Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Defining the Family….

I love religious education. In particular, the sacramental years are a favorite. I started teaching these classes simply because my kids who were in them asked me. To date, I have taught three of my four children’s First Holy Communion / Reconciliation classes (my wife taught our oldest son’s class) and the two oldest who have been Confirmed (two more over the next six years). The last Holy Communion class I taught gave me great pause when second graders discussed, well, marriage.

During one of my lessons I chose to discuss the sacramentality of marriage and the importance of family.  I quickly discovered though, there was a more fundamental issue that we needed to discuss and clarify. Not only did they not understand the concept of family (they were educated by the television networks), they could not define it. The definition I used: a sacramental covenant between a man and a woman entrusted to the Church that creates a permanent bond and community called a family. Sounds long and complicated but when you break it down for them they get it.

What could go wrong, right?!? It was fine until one of the kids mentioned that they had a friend whose parents were man and man-woman (transgender) and I needed to be a little more open-minded. Yep, that’s right. A second grader was not only redefine marriage but gender as well. Think of what Kate Winslet’s son Joe said since he is the same age and a great representation of what the culture is producing,

I like the diversity that my children are exposed to every day. I love the way their brains work. Joe turns to me the other day and says, ‘One day, I will have a girlfriend. But I might have a boyfriend. If I’m gay.’ He’s 7! And I said, ‘You might have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, darling.’ And he said, ‘Which would you prefer?’ And I said, ‘My love, that would be entirely up to you, and it doesn’t make any difference to me.’ But that he knows! It’s a real privilege. Talk about the best education. (Kate Winslet, V Magazine)

All this is to say: we need to understand that it is not so much traditional marriage that is at-risk as we enter 2013 but the very nature of what it means to be human which serves as the foundation for marriage. No longer does society hold to an anthropology supported by positive law let alone natural law. In fact, as Pope Benedict XVI, in his message to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2012,

of what being human really means – is being called into question. He [Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim] quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society.[1]

No longer does the culture at-large see the beauty found in the asymmetrical difference[2] revealed in the logic of humanity’s creation. From Genesis 1:27, we are infallibly assured by divine revelation that “male and female he created them”. This distinction is highlighted all the more in human nature’s natural longing of the heart proclaimed in Genesis 3:18, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helper fit for him”. Even here the word for “man” is not adama that is most often translated humanity but ish – male. Sacred Scripture even reveals the nuptial meaning of this complementarity and thereby solidifying the place of gender in Christian anthropology and the mystery of the human person.

Prophetically, Blessed John Paul II provided a foundation through his catechetical lectures – now known as, Theology of the Body, to assist in providing an adequate anthropology for the Church. And yet, culture with all its desire and capacity to learn, lacks the will to study the objective truth.

So where does the hope of the family and thus the culture reside? It would be easy to say in our youth but I assist in educating them prior to college. Those who are part of religious education in our diocese are provided with a foundation steeped in Theology of the Body. Once they graduate, it has been my experience that all the faith steeped in reason and modern scientific evidence is set aside for the dogma of tolerance and relativism.

Tolerance is not a Christian virtue. It never has been. There is, however, a virtue associated with tolerance which is justice. The basis of all justice is truth as set in the objective order. In today’s society, truth and tolerance have become synonymous.  And yet, tolerance is meant to be the act of justice for the individual who is pursuing truth. There must be leeway for the individual to seek, wrestle with and confront truth. Their belief system, regardless of its passion, does not become truth because they believe it and, must be addressed in accordance with objective truth.  I like what the Servant of God Bishop Fulton Sheen said,

“There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance…Tolerance only applies to persons, but never to principals. Intolerance only applies to principals and not to persons” (The Curse of Broadmindedness, 1931).

It seems that many of us have forgotten how to discern and filter truth from error in an effort to express compassion and concern.

That being said, hope still remains. Case in point: This past year, I had the incredible privilege of getting to know and teaching over 40 George Mason University Catholic Campus Ministry students over a six-week period (once a week for two hours) on the topic of Theology of the Body. They took study valuable time to stretch themselves and be challenged with a worldview that is contrary to their college culture – hopefully chewing the meat and spitting out the pits from the lectures. Oh, and the definition for the second-graders is now a natural man and woman.

Today, the Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that the in the economy of salvation, the Father not only wanted to redeem us but also provide us with a blueprint in which for us to live out that redemption. Trusting in the intercession of the Holy Family, the first reflection of the Blessed Trinity’s communion of love, we must first, in all humility, approach the mercy seat requesting the grace of perseverance, understanding and holiness.

We must persevere in our daily un-compromising witness of God’s plan as revealed through Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium. We must seek to understand the hearts of the confused in order to appropriate an apologetic transmitted in truth and love. We yield to the grace of the God in order from Him to make us holy in order that all may be attracted to the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Collect for the Feast of the Holy Family

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


[1]Benedict XVI, Pope. “Address of His Holiness Benedict Xvi On the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia.” Vatican. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2012/december/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20121221_auguri-curia_en.html (accessed December 30, 2012).

[2]Shivanandan, Mary. “Faq of Theology of the Body.” Christendom Awake Website. http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/mshivana/faq-tob.htm (accessed December 30, 2012).

One Response to Defining the Family….

  1. Quen says:

    Lesson 4, “Who is God”, went well. The “crowd” was a little suebdud during discussion, but there was good fellowship all around. I trust we are building a firm foundation.

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