The Church is the key

Picture, if you will, an average (old fashioned!) household anywhere in the western world. The parents work hard to provide the necessities, the children are expected to help with chores and upkeep — and even financially when they are old enough. The father sets an example of industry and paternal concern; the mother — whether employed outside the home or not — is pressed not only with many arduous responsibilities therein, but also with the emotional stability and overall welfare of her husband and children. She reads their faces, ponders their future, and prays without ceasing. And when some go astray — as many are wont to do — she agonizes over what pernicious influence crept into the home, and perhaps what she and her husband could have done differently. 

Surely, despite the most careful of arrangements, free will has its way and every family endures its share of trials and shocks — such is life, and so it has been over the millennia. For the most part, when the essentials are in place, the children thrive, the parents share a sense of duty and satisfaction, and the wider culture is strengthened by the loyal bonds within the families on which it rests.

Now, for the sake of the thought experiment, imagine kicking out the supports one by one. The father’s industry is beset by myriad inducements, from sports to gambling, from belittling of fatherhood to temptations of the flesh. The mother, likewise, is told that her attentive motherhood is not only oppressive unpaid labor, but a waste of her real talents that remain untapped. The children are offered entertainments that introduce vice, undermine respect for their parents, and discourage them from exercising prudence and self-control. The whole family is broadsided by suggestions that their hard work and fidelity are actually outmoded and myopic — that there are other ways to spend their time, other ways to express their love. The families around them are disintegrating; the mass media is delighting in individualism and experimentation; and the children are drifting from the core values that sustain healthy societies. 

Such are the centrifugal forces at work today, although from the trenches, it is quite difficult to assess the larger picture — all we see are the troubling details that cause confusion and doubt. The opening lines of St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the family outlined the dangers even 33 years ago: “The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture. Many families are living this situation in fidelity to those values that constitute the foundation of the institution of the family. Others have become uncertain and bewildered over their role or even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal and family life” (Familiaris Consortio).

Just because the current cultural trajectory is off-course and the proper human bonds are quickly unraveling doesn’t mean that the outcome is inevitable — in any given family or country. But the course correction must be deliberate and firm, based on a supernatural view of the situation. It requires prayer, sacrifice, study, and an “evangelical discernment” that understands what needs saving and why. 

All of this, ultimately, is in the hands of God, Who is only too happy to help those who cry out to Him. He has given us the tools — beginning with the Sacramentality of the bonds that require Divine assistance in this fallen world. We cannot fight this battle alone: our Marriages cannot thrive without grace, our children unbaptized and unconfirmed cannot withstand the lies, and our daily lives cannot flourish in a truly healthy way without the Mass. It begins with the Church, it is sustained by the Church, and it ends with the Church — whose own identity is founded on the nuptial union with the Bridegroom Who laid down His life for her and her children. Such is the essence of family love that we need to live here and now, and to defend with all our mortal strength. 

Anchor columnist Mrs. Kineke lives in Rhode Island, and can be found online at feminine-genius.com.

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