Do you remember a time not too long ago when some families were building bomb shelters and survival shelters? It was an action many felt called to do during the cold war days. We may have seen many of these people as sort of quirky or strange. They didn’t want to be a part of the uncaring world. There still are firms catering to this survivalist retreat mentality: hardened underground shelters, radiation protection, water purification systems, portable generators, preserved foods, etc. This topic probably has a low level of reader interest — unless you think about the assaults taking place on our traditional American values and our Catholic faith practices.
The battles and attacks I’m thinking about are those which challenge our understandings of marriage as a sacrament between one man and one woman… the battle to deprive us of control over our federal tax dollars such that we must pay to fund abortions and embryonic stem cell research…. the lack of protection and care about the conscience issues of Catholic and Christian health care workers, the more subtle battle against our morals that is happening even in our churches when couples live together without benefit of marriage because of economic or annulment issues. I’m saddened to say that the battleground includes priests (and deacons) afraid to speak out in defense of Church teachings — afraid to upset the flock — afraid to cause letters to ‘the bishop’ or the press.
What I postulate we need are Catholic Survival Shelters — places we can go to survive the tyranny of relativism and indifference. Where can we find these shelters? They are found in strong, vibrant Catholic families!
I don’t mean for this column to be a plug for our podcast found at www.catholicvitamins.com — but in a show we did some months back — we interviewed the Closs family, Bob and Dar. It turned out to be such a good interview (we have had more feedback on that podcast than any other show) that we divided it into two parts. If you are interested — it was Catholic Vitamin F for Family.
We started the show in the 1960‘s with the marriage of two young ‘kids’ from upper Michigan. Through the course of the interview, we followed them from California to New Mexico to Arizona as they raised a family including 13 (yes, thirteen) children. Wife Darleen said she was ‘pregnant or lactating for 25 years’! Everything the Closses discussed during the interview was about how to concentrate family efforts towards holiness, Catholicism and faith practice. Values and self-worth came about from this family approach. And the thing was — this wasn’t goody two-shoes type talk — this was real and down-to-earth. You could tell that while the Closs family did a lot to live the Gospels in the outside world – they focused inward — creating a sort of survival shelter mentality to help prepare their brood to leave and enter the world.
I’ve spent a little time reviewing the 1994 Letter To Families written by the late, great John Paul II. Here are a few of his thoughts:
-The family is the first and most important way to God through the Church.
-He referred to the family as a ‘living cell’ of mankind. This cell gives special meaning when 2 or more gather to say the words “Our Father….”
-John Paul said that the world needs the indispensable witness of families.
-It is interesting to see the continuing and beautiful teachings of dignity and the Theology of the Body as John Paul talked about the gift of self to others.
-The pope also spoke a repeating theme of responsible fatherhood and motherhood.
I know David and Allyson have invested their time and talents in home schooling and faithful practice of the faith as central components of their own Catholic Survival Shelter. My wife and I were gifted to spend some time with the Sweeney kids — even some time with two of their children away from mom and dad. Having had that experience, one can see evidence of a great hope for holiness and wholeness when the kids take flight from the nest.
I don’t think of myself as a rural survivalist. In fact, I tend to be mostly happy and hope-filled. I like Home Depot shopping and spending time in rural coffee shops. But these times — the laws and movements underway cause me to urge everyone to retreat to their Catholic Survival Shelters. Lock the doors for a while and refresh and renew all inside.