Christian Families

Latin Mass: Feast of the Holy Family
Beloved in the Lord , today in the Tridentine calendar, it is the feast of the Holy Family.
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When we look at the lives of the saints, we find that most of the saints learned how to be great disciples of Christ by the example of their parents. We know that the image of God that a child develops – the way that he sees God – is often a reflection of how he sees his parents growing up. If a child has a harsh, condemning image of God, it can be because his parents were very harsh. If a child believes that God is strong, kind, forgiving, and loving; it can be because his parents were this way.
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But this should be no surprise to us; in Ephesians chapter 5, St Paul explains that the love of husband and wife is an image of Christ’s love for his Bride, the Church. And we have said here before, that the love within the Holy Trinity Itself, of the Persons, is imaged in the family. This leads to the fearful conclusion, that parents REALLy need to love each other, not only for their sake, but for their children.
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Kids take it for granted that their parents will love them; what they are sometimes not sure of, is if mom will love dad, with all his defects, or that dad will love mom, with all her defects. This is what children need to know. This is why hatred between parents and divorce is devastating. Because their love is a sign of God’s love. Actually, they have no right to stop loving each other, no right, because God commands it. ‘Husbands, love your wives.’ (Eph 5) That’s a command. And this is something we have to learn to do. St. Paul says that the young women should be TAUGHT to love their husbands. ‘Older women, he says, must train the younger women to love their husbands.’ Titus 2:4
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Love is not a feeling, it is a decision. And for a Christian, it is not an option.
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With these synods on the family going on in Rome last October and the next, there is a lot of discussion about the family. In this regard, Cardinal Muller of the CDF, wrote a little book that I’ve been reading, ‘The Hope of the Family.’ He says, ‘Young people from the first moment of their lives have the right to experience the things that only the family can offer: the confidence that comes from being accepted and welcomed unconditionally by parents. ‘There is no better way,’ he says, of laying the groundwork for true hope in young people.’ p. 20
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Being unconditionally loved – this is the foundation that is so needed in the formation of the next generation. But the more marriages break down, the more difficult it is to believe in God’s love. p. 32
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We see the Holy Family today in this journey to the temple; with what solicitude Mary and Joseph search for the lost Child. They are not bickering with each other over how this happened, in fact, when they find Jesus, Mary says ‘Son, your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’ So even though Mary knew that Jesus’ real father is in heaven, and that she herself is superior in grace, out of respect she names Joseph first: ‘Your father and I have been searching for you.’
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In the coarse society of today, in which words are loud and blunt and without decorum, how much more must parents show the gentle respect necessary to illumine the home with charity?
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You know, we Americans are very big on ‘results.’ We might say, ‘the proof is in the pudding;’ Jesus himself says that things should be judged by their fruits. So let us ask: Over the past 50 years, what are the ‘fruits’ of the modern ideas about marriage? Millions of orphans of divorce, disoriented young people unsure of any stability in life; deep wounds, women in poverty; the ‘hook-up’ culture in which girls and boys learn to use each other; dangerously low birthrates which is altering entire cultures. Here are the fruits of this experiment.
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There has been much talk in the Church in the last 15 years about the ‘New Evangelization.’ A ‘re-evangelization’ of the world, re-introducing Christ to today’s society. There are many different kinds of efforts and programs and encyclicals and movements to that end, all good. But I’d like to return to Cardinal Muller’s book; they asked him this question, and his answer was that holy Christian marriage is the best way to evangelize.
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Young people today get married in this hedonistic society, believing what every one has told them: that this world is all there is; they have lost confidence in the future, convinced that their only goal in life is to maximize pleasure and acquire comforts and wealth, and look forward to the next vacation. Marriage is reduced to egotism for two.
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This false ideology has destroyed families and poisoned the joy of having children. If we are living only for comfort, then difficulties that come will require walking away from commitments.
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Evangelizing the world requires teaching the truth to families. We received life through the love of parents, we were happy when we were loved with such generosity. So when WE give ourselves in this way, we will be happy. ‘Give, and you will receive.’
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If I am made to see that this life is an arena for glorifying God, and that the New world lies ahead, well – I can cope with sickness, anger, loneliness, rejection, challenges of raising children, and all the rest. When things are hard, we ask ourselves, ‘Why am I doing this? What motivates my life? If I am doing all for the glory of God in this short life, I can patiently embrace all crosses.
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One reason it is so difficult for Christians to live out the truth of marriage today, is that they are trying to do it in isolation: ‘us against the world.’ But this is not the best way. Families need to be living this life along with other families.[i] New communities of Catholic families need to form, to help each other, compare notes on parenting, and allow friendship and shared values to blossom. In his famous book After Virtue, Alisdair MacIntyre says[ii] the way to recover a life of virtue has to be in community; virtues must be learned, lived, and reinforced in a community. That is why Catholic families must become friends, so that they and their children can grow up in Christian friendship.
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Some want to water-down the truth of marriage; but Christ did not come into the world to give a few ideas about going along with the status quo. He preached conversion of life, and this is why the Christian life is so demanding; demanding, but beautiful.
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We have to change course; the Church’s doctrine on marriage is the remedy.
May our Mother pray for Christian families. The world needs them and Jesus wants them.
Mary help us, to build happy and confident lives for our children, within the love of our family.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of Venerable Mother Maria Kaupas]

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[i] The Hope of the family, p. 37: families cannot live ‘atomistically’

[ii] After Virtue, p. 263.

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