Catholic families are not immune from tragedy. Today Made for Love addresses the heartbreaking reality of suicide. The episode features Chris Miller, Tommy Tighe, and Sister Colleen Ann Nagle, FSE.
Here’s the Franciscan Life Process Center, where Sr. Colleen Ann has done the retreats mentioned on the podcast.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255
Every one of us faces death; it is a door we think that we walk through alone. But Catholics know that there is Someone who is with us even in death: Jesus Christ. Today we’re talking about dying well. This episode features Sister Theresa Aletheia, of the Daughters of St. Paul and Fr. Paul Dressler, O.F.M. Cap.
Sr. Theresa Aletheia has some great resources for Lent about this theme! Check out her website Pursued By Truth for more information.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Pheonix has published a new apostolic exortation on the family: Complete My Joy. Check it out!
The first time Alice went to Christmas with Jeff’s family, things were a little different. How do you navigate the holiday season and juggle all the family traditions with grace? Hear a few stories that will get you ready for Christmas. Also features Bishop Ricken (Green Bay) and Aaron and Lindsay Weldon.
SPECIAL NOTE: Made for Love is now available on iTunes under its own name! (Not only under “USCCB Clips”) So please subscribe and review and tell your friends!
God’s gifts are often abundant! Today we talk with three Catholic families who have big families (by today’s standards): Jerry and Kate Hadley, parents of 10 children, along with their 3rd (Cecilia) and 8th (Tim) children; Andrew and Vivian Nelson, who are expecting their 8th child, and Sam Fatzinger, mother of 13+1 foster child.
Catholics who are divorced go through a hard process, and can feel forgotten, marginalized, or unwanted at our parishes. How can we make sure that is not the case? This episode features Rose Sweet of Divorce Healing and Surviving Divorce, Patty Breen, Brad Grey, and Fr. Steve Porter.
Down Syndrome is a part of many Catholic families’ stories. Children with Down Syndrome bring immense joy into their families, even as their intellectual disabilities and medical problems may bring crosses and hardships. Today we’ll hear from Archbishop Kurtz (Louisville), a family who have children with Down Syndrome (J.D. and Kate Flynn), the UK filmmaker whose documentary “Summer in the Forest” follows Jean Vanier and his work with people with intellectual disabilities (Randal Wright), and a reporter from Aleteia (Zoe Romanowsky).
Check out the film Summer in the Forest
And here’s a link to the story that Zoe talks about on the podcast: https://aleteia.org/2018/03/19/50-moms-join-in-car-pool-karaoke-with-their-kids-to-shed-light-on-down-syndrome-video/
Humanae Vitae Part 1
On today’s Made for Love, we look at Humanae Vitae from the perspective of fifty years of change. What is HV all about? Have Pope Paul VI’s predictions come true? This episode features Bishop Ricken (Green Bay), Bishop Rassas (Auxiliary in Chicago), Dr. John Grabowski of CUA, Sister Helena Burns, fsp, Dr. Theresa Notare of the USCCB’s NFP office, and Dr. Lionel and Janet Yaceczko.
Here’s the 1968 Encyclical Humanae Vitae that we are talking about today. That’s the Vatican translation, as Dr. Lionel Yaceczko reads it on the podcast. Here’s another translation, by Dr. Janet Smith (scroll down to find the encyclical).
The USCCB NFP office is keeping an up-to-date list of events and resources for the anniversary.
Here’s Dr. John Grabowski’s faculty page at the Catholic University of America.
Fathers are a gift to their children. Fatherhood is also an immense task; a father is meant to give unconditional love and acceptance, along with protection and challenge. This episode features Bishop Sis (San Angelo), Bishop Paprocki (Springfield), Mark Hartfiel of That Man is You, Paul Jarzembowski and Andy Lichtenwalner from the USCCB, Katy Doran of CanaVox, Deborah Savage from the University of St. Thomas, and Joseph Capizzi from Catholic University.
And as always, the episode is also on Soundcloud and iTunes (USCCB Clips)!
Mental Health and the Family
Mental illness is a reality for many families. Today, we’re focusing on depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental illnesses, and their effects on family life. This episode features Dr. Aaron Kheriaty (author of The Catholic Guide to Depression), Tommy Tighe (author of The Catholic Hipster Handbook), Sarah Elliot and her daughter Moire, and Teresa Bippus.
Here are some cool saints and blesseds related to mental illness to get to know.
Speaking of St. Dymphna, there’s a place in Denmark with a Church dedicated to her, where the mentally ill are welcomed into families. NPR did a story about this.
And I just came across this story from Kevin Love, a player on the Cleveland Cavs. He has suffered panic attacks like Sarah in our podcast.
Kate was pregnant and in shock. Deborah, Elizabeth, Bethany, and their respective husbands, all felt an ache that their arms were empty after years of hoping for a child. This episode highlights the gift of adoption and its complexity in real life.
And don’t forget Kelli’s testimony about adoption:
And Peter Range:
This episode of “Made for Love” is in honor of National Marriage Week 2018!
The Power of the Table
Eating dinner together as a family used to be common and expected. The table is the place where members of the family can talk things out and hear about each other’s lives. This episode features Bishop Caggiano of Bridgeport, Bishop Malone of Buffalo, Brendan Glasgow, Christina Strafaci, Craig and Stephanie Rapp, Tim and Lisa Roder, and Mary Beth Bonacci.
I hope you enjoyed the first episode of Made for Love, with subcommittee chairman Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln. Please subscribe on iTunes and tell your friends! This is a project of the staff of the USCCB who work for the Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
Here’s an article about Jayd Henricks, who appears at the beginning of this episode:
USCCB’s Top Lobbyist Trades Political Realm for Parish Catechesis
by Dennis Sadowski, Dec 13, 2017
Catholic News Service
And here’s a fun article about Bishop Conley and an adventure in Ireland:
That Time a Bishop Hung Out on the Star Wars Island
by Mary Rezac, December 13, 2017
Catholic News Agency
Here’s a picture from Little League, when Bishop Conley and (now) Archbishop Coakley were on the same team:
Bishop Conley’s dad is on the far right!
In a world where many children grow up without one parent or the other, it is perceived as ill-mannered to ask a question like the title of Paul Raeburn’s book: Do Fathers Matter? Many people dismiss this question as irrelevant, not worth asking, or even offensive.
To illustrate this point, journalist Raeburn begins his survey of the social and behavioral sciences regarding fathers with a striking anecdote. He was attending a writers’ conference and making conversation with another participant. When he told the woman the title of his book, she responded, “Well, of course they don’t” (15). As a single mother, she may have felt threatened by what Raeburn was learning about the importance of fathers.
In fact, Raeburn convincingly argues that fathers do matter to their children. Motivated in part by his own experience of fatherhood, he wanted to know more about this fundamental truth. At the same time, at various times in the book the reader senses Raeburn’s discomfort with the possible implications of this research. If fathers really are so important, it follows that intentionally depriving a child of a father is wrong. Raeburn is not quite ready to say that, even while he points out the facts about what a father’s presence gives to his children.
Raeburn begins his study of human fatherhood by looking at other mammals as well as other cultures. He notes that unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, “There is no example of a human society in which fathers do not help raise the children” (19). He suggests that one of the reasons this is the case is that human children need significant help to survive. Raeburn notes the work of the anthropologist Barry Hewlett with a group of pygmies in the Congo, among whom fathers are extremely active in infant and child care. “They show us that fathers can—and will—do more in the right circumstances” (26). When societies are structured in such a way that fathers are expected to do more, they do so. In the West, Raeburn argues, time with dad is seen as playtime, whereas in a number of other cultures, “quantity” time is valued in fatherhood, in other words, even if the child does not have dad’s undivided attention, he is present (26).
On the subject of genes and inheritance, Raeburn notes studies that show that the diet, habits, and environment of the father can alter even the genes that he passes on to his children. He also explains a number of studies about how the father affects and is affected by pregnancy and genetics. One notable fact for married readers: “The single most powerful predictor of the fathers’ engagement with their children is the quality of the men’s relationship with the child’s mother” (89). This is a great reminder that men and women should prioritize their relationship with one another as husband and wife even once children come along.
Raeburn uses studies of mice, monkeys, and other animals to illustrate that when males are given more responsibility for their offspring, both father and children are better off. Time spent with their infant, for example, changes the brains of fathers as well as mothers. Physically, fathers are different than non-fathers. Parts of the brain related to stress and brain hormones related to bonding were active in mouse “dads” and not in a control group, for example (102). Scientists also discovered that fathers are often preoccupied, almost “obsessed” with their child from the 8th month of pregnancy until birth, frequently experiencing “intrusive thoughts” about problems that could occur (131). And children whose fathers are more actively involved tend to develop stronger language skills, have more courage, and are better able to adjust to the unexpected. Much of this is believed to come from the way that fathers play with their children, which tends to be less protective and more “risky.” Raeburn notes, “Fathers’ unpredictability helps children learn to be brave in difficult situations or when meeting new people” (149).
Research on teenagers highlights the often-noted fact that absent fathers can lead to an earlier onset of puberty and earlier sexual activity in teenage girls. Effects on boys are not as clear, but teen boys are less likely to “engage in delinquent behavior” if the father is at home (222). Raeburn notes that all teenagers need to be aware of their parents’ acceptance of them, and this seems to be even stronger in relationships with the father. “The influence of father’s rejection can be greater than that of mothers,” he writes (179).
Raeburn also examines the effects of older fatherhood, which is more common today. Much is said about a woman’s biological clock, but since men are physically capable of fathering children for their entire adulthood, less has been said about theirs. There is increasing evidence, however, that a man’s age does affect his children genetically and increases the chances for certain disorders like autism or schizophrenia. Men and women have the healthiest children in their twenties, and this is fairly indisputable (201). There are about twenty problems that have been linked to advanced paternal age, and women whose partners are over 35 have three times as many miscarriages (187). Raeburn notes that sperm are more vulnerable to genetic damage than eggs are, since they are constantly being copied (190). This section is where the book veers most from a Catholic view, suggesting that it may be better to avoid children altogether if the risks of disorder are high. “Termination” is given as an option in case of Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders. Ironically, the interviewee from the American College of Medical Genetics says that it’s important for parents to have all this information because it “influences the health of someone whom nobody else can speak up for—the child” (200). It is impossible to understand how “speaking up” for a child would mean aborting them.
Raeburn writes about what fathers do in his final chapter, noting the great changes that historical shifts have made in family relations. “For most of human history, fathers were responsible for protecting their children and for teaching them the things they needed to know to survive and prosper” (212). Work is now almost always away from the family, and both men and women in 2012 are working more hours than in 1965 (213). Americans also work more than almost any other modern society, and the U.S. is one of the only countries without guaranteed paid maternity/paternity leave (214). Work-family conflicts are now common for both men and women, with both expected to earn money outside the home and keep the home running. Raeburn also notes that despite expectations of shared parenting, often women take on a larger role than men, and both parents find it much more difficult than they thought it would be.
Overall, Do Fathers Matter? was a good read and a conversation-starter. Men may appreciate learning how their fathers have impacted them, and how they in turn may impact future generations. Women may also be encouraged not to overlook the effect their fathers have on them and see how important it is to choose a husband who would be a good father. This would be a good book for couples to read together because it raises a few questions and challenges for modern men and women, and particularly for parents: Does mom ever interfere with “daddy time”? Does dad see changing diapers or wiping noses as “women’s work”? What work / at-home arrangement is best for your family? Fathers, how can you make sure you are affirming your teenage children?
(Review also posted at For Your Marriage)
Many of my friends who grew up in nominally Catholic households have lamented to me that their family home lacked the richness of the faith that they later came to know through their own practice and study. They went to Mass and Sunday school as kids, maybe said grace before meals or a little bedtime prayer, but otherwise their families didn’t live in a distinctively Catholic way. In hindsight, these young adults consider themselves impoverished by an upbringing that was essentially secular, and they intend for their own marriages and families to have a deeply Catholic character. They prioritize the sacraments, strong catechesis, spiritual and corporal works of mercy, awareness of the liturgical calendar, balancing penance and celebration, and hospitality. Living those things out seems like a daunting task because they are not inheriting a tradition from their families so much as trying to create a new one in the wake of a cultural shift that undermines their efforts.
In the ninth chapter of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis offers us some ideas about what Catholic family life can look like. He cites Vatican II, saying that lay spirituality “will take its particular character from the circumstances of… married and family life,” (313). He says, “The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures,” (315). Through the next several paragraphs he specifically mentions family prayer, supporting one another, caring for one another, showing mercy, giving complete attention to others, and welcoming those outside the family with hospitality. These suggestions are not simply lifestyle choices, take ‘em or leave ‘em. Rather, these concrete actions reflect the life of Christ himself who is present in the family through the grace given to every baptized person and especially through the real graces of the sacrament of marriage.
With all this talk about marriage and family, it might be tempting for those of us who are unmarried to ignore the Church’s advice because it seems irrelevant to this moment in our lives. However, even as a single person, the Pope’s words about marriage are meaningful because they help me to prepare my heart for the marriage the Lord wants for me, instead of the woefully inadequate “Hollywood” version that has been so culturally ingrained. It is tempting to imagine that finding a spouse will tie up all the loose ends in my life and, like the movies, the credits will roll and we’ll live happily ever after. But the Pope warns us all that spouses need “a certain ‘disillusionment’ with regard to one another,” (320) and I think the same can be said of those who are looking for a spouse. I can’t expect another person to fulfill me completely. I am taking to heart his note about “spiritual realism” and the warning that “one spouse not presume that the other can completely satisfy his or her needs,” (320) which is a message that is desperately needed by those of us immersed in popular culture. Additionally, the “small but real gestures” that characterize the spirituality of the family can be practiced by anyone anywhere. For example, we are all called to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, but “feed the hungry” takes on a new urgency when “the hungry” is a distraught 2-year-old tugging on your shirt. Likewise, to “bear wrongs patiently” is practically a heroic virtue when you have to bear the wrong of a sibling who has no remorse and will likely wrong you again. Within our families we have abundant opportunities to practice the virtues that sanctify us and open us to deeper union with the Lord.
When my friends describe what they hope to give their families they usually have specific ideas about praying the rosary as a family or being involved in ongoing community service and the like. However, they usually find a way to express that what they mean when they describe various devotions and practices is that they want their whole lives to be ordered toward the mystery of God’s love. The specific actions are expressions of a real desire to know, love, and serve the Lord. Pope Francis says that “spirituality becomes incarnate in the communion of the family,” (316). As Jesus’ day-to-day life was ordered to the will of the Father, so too the family is called to live their daily lives for Him.
Theresa Farnan, Ph.D. is currently an adjunct member of the philosophy department at Franciscan University of Steubenville and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Find more of her work on her website.
With the publication of Amoris Laetitia (AL), Pope Francis offers some timely thoughts on the importance of both mothers and fathers for families. He begins his meditation on “the joy of love experienced by families” (no. 1) by painting a vivid picture of family life. “At the center, we see the father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?’ (Mt 19:4)” (no. 9).
Francis reminds us that the “deepest reality” of human couples originates with sexual difference – “it is striking,” he notes, “that the ‘image of God’ here refers to the couple ‘male and female’” (no.10). The fruitful, life-giving love of a man and woman gives rise to the family, a “living reflection” of the “communion of love” that is the Trinity (no. 11).
Throughout Amoris Laetitia, Francis strongly reaffirms the importance of sexual difference as the foundation of marriage, lamenting the “failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life” (no. 52).
In fact, Francis notes, every child deserves to be loved by both mother and father. “The love of parents is the means by which God our Father shows his own love,” not just individually, through each parent’s love for his or her children, but together, as a couple whose love for each other is the foundation of the family (no. 170). Husband and wife, father and mother, both “cooperate with the love of God the Creator, and are, in a certain sense, his interpreters.” Together “they show their children the maternal and paternal face of God” (no. 172).
Mothers and fathers have different relationships with their children. Pope Francis, in a beautiful tribute to mothers, praises their warmth and their tenderness, their dedication and moral strength, all of which help the child “develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy” (nos. 174-175). Fathers are equally important, mediating between the child and the world, helping the child “to perceive the limits of life, to be open to the challenges of the wider world and to see the need for hard work and strenuous efforts” (no. 175).
Francis laments individualism that sees motherhood as a threat to women’s freedom, and offers men a confused understanding of masculinity that devalues fatherhood, commitment, and responsibility (see nos. 173, 176). At the same time, he rejects a rigid division of roles and responsibilities, reminding us that it is the “clear and well-defined presence of both figures, male and female” that best allows children to flourish (no. 175).
In his discussion of the importance of the presence of mothers and fathers, we can see the unique stamp of Francis’s pastoral theology of accompaniment. The family – founded on the loving union of a man and woman – is the primary school in the art of accompaniment, where a child is loved and learns to love.
Happy Mother’s Day from Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia!
“Let us consider the moving words of Psalm 131. As in other biblical texts (e.g., Ex 4:22; Is 49:15; Ps 27:10), the union between the Lord and his faithful ones is expressed in terms of parental love. Here we see a delicate and tender intimacy between mother and child: the image is that of a babe sleeping in his mother’s arms after being nursed. As the Hebrew word gamûl suggests, the infant is now fed and clings to his mother, who takes him to her bosom. There is a closeness that is conscious and not simply biological” (no. 28).
On pregnancy and expecting a child:
“Pregnancy is a difficult but wonderful time. A mother joins with God to bring forth the miracle of a new life. Motherhood is the fruit of a ‘particular creative potential of the female body, directed to the conception and birth of a new human being’. Each woman shares in ‘the mystery of creation, which is renewed with each birth’. The Psalmist says: ‘You knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (Ps 139:13). Every child growing within the mother’s womb is part of the eternal loving plan of God the Father: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you’ (Jer 1:5)… A pregnant woman can participate in God’s plan by dreaming of her child. “For nine months every mother and father dreams about their child… You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies’ (nos. 168-169).
“Expectant mothers need to ask God for the wisdom fully to know their children and to accept them as they are” (no. 170).
“With great affection I urge all future mothers: keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world. Prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but without obsessing, and join in Mary’s song of joy: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant’ (Lk 1:46-48). Try to experience this serene excitement amid all your many concerns, and ask the Lord to preserve your joy, so that you can pass it on to your child” (no. 171).
On a child’s need for a mother:
“We cannot ignore the need that children have for a mother’s presence, especially in the first months of life. Indeed, ‘the woman stands before the man as a mother, the subject of the new human life that is conceived and develops in her, and from her is born into the world’. The weakening of this maternal presence with its feminine qualities poses a grave risk to our world. I certainly value feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood. For the grandeur of women includes all the rights derived from their inalienable human dignity but also from their feminine genius, which is essential to society. Their specifically feminine abilities – motherhood in particular – also grant duties, because womanhood also entails a specific mission in this world, a mission that society needs to protect and preserve for the good of all” (no. 173).
“A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy” (no. 175).
On society’s need for mothers:
“‘Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism… It is they who testify to the beauty of life’. Certainly, ‘a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn… Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth… Dear mothers: thank you! Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world’. (no. 174).
For more from Pope Francis on motherhood, read his catechesis from January 7, 2015!
Growing up with three brothers, I remember a lot of forced apologies being exchanged back and forth between us. My parents would make us say the words before we were actually ready to apologize for (or forgive) whatever nastiness was inflicted that day. But however hurt or angry we were at the moment, there was never a question in our minds about whether we loved one another. We belonged to each other and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being family and loving one another went hand-in-hand.
Love sees beyond what is broken, rude, selfish, or mean in the other person’s action and reaches out a hand to heal the relationship. By making my brothers and me practice forgiveness in the everyday offenses of life, my parents were leading us to understand mercy: it makes things right between us.
Throughout the Old Testament we see a cycle of betrayal and mercy played out between Israel and the Lord. Over and over, Israel abandons God for their own desires, but the Lord continually draws her back to himself because he chose her and he is faithful to the covenant he made. In the book of Hosea in particular, the relationship of a married couple is used to reveal the steadfastness of God’s love for Israel. No matter what she does, He remains faithful.
A sacramental marriage helps those who witness it to understand God’s fidelity to his people. Indissolubility is a gift of mercy, because it makes the relationship of the couple true to what love is: a complete gift of oneself that can’t be taken back. A person in love does not promise their beloved the next three years; they promise forever! “The gift of indissolubility means that despite the vicissitudes and suffering that come with human failure and sin, the sacramental marriage bond remains an abiding source of mercy, forgiveness, and healing.” To deny the indissolubility of marriage would be an affront against the sacrament of marriage because it would deny the reality of grace and its power to heal and perfect a person.
I came across a beautiful reflection about marriage recently on a blog site. A woman was reflecting on her experience of learning to have mercy on her husband who was struggling with clinical depression. She said, “Through mercy, God taught me to love my husband as we all deserve to be loved—with a love devoid of self, thinking only of the good of the other person.” While her husband was sick, she, “picked up his cross for him, as Jesus does for us, and bore his malaise and withdrawal in loving silence.” By showing mercy rather than demanding justice, the couple was able to maintain peace and goodwill during his illness. Mercy itself is not a cure for depression, but it helped this couple to preserve their relationship in a difficult time. The wife realized that she needed to be kind and selfless, and not seek justice but rather have mercy, and finally when she did that she found, “I no longer cared about justice.”
It can be said of the practice of reconciliation that it “washes away small offenses, but it also protects from great offenses. Pardon confers a habitus of communion.” Mercy towards siblings, in my case, and a husband in the case of the blog contributor is an expression of a disposition toward communion. It is a desire to be united to the other person, even after they have hurt you. A married couple that frequently seeks and offers mercy reinforces their “togetherness” or communion so that when serious trials arise they have already practiced drawing towards one another. The indissoluble bond of marriage not only calls a couple to be merciful toward each other, but indissolubility also reveals God’s own mercy, because when he binds two people together in the sacrament, he gives them the graces they need to live it out.
 There is a new concept about marriage out there these days called a “wed-lease,” which turns marriage into something more like a business contract: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-high-divorce-rate-means-its-time-to-try-wedleases/2013/08/04/f2221c1c-f89e-11e2-b018-5b8251f0c56e_story.html. This is not true to what love is.
 “Ode to Feminine Genius: A Merciful Woman.” Catholic Sistas. Aug. 28, 2014. http://www.catholicsistas.com/2014/08/ode-feminine-genius-merciful-woman/
 Laffitte, J.(2015). The Choice of the Family. New York: Image, p. 143.
Written by the Spring Intern in the Promotion and Defense of Marriage Secretariat.
Have you ever noticed in families that there is always someone who cares for people? Parents care for children. Siblings care for each other. What, however, about the extended family? Does anyone else in the family extend such care? In my family, I can tell you that single aunts, uncles, and cousins are at the forefront of helping each other. They are often the unsung family heroes. I know because I have seen this first hand.
My family is a large Italian-American one. My mother is the last of twelve and my father is fourth in a line of nine. As you can imagine, many relatives in this clan have married and had their own children, who have had children as well. But some have not married (like me). And, others have remained single after either losing a spouse to an illness or through the sadness of divorce. I have witnessed the rich contributions to the life of the family in the example of my single cousins, uncles, and aunts.
Among my single family members the characteristic of generosity of time and talents is notable. There is Cousin Manuel for example, who would spend hours on a Saturday afternoon teaching my sisters and I about opera. Or, Uncle Jazz who throws a big Christmas eve party complete with all the traditional Italian fish dishes (at least as far as the Notare family defines them!). Or Cousin Giovina, who after her father died immediately took her mother to live with her and was always ready to pitch in to help someone in need. Probably the most representative of this clan is Aunt Rosie.
After Aunt Rosie’s husband died in her early forties, she remained single until she died at age ninety-one. Aunt Rosie devoted herself to taking care of the entire Jannicelli clan (that would be my mother’s side of the family). Aunt Rosie’s generosity was legendary. She didn’t have much money (her profession had been a cook in a large public school). Her generosity came in the form of the gift of herself and her many talents. At any given moment in a day she could be found doing something for someone, especially a family member.
For example, Aunt Rosie was a marvelous cook. She never tired of cooking for others or teaching others how to cook. But beware, if you borrowed one of her recipes, it was always from her public school cooking days and often called for enormous amounts of ingredients like twenty-pounds of butter and forty pounds of flour! In the days before the Internet, if you had a cooking question, you would undoubtedly call Rose Rocha to find out what to do. She always had the right answer.
More importantly however, Aunt Rosie nurtured family members. She looked after not only her own children, but those of her siblings. If one relative wasn’t treating another right, Aunt Rosie would step in and ensure that justice and family unity prevailed. For the children, Aunt Rosie would listen to childish stories about friends and school. She could also be found playing silly games—like dancing for me like a “real ballerina!” Aunt Rose gave sage advice to all and was the life of the party (singing old American or Italian songs).
Aunt Rosie checked in on family members regularly, always giving the gift of her time. And, lest you think she was merely a fun-loving party girl, she had the gumption to handle the most difficult of problems. So if, for example, someone was seriously sick, she not only would be there to help, but would call other family members as well to pitch in. It was Aunt Rosie who led the family team who cared for my dying grandmother, uncles, and grandfather. Rose Rocha didn’t mind getting her hands dirty and certainly understood the cost of love in hard times.
Much later in life, long after Aunt Rosie died, I realized the lessons I had learned from her. The most important being that despite the struggles in life, love poured out on others makes for a very happy life. In Aunt Rosie I had the example of a joyful, vibrant, and happy single woman who blossomed in the heart of the family. Aunt Rose set the tone for how a single family member can enrich the family!
Theresa Notare, PhD is the Assistant Director of the Natural Family Planning Program of the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, USCCB
Photo: Antoine Mekary- Aleteia
Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families: Seven Great Quotes
Pope Francis’s trip to the United States in September centered on his appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. We continue with the second quote in our series.
Festival of Families: “Let us defend the family, because there, there, our future is in play.”
If you’ve ever played a sport like soccer or basketball, you know that defense is critical. In order for your team to get downfield or down court to score, you must first have possession of the ball. Simple, right? But unless you won the kick off or tip off, getting possession means taking the ball away from the other team through defense.
One of the metaphors Jesus uses to describe His relationship to the Church is that of a shepherd who defends the flock, even with his life: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15). Later, this same image is used to assist bishops and priests in understanding their duty: to care for the flock until the Lord comes. “So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5: 1-4). Thus it should come as no surprise when the pope uses the language of defense, in particular for the family. It is abundantly clear that there are many forces in our culture today that work against the family: consumerism, distraction, overburdened schedules, technology, ideological impositions, separations by circumstance, and the list goes on. Against these movements, the Church must play “defense” even while promoting the truth, goodness, and beauty of marriage on “offense”. (The Subcommittee name itself reflects this two-part strategy: the Promotion and Defense of Marriage)
Pope Francis also references the future. Pope John Paul II wrote that, “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (Familiaris Consortio, no. 75). The place where children come into being and grow is necessarily the place where the future is determined. There are strictly practical ways that this is true. Children are necessary for a society to continue, let alone flourish. No children, no future. No hope. Pope Francis has spoken of this a number of times, in particular when he addresses Europe. “In many quarters,” he said to the European parliament in November of 2014, “we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother’, no longer fertile and vibrant.” At a general audience in October 2015, Pope Francis asked, “How loyal are we with the promises we make to children, making them come into our world? We make them come into the world and this is a promise — what do we promise them?” One thing that we could promise is to work to help ensure that a child’s right to be born and raised, as far as possible, by their married mother and father, is respected and honored.
In defending the family today, we defend children and make them a promise of a future of hope.