The Synod and The Family

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.

5 Comment

  1. I so agree with everything you’ve written here. The family receives little support from the Church, but the Church is supporting few besides the poor and marginalized these days. I can tell you though, there is nothing so beautiful as seeing a large family at Mass — a pew filled with brothers and sisters, mother and father. They are the future of the Church, most literally.

  2. “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.”

    Yes! You put to words how I feel. I have so often wished to explain this to people who look at my family and sigh, obviously thinking what a poor, outdated sort of Catholic I am that I thought I had to have all of these six children. Especially my mother-in-law, who seems to labor under the delusion that her son (a convert) married a crazy Catholic and was forced into having an absurdly large family he never should have had. It’s just love though. Yes, some of my babies were unexpected surprises, but they were welcomed just the same. They came from the same love and enjoy the same love as their siblings who were hoped and prayed for. My littlest surprise is just six months old, and the sweetest thing ever. I can’t believe I thought I didn’t want a baby when she came into our life! Trying to imagine her not being here is awful. Maybe being a cradle Catholic is what has made my heart so open to accepting the gift of co-creating new life with my husband, I don’t know. I do know that I have never thought that I ought to have another baby because that is what good Catholics do. It’s good that we do it, because the church needs more Catholics who know their faith, but I have children because I love them. I love the privilege of helping give life to another person, and being part of their experiencing it.

  3. I have hope! Maybe because of what I see in our own diocese…I am hoping it is a trend elsewhere. Our diocese was very….interesting…several years ago. Our own parish priest was….well, let’s just say he was a very nice man, but there were some things to be desired in his execution of duty, lol. We almost switched parishes several times. We elected to stay and pray for our parish…though I understand when others decide differently. Anyway, we have now two very good priests at our parish. Our parish life, because of their work, has improved dramatically. And as far as I know, all our area parishes have good, solid priest, which is not something I could have said ten years ago. I’m sincerely hoping that as a new generation of priests comes through more solid, less “spirit of vatican 2” seminaries, that things will improve. Although our current pastor is not a young priest…he is still wonderful! But the more, erm,,,creative priests seem to be of a particular generation…

    1. and then, just as important…the generation that has been in charge of running parishes and developing parish life for the last decade or so….that was a big issue at our parish I think.

  4. maddalena70 says:

    Jennie I really love your words and, above all, your faith. Here in Italy it is almost the same … And it is all the more discouraging the fact that a lot of the so called “believers” have forgotten what a believer looks like and are estranged of the God’s words.
    Not to mention that here we do not study the Bible not during catechism not in school… So we are believer without a true foundation…
    But I have faith on our future… If we keep on doing what is our best with our family and try to stay together… Maybe we will make the difference!

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