We get so worried these days about the state of the modern family and
wonder how the concept of the Catholic Family is going to survive
with all the threats in our society against it. We need to remember
our past and learn from our history it will survive as long as
parents do their part.
In the 1540′s St. Francis Xavier and
the Jesuits were missionaries in Nagasaki Japan and were responsible
for over 100,000 converts. But by 1587 Christianity
was repressed in Japan as a threat to national unity and ceased to
exist publicy and had to go underground.
By 1610, 1 out of 6 Japanese were
Catholic. But in 1611 and 1613 the priests were expelled and
thousands of Catholics were put to death. When the priests left Japan
though they told the people to keep the faith and pass it on to your
children, and eventually they would return.
After 250 years, 10 generations, when
Japan was open up to the west again, the priests did return. The
priests would walk through the streets, dressed very conspicuously
with the hope of finding some remaining Catholics. Eventually a
group of the faithful approached the priests and asked them some
questions their parents had taught them on how to know a priest.
They had to figure out if they were celibate, if they loved the
mother of God and if they loved the Holy Man in Rome.
The priests soon discovered that there
were 30,000 Catholics remaining in Japan after the 250 years. With
only 2 sacraments, Baptism and Marriage, and in spite of great
persecution, the parents had been able to pass on the faith to their
children and keep the Church alive in Japan. The Church survived
because of the parents.
Family life is the primary training
ground for Catholics. With the concept of family rapidly changing in
our society (redefinition of marriage in law, same sex marriage,
cohabitation, casual sex, easy no-fault divorce), along with
individualism, secularism, materialism, agnosticism, hedonism,
rationalism and relativism, parents have their work cut out for them.
Abortion, reproductive technologies and manipulation, euthanasia,
destruction of human life for scientific advancement, rampant
pornography and gratuitous violence, all make it seem like we have
lost the battle to raise our children Catholic.
Sure if we focus on these destructive
influences we could lose hope. So instead we have to stand firm and
not be afraid of these influences or the people who have fallen for
them and remember we have the truth on our side. We have to study our
faith and know it well and lead by our example.
marriages are the foundation of healthy families; and healthy
families are the foundation of society. It is up to us to help
restore this understanding by how we live our family life.
To begin with we must be clear that
the family; mother, father, and any children(or no children for those
who cannot have children) is the basic cell of any society. We must
be very clear as to what a family is and what it is meant to be. We
have to be able to explain what is the family’s full purpose and we
need a profound understanding of God’s plan for the family.
The family is the only true natural
institution. It is made by God and ordered to the care of the
children. Through living out family life an individual develops and
grows towards maturity.
If we look at the purpose of an
acorn we can see that an acorn already contains all of the
information necessary to form itself into an oak tree. All it needs
is for certain conditions to be met, such as the absorption of water,
sunlight, and nutrients. In essence, then, an acorn is an oak tree in
a state of underdevelopment. The “Oak-tree-ness” is
already written within the genetic code of the acorn. The acorn
already is an oak tree, and that is how it is able to manifest itself
as an oak tree when its conditions (for water, sunlight, and
nutrients) are met.
It is the same with the family. The
husband and wife are already a family but they have to be developed.
The parents need to form the virtues in themselves and in any
children they have, so like the acorn their family can reach its full
job as parents is not to keep our children busy and amused,
nor just to keep them out of trouble and make them behave. The real
job of family life is to lead children by example, directed practice,
and explanation, so that they grow up to be competent, responsible,
considerate men and women who are committed to live by Catholic
principles all their lives.
To this end it is imperative that
all parents should have a copy of the Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris Consortio(On the Role of the Christian Family in the
Modern World) from Pope John Paul II on their bedside and be
reading and reflecting on it regularly. It is mandatory reading for
all couples. This document opens the mind and heart to what God wants
for the family.
It is no accident that Jesus grew up
in a family. His public ministry did not arise out of the blue. It
was in the hidden and uncelebrated years of family life, growing up
in the home of Joseph and Mary, that the foundations of his ministry
were laid. We see from the Holy Family’s great example that family
love can change the world. We have to have confidence in the love
which lies hidden in our own families and its bearing on the future
of the world.
All married couples have to have a
strong understanding of what the family is and be able to articulate
it to their children, their grandchildren and all those around them.
Weak thought will lead to weak families. We have to be able to give a
rational explanation for our understanding of the family if we expect
the family to survive in this age of technology and an overabundance
of information. We must know the problems, know the enemy, know the
tactics and know the answers.
Faith is one of faith and reason. We must truly understand the
dignity of the person, the problems with modern materialism,
relativism, new ageism, hedonism etc and be able to explain this
simply enough for a child to understand.
If we do not really understand what
the role of the family is and what God intended for it, then we float
or are blown around by almost every and any cultural breeze that
arises. We must be grounded in the truth, be able to explain to our
children the rational reasons for the importance of why marriage as
permanent, that God is everlasting, and His truths are everlasting.
We must show our children how truth cannot change.
Sure it seems like the boat is
bouncing on the waves but as long as Jesus is on the boat we do not
have to be afraid. But when we take out eyes off Jesus we will sink.
We must grow in the faith that all battles have been won. We must
continue to pray. We must continue to study our faith and know it
well and know the reasons for the truth.
Only the Church stands solidly
against these inhumane trends that attack the dignity of the human
person and the family. But keep in mind that Jesus is not an
“against” type of person. He is a person, he is the incarnate
truth, he is incarnate love, he is the way. We must know and revere
what the Church teaches so we can live those teachings and share them
Raising a family is an adventure and
God designed it to live that way. We cannot lose heart in the
strength of the family for then we lose heart in the truth. We have
to pray for an ever increasing amount of the virtue of prudence. The
Cardinal virtue of Prudence is the virtue that requires us to see
things the way God sees them, in reality, and then to act in a manner
coherent with that reality. We have to be grounded in reality. If we
do not attempt to act in accordance with the truth, we are at risk to
be swept away by every modern distortion of the truth.
God is counting on all parents to
pass on the faith to our children like the people of Japan did in
spite of persecutions. God is counting on all parents to save the
world through our hard work and efforts in teaching our children the
truth. We cannot let life get us down and give up. We have to just
keep getting up and starting again.