I’ve almost made it! I started this series in September and by golly, I’m going to finish it before the next synod starts in November. Ideally, I would have finished a series on the preparation for the next synod by the time it starts, but I will take the victories I can achieve.
It is unlikely that Pope Francis will ever actually read my thoughts (although, considering his actions, you never know), but it has been extremely fruitful for me to work through them. When people complain that the Church is too hierarchical, too top-down, or not applicable to adult singles, I’m going to point them this way. I encourage you to think about your own responses to these questions and what you can do to enrich the Church in terms of marriage, family, and evangelization.
On to the final section of questions!
The Relationship Between the Family and the Person
a.k.a. How Families Lead Us Toward or Away from Christ
Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?
We Christians are all trying to be like Jesus. He was community in and of himself (as one person of the Holy Trinity), and he formed a community of apostles and disciples to create the Church. Family is a tiny version of the Church—or, at least, it’s supposed to be. As I heard a priest put it at a house blessing recently, the father is the family’s pastor, and the mother is the director of religious education. Their primary goal should be to get each other and all their children to heaven.
I’m not sure how often that is a real goal, though. I’ve never been a parent or even a spouse, and I’m the only religious person in my family (besides maybe my grandmother), so the only ones helping me specifically to get to heaven are my guardian angel, the holy souls I have helped free from purgatory, and me. It might always be that way.
I have goals for my quasi-family and future family, though, God willing. I pray for my godsons, my sister (I was her Confirmation sponsor), and my family all the time. I don’t change who I am to suit who they might want me to be, so they’re stuck with their Jesus-freak godmother/sister/daughter/granddaughter/cousin whether they like it or not. I hope my example will help bring them to Jesus, too.
What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s encounter with Christ?
In Part Six, I wrote about the struggles of teaching children about the Faith when they don’t have any good examples of how to live as a person of faith. That’s the biggest obstacle. When the only adults you know don’t go to church, then going to church doesn’t seem all that important or necessary. When other families talk about being “done” with having children, then being open to life sounds like outdated, wishful thinking. When every other family at church rushes past yours, talking loudly, while you try to kneel for an after-Mass Hail Mary, putting in the effort seems like an exercise in futility.
The most critical situation obstructing a person’s encounter with Christ in family life is a family (or other families) that don’t live as though they have encountered Christ.
To what extent do the many crises of faith which people can experience affect family life?
I’d imagine this is a big problem in families that have faith life connected strongly to family life. When one family member decides not to go to church, that makes church seem less important to everyone else. This is especially important when the father is not involved in the family’s religious life: if dad doesn’t go to church, why should the kids have to go?
On a larger scale, this is true for special occasions: weddings and funerals. Any number of people could tell you a sob story about being mistreated (or just feeling mistreated) at a Catholic wedding or funeral. Those fall on both sides of the aisle, so to speak: from people wondering why they can’t receive Communion and demands for special music/readings/eulogies that are incompatible with the liturgy to priests refusing to give Communion on the tongue and homiletic insistences that the deceased is definitely in heaven. Special occasions bring out deeply-held beliefs that people cite as their make-or-break moment of faith.
Gay family members can also be an occasion for a crisis of faith. The nuances of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality can seem too burdensome, bigoted, “homophobic,” or just “not nice” when the love of a family member gets involved. It’s much easier to say that you just won’t be a Catholic anymore if your sister or brother can’t have a same-sex wedding recognized by the Church.
What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat?
In the preparatory document, this was actually Question 9 all by itself. What I’ve broken up into several questions per post for this series were composed as multi-part questions. Thus, the prompt says “the above questions,” meaning “all the questions.” I think I’ve spoken my piece already, though, so I’ll end here.
To conclude, I have some thoughts about the final document issued by the synod. It’s called the relatio synodi. You might remember the media debacle that ensued when the rough draft of that document (the interim relatio) was released to the media. I’m not going to open that can of worms again. What’s done is done. The important thing now is to look forward to the World Meeting of Families in Philadephia, Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. during that meeting, and the upcoming extraordinary synod that will continue the work and discussions from last fall.
I think Pope Francis said in best in asking for prayers, not gossip, concerning the upcoming synod. Let’s join him:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love.
We turn to you with confidence.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Reawaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.
How has your family life influenced your faith, for better or for worse? What plans do you have for your current and future family’s faith life? What are your hopes, expectations, and worries about this fall’s events? Share your thoughts in the comments!