As a young priest in Poland, Saint John Paul ll, then Father Wojtyla, became very close to a circle of young people while serving as a chaplain to university students in Krakow. As they married and had children, their families received spiritual and pastoral guidance from Father Wojtyla that would inform his work well into his years as Pope John Paul ll.
When the Communists invaded Poland, he clearly understood that it was marriage and the family itself that was under attack. The communists had set up the state as the final authority, undermining the role of parents and seeking to indoctrinate the children at an early age. John Paul ll would later say that what the communists could not achieve – the destruction of the family – the sexual revolution would. He wrote in his “Letter to Families” in 1994 that it is marriage and the family itself “that’s placed at the heart of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that’s opposed to love.”
Fast-forward to the now full-blown crisis in the family today. On top of divorce, abortion and euthanasia, families are dealing with wide spread use of pornography and the confusion and morass surrounding same-sex “marriage” and gender identity. Then, there is the sexual abuse scandal in the Church herself.
It has gotten to the point where many parents have simply thrown up their hands. Often poorly catechized themselves and feeling ill-equipped when trying to discuss these issues at home or anywhere else, parents have become paralyzed and feel threatened as the culture labels them bigots or accuses them of hatred for just trying. Who would blame them for beginning to wonder if the Church really has the answers and that maybe the culture has a point when it declares that there is no right way to live? Is it any wonder that we are now working on plans to consolidate our Catholic schools and dealing with declining Mass attendance and low participation in religious education?
Now may be the time for Parishes to think about setting aside the complex organization charts and six pillars of this and ten steps to that no matter how well intentioned, and get focused on Marriage and the Family. Simplify the organization chart by drawing a big picture of the altar in your Church with Christ hanging on the Crucifix behind it. On the altar draw your Pastor consecrating the Eucharist. Then draw the lines from there to every family in your Parish (the Domestic Church). There you have it. Clear away as much clutter and eliminate as many distractions as possible and focus on making 2020 the year of Marriage and the Family in your Parish. Everything else you do – and there is always plenty to do and many needs to be met – flows out of this.
Saint John Paul II wrote ‘the history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family.”
Let’s help our families become stronger, healthier and happier. In turn they will make all of Parish life vibrant and healthier and happier. What if every parishioner regardless of age, could answer these basic, timeless questions?
- Who am I?
- What’s my purpose?
- Why were we created male and female?
Once families can articulate and begin to embrace God’s plan for love, marriage and the family, it is so beautiful and transformational that everything changes. Once we realize that God’s plan is not about learning more information but is in our DNA, it is the story inscribed in our hearts and is stamped in our bodies as male and female…it is the story that ultimately satisfies the deep universal longings of the human heart to love and be loved.
We are all called to do something great with our lives. It all starts with Marriage and the Family and our call to love as God loves. St. John Paul II reminds us of this lofty call, and encourages us that true love is possible.
I firmly believe that if we would engage the whole parish to identify ways to come up alongside and support Marriage and the Family much fruit would follow. Encourage parishioners to be creative and even start small groups… Perhaps parent support groups that could include breakfast after Mass, book clubs focused on relevant issues facing families today, Scripture studies including Theology of the Body, learning how to pray as a family, and simply invite parents to sit in on their children’s RE classes and live out the lessons learned at home.
With this lofty call in mind please see our new presentation for 2020 below. It is called “Crossing the Bridge”…moving from “disconnection” to “connection”…understanding and living out “God’s plan for Love, Marriage and the Family”.