World Meeting of Families Catechesis Series: Chapter Two
World 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. The Archdiocese for Military Services reflection on this chapter is here.
“The Best Way”
Theresa Notare, PhD, Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
My mother met my father as a teenager. They dated after high school. When he returned from the Korean War, they married. Like most Catholics at that time, they quickly had four children. As we grew older, and much to my mother’s embarrassment, my father liked to boast to us that they followed the Church’s teaching on birth control. Also he soberly added that there was only one choice in life, even when it came to sex—to follow God’s will and commandments. It wasn’t always easy, he said, but it was the best way.
My father was not theologically sophisticated, yet instinctively he understood God’s design for love and marriage. Dad “got it.” He knew in his heart that every man and woman has an inherent dignity. This understanding shaped his spousal relationship with my mother. The witness of my parents continues to speak to my heart of what it means to be made in God’s image and how that reality impacts the nature of married love.
These thoughts about my parents’ marriage filled my mind when I read Chapter Two of the official catechesis for the 2015 World Meeting on the Family. The theme is about God’s mission of love and how it is revealed in the conjugal relationship. To be made in God’s image speaks both of God’s invitation to share in His life and of the inherent gifts that God gives to each man and woman. The capacity and the vocation to love, just like God, is the foundation for all of human life. It is essential for marriage. And, the conjugal embrace is caught up in God’s divine plan of married love and life.
Scripture and Tradition reveal that God created marriage to be a life-long union between a man and a woman marked by fidelity, permanence, and fruitfulness (see The Code of Canon Law, §1055, Humanae vitae, no. 9). Marriage is a radical call to love like God.
When a man and woman become one flesh in marriage, sex is, by its nature, both unitive and procreative. Procreation is the invitation by the Lord of life to share in the wonder of conceiving children. This is why the Church teaches that children are the supreme gift in marriage (see Gaudium et spes, no. 50). This is also why the Church teaches that “when married couples deliberately act to suppress fertility…by using contraception” they deny “part of the inherent meaning of married sexuality” and actually do harm to their unity (see Married Love and the Gift of Life, USCCB, 2006). This may seem like a hard saying in today’s world, but the burden is lifted when we realize who we are as made in God’s image and God’s vision for married love.
In one of my many conversations with my father, he once admitted that sometimes he had to go to his room, shut the door, pray and remember why he loved my mother. Doing the right thing, even with someone you deeply love, is not always easy. Both he and my mother lived their joint mission of married love, and my siblings and I knew that we were the primary recipients. We saw their joy, playfulness, and reverence for one another.
In the last years of his life, my mother nursed my father through a long illness. My father died at home in my mother’s arms. His last words to her were that she was the love of his life. Their love was easy and passionate. At times it was hard and sacrificial. They chose the best way, they lived God’s mission of married love.
Call to Prayer: December 19
WMOF Catechesis Series: Chapter Two
World Meeting of Families Catechesis Series
The USCCB 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 WMF 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.
Speaking of Love: From Adolescence to Adulthood
Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
In our adolescence, as we move from using the word “love” in family settings (“mommy, I love you”) to using it with people beyond our blood relatives in more personal and intimate ways, “love” becomes a pursuit, not a given. We agonize over how much someone “likes” us, and then get tied up in knots over whenwe should say “I love you” to that special someone. Sometimes these trials and tribulations become all consuming, even unhealthy, especially when the quest to be loved and to find others to love becomes too intense.
The roller coaster ride of dates, dances, and doubts are a part of growing up. I remember my own high school years: I would work up the nerve to ask one of my classmates out, and if she said yes, I would work up even more nerve trying to figure out what to do and what to say on those first, second, and third dates.
Moments like these mark the teenage years of many people. We wrestle with the emotional upheaval that goes with this youthful time in our lives. But before dismissing this as teenage fickleness, it should be noted that the tempestuous pursuit of “love” is part of our human DNA given to us by our Creator, so much so that the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures used this experience to describe the way God pursues us in his divine love for all humanity.
The concern, though, is that some never get off the roller coaster ride. As we grow into young adulthood, we are called to define “love” in a more mature way. We incorporate notions of commitment, steadfastness, patience, and compassion into our understanding of this beautiful word.
In our youth and young adult ministries, the Church further challenges young men and women to love as Christ loves, with compassion and tenderness, with selfless sacrifice and humility, and in total acceptance of the Father’s will – exemplified by the biblical images noted in Love Is Our Mission, no. 24: the father of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32), the shepherd searching for his lost sheep (Lk 15:3-7), the mother who comforts her children (Isa 66:13), the healer of the blind man (Mk 10:46-52), among other beautiful examples.
Too often, as teens enter young adulthood, especially among those who are disconnected from the Church and ministries for youth and young adults, these wonderful definitions of “love” are not passed on. One thing that I have done with my ministry with young couples is challenge them to see themselves as the father of the prodigal son or the shepherd of the lost sheep: Would they lovingly forgive or search out their fiancée or spouse if they drifted, and then welcome them back with compassion and joy? Or, like the healing image of Christ in the New Testament, would they sacrifice their time, even to the point of putting their dreams and lives on hold, to take care of their sick or broken partner?
These images can remind us what God means by “love” and how we need a balance of the excitement of affectionate pursuit and the steadiness of stable and selfless commitment to truly understand how to love another as God loves us.
When St. Paul spoke of this mature understanding of love, he reflected in a similar way, saying, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11). In reading Love Is Our Mission, may we be inspired to pass on the beautiful, biblical imagery of love to our youth and young adults – so that, one day, they too can fully experience loving another as Christ so loved the world.
Call to Prayer: December 12
Our Lady of Guadalupe, please pray for all mothers & all women who hope, one day, to become mothers.
Bishops Respond to New Dept of Labor Regulations
The chairmen of four committees responded to the new Department of Labor Regulations that are the result of the Executive Order of July 21 prohibiting federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination. The chairmen are Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
Here is the full text:
The regulations published on December 3 by the U.S. Department of Labor implement the objectionable Executive Order that President Obama issued in July to address what the Administration has described as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination in employment by federal contractors. We will study the regulations carefully, but we note the following initially. Our Church teaches that “[e]very sign of unjust discrimination” against those who experience same-sex attraction “should be avoided” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 2358)—but it appears on an initial reading that these regulations would prohibit far more than that “unjust discrimination.” In particular, they appear also to prohibit employers’ religious and moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct, which creates a serious threat to freedom of conscience and religious liberty, because “[u]nder no circumstances” may Catholics approve of such conduct (CCC 2357). Very many other people over a broad spectrum of different religious faiths hold this same conviction. Additionally, the regulations advance the false ideology of “gender identity,” which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees. In justice, the Administration should not exclude contractors from federal contracting simply because they have religious or moral convictions about human sexuality and sexual conduct that differ from the views of the current governmental authorities.