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Evangelii Gaudium Part 9

Posted Mar. 10, 2015 by DOM 1 comment

EG-quote-Oxford-bg
Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #9
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

Culture, Thought and Education (paragraphs 132-134)
            Pope Francis writes that “Proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles” (no. 132). It may be tempting to leave the towers of academia untouched by our missionary efforts, but this would be a mistake.  Pope Francis encourages us to develop a “creative apologetics”; a way of demonstrating the interaction of faith and reason and particularly the question of credibility.

St John Paul II wrote an encyclical about Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio) in 1998. In it, he pointed out that, “the desire for truth is part of human nature itself” (no. 3). There is a certain sense in which this desire for truth is played out in a particularly strong way in “intellectual” circles. There is an almost- separate culture to academia or the professional and scientific world, which means that there is likewise a particular way of sharing the Gospel with those in them. Every authentic culture is open to revelation. As John Paul II put it, “This simple statement contains a great truth: faith’s encounter with different cultures has created something new” (no. 70). Christians who are immersed in professional, scientific and academic circles have a unique calling to call forth the desire for truth from their colleagues and to challenge any assumptions that are in conflict with it.

One of the most simple, yet eloquent ways of living the Gospel in a professional context is showing by one’s life that one’s family takes precedence over professional achievement or monetary gain. A priest who is one of many children told the following story: One day as a teenager, he accompanied his father to the hospital where his father worked, and noted the many BMWs and Lexus’s in the parking lot.  He asked whether his dad was embarrassed driving a clunky van—his dad replied that his family was far more important to him than his car. This man’s faith and priority on family is a concrete witness within a professional context.

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World Meeting of Families Catechesis Series: Chapter Five

Posted Mar. 3, 2015 by DOM 1 comment

Roder-WMOFWorld Meeting of Families Catechesis Series
The USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth is excited about the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) being held in Philadelphia in September 2015.  We are presenting a series of short articles focused on the WMOF Catechesis Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive and its implications for our daily lives. We will follow the timing suggested by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by exploring one theme each month leading up to the World Meeting.

 Parenting with the Strength of God
Tim Roder
Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

“Parenting is demanding” (no. 79). I don’t know anyone who would disagree with this statement. In fact a typical response, even from an adolescent, would be, “No kidding!” As a parent (father), of many children, the word “demanding” often seems like an understatement. Parenting is not for the faint of heart, nor is marriage. Marriage and children are great gifts, and can bring untold joy, yet they do not come without their challenges. St. Francis de Sales wrote: “The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other: it is a perpetual exercise of mortification.” Of course I do not want to dis-sway anyone from getting married and having children, but I think it is good to be aware before going into it. Before you get married, you should humbly recognize that you and your future spouse cannot make marriage work all on our own, but instead see that “with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). Christian marriage and family life is about being open to “God’s grace in daily life … even in the midst of fatigue and domestic chaos” (no. 79). It is indeed in those very moments, of the ordinary, mundane, little, and the seemingly insignificant circumstances of life, that we as parents are able to experience “divine love” in a way that is unparalleled.

My wife and I had two children, and greatly desired another. After several months of “trying,” we were elated with the wonderful news that my wife was pregnant. This elation was soon replaced with intense anxiety from numerous threats of miscarriage. My wife was put on bed rest for the first three months because that seemed to be the only way to maintain the pregnancy. It was a stressful time for me, balancing care for her and our two young boys, keeping the house relatively clean, and working full time. But all of this became grace-filled. Those months, and others like them, served as a constant reminder to me and my wife that, as St. Paul taught, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). I found myself often meditating on the preceding verse, “My grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). I knew that I could not do it on my own. As an imperfect parent I certainly “need help and strength from God, family, parish, and friends” (no. 80). My wife and I received this aid through great outpourings in the least expected ways, from meals to babysitting to—my favorite—friends who cleaned our home for us. These memories are treasures we share with our children and hope they pass on to theirs. How will you allow your domestic routine and life be “places were the Spirit shines through” (no. 80)?

Eventually my wife was taken off bed rest, the pregnancy progressed nicely and we were blessed with the birth of our third son—who had to be induced, somewhat ironically, two weeks past his due date.

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A Dialogue on Marriage: Part Three

Posted Jan. 23, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Dialogue-Part-ThreeThis is Part Three of a Six-Part series on the question, “What is Marriage?” Please check out parts one and two before this!

Socrates: So Bob, have you had a chance to think about what we talked about last time?
Bob: Yes, I have, and I realized that you are missing a really important fact.
Socrates:  I am?
Bob: Yes. You are presenting the ideal. I’m talking about what’s real. There are a lot of children who, for lots of reasons, can’t be raised by their biological mother and father.
Socrates:  I know that.
Bob: Well if that’s true, then it means that we have to accept the reality of the situation and try to do something good for the child, even if it is not ideal.
Socrates:  You’re right. What are you proposing?
Bob: One of the ways we can help children is by allowing a same-sex couple to adopt them, thus creating a family.
Socrates:  That’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it?
Bob: What do you mean?
Socrates:  I mean that you looked compassionately at a tragic situation that many children find themselves in, and then jumped to a “solution” that doesn’t actually meet the need that they are experiencing.
Bob: I’m sorry; I still don’t quite follow you.
Socrates:  Let’s say that a child is born to a mother and a father, who are both subsequently killed in a car accident. There is no other family, and the child is placed under the care of the state. That seems like the worst thing that can happen to the child, right?
Bob: Right. Even losing just one parent is terribly traumatic for a child.
Socrates:  Exactly. So what has the child lost, when his or her parent dies?
Bob: The child has lost the real-life connection to and support of his or her mother and father; a relationship that should have guided the child into adulthood.
Socrates:  Right. Like we talked about last time, a child would miss not just the functions that a mom and dad serve; he or she would miss the relationship to a person of each sex who relate to the child in a unique way, as well as the chance to observe the mom and dad relating to each other.
Bob: Yes, that’s right.
Socrates:  Can you see how your solution—allowing two persons of the same sex to adopt—does not solve this problem?
Bob: You mean because the child will still be missing either a mom or a dad?
Socrates:  Precisely.
Bob: I guess you’re right, but the child is still missing his or her own mom and dad, no matter what adoptive situation comes up. I don’t think it’s that big of a difference to the child whether he or she is adopted by a man and a woman or two people of the same sex, as long as the child is loved.
Socrates:  It is true that an adopted child usually loses a real-life connection to their biological parents (at least most of the time) and that’s sad, no matter what happens next.
Bob: Adoption is always a response to a non-ideal situation—to a need or a deprivation experienced. Is that what you mean?
Socrates: Yes. But when the child is adopted by a married mother and father, he or she will still be given a concrete and living relationship with both a mom and a dad. They will still experience those different relationships and be able to observe the relationship between the parents as a model.
Bob: But there are plenty of children who are adopted or being raised by single parents who do just fine .
Socrates:  The question of single parenthood is an interesting one and actually distinct from the question of adoption by two persons of the same sex. Perhaps we can take it up again at another time.

FAQ: Why is a child meant to have both a father and a mother?

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Evangelii Gaudium, Marriage and Family

Posted Jan. 20, 2015 by DOM 1 comment

 

EG series temp-01Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason. This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

A Church Which Goes Forth
God calls His people to go forth, to proclaim the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. We do not go as slaves in drudgery, but as Jesus’ friends in joy and peace. “The Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy” (no. 21). A soul set free by Christ is enlivened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim His message; we see this all over the Gospels, from the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) to the man born blind (John 9).

In one of his homilies, the Holy Father noted, “The great Paul VI said that you cannot advance the Gospel with sad, hopeless, discouraged Christians. You cannot… Often Christians behave as if they were going to a funeral procession rather than to praise God, no? And this joy comes from praise…” We are called to be people of praise, and thus of joy. Our joy should be catching.

Pope Francis continues, “An evangelizing community gets involved in word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others” (no. 24). Where is this seen the most? In the family.

Family as the domestic Church, rooted in the Sacrament of Marriage, is a primary evangelizing community. In this two-become-one-flesh relationship, each of the spouses in a sense evangelizes the other, but as a communion, the two together evangelize their family. Think first of the way that moms and dads love their children. Is there any better example of an evangelizing community?

1. It bridges distances: The distance between generations is bridged by the love of parents for their children, and for their children’s children, and so forth. Wisdom is passed on, guidance offered.

2. It is willing to abase itself: Any parent could offer numerous stories of times where they have humbly submitted to their lack of control over their child’s behavior. Parents who refuse to take credit for their children’s good behavior, talents or abilities, but instead are content to allow their child to shine.

3. It embraces human life: Children are lovingly welcomed into the family by a mother and a father. Whether through conception, adoption, foster care, or even simple hospitality, the home of a husband and wife is open to others.

4. It touches the suffering flesh of Christ in others: Before any other experience of human care and compassion, the infant receives all he or she needs from mother and father. From the first cold to broken bones, to even mental illness or addiction, parents are the first responders to the suffering of their children.

And as for taking on “the smell of the sheep” (no. 24) … need any more be said?

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A Dialogue on Marriage: Part One

Posted Jan. 19, 2015 by DOM 6 comments

Dialogue-Part-One-no-rainbowWhat is Marriage?

All of the talk about marriage hinges on this question; often, when we ask it simply and directly, the answer is halting, hesitant, and surprising.  When we ask a question like this, we should try to approach it with genuine curiosity and a willingness to try to figure out the truth.  Socrates, for one, was always asking questions in order to help others come to understanding. So let’s try approaching marriage with this form of philosophical questioning in mind.

Socrates: What is marriage?
Bob: It’s when you love someone and commit to live together and have a family.
Socrates: A man loves his mother, lives with her and is family with her: is that a marriage?Bob: No, no—marriage is when you love someone you’re not related to, and then you choose to become related.
Socrates:  Like adopting a child?
Bob: No, not like adoption.  The person you love is another adult.
Socrates:  What do you mean by love?
Bob: A close, intimate relationship whereby you desire to unite with the other person completely; you share a home with that person; you want to have a family together.
Socrates:  Oh, then you must mean a man and a woman.
Bob: No, I didn’t say that. A man and a man could do the same thing.
Socrates:  How?
Bob: Two men or two women could love each other just like a man and a woman can.  They can care for the other person before themselves, share deep communication, and adopt children together.
Socrates: Oh I thought you said that they unite “completely” and that they have a family “together.”
Bob: I did.
Socrates: But two men or two women cannot physically unite completely; it is impossible.  Likewise, they cannot have children because they do not have the capacity.
Bob: Don’t be so crass.  The two people can express their love sexually, that’s all I meant.
Socrates:  But that’s not what you said. You said that married people unite completely. Now you’re saying that they only unite mostly—financially, socially. In which case, I’m not sure why that relationship should be considered special compared to other relationships. You can unite that way with many people; there’s no reason for friendship to be exclusive. Also, what about two sisters living together and taking care of a younger sibling with special needs? Are they married?
Bob: No, the point is that there are two adults in a sexual relationship who commit to live together and have a family together.
Socrates: Oh, so what’s crucial for marriage, you say, is that the two people are in a sexual relationship of some committed kind, though not a kind that necessarily brings about a union of their bodies. How do they have a family, by the way?
Bob: Often, one of the two people has children from another relationship.
Socrates:  From a relationship with someone from the other sex…
Bob: Yes. Or the couple can adopt. Or they can go through the process of third-party reproduction.
Socrates:  In which case, the child would not have a parent of one sex or the other.
Bob: All a child needs is two people who love them.  It doesn’t matter what sex they are.
Socrates:  But you would agree that every child has a biological mother and father, correct?Bob: Yes, I agree with that. That’s a simple fact.
Socrates: Are a father and a mother exactly the same? Are they interchangeable?Bob: Well…no, not exactly.  They do seem to interact with children differently and there is more research out there now (http://www.paulraeburn.com/books/do-fathers-matter/) showing how important fathers are to the development of children.
Socrates: (Silence)
Bob: Okay, I will think about this more. But I don’t think parenting qualities or skills is the issue. Let’s talk about that next time.

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World Meeting of Families 2015 Catechesis Series

Posted Nov. 6, 2014 by DOM 2 comments

The USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth is excited about the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) being held in Philadelphia in September 2015.  We are presenting a series of short articles focused on the WMOF Catechesis Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive and its implications for our daily lives. We will follow the timing suggested by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by exploring one theme each month leading up to the World Meeting.

Introduction
Sara Perla, Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

The WMF Catechesis begins with a quote from Pope St. John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis.  It begins with one of those classic pull-outs: “Man cannot live without love.” It is so simple, deceivingly so, and striking. Man cannot live without love. Why not? This must mean that every person in the world is loved. Pope Benedict XVI echoed this when he said, “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Pope Francis tweeted: “The love of God is not generic. God looks with love upon every man and woman, calling them by name.” This forms the basis for all of our discussions about the family, the place in which we are brought into being. We are loved; not only by our parents but most fundamentally by God. We have come into this world not for anyone else’s sake, but for our own. We are loved, because we are.

On a subjective and experiential level, though, we also need to know love. As Pope St. John Paul II continues, “He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

I have been pretty spoiled in love. My parents raised me and my brother in a loving home where they went on date nights and allowed us a lot of freedom to explore our own interests. Even when I went through the teenage years of confusion and angst, slamming doors and crying on my bed, I never doubted that my parents loved me. As an adult I can see that this fact is not one I should take for granted. It is a gift that my life was never “incomprehensible” or “senseless” because of simple things my parents did to show their love for me. My mom would pick me up from school with chicken nuggets that I could munch on the way home, and my dad would take off work to come to school assemblies when I was going to sing.  Pope Francis told the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals in February: “We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family.”  I’m thankful that my parents showed me this plan in action. “Man cannot live without love.”

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Cardinal George on “A Tale of Two Churches”

Posted Sep. 9, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Cardinal George reflects in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s newspaper on the way that the current American culture requires us to choose between our faith and full civic participation, since the dominant ideology has become like a religion.

He writes: “Swimming against the tide… means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers…. the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”

The Cardinal also points out that, “American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family. With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone’s activities.”

Thanks to the Cardinal who has such a gift for seeing and guiding us! Let’s pray for him and all our bishops!

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Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act

Posted Aug. 1, 2014 by DOM 1 comment

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Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R- Wyo.) and Representative Mike Kelly (R- Pa) introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. This Act is meant to protect organizations who provide child welfare services, such as foster care and adoption, when they have convictions that a child should only be placed with a married mother and father.  Currently, a number of organizations are unable to be of service because of their beliefs about marriage.

Three USCCB Chairmen (Archbishops Cordileone, Lori, and Wenski) gave their support to this bill, noting that, “Indeed, women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference also indicated their support for the Bill, noting, “In 2012, Catholic Charities helped complete over 3,000 adoptions and foster care placements, including permanent homes for over 1,600 special needs or “hard-to-place” children. By allowing a diversity of providers through the Inclusion Act, we will be putting the needs of children first and also protecting the religious liberty of long-serving child welfare providers.”

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Friday Fast: June 13, 2014

Posted Jun. 16, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

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Intention: We pray for all men, that they may joyfully discover and live their spiritual fatherhood.

Reflection: St. Joseph was a “just man”: truly Mary’s husband and a spiritual father to Christ.  On Father’s day this year, let us contemplate the spiritual dimension of fatherhood.  The Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, enables men to generate life not only physically, but also spiritually: by guiding, protecting, and modeling lives of virtue for others.

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The Beatitudes, Marriage, and Family (Part 9 of 9)

Posted Jun. 16, 2014 by DOM No comments yet

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10-12)

He includes those in the beatitude whose will is ready to suffer all things for Christ, who is our righteousness. For these then also is the kingdom preserved, for they are in the contempt of this world poor in spirit. (St. Hilary of Poitiers)

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It may seem to be extreme, for us who work to uphold the true meaning of marriage to think of ourselves as “persecuted,” especially in the sense that we say the early Christians were persecuted. And indeed, playing the martyr does not get one very far with those whom one perceives to be doing the persecuting. Even if there is some element of truth in it, it’s a dangerous and tricky thing to speak and behave as if one is the victim of vicious persecution.

This claim needs to be carefully articulated: it’s certainly the case that religious liberty is being superseded in various ways today in the name of equality and fairness and “civil rights”—and people on both sides of the marriage debate have readily acknowledged this fact. But the early Christians were put to death for confessing their faith in Jesus Christ. This is a different sort of thing than experiencing various forms of social injustice which are certainly wrong but are also non-lethal.

But the comparison, careful as we must be in making it, is not totally devoid of value. It’s not helpful to portray ourselves as living martyrs in response to the many trials Christians have undergone, are undergoing, and will undergo because of various government infractions or in response to the attempt to change the very definition of the fundamental institution which is the heart and foundation of the family, the “basic cell of society” (as St. John Paul II often called it); but it is helpful to see how the early Christians lived even in the midst of their own persecutions.

PullOutBeatitude9Our Christian tradition is full of inspiring stories of holy patience in the face of intense persecution and suffering, of courageous martyrdom, and even of humor. (St. Lawrence, burned alive on a grill in 258, famously quipped as he was tortured, “You may turn me over, I’m done on this side.”) But St. Hilary of Poitiers, who died in 368 and thus knew well the gruesome details of the persecutions inflicted on the Christians who went before him, beautifully sums up the attitude of those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: they are “poor in spirit.” By referring this last beatitude back to the first, he implies that all of the beatitudes, like the virtues, go together: where one is found, the others may be found too. The early Christians were able to submit to persecution and even to martyrdom, and survive it, thanks to the grace of God which enabled them to live according to the Beatitudes, to live lives completely oriented towards God.

For us, then, who are not being nailed to crosses, burned alive, stoned to death, beheaded, shot full of arrows, skinned alive, or hacked to death, but who do endure various difficulties and trials of our own for upholding the truth about marriage—and for those in our midst who themselves experience same-sex attractions and struggle to approach Christian perfection through the chastity to which they are called—the early Christians can serve as models: since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

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This series is a guest contribution by a Dominican student brother who has been fulfilling his pastoral ministry assignment by serving as an intern at the USCCB’s Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.