Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ancient and Future Catholic Musings

Johnathan Bennett of Ancient and Future Catholic Musings offers a relevent and insightful reflection on the meaning of the Feast of the Holy Family:

The feast of the Holy Family strikes me as extremely counter-cultural, especially in America in 2005. The family unit, which used to be the source of cohesion in society and culture (and the Church) has broken down. I don't
think we can even speak of "breaking down" anymore. The divorce, cohabitation, and out of wedlock birth statistics are alarming. Add to that the rates of pornography use, the abuse of children and the coverups, the casual acceptance of abortion, and an uncritical embrace of artificial contraception. People seem to be actively making war on the family unit, even if not intentionally.

There exists an even more subtle assault on the family as well: materialism. In fact, we could probably tie all of the above issues to this. American society tends to pursue greater material wealth at the expense of other blessings. Children (and even a husband or wife) tend to get in the way of pursuing material wealth. Casual sex and living together are much easier and cheaper than supporting a person through ups and downs and in sickness and in health. Paying for food and shelter for a child tends to take away money from the flat-screen TV or Hummer fund. Even in school, children are taught about careers and success and rarely is family life emphasized and if so, it's in the context of limiting it: i.e. birth control.

And yet, this family unit, Mother, Father, and Child, is called holy. God created the family Willow1blog and sanctified it through the Incarnation. The Catholic Church refers to the family as the "domestic Church" because it is the setting where our Faith and values are passed down. Also, the Church's mission is lived out in the family from evangelizing to proclaiming the Good News. The failure in Catholic catechesis, while surely due in part to the parish and parochial schools, is probably rather a result of lukewarm and heretical parents who pass on a lukewarm and heretical faith to their children.

As a society, but more importantly as a Church, especially in America and Europe, we need to recover the value and emphasis on the family. This doesn't mean denigrating the single life, but rather recognizing different vocations. It also means that parents, especially Christians fathers, must take a strong leadership role in both their own families and in the lives of the Church and community.

Family life is difficult. Those of us in families would be lying if we said otherwise. We're ornery, self-absorbed and tempermental. We get pre-occupied with our own pursuits. We become sick, sometimes chronically. Above all, we strive to live in harmony with the Grace of God, but often surrender to our fallen nature. Those of us that share our lives endure this constant litany of humanity.

Is it any wonder, then, why Reasonable people have extolled the Absolute Individualism that celebrates the single life? Individuals enjoy life on their terms. They get to experience the pleasures of culture, material well-being and titillating excitement of various sexual liasons. They answer only to themselves. They call their own shots and do as they please. What's wrong with that?

Nothing is wrong with that. That's the problem. Absolute Individualism is an ideology that celebrates Nothing. It's adherence live lives utterly depraved of meaning or significance. If we alone determine the sole meaning of our lives and of reality, then there is no authentic meaning to either. Absolute Individualism is the worship of Nothing. And the worship of Nothing is Hell.

Need proof? That's simple: ask any person his name.

What are names but the sign of our own identity? We are ourselves, and we signify ourselves with the names we have been given. And who calls us by our names? Other people, that's who! When was the last time any of us spent our days referring to ourselves by our names? Exactly! Other people confirm us in our identity by calling us by name. Therefore, our identity can't truly be complete unless we live it in relationships.

These relationships become the very expression of our humanity. If we live the utilitarian relationships that Absolute Indivualism implicitly demands, we suffer the deficiency of never becoming who we truly are. Relationships through the use of others are no relationships at all. What, then, makes a genuine relationship?

As Jonathan said, it is Love! When we truly love one another, we become one with them in an authentic relationship. We give of ourselves to them, and they to us. We both thus truly become who we are. The fullest expression of this love here on earth is manifested in those precious relationships we call Family.As a "Domestic Church," Families become a sign for all to see of Christ's Church. The mutual self-giving that is the vital life of all healthy families becomes evident to all. Families thus incarnate the very essence of what the Church is, and therefore, of who Christ is.

Of course, Families aren't perfect because people aren't perfect. Many of us suffered in families in which love was not the defining trait all could see. Some of us survived the horrifying Babylonian Captivity of growing up with parents enslaved by sin: dysfunctional people such as alcoholics, drug addicts or others that could not live free of their compulsive and self-destructive behaviors. But while such traumatic experience can understandably color one's perceptions of family, it does not define the essence of what family is.

Family remains the way in which we fully become human. The extent to which we honor families as the foundation of society is the extent to which our society blossoms. We are all part of God's family through Christ Jesus our Lord. That means we all share that intimate relationship with each other.Today, let us thank God that he has called all of us to live in his Family. And let us witness to an enshadowed world just how precious living in a family truly is!