Dear friends of the Catholic Family Podcasts:
Blessings of these mid-summer days. May the Lord bless you all… and in a human way of wishing you well – may your air conditioning never fail and may your nights be cool enough to open the windows!
The topic I want to try to work on today and for this month is the topic of family life – generally – and family life among Catholics. To set the tone or stage for this – let me tell you that I have a good friend, a holy man, a husband and father who is ‘totally Catholic’ and is raising a wonderful family. He works in a chancery for a diocese. He is extremely well read and he has good contacts within and outside of the Church. I lead with these thoughts so you and I might try to pay attention to some of what he says about the state of family life in America. I’ll call him ‘A’ – and for the sake of brevity – I’m editing some of his comments.
Deacon Tom (DT): If you were to give a state of the union address on Christian families, what would you say and what would you recommend?
(A): God wants us to have happy fun filled families where time is spent around the breakfast and dinner table telling fun stories and praying together. [So much of family life seems dominated by the world of entertainment. TV’s are on, kids play games during meal or family time, or they do text-messaging, etc.] We should not let the entertainment industry rob us of these [true family] kinds of joys.
So great vigilance is needed if we would have happy families. This means that parents should listen to the little voice inside that warns them when something is not quite right with a school program, or a group of friends, or with the amount of time children spend watching TV or playing video games. Do not be afraid to speak out and protect the innocence of those entrusted to your care while they are young, and to protect their honor when they are older.
This kind of vigilance requires great sacrifices, trials, and even suffering rejection by those we most love. But the happiness of our families and the holiness which God calls us to, requires that we stand firm and do not lose heart. When we protect our families, they become a school of love in which everyone learns to rely on the Lord. Those who know the joy and sense of honor that only such a school provides are the ones who give hope to society, who become a light that shines in the darkness. America needs this light today more than ever.
(DT): Your words and comments suggest a sort of heaviness or darkness regarding [Catholic or general] family life in America. How would you respond?
(A): Catholic families are suffering in the same ways as families in the general population. Contraception, abortion, pornography and divorce have desecrated almost everyone’s extended family if they have not already crept into one’s immediate family situation. Perhaps because of this, parents (and society in general) are not confident in their particular competency in their own children’s lives.
As a result, moms, dads and their children do not have a healthy sense of their dignity and honor, and without a personal sense of honor, it is difficult to offer and cultivate the sacrificial love that family life demands. Families need to rediscover what it means to be “a school of love.”
(DT): I just wrote a column for a Catholic Mom’s site (www.catholicmom.com) and I wrote about Sacrificial Love. It’s a different way of looking at the call to ‘tough love.’
(A): Families a couple generations ago did not suffer the kinds of things that families do today, at least not to the same extent. Furthermore, Catholic families tended to practice more piety within the home. Practices like the family rosary helped parents hold things together even when it seemed impossible. It was also true that parents did not need to compete with an entertainment industry in educating children in family values.
Finally, parents were more confident about their role and their ability to be mom and dad for their children. This is true in general of course. I think there were plenty of families where important values, including the life of faith, were already eroded. Although there were probably more vestiges of a Christian society than we enjoy today, there were already great cultural struggles taking place two and three generations ago that got us to the place where we are today.
(DT): You have studied areas of success in ‘fighting the good fight.’ I’ve seen your words on Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Therese of Lisieux, etc. Can you share any practical words to end this interview?
(A): [Catholic families… Christian families are called] to cultivate reliance on the Lord; families need to spend more time in prayer together. Going to Mass and Confession regularly is important. But on a daily basis praying a family Rosary and spending time in common prayer before bedtime [or in the morning] is vital. At least, this is my experience. This period of prayer allows the Lord to communicate to each member of the family a sense of honor and purpose as well as the other resources needed for sacrificial loving. When families pray together, the entertainment industry cannot compete because children and parents taste something that is more meaningful and fulfilling.
(DT): Thank you dear (A) – your words are at times somber and challenging. Yet they are filled with a hope to return to the values that were so important years ago – and they are still so much more important today.
Blessings. Deacon Tom