning their posts. In many ways, the men’s groups are forming simply to counter the years of spiritual apathy contracted by husbands and fathers.
That being said, there’re so many Millennial women that long for (if not already enjoying) the company of authentic Catholic women, especially when it comes to the vocations of motherhood and marriage. My wife is in one which was started at a neighboring parish and loves it. The women she is now friends with are wonderful people with wonderful families. They are diverse in backgrounds, talents, hobbies, and interests which make their weekly get-togethers interesting. Anchored around the Rosary, these morning meetings provide excellent play time for the children and an opportunity for truly engaging conversation on an endless variety of topics. The guests of the respective host are treated to fun food, coffee, laughter and more.
Women need each other, especially for mothers in a culture where motherhood is scoffed at and authentic faith is mocked. These groups are also a wonderful opportunity for children to meet quality friends whose parents you’re not wondering about when your child goes over there to play. All the people my wife has met through her group (husbands & children included) have been people I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and inviting to our home or going over to theirs. These dinners, where beer, wine, and, if things are really going well, scotch flow along with excellent, stimulating conversation. Topics on anything from smoking meat to politics, liturgy to favorite authors, philosophy to music are discussed. These are the type of interactions humans need, especially those who are seeking to live in a counter-cultural manner (as in, wanting little to do with the destructive popular culture). Without these quality interactions it can become easy for someone to feel isolated, as if they are the only person in their neighborhood who reveres true truth, beauty, and goodness and doesn’t want to discuss what happened on The Bachelor last night or what so-and-so posted on Facebook this morning.
Anyway, I got carried away, as usual. The entire point of this post was just to share an image I made up for anyone who is looking to start a group of their own (because I’m a nerd). Feel free to use it. ☩
How many of you enjoy being with your spouse? I know I cherish the moments I can do anything from the extravagant to the mundane with my wife. There’s something that can be said for just being in the same physical proximity to your spouse when you’re doing a task. Maybe we want a partner at the grocery store for no reason. Maybe we want someone to talk to when we’re cooking in the kitchen. Maybe it’s that our connected souls, joined through marriage, enjoy it when our bodies are close too.
What about when the two souls want more than just physical closeness (as described above) or intimacy (you know what I’m talking about **winks**)? What about spiritual closeness? We all know it’s good to pray for your spouse. But how many of you pray with your spouse?
“Family prayer has its own characteristic qualities. It is prayer offered in common, husband and wife together, parents and children together. Communion in prayer is both a consequence of and a requirement for the communion bestowed by the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony.”
Please set aside about 20 minutes to read this entire post. It’s longer than most TSP posts. Anyone who is engaged, married, or has a family and considers themselves Catholic should learn about Familiaris Consortio if only by reading this post. Enjoy!
So important he saw the Christian family in and its role in civilization that on November 22, 1981 he delivered one of the most important, insightful, and important Apostolic Exhortations in regard to family life ever. Familiaris Consortio, or, On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, explains clearly and beautifully the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on issues relating to marriage and family life. JPII was known for preaching about “the Domestic Church” or “the Church of the Home”, explaining how each household needs to reflect the structure and virtues of the larger universal Church. His pristine understanding of the qualities and importance of the “Domestic Church” come to a head with the unveiling of Familiaris Consortio.
Since a lot of people cannot (or choose not to) find the time to look over some of these more-important, modern-era teachings from various successors to Saint Peter, I thought I’d share the parts of Familiaris Consortio that I find most important, insightful, and inspiring. I have shaved down the original document to a fraction of the entire length so it might be easier to consume in one sitting for people. All direct quotes from Familiaris Consortio will be indented, any comments I make will be italicized text below the Familiaris Consortio passage. Bold words indicate parts I find particularly quote-worthy.
I’m going to begin with the end. If we start with JPII’s moving passage found in the document’s conclusion, it will put the rest in proper perspective.
Section 86, Paragraph 1
At the end of this Apostolic Exhortation my thoughts turn with earnest solicitude:
to you, married couples, to you, fathers and mothers of families;
to you, young men and women, the future and the hope of the Church and the world, destined to be the dynamic central nucleus of the family in the approaching third millennium;
to you, upright men and women, who for any reason whatever give thought to the fate of the family.
The future of humanity passes by way of the family.
It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.
Loving the family means being able to appreciate its values and capabilities, fostering them always. Loving the family means identifying the dangers and the evils that menace it, in order to overcome them. Loving the family means endeavoring to create for it an environment favorable for its development. The modern Christian family is often tempted to be discouraged and is distressed at the growth of its difficulties; it is an eminent form of love to give it back its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace, and in the mission that God has entrusted to it. “Yes indeed, the families of today must be called back to their original position. They must follow Christ.”
I wish to call on all Christians to collaborate cordially and courageously with all people of good will who are serving the family in accordance with their responsibilities.
And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone’s attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile.
St. Joseph was “a just man,” a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.
May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of “the Church of the home.” Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a “little Church”[…]
May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity and strength.
I entrust each family to Him, to Mary, and to Joseph. To their hands and their hearts I offer this Exhortation: may it be they who present it to you, venerable Brothers and beloved sons and daughters, and may it be they who open your hearts to the light that the Gospel sheds on every family.
Now let’s begin unpacking the wisdom contained in this Exhortation:
Part One: Bright Spots and Shadows for the Family Today
Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion.
At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.
[…] In the richer countries, on the contrary, excessive prosperity and the consumer mentality, paradoxically joined to a certain anguish and uncertainty about the future, deprive married couples of the generosity and courage needed for raising up new human life: thus life is often perceived not as a blessing, but as a danger from which to defend oneself.
There’s no doubt that JPII is no friend to communism, but isn’t it interesting how Pope Francis gets called one by some people for reflecting the exact same message? The consumerist mentality is destructive to our souls, when we put material items above faith and the souls of ourselves and others. It is the mentality that makes people afraid to have more children because they see it as competition for their incomes. We need to focus more on creating (life, beauty, etc) than consuming.
[…] science is often used against its original purpose, which is the advancement of the human person.
Part Two: The Plan of God for Marriage and the Family
The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.
This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility. […]
The only “place” in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself which only in this light manifests its true meaning. […] A person’s freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative Wisdom.
[…] the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ. The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart, and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ has loved us.
By virtue of the sacramentality of their marriage, spouses are bound to one another in the most profoundly indissoluble manner. Their belonging to each other is the real representation, by means of the sacramental sign, of the very relationship of Christ with the Church.
Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.
It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility (cf Humanae vitae, 9)
According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning.
[…] Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.
When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”
Part Three: The Role of the Christian Family
The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do.
Accordingly, the family must go back to the “beginning” of God’s creative act, if it is to attain self-knowledge and self-realization in accordance with the inner truth not only of what it is but also of what it does in history. […] Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.
[These are the] four general tasks for the family:
1) forming a community of persons;
2) serving life;
3) participating in the development of society;
4) sharing in the life and mission of the Church.
I – Forming a Community of Persons
The family, which is founded and given life by love, is a community of persons: of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives. Its first task is to live with fidelity the reality of communion in a constant effort to develop an authentic community of persons.
The gift of the Spirit is a commandment of life for Christian spouses and at the same time a stimulating impulse so that every day they may progress towards an ever richer union with each other on all levels-of the body, of the character, of the heart, of the intelligence and will, of the soul. […]
[…] As the Second Vatican Council writes: “Firmly established by the Lord, the unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of husband and wife, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love.”
[…] To all those who, in our times, consider it too difficult, or indeed impossible, to be bound to one person for the whole of life, and to those caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the commitment of spouses to fidelity, it is necessary to reconfirm the good news of the definitive nature of that conjugal love that has in Christ its foundation and strength.
The gift of the sacrament is at the same time a vocation and commandment for the Christian spouses, that they may remain faithful to each other forever, beyond every trial and difficulty, in generous obedience to the holy will of the Lord: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.
The importance of bearing witness to the “value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage” is more important now than when this was released in 1981. Holy marriage has been under a vicious attack in the past decade that JPII couldn’t even imagine when he was alive.
All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family “a school of deeper humanity”: this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.
JPII so beautifully explained that the family is to be an incubator for humanity. It is where we share our joys and get help with our sorrows. The family helps us more fully embrace our divine humanity in a way that helps us be better members of society outside of the home.
Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation.
Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. […] What human reason intuitively perceives and acknowledges is fully revealed by the word of God: the history of salvation, in fact, is a continuous and luminous testimony of the dignity of women.
Weird, I always thought the Catholic Church was perpetuating what the political liberals call “the War on Women”. But I digress with my sarcasm.
In creating the human race “male and female,” God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable rights and responsibilities proper to the human person. God then manifests the dignity of women in the highest form possible, by assuming human flesh from the Virgin Mary […] The Apostle Paul will say: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
[…] the Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value. […]
I’ve absolutely had enough of the popular “feminized” culture suggesting that a women who chooses to be a full-time mother and homemaker is somehow less “empowered” than a professional women seeking to grow her business career. The work of a mother is a sacrificial (loving) type of work that requires unmatched patience, efficiency, knowledge, and tenderness. A women who chooses to be a full-time mom is embracing their unique womanhood more than any “progressive” female could imagine.
[T]he mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home.
Okay, I guess JPII covered pretty much what I just said.
Unfortunately the Christian message about the dignity of women is contradicted by that persistent mentality which considers the human being not as a person but as a thing, as an object of trade, at the service of selfish interest and mere pleasure: the first victims of this mentality are women.
This mentality produces very bitter fruits, such as contempt for men and for women, slavery, oppression of the weak, pornography, prostitution, [etc].
The “modern woman” in American secular culture seemingly is seeking to brand themselves just as this, an object of trade that is at the service of mere pleasure. Many simply want to be seen for their sexual pleasure rather than anything else that would require time, respect, or a commitment. Why is the common narrative to women that they must suppress the things that make them uniquely women?
Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: “You are not her master,” writes St. Ambrose, “but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife…. Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.” With his wife a man should live “a very special form of personal friendship.” As for the Christian, he is called upon to develop a new attitude of love, manifesting towards his wife a charity that is both gentle and strong like that which Christ has for the Church.”
Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. […] As experience teaches, the absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships, as does, in contrary circumstances, the oppressive presence of a father, especially where there still prevails the phenomenon of “machismo,” or a wrong superiority of male prerogatives which humiliates women and inhibits the development of healthy family relationships.
A man loves, sacrifices. Current American culture has confused so many males coming into adulthood. There is a narrative that to be a real man you must be a chest-thumping tough guy that shows little emotion and there is a narrative that men must suppress any notion of masculinity in their head as it’s “discriminatory” by nature. Both of these narratives are wrong and destructive. A man’s masculinity and resolve must be matched with a tenderness and openness to love his family.
In the family […] special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights. This is true for every child, but it becomes all the more urgent the smaller the child is and the more it is in need of everything, when it is sick, suffering or handicapped.
There are cultures which manifest a unique veneration and great love for the elderly […], they continue to be present and to take an active and responsible part in family life […]; above all they carry out the important mission of being a witness to the past and a source of wisdom for the young and for the future.
Other cultures, however, especially in the wake of disordered industrial and urban development, have both in the past and in the present set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways. This causes acute suffering to them and spiritually impoverishes many families.
II – Serving Life
[I]n continuity with the living tradition of the ecclesial community throughout history, [Vatican II] and Paul VI, expressed above all in the Encyclical Humanae vitae, have handed on to our times a truly prophetic proclamation, which reaffirms and reproposes with clarity the Church’s teaching and norm, always old yet always new, regarding marriage and regarding the transmission of human life.
[…] that love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life (Humanae vitae, 11; cf. 9, 12).
The choice of the natural rhythms [rather than artificial contraception] involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self- control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity.
With deeply wise and loving intuition, Paul VI was only voicing the experience of many married couples when he wrote in his Encyclical: “To dominate instinct by means of one’s reason and free will undoubtedly requires ascetical practices, so that the affective manifestations of conjugal life may observe the correct order, in particular with regard to the observance of periodic continence. Yet this discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort, yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their offspring.
[…] As the Second Vatican Council recalled, “since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs.”
In addition to these characteristics, it cannot be forgotten that the most basic element, so basic that it qualifies the educational role of parents, is parental love, which finds fulfillment in the task of education as it completes and perfects its service of life: as well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love.
[…] Children must grow up with a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods, by adopting a simple and austere life style and being fully convinced that “man is more precious for what he is than for what he has.”
[…] The self-giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters […]
By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children. Furthermore, by praying with their children, by reading the word of God with them and by introducing them deeply through Christian initiation into the Body of Christ-both the Eucharistic and the ecclesial Body-they become fully parents, in that they are begetters not only of bodily life but also of the life that through the Spirit’s renewal flows from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
The right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed.
The State and the Church have the obligation to give families all possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. […] those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable.
But corresponding to their right, parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities.
Christian families, recognizing with faith all human beings as children of the same heavenly Father, will respond generously to the children of other families, giving them support and love not as outsiders but as members of the one family of God’s children. Christian parents will thus be able to spread their love beyond the bonds of flesh and blood, nourishing the links that are rooted in the spirit and that develop through concrete service to the children of other families, who are often without even the barest necessities.
Christian families will be able to show greater readiness to adopt and foster children who have lost their parents or have been abandoned by them. Rediscovering the warmth of affection of a family, these children will be able to experience God’s loving and provident fatherhood witnessed to by Christian parents […]
[…] With families and through them, the Lord Jesus continues to “have compassion” on the multitudes.
III – Participating in the Development of Society
“Since the Creator of all things has established the conjugal partnership as the beginning and basis of human society,” the family is “the first and vital cell of society.“
The relationships between the members of the family community are inspired and guided by the law of “free giving.” By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity.
Thus the fostering of authentic and mature communion between persons within the family is the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love.
The family is thus the place of origin and the most effective means for humanizing and personalizing society […]
[T]he Christian family is called upon to listen to the Apostle’s recommendation: “Practice hospitality,” and therefore, imitating Christ’s example and sharing in His love, to welcome the brother or sister in need: “Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
The social role of families is called upon to find expression also in the form of political intervention: families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family. Along these lines, families should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.
We cannot look at government as a solution to all of society’s problems. We must be responsible and take care of problems ourselves when possible.
[S]ociety-more specifically the State-must recognize that “the family is a society in its own original right” and so society is under a grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity.
Thus the family [often] finds itself the victim of society, of the delays and slowness with which it acts, and even of its blatant injustice.
For this reason, the Church openly and strongly defends the rights of the family against the intolerable usurpations of society and the State. In particular, the [Church] mentioned the following rights of the family:
the right to exist and progress as a family, that is to say, the right of every human being, even if he or she is poor, to found a family and to have adequate means to support it;
the right to exercise its responsibility regarding the transmission of life and to educate children; family life;
the right to the intimacy of conjugal and family life;
the right to the stability of the bond and of the institution of marriage;
the right to believe in and profess one’s faith and to propagate it;
the right to bring up children in accordance with the family’s own traditions and religious and cultural values, with the necessary instruments, means and institutions;
the right, especially of the poor and the sick, to obtain physical, social, political and economic security;
the right to housing suitable for living family life in a proper way;
the right to expression and to representation, either directly or through associations, before the economic, social and cultural public authorities and lower authorities;
the right to form associations with other families and institutions, in order to fulfill the family’s role suitably and expeditiously;
the right to protect minors by adequate institutions and legislation from harmful drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
the right to wholesome recreation of a kind that also fosters family values;
the right of the elderly to a worthy life and a worthy death;
the right to emigrate as a family in search of a better life.
IV – Sharing in the Life and Mission of the Church
[Vatican II] recalls this fact when it writes: “Families will share their spiritual riches generously with other families too. […] This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all the members of the family work together.”
[I]t is now time to illustrate [family’s] substance in reference to Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King– three aspects of a single reality-by presenting the Christian family as 1) a believing and evangelizing community, 2) a community in dialogue with God, and 3) a community at the service of man.
The absolute need for family catechesis emerges with particular force in certain situations that the Church unfortunately experiences in some places: “In places where anti-religious legislation endeavors even to prevent education in the faith, and in places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, ‘the Church of the home’ remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis.”
Animated in its own inner life by missionary zeal, the Church of the home is also called to be a luminous sign of the presence of Christ and of His love for those who are “far away,” for families who do not yet believe, and for those Christian families who no longer live in accordance with the faith that they once received. The Christian family is called to enlighten “by its example and its witness…those who seek the truth.”
[Vatican II] drew attention to the unique relationship between the Eucharist and marriage by requesting that “marriage normally be celebrated within the Mass.” […]
The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, in fact, represents Christ’s covenant of love with the Church, sealed with His blood on the Cross. In this sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant, Christian spouses encounter the source from which their own marriage covenant flows, is interiorly structured and continuously renewed.
[T]he baptismal priesthood of the faithful, exercised in the sacrament of marriage, constitutes the basis of a priestly vocation and mission for the spouses and family by which their daily lives are transformed into “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Family prayer has its own characteristic qualities. It is prayer offered in common, husband and wife together, parents and children together. Communion in prayer is both a consequence of and a requirement for the communion bestowed by the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony. The words with which the Lord Jesus promises His presence can be applied to the members of the Christian family in a special way: “[…] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, births and birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries of the parents, departures, separations and homecomings, important and far-reaching decisions, the death of those who are dear, etc.-all of these mark God’s loving intervention in the family’s history. They should be seen as suitable moments for thanksgiving, for petition, for trusting abandonment of the family into the hands of their common Father in heaven.
The concrete example and living witness of parents is fundamental and irreplaceable in educating their children to pray. Only by praying together with their children can a father and mother-exercising their royal priesthood-penetrate the innermost depths of their children’s hearts and leave an impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface.
Not only do our children need to see us pray, we need to pray with our children. Even before they know what prayer is, when they are infants, we should be praying as we hold them, feed them, play with them. It wraps the soul of a child around the soul of the parent in petition to Christ where, for that moment, the Lord is able to penetrate the hearts of the family. Do not be ashamed or bashful of prayer with your children!
Apart from morning and evening prayers, certain forms of prayer are to be expressly encouraged, such as reading and meditating on the word of God, preparation for the reception of the sacraments, devotion and consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the various forms of veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grace before and after meals, and observance of popular devotions.
[…] We now desire to recommend strongly the recitation of the family rosary…. There is no doubt that… the rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite. We like to think, and sincerely hope, that when the family gathering becomes a time of prayer the rosary is a frequent and favored manner of praying.” In this way authentic devotion to Mary, which finds expression in sincere love and generous imitation of the Blessed Virgin’s interior spiritual attitude, constitutes a special instrument for nourishing loving communion in the family and for developing conjugal and family spirituality. For she who is the Mother of Christ and of the Church is in a special way the Mother of Christian families, of domestic Churches.
Family life must be willingly under the motherly watch of the Blessed Virgin, mother to us all.
[T]he Christian family’s actual participation in the Church’s life and mission is in direct proportion to the fidelity and intensity of the prayer with which it is united with the fruitful vine that is Christ the Lord.
The fruitfulness of the Christian family in its specific service to human advancement, which of itself cannot but lead to the transformation of the world, derives from its living union with Christ, nourished by Liturgy, by self-oblation and by prayer.
Another task for the family is to form persons in love and also to practice love in all its relationships, so that it does not live closed in on itself, but remains open to the community, moved by a sense of justice and concern for others, as well as by a consciousness of its responsibility towards the whole of society.
Part Four: Pastoral Care of the Family
[P]astoral intervention of the Church in support of the family is a matter of urgency.
[T]he celebration of marriage-inserted into the liturgy [and] must be per se valid, worthy and fruitful.
[…] No plan for organized pastoral work, at any level, must ever fail to take into consideration the pastoral care of the family.
The apostolate of the family will also become wider through works of spiritual and material charity towards other families, especially those most in need of help and support, towards the poor, the sick, the old, the handicapped, orphans, widows, spouses that have been abandoned, unmarried mothers and mothers-to-be in difficult situations who are tempted to have recourse to abortion, and so on.
“[T]he modern life style- especially in the more industrialized nations-all too often causes families to abandon their responsibility to educate their children. Evasion of this duty is made easy for them by the presence of television and certain publications in the home, and in this way they keep their children’s time and energies occupied.” Hence “the duty. . .to protect the young from the forms of aggression they are subjected to by the mass media,” and to ensure that the use of the media in the family is carefully regulated. Families should also take care to seek for their children other forms of entertainment that are more wholesome, useful and physically, morally and spiritually formative, “to develop and use to advantage the free time of the young and direct their energies.”
[P]arents as recipients must actively ensure the moderate, critical, watchful and prudent use of the media, by discovering what effect they have on their children and by controlling the use of the media in such a way as to “train the conscience of their children to express calm and objective judgments, which will then guide them in the choice or rejection of programs available .
A difficult problem is that of the family which is ideologically divided. […] Although the party faithful to Catholicism cannot give way, dialogue with the other party must always be kept alive. Love and respect must be freely shown, in the firm hope that unity will be maintained.
There are increasing cases of Catholics who for ideological or practical reasons, prefer to contract a merely civil marriage, and who reject or at least defer religious marriage. Their situation cannot of course be likened to that of people simply living together without any bond at all, because in the present case there is at least a certain commitment to a properly-defined and probably stable state of life, even though the possibility of a future divorce is often present in the minds of those entering a civil marriage. By seeking public recognition of their bond on the part of the State, such couples show that they are ready to accept not only its advantages but also its obligations. Nevertheless, not even this situation is acceptable to the Church.
The aim of pastoral action will be to make these people understand the need for consistency between their choice of life and the faith that they profess, and to try to do everything possible to induce them to regularize their situation in the light of Christian principle. While treating them with great charity and bringing them into the life of the respective communities, the pastors of the Church will regrettably not be able to admit them to the sacraments.
This brings us to the end of what I think are the most important parts of Familiaris Consortio. I won’t force you to read any more words after that long post, so I will finish with this: please comment your favorite parts or thoughts in general. Thank you for reading and please share this post with other people!
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
-Venerable Fulton Sheen
Fulton Sheen is correct in the oft-quoted statement above. Lack of understanding damages the Church’s image with non-Catholics. This lack of understanding is due to our own lack of understanding though. If less Catholics joylessly ‘went through the motions’ in their daily life, our Christian brothers and sisters would have more people to answer their questions and provide more witness to positive examples of Catholic life.