Wednesday, October 22, 2014

St. John Paul II: Heavenly Friend of Families

The other evening, I received a very beautiful email from a friend of mine.  She and her husband, both working professionals and dedicated Catholics, are doing the hard work of raising their children in the Catholic Faith.  In her email, she expressed disappointment that the focus of all the news stories about the Synod on Families had little to offer Catholic husbands and wives who every day do the hard work of raising their children in the Catholic Faith.  The email, in its eloquence and simplicity, reminded me that married couples who are trying to live the fullness of Catholic teaching, do so heroically in a culture that opposes them at every turn.  Bishops and priests need to remember the heroism of these persons and encourage them.  We need to be careful not to undermine them by making their witness more difficult.

In many ways, our culture makes faithful Catholic families feel at best, like anachronistic imbeciles and, at worst, like hateful bigots.  To say that one thinks marriage is a life-long union between one man and one woman is denounced as being bigoted and judgmental.  I hear from people all of the time who say that just saying that they go to Mass on Sunday can unleash a firestorm of criticism.  These are not people who are wearing signs that say, "If you don't go to Mass on Sundays, you're going to Hell."  These are just people who might mention that they were at Mass last Sunday.  That alone suffices for them to be subjected to humiliation.

Tell your children that they can't miss Mass on Sunday in order to go on a little league trip and you are considered a nut.  Couples struggling through a difficult moment in their marriage are surrounded by people who say, "Don't stay in the marriage if you're not happy.  Get out and find someone else while you are still young enough."  Raising your family Catholic in today's culture is a struggle.  

The Church needs to be careful not to cut the legs out from these good people.  They are providing a commendable and necessary witness to the Truth about marriage and family.  But, they are doing so at a cost.  It can be tiring.  At a moment when what the Church teaches about marriage and family is roundly mocked by the culture, these witnesses can feel a bit alone.  They can feel like they are in a desolate outpost without much support.  They can feel like the Church sent them off into battle and then cut off their supply lines.

Sometimes faithful Catholic spouses are accused of being "culture warriors."  But, my experience is that these "warriors" are simply men and women who are just trying to follow the Gospel.  They go to the supermarket and, because they have more than three children in tow, they are subjected to mockery by strangers.  They go to Mass on Sundays and are accused of thinking they're better than everyone else.  They go to the supermarket to buy food.   They're not there in order to fight the culture war.  But, because of their fidelity to the Church, they become targets of a culture that is at war with the Gospel.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. John Paul II.  He was close to families.  He lived a friendship with lay people.  He encouraged them and taught them how to live the fullness of married life.  He understood that the family is the necessary and irreplaceable building block of society and of the Church.  As we honor St. John Paul today and seek his intercession, I want to tell Catholic families that feel discouraged by the news reports surrounding the Synod that St. John Paul is close to you. The Church is close to you.  You are not alone.  Even if news reports about the Synod of Families has left you feeling somewhat abandoned, forgotten, or isolated, you are not alone.  Never become discouraged!  

In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, St. John Paul II wrote: "At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God" (Familiaris Consortio 3).

To those of you who are striving to live the married vocation, remember that St. John Paul II saw you and your mission as necessary to the well-being of society and of the Church.  St. John Paul is counting on you.  And, he's praying for you. Keep up the good work!

1 comment:

  1. I can't help but think of a 1958 book called The Naked Communist. Among some of the 45 goals listed for undermining America are:
    26) Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as "normal, natural, healthy."
    27) Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with "social" religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a "religious crutch."
    28) Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of "separation of church and state."
    40) Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity, masturbation and easy divorce.
    41) Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.