Tag Archives: Family life

When the soldier is abandoned

In a recent meditation on Christ’s Passion, it became wrenchingly clear that His greatest torments weren’t the excruciating injuries from punches and thorns, His lacerating shoulder wound from the gash of the cross, torso tears from flagellation, or iron spikes plunged through His palms. His greatest sadness was the abandonment and betrayal by those to whom He was closest. He was fighting for their good, and was deserted in turn.

This renders a good soldier’s mission almost insurmountable.

Christ was left alone by 11 of His 12 apostles (two by direct betrayal), and all extended family and home towners except His mother and a few holy women. His mother’s support during His heartbreaking Passion must have been of great comfort to Him. Imagine His relief at seeing her face as He shouldered the crushing cross, exhausted and lampooned. A parent’s affirmation can sustain an inconceivable journey.

We are soldiers on the same mission. What He asks of us, in belief and through our life’s example, is frequently derided and invalidated, not just by nonbelievers – which we’d expect – but by family and friends, colleagues, even other Catholics.

How does it play out? Perhaps like this.

A parish school allows parents to preview an upcoming health presentation for fourth graders, which will include explicit sexual topics. When parents view the production, it’s clear that facets will compromise the innocence of kids; only one or two parents object. The rest go along for fear of appearing paranoid. The objectors are told by teachers they’re “doing their children a disservice,” and kids will be ostracized by classmates if they don’t attend. What’s really at stake – fitting in or safeguarding kids’ purity?

Or this.

In launching a product campaign, a corporate communications team meets with a TV network it hopes to include in its promotions – for possible commercials, sponsorships, and special events.

The network instead puts the client-company on the defensive by insisting the content of the ads and events include language pertinent to LGBT audiences and programming. Without such affirmative language, there will be no deal. The corporation’s Catholic CEO faces a big decision, which will invite flak either way.

Though the century is different, it’s really the same battle. At the end of the day, are we standing with Christ, or taking flight? There’s one Truth – at home, in our parishes, and in business. If we know what it is and deny it or deem it irrelevant, we’re abandoning Christ all over again.

But the good soldier, when he holds to Truth and perseveres through mutating battle, might be ditched by those who can’t tolerate his style. Others may still ‘Kiss Christ’ and profess their love for Him. But it takes graced fortitude, abiding love for Our Savior, and detachment from human reward to engage heroically on His behalf as authentic Catholics, come what may – whether in risk of relationships, profit, or life itself.

The 14th-century Crusade-fighting French knight, Geoffroi de Charny, proclaimed, “No one can excuse himself in bearing arms in a just cause, whether for his lord or for his lineage, or for himself, or for the Holy Church.”

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Restoring decorum

Movies from the first half of the 20th century instill an awe for bygone norms — people walking the streets smartly dressed and neatly groomed, greeting others cordially, and exhibiting instinctive social and moral decency. Elders and authorities were honored, children (even as adults) respectful when questioned or corrected — even if unjustly. Okay, so they’re movies, but newsreels from that era show much of the same.

What a radical difference a century makes.

Decorum has taken a nosedive, and the repercussions are toxic. “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world,” Pope St. John Paul II said in 1986.

At a holiday party about 10 years ago, a guest asked her collegiate daughter a question about school, encouraging her to tell the others how her studies were progressing. Whoops, sinkhole. The girl took a wild turn, slewing vulgarity and curses at her mother for not keeping enough money in the kid’s bank account. Now the “young lady” had the full party’s attention. The mother — not known for reticence — fell silent, feigning normalcy. Then she promised to deposit money the next day. The girl stormed out, slamming the door.


It was like a scene from The Bad Seed. Only worse.

Decorum, ‘close cousin’ to modesty, is an integral virtue for life, and has to be instilled early in the family. Without it, kids will emerge ‘undressed’ for what life inevitably unveils … sparking embarrassing and obscene tirades, early failure, depression, rebellion, depravity, and other destructive act-outs.

In the most difficult moments, a person’s true essence becomes apparent. It’s hard to be temperate, rational, and self-regulated in midst of uncertainty, disappointment, or rejection. But it’s possible with innate discipline and spiritual muscle. It’s what Christ meant when He said “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mat 11:29)— that He could calmly withstand battering humiliation that might defeat even the most stalwart, but He would endure it with grace and fortitude, honoring His Father’s will. We see something similar in certain business situations — when successful executives remain cheerful and circumspect amid staff, investor or media hostility, exposition of personal crises, or publicized downturns. It sets a standard for subordinates.

But parents tolerating open interrogation from their kids, along with vulgarity and profanity, set themselves and their kids up for problems. Some senior professionals — including close friends — who wouldn’t stomach disrespect from their staffs, swallow it from their kids. “I gave my son everything,” one confided. “After he graduated, I gave him a job at my firm. He arrives late, complains, and makes excuses. I took him to lunch to discuss it, and instead he rebuked me in areas where he thinks I fall short as his father.”

If our children are our legacy, investing in their character and propriety will outrank their future stature or wealth. He who disciplines his son will profit by him … and will make his enemies envious. …The father may die, and yet he is not dead, for he has left behind one like himself (Sir 30: 2-4).

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Catholic Summer Camps – Keeping Faith Aflame

Daily Mass. Team-building activities, swimming, learning to evangelize, studying the faith, Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, horses, songs, and s’mores. All are part of summertime for many Catholic youths and young adults, and legates are a big part of helping it happen at Catholic summer camps.

Road to Damascus
Damascus: A Catholic Youth Summer Camp
(Centerburg, OH)

Damascus Catholic Mission Campus offers a lake, ponds, wildlife habitats, classrooms, and adventure activity areas for campers. Not just a summer camp, Damascus is the first Catholic Mission Campus ever, with a unique vision to provide a summer camp program called Catholic Youth Summer Camp, as well as retreats for Catholic youths.

Dick Faist, a member of the Genesis Chapter, first met with Dan DeMatte in 2016 and learned about the Catholic Youth Summer Camps DeMatte was co-founding around Ohio, as well as a beautiful, newly acquired site for a camp and retreat center. DeMatte invited Faist and his wife to visit the camp a year later and they were impressed by the closing Mass and the youths’ enthusiasm and expression of faith. “We left the property that day feeling that there is indeed hope for the young generation,” Faist said.

Young campers love the Eucharistic Adoration at the lake during sunset, Confession, Eucharistic processions, daily Mass, and spiritual direction from priests, with chaplains available to campers the entire time—all in the beauty of God’s creation, with no tech devices.

DeMatte knows the camp is bearing abundant fruit. “From the moment young people arrive on campus they realize this place is radically different from anywhere they have ever been,” he said.

God in Nature
Camp Sancta Maria
(Gaylord, MI)

With 96 acres amid the towering pines of northern Michigan, Camp Sancta Maria has a long history of Catholic youth camping. Founded in 1933, it offers single-gender sessions with zip lines, horse and adventure camps, a new archery range, sports, canoeing, beachfront lake activities, daily prayer and Mass, and a chaplain who is always present. Parent-and-child weekends are very popular. Camp counselors are well-trained, joyful role models from area universities and seminaries. With a newly remodeled mess hall and cabins with fresh bunk beds and mattresses, the camp always strives to upgrade its grounds and facilities.

Richard Genthe, a Legate in the Ann Arbor Chapter, is on the camp’s board of directors. Father Robert Spezia, president of the board, knew of Genthe’s longtime support of a popular nondenominational camp—a camp that draws many young Catholics. Spezia invited Genthe to help Camp Sancta Maria expand and grow, and Genthe hopes he is able in some way to help “get a lot of cross-pollination,” by bringing more of those youths over to Camp Sancta Maria, where they can experience Mass, Confession, and Eucharistic Adoration, and to “put these experiences on par with archery, for example.”

“The mission of Camp Sancta Maria is more crucial than ever: providing a technology-free place where our children can spend time in nature, develop healthy, lifelong relationships with each other, and come to encounter Jesus in a way that changes the trajectory of their lives,” said Fr. Spezia.

A true retreat
Camp Gray
(Reedsburg, WI)

At popular Camp Gray, faith comes alive for youths yearround with retreats during the school year and activityfilled camps in the summer. It was established in 1953 by Monsignor Francis Gray for children to get away from their troubles and experience Christ in a new way. A chaplain and a servant-leadership team of hardworking missionaries trained in retreat ministry all come together to do good and give glory to God. Ken Ballweg, president of the Madison Chapter, has been board director, a generous donor, and his children attended the camp. Legatus will come to Camp Gray for the Summer Social and an evening of Mass and dinner is planned, concluding at Lake Jake to watch campers cheer on the culmination of the Cassidy Games, a competition of games.

Jeff Hoeben, executive director of the camp, said that the world of Catholic camps is growing and that with God’s grace, one week at Camp Gray, with Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, and Mass can change a life forever. He said that a camper’s family recently wrote that their son reconnected with his shaky faith and has found spiritual refuge and renewal there.

“Campers have the opportunity to learn the ‘art of living’ surrounded by the beauty of creation,” Hoeben said. “Christian values are present in everything we do…and this makes the experience of coming to a Catholic summer camp transformative in all aspects of one’s life.”

Global perspective
Catholic Worldview Fellowship

This fellowship for American college students and young adults includes four weeks of summer at a castle in the German Rhineland and a week in Rome learning how to evangelize the culture. The Regnum Christi of the Legionaries of Christ select college students and young adults to attend the courses, which are built on four areas of formation: academic, leadership, cultural, and spiritual. Students receive six academic credits from the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. The program has Mass, spiritual formation, Eucharistic Adoration, and personal dialogue provided by priests and/or consecrated women from the Regnum Christi Movement.

A professional leadership coach gives seminars and offers one-on-one mentoring to students “to provide a holistic, formative experience that bolsters the faith and gives a toolbox on how to effectively evangelize culture,” said Fr. Ryan Richardson, LC, executive director and Dallas Chapter chaplain.

A key component of the fellowship is leadership formation. “My involvement with the Legatus Dallas Chapter has put me in touch with Catholic leaders who are role models on how to be successful in business while pursuing a life of holiness,” he said.

The biggest fruit of the program? “Students realize they are not alone in living out their faith,” he said. “They are now supported by a network of like-minded peers who provide encouragement in their desire to become modern-day saints.”

Campers can “unplug”

For many campers, it is difficult to “unplug” from their phones and tech devices, but soon they thrive. Hoeben says he sees a big change in campers by the third day of camp, when confidence blossoms.

One boy, when first dropped off at Camp Sancta Maria, was devastated to be without his phone. When his father came to pick him up after two weeks, he came bounding across the grass to meet him, shouting, “Hi, Dad! I want to come for three weeks next year!”

Grounding for future

Catholic summer camps have seen many campers grow up to become seminarians, priests, or religious. Some campers grow up and get married to one another and raise Catholic families.

“The kids grow in confidence and begin loving themselves,” DeMatte said. “They say, ‘I came to camp for the Jet Skis, but I left in love with Jesus in the Eucharist.’”

NANCY CARABIO BELANGER is the proofreader for Legatus magazine and an award-winning Catholic children’s author.

Thriving society hinges on health of the family

Regardless of creed, national origin, or cultural background, a nation’s strength and survival fundamentally depend on the stability of the family.

The family and marriage need to be defended and promoted not only by the State but also by the whole of society. Both require the decisive commitment of every person because it is starting from the family and marriage that a complete answer can be given to the challenges of the present and the risks of the future. — Charter of the Rights of the Family, ¶9

Because of the weakening of families, society is plagued by a host of violent behaviors. Evils ranging from promiscuity, pornography, contraception, abortion, the rejection of parental rights, divorce, co-habitation, legalization of same-sex unions, and human trafficking, lead to societal and family violence, chronic poverty, and the abandonment of society’s care for the aged and handicapped.

If a healthy society hinges upon the health and vibrancy of the family, then we must defend its immutable role as instituted by God. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote, and defend the institution of marriage, an indissoluble and exclusive union between one man and one woman, as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Within natural marriage, man and woman give themselves completely to one another, begetting and raising children. Within this sacred environment, the first school, children learn: love, goodness, care, responsibility toward their neighbors, forgiveness, mercy, and charity.

Man Needs God

We should note here that while governments can adopt policies that to some degree protect the family, the real work is at the cultural level, which both determines and is determined by politics. The wealthy nations and NGOs that are promoting the radical redefinition of rights and values have great access to governments, but they often are thwarted where the Church has a toehold, and where she is still often leading the fight to protect the natural family and sacredness of human life.

When faith is central, the Church is a key component of daily life and her teachings are integrated in the life of the community; there is life, joy and peace – a healthy society. When faith is rejected and acceptance of immoral teachings become normative, the community begins to wither and violence against life and family prospers.

For many in the world, science, technology and man’s own abilities are sufficient for life’s dilemmas and resolutions. We have seen the fruit of such a perilous direction and the consequences resulting from the rejection of God. All we need do is turn back the pages of time to the 20th century to experience one of history’s most violent and murderous periods. It is a testimony to man’s ability to self-destruct without a Truth outside himself guiding him, calling him, and giving him purpose and identity.

The human person is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake. — Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1703

Do you love Me more?

We cannot say this task of conversion belongs to others, for the task belongs to each of us. In order to authentically redirect society from its hazardous direction and transform it into a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love, we must defend the natural family and protect every life; all Christian people must live fully integrated lives in Christ, being light and salt and determined through heroic virtue and witness to regain what has been lost.

When one’s strength is anchored and sustained by faith in Christ Jesus, animated by the Holy Spirit and nourished in prayer, he or she is unstoppable – able to overcome the challenges of the world, thwarting evil from its destructive will, renewing the face of the earth.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Formative years with family – inestimable for life

One of the most inspiring churchmen today is Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Cardinal Sarah hails from the remote village of Ourous in the small West African country of Guinea, where he served as archbishop of Conakry before being called to Rome by Pope St. John Paul II to work in the Roman Curia. Cardinal Sarah has given two book-length interviews to French journalist Nicolas Diat: God or Nothing and The Power of Silence. They are commanding testimonies of faith and wisdom. He is not afraid to challenge with blunt words calling for repentance and renewal, and a return to sound spiritual practices and attitudes.

Fr. Gerald Murray

Regarding family life, he brings his rich personal experience into analysis of today’s challenges. In God or Nothing he states: “In Guinea, the family has remained the primordial cell of society, the place where we learn … to serve them unostentatiously. On my continent, the family is the melting pot of the values that irrigate the whole culture … where customs, wisdom, and moral principles are handed down, the cradle of unconditional love. Without this, neither society nor the Church exists anymore. In a family, the parents transmit the faith… they lay the foundations on which we build our life. The family is the little Church where we [first] encounter God, love Him, and form personal ties with Him.”

Cardinal Sarah’s parents were of great inspiration: “Like many villagers, my parents were farmers.… We were not rich; … our labor allowed us to be fed, clothed, and guaranteed a subsistence wage. My parents’… trust in God made a deep impression… I never saw them conflict with anyone.”

I recently heard a college professor say that when children play, they practice being adults.

Children, then, emulate the adults they spend time with and admire. Here we see the critical importance of parents’ external religious practices and attitudes, which they automatically communicate to children.

Cardinal Sarah recalls his youth: “My father taught me great love for the Virgin Mary. I can still see him kneeling down on the sand to pray the Angelus every day at noon and in the evening. I never forgot those moments … I imitated him and recited my prayers to the Mother of Jesus at his side.” When Cardinal Sarah entered minor seminary, he had to leave the village and travel a great distance. His return home in summers taught him the depths of his parents’ love for God and for their only son. Some of their friends tried to convince them that their son should not be allowed to pursue a priestly vocation. “I was very lucky, because my parents never opposed it. They understood the depth of my joy and did nothing to frustrate God’s plan for me. As Christians, they reflected that if my path was really leading me to the seminary, the Lord would guide me to the end.”

I, too, remember fondly the example of my own parents. As a youth, I was surprised to learn that my father went to daily Mass before work. My childish reaction was to say, “You only have to go to Mass on Sundays.” True, but Dad wanted to be at Mass every day. When I was older, my mother told me I, too, should attend morning Mass during Lent before class at the parish school. Those days were the seedbed of my priestly vocation.

Cardinal Sarah states what is obvious, but often forgotten: “Parents are man’s first educators. In a family, man learns to live and manifest the presence of God. If Christ is the bond that holds a family together, then it will have an indestructible solidity.”

The great challenge for parents is entrusting their children to God not simply at baptism, but every day. They do this by their prayers and sacrifices, by virtuous struggle to inspire children to love the Lord, by continuous example of humble dependence on God and His Church for strength and direction, by a simple way of life that treats Christian duties as opportunities to please the Lord and to grow in his grace.

Cardinal Sarah states: “Familial harmony can be the reflection of the harmony of heaven.” We all know when we feel touched by a heavenly blessing. Faith and love shared between parents and their children will produce abundant joys that are a foretaste of that heavenly harmony.

FATHER GERALD MURRAY is the pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He was ordained on December 1, 1984. He was awarded a doctorate in canon law in 1998 by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has appeared as a commentator on religious topics on various television and radio outlets, including EWTN, EWTN Spanish, Fox News, Fox Business News, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for The Catholic Thing website. He served in U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.


Faith in the Family

Looking at recent Catholic Church statistics in the U.S., one might recoil in despair. The numbers show a Church in decline.

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2015 “America’s Changing Religious Landscape” study, 41% of American adults who were raised Catholic say they no longer identify with Catholicism. A 2010 Pew Forum study revealed that 45% of Catholics didn’t know the Church’s teachings on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Parents concerned about such trends might wonder how they can ensure their children will remain faithful. For busy executives, practicing the faith may present additional challenges that come with their careers.

Crisis of faith’s ripple effect

“There really is a crisis that is having a ripple effect,” said Marc Cardaronella, director of the Office of Discipleship and Faith Formation in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO diocese, and author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick (Ave Maria Press, 2016). “Those without faith are becoming parents and passing their lack of faith on.”

His answer? The example of countercultural, religious, active families.

Not only is Cardaronella the father of two teenage sons, but he also abandoned his Catholic faith as a young adult.

“I attended CCD and was confirmed,” said Cardaronella. “But gradually, I fell away as secularism pervaded everything else.”

Family fervor needed

In religious education, Cardaronella believes whole family catechesis bears the most fruit. He made use of it in a previous position as a director of religious education, utilizing the Family Formation program.

“Family catechesis is really powerful,” he said. “They come out of it with more knowledge than they would have sitting in a class with a textbook.”

Cardaronella stressed that while religious education is important, what happens at home is most powerful.

“Parents control what their children are reading and seeing, the service projects they are performing, and extracurricular activities,” said Cardaronella. “What do parents stress as important? Is a devotional life emphasized? Are they reading the Bible? Are they praying with their children and teaching them to have God at the center of their lives?”

Father Hezekias Carnazzo, founding executive director of the Institute for Catholic Culture, and an ordained Melkite Greek Catholic priest, highlighted two principles that he cites as key to passing on the faith.

Parents can’t give what they don’t exemplify

“You cannot give what you do not have, and you cannot love what you do not know,” said Fr. Carnazzo.

“Many serious Catholics ask, ‘what can I do to ensure my kids stay Catholic?’” said Fr. Carnazzo, who has five children. “This is a common way to deflect responsibility.”

“Passing on the faith isn’t just intellectual,” he stressed. “If I want my children to remain Catholic, I have to ensure they are living as Catholics. To the extent that I’m living the faith, and feasting and fasting and learning…. Where my life and love is, the children will follow.”

Catholic mother and blogger (Of Sound Mind and Spirit) Lisa Henley Jones, of Houston, Texas, said that consistently attending Mass as a family, praying, and injecting faith into everyday life are key.

“If we’re taking food to someone who has had surgery or who has just had a baby, we let our kids know that we do this because we’re called to this as part of being a Christian,” she explained. “We just make it who we are.”

Jones added that she’s found a Catholic summer camp helpful for her children, and she’s found a parish women’s retreat helpful to her as a wife and mother.

Role of the father

The role of the father is paramount. A Swiss government study from 2000 revealed that, “it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”

The study found that if a father does not go to Church, no matter his wife’s faithfulness, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper.

If, however, the father goes to Church regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and threequarters of their children will become churchgoers.

Matthew James Christoff, a father of seven, founded The New Emangelization Project as a means of addressing the “man-crisis” in the Church. The website features interviews and resources for Catholic men’s ministry. Among the guiding principles, Christoff recommends parish-based and diocesan men’s-only support groups and events.

Following the success of the Protestant men’s group Promise Keepers in the 1990s, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a report concluding that men need to witness to each other in “a simple, direct, caring approach that allows men to tell their stories.”

“Men crave male companionship and will respond to opportunities to build brotherhood in the pursuit of Christ,” says Christoff.

Kevin Olson founded the men’s ministry Ecclesia Domestica. He’s provided Catholic retreats and seminars for men in two Midwestern dioceses, and said that he’s seen the impact his own participation in church has had on his four children, ages 9 to 19.

“My children know that they have a dad who isn’t going to quit,” said Olson, of Zimmerman, MN. “They know that I’m not going to abandon them or the faith…that I will keep plugging away and providing and protecting. It’s in our DNA to lead.”

“How do you get people to love the Church?” asked Olson. “If they have a desire for Jesus, they’ll have a desire for His Church.”

The prodigal child

Passing on the faith, however, isn’t a magic formula. Families cannot do A and B expecting to always get C.

Cardaronella stressed the danger in emphasizing the question of “how to keep your children Catholic?”

“You can do everything right, and some children still walk away from the faith. You can have a family where one kid becomes a priest and others have fallen away. They have free will,” said Cardaronella.

“When things go right, we think it’s because of what we did, and when things go wrong, we blame ourselves,” said Judy Landrieu Klein, mother of five, blogger (MemorareMinistries.com) and author of Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God (Ave Maria Press, 2016 ). “We’re playing God and acting as if it all depends on us. That’s faith in myself, not in God.”

Jones described the teen years as “really hard.”

“Just when you really need support, there’s a lack of it,” she said, explaining that while every family deals with struggles, few are willing to share them with others, perhaps out of a desire to protect the privacy of the children.

Jones turns to Saints Monica and Augustine.

“My go-to Saint is Monica,” admitted Jones. “She’s the saint for modern moms. In the midst of all these things going wrong, and her son rejecting the faith and God, she didn’t fall into despair. Instead she wept and just kept praying.”

St. Ambrose once told Monica, ‘It is impossible that the child of so many tears should perish.’

“It won’t always work out in our lifetime,” Jones added, “but we have to have faith that it will and just keep praying for our children.”

Blessed Mother’s parental model

Klein proposes the Blessed Mother as the perfect model for parents.

“No one understands the suffering that parents go through the way that Our Lady does,” said Klein. “Mary shows us the way we are to relate to God, receiving what God has for us in trust. So many times in our lives with our children, things don’t go well. That’s when we’re invited to surrender more deeply to God, and say as Mary did, ‘Let it be done unto me according to Thy will.’”

Klein agreed that we shouldn’t be asking the question of how to keep our children Catholic.

“That question is more geared toward ourselves,” Klein said. “The question should be: ‘How do we surrender everything in our lives to God, including our children?’”

“We’re not guaranteed a perfect story or outcome as far as we can see it,” said Klein. “In fact, we’re pretty much guaranteed the opposite and we’re told to carry our cross and follow Christ.”

“We think that we can exert things on the world and our children, but that’s not life, and it’s not Christianity,” said Klein. “Scripture tells us that we will have trouble in this world. The only authentic power the human creature has is surrender.”

TIM DRAKE is a Legatus staff writer.


Resources Apostolate for Family Consecration


Family Formation Whole Family Catechesis


Family: Rediscovering the basics

This special family issue of Legatus magazine comes at an appropriate time — only two months after Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation on the family: Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).

Fr. Robert Kaylor

Before I look at this document and other recent statements on family, let me take you back to my seminary days. In my first sociology class, the professor opened the class with the true and profound statement: “The family is the basic unit of society.” The 2005 textbook Study of Human Relationships backs up this statement:

In an article published several years ago, writer William Sayres asked the question, “What is a family, anyway?” How would you answer? Older adults might be deeply influenced by images of family life depicted in 1950s and ’60s television programs like Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver.

The families in those programs were strong and child-centered. Duties within the family were rigidly defined — the father was the breadwinner and the mother was the homemaker. For some children, the most serious problems they faced were what to spend their allowances on or how to deal with having two dates on the same night. Some critics challenged these presentations of family life because the images did not accurately represent the reality of family life.

In the 21st century, television shows depict the variety found in family life. Today, the vast majority of children live in families with two working parents or with only one parent in the household. While allowances and dating are still important factors in young people’s lives, other far more serious issues have been added to the list of youthful concerns.

While the Leave It To Beaver days of the past appear to be gone, can we say that TV’s depiction of family in programs like All in the Family, Married with Children and Modern Family is the way family life should be depicted? I hope we can strike a happy medium as we look at today’s American family, which is still the basic unit of our society.

As Catholics, what should be the basis and primary focus of our family life? Allow me to cite some points Pope Francis made during World Youth Day in 2013. The Pope stressed, “How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith! How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage, which is so essential for each and every society.”

The Pope adds, in agreement with my sociology professor, that “the family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.” In an address to the bishops of Brazil, Pope Francis reiterated: “It is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church.”

In his teaching, Pope Francis reaffirms my opening statement. The family is the basic unit of society. He affirms this even more in Amoris Laetitia. Let me refer to a recent column by Bishop George Murry, SJ, of my home Diocese of Youngstown:

The fundamental points found in Amoris Laetitia are these: First, the Church should be characterized by mercy and forgiveness, rather than judgment and condemnation. Second, marriage and family life are the bedrocks on which a healthy society is built. Third, the scriptures set before us the ideals of how love is to be lived in families. Fourth, while we must strive for the ideal, the reality is that cultural differences influence families in a variety of ways and that many families are broken or wounded. And fifth, the Church has a responsibility from God to encourage all families to grow in love and to accompany, remain close to, and integrate those who suffer the effects of wounded love.

Father Nicholas Austin, SJ, an ethics professor at Heythrop College writes: “The media will want to know: Does Francis change the doctrine of the Church? I would say that Francis does not change the content of Church teaching on marriage and family; he transposes it from the key of law to that of virtue and makes the primacy of love clearer once again. He does not abandon the rules of the Church, but it is clear now that for Pope Francis, as it should be for us, the first and living rule is the person of Jesus Christ, his humility, his gentleness, his joy and his love.”

Three Jesuits — Pope Francis, Bishop Murry and Father Austin — affirm today what I was taught almost 50 years ago in my sociology class: Family is the basic unit of society. May the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — always have a presence in your home.

FR. ROBERT KAYLOR is president of Canton Central Catholic High School and chaplain of Legatus’ Akron-Canton Chapter in Ohio.