I’m getting a lot of news and opinion articles in my various feeds about this Synod on the Family, most of it negative. You, too? It’s discouraging, at the very best; at worst, it may end up causing scandal and heresy within the Church. I must admit here that I am not on the Pope Francis bandwagon. I’m watching and waiting, to see how he responds to the challenges faced by the Church in our current age. I’m not overly hopeful so far, but I still give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s still trying to get his legs under him.
But back to the family, and it’s place in the Church.
I happen to be the mother of what is considered by many people to be a large family. To me, this is just my family, not large and not small, but just us. Size doesn’t matter, you know. Only love matters. People started making Catholic comments around child #5, as if Catholics consider it one of the Commandments: “Thou shalt bear as many children as humanly possible for the sake of the Church.” But it was always just love. Love for the husband who slept beside me, and love for each child who came before. No child in this house was conceived because it was our Catholic obligation.
But we are Catholic, and that very much informs the way we live and relate to each other as a family. Here, inside these walls, we pass on our love for our Lord, we practice mercy, compassion, and charity, and we teach each other how to live in a way that is pleasing to God. We acknowledge that we are sinners, and we help each other strive for holiness. We seek Heaven, and we journey together. We are very much a domestic Church.
Your family is, too, I hope.
Sometimes, it can be a lonely life, especially if our children are plentiful, or we homeschool, or we mention St. Thomas Aquinas or the Catechism in casual conversation. Some people see us as a rebuke, and others find us intimidating, through no fault of our own. The reality is that we are just ordinary women living ordinary lives in what seems, perhaps, like extraordinary circumstances, but is really just us answering God’s call to faithful and steadfast service in our families. It would be easier to withstand the rejection if we occasionally heard a homily that buoyed us up and helped us on our journey, or if there was a parish activity that cost less than the monthly mortgage payment, but we don’t, and there isn’t, and so we soldier on alone.
The truth is that supporting Catholic family life is beyond the Church’s ability at this point. She’s lost her moral anchor and is a ship adrift. Secularism has crept into our liturgy, our homilies, our catechesis. While there are a few stalwart priests who defend and teach the Faith, many more are afraid to go beyond political correctness, and some priests are just plain heretical. Our bishops regularly fail to speak out against the immorality of the world we must live in, and so, by their very silence, allow it to become the culture of the Church. It’s why the world loves Pope Francis; he seems accepting of sin, not just the sinner.
But the Church has us, the family. Not many families, perhaps, but some, and it may just come to pass that these few, these small, quiet, repositories of the Faith, will be the saviors of the Church in the coming years. If that is our burden, then we have an awesome responsibility: to educate ourselves, to educate our children, and to strive for holiness within our homes.
Reading the reports and news coming out of this synod can be demoralizing and discouraging, I know. The bishops will not heal families by normalizing deviance, but we, the family, may very well be the thing that saves the Church. Keep your eyes on Jesus and continue the good work of raising your family with faith and love. Few people are ever rewarded in this world for doing the right things, but God sees, God knows, and his grace will see us through. Remember always, too, that we are not just raising our own children, but also our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, for the work we’re doing today will ripple through the generations.
On the day our Father David arrived, two of my children served at the altar, and one as cantor. At the end of Mass, he praised the congregation for having so many young people actively helping with the liturgy. He said it showed that there was life in our parish. I don’t think he knew at that moment that all three came from the same family, and there are still no other young people serving at Mass in this parish besides ours. The irony was not lost on me, and I will be eternally sorry that we lost this priest.