Friday, December 30, 2011

The importance of the family...

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways. - Ps. 128

This morning I was impressed by the fundamental importance of the family, which this feast of the Holy Family makes evident.  It is obvious to me that many of us do not even comprehend how much damage has been done to the very definition of family in our time.  Though I'm overly simplifying issues, I'm convinced it began decades ago when artificial contraception was introduced.  I also believe the subsequent wars of the 20th century contributed in no small way to the erosion of family life and traditional morality, leading to a sort of 'tolerance' of infidelity and divorce.  A great many of us so-called boomers actually come from such dysfunctional, damaged, broken families. 

Today, matters are much worse simply because fewer people even get married, or if they do, stay married, and the family unit is often dispersed, or 'extended' beyond conventional parameters.  Many people, with or without faith,  have attempted to reinvent the ideal family; adding 'extended family members' - live in boyfriends, girlfriends, inventing same-sex marriage, and so on. 

Growing up I tried to invent a family for myself with my friends - who became more of a family for me than my real family - I sort of consciously 'divorced ' my dysfunctional natural family, and 'married' my friends.  I continued the fantasy in various forms, even adopting superficial family traditions I admired in literature and film.  After many of my friends went their separate ways - my cats sort of became my kids, and so on.  I think we see this happening around us today - people desperately trying to invent the modern family - rejecting the authentic family archetype that has already been revealed to us.  It is a very great loss that the truth of family life has been obscured and turned upside down, inside out, and nearly unrecognizable. 

If you are fortunate enough to get Magnificat, the Catholic magazine with the Mass readings of the day and a shortened form of morning and evening prayer, you should read the texts provided for today's feast of the Holy Family.  Today's feast is so important for contemporary Catholics to contemplate and enter into.  But rather than waste time with my own thoughts, I will share with you some of the better meditations on the family that I found in today's Magnificat.
"The Church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the Gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in marriage and in the family capable of being fulfilled.

Willed by God in the very act of creation, marriage and the family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ and have need of his graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin and restored to their 'beginning,' that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God's plan..." - Bl. John Paul II

"The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love..." - Pope Benedict XVI
So you see, if we come from homes of disorder and chaos - like I did, and God only knows how many kids today come from even worse situations, the result can only be disorder and chaos and the absence of love, leading to a confused and desperate search for the love that is unknown and unrequitted.
"The family is the fundamental project and pursuit of the human person.  It is the place in which human life begins, is nurtured, and is cherished.  In the family, the human person learns to love by being loved, and learns that each person has an incalculable dignity that must be respected and affirmed in small or great ways each day.

In the family, man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father, live a gift of self to each other, and, as an expression of this gift, welcome new life that is entrusted to them.  Children experience, from their mother and their father, the full range of complimentary human experiences and emotions, learning naturally that the human person is a being that comes from love, and for which the pursuit of an eternal, transcendent love is the ultimate desire.  In this experience of the human person as male and female, and as coming from and going to love, the family finds its role as the cradle and school of humanity." - Anna Halpine
God's grace is sufficient to remedy every situation.

Disclaimer:  I don't mean to offend readers who happen to be in unconventional family arrangements.  I respect your efforts and convictions, though we disagree on Church teaching, you have a great responsibility for those under your care and I pray and wish you all that is good and every blessing.  God bless you.  Nothing is impossible with God...


  1. Excellent Post Terry, much of that resonates with me.
    One of your best!
    Blessings and prayers,

  2. So did Bl. John Paul II really say "beginnin" or is that a typo? :)

    In all seriousness, its really only since the family has come under so much attack that the Church has declined her teaching. Reading some of the Fathers like Jerome, family, and especially marriage, are just for morally retarded people who aren't man enough to be real Christians.

    Even as late as St Alphonsus we see assertions to tge extent that unless someone has great difficulties with sexual purity, marriage should be avoided if you want to be really holy. And even then, it's better to be celibate since you can just pray for chastity.

    I love what the Church teaches on marriage, the family, an human sexuality ... I just wish it was more evident in tradition.

  3. Good post Terry--but there are many examples of unconventional and very disfunctional families in the Scriptures themselves. There ain't anything new under the sun.

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with the fact that you tried to invent a family for yourself. Why does one have to be constricted to "the authentic family archetype that has already been revealed to us" if it's broken or toxic or non-existent? Blood doesn't necessarily make a family, but love sure does. And that is the example of the Holy Family.

    Happy New Year. Ace

  4. Love - and a man and a woman.

  5. So only love and a man and a woman are a family? Somehow it's not that simple and I think that you know it.

  6. You sad love makes a family, of which the Holy Family is an example. The Holy Family is also a divinely ordained model: one man and one woman in matrimony makes for a family as ordained by God from the foundations of the world.

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  8. The Holy Family is also an example of an unconventional family, as St. Joseph was not Christ's biological father. That's what I meant, blood doesn't make a family but the bond of love does.

    So, two brothers who never married and live together or a grandmother raising a grandchild because the parents are missing for whatever reason are not families? What about Kings David and Solomon? Were those families?

  9. King David's family life was pretty hellish.

  10. Merry Christmas, Terry. This painting always amuses me. When it was first premiered the storm of criticism was incredible. One critic sad that the model for Mary looked like a drunk and the model for Jesus looked like a sicky girl. Since the models were family members of the artist those were fighting words.

  11. Yes, but John / Ace has a point. Though I think that in our zeal to accept those unconventional types of families that arise from whatever circumstances, we've come to be afraid if asserting any norm. If a woman had a child out of wedlock, but later repents and does her best to raise that child the right way, of course she does not need to be disparaged. But when having kids out of wedlock becomes the norm and is totally socially acceptable, that's a big problem.

    Case in point: about 70% of black children in the US are born out of wedlock, into unstable relationships. Many of the mothers themselves came from such families. When those children grow up, why ever even consider marriage? Marriage and fidelity are no longer even the norm. These numbers are about 30% for white kids and growing ... In Europe, "advanced" as they are, it's much higher.

    Children born into such environments have fewer chances at life, een fewer chances to get to know God.

    An while there ARE many exceptional types of families, I will never accept two men sexually active with each other attempting to raise children as normal, much less even something society should tolerate at all. Yes, Reality Check, I said that.

  12. Excellent post as always Terry. I think the wreckage of the Boomer generation and families is widespread, and I dont know if we will get things back to good any time soon... it just has to start one family at a time I guess.

  13. So I guess LGBT families, with two parents who love eachother and adopted children wouldn't count as "loving", while a dysfunctional and abusive heterosexual family would?

  14. The lefty loosies are always pitting false dichotomies against each other. Who said anything about a grandmother raising a grandchild being bad?

    The point is to not deny that there is a model, one ordained by God. It is unequivocal with any other type. If there is a "family" that's LGBT/L.GagaBono-whatever and there's orderly love present, that's because God has provided the grace in spite of such fools.

    Sort of the way God will still permit sexual pleasure to two fornicators in spite of their sin.

    I remember reading some post on some blog about some guy raised by lesboes who turned out very normal, as though that is the standard by which we go by. What in hell does the kid turning out normal mean when the very heart of the relationship of two lesboes is displeasing to God?

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  15. Oh, and enough with this "the Holy Family was unconventional, so don't despair queer families!" nonsense.

    It wasn't some convenient "arrangement" in bad circumstances. Mary and Joseph were truly, concretely married, with vows, before God, in the temple. They were spiritually one flesh. Mary was truly Joseph's wife and Joseph was truly Mary's husband. Joseph did not "adopt" Jesus. Jesus adopted Joseph.

  16. Paul, "one model"? Not according to your own Bible:

    In any event its not for your to impose your opinion about what the "one model" is on the rest of society, and crowing that there is "one model" is bigoted and homophobic. There's a word for that, and its called discrimination.

  17. Reality check, it's not about imposing. There is no such thing as gay marriage. 2 + 2 will not equal 5, no matter what laws people make.


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