NEWS SERVICE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC FAMILIES
The Sanctuary of Love
ME BEGIN with a few reflections on what we mean by the word "sanctuary."
One of the images which came to mind when I was preparing these
thoughts is the place where I play racquetball. It is called the
Cherry Street Sporting Club. But within the club, there is another
place called "The Sanctuary Spa." At that spa, the proprietors
describe sanctuary as a place to escape from the world into relaxation
- a place to focus on yourself and your own well-being. It suggests
a kind of luxury. Actually, this "sanctuary" is a place
where people get their nails done; the manicures and massages make
the clients feel relaxed and beautiful.
there is nothing wrong with being relaxed or beautiful or both,
but it is important for us to see that the idea of "sanctuary"
we are now discussing is a very different kind of thing. The sanctuary
of the womb, where a child grows and develops, is a good image.
The sanctuary of the church, where God dwells in the Eucharist,
is another good image. The church as political sanctuary in the
Middle Ages is another good image. So too the family is a special
place where God is encountered, a place where life is encouraged
and nourished, and grows. This is a place where life is protected
from the dangers of an aggressive and violent world around us.
as Christians do not spend their whole lives in the sanctuary of
the church, family members cannot spend their whole lives in the
sanctuary of the family. They need to have a passion for Jesus Christ
- an urgent desire to spread the Gospel and share their Catholic
faith. They need to have a missionary zeal for the family, for changing
the world, for building the kind of environment that makes real
family life possible.
And so, with that in mind, let us plunge into the topic at hand.
Meaning of Words
theme is: "The family as a sanctuary of love." This is
a simple phrase, using simple words. And that makes sense. All truth
is finally very simple - and also very rich in meaning. Our Holy
Father, Pope John Paul II, has revisited the theme of marriage and
the family again and again in his homilies on the theology of the
body, in his apostolic exhortation 'On the Family', and in his 1994
'Letter to Families.'
in a way, everything we need to know about love, marriage and the
family has already been preached. And yet, when we look around us,
it becomes clear that the world obviously is not listening. In fact
the world seems to have no interest in listening. The question is:
me offer another example. How many people understand what a vocation
is? When the Church speaks of "vocation," she means the
"calling out" of each human person - to accomplish a unique
task preordained by God in the co-redemption of the world. Every
human being has a vocation. God created each individual person with
a specific purpose in mind. The greatest satisfaction for a Christian
is discovering and pursuing the purpose for which God created him.
The idea of vocation implies that there is a design for your life.
It also implies a Designer, since Somebody greater than you and
I must create us for the task we are meant to accomplish. Since
the world around us does not often reflect on "God," it
rarely even uses the word "vocation." When it does, the
word "vocation" is really used as just another word for
a skill or profession. The "vocational" high schools in
the United States certainly do not exist to help young people figure
out the larger meaning of life. They are there to teach basic employment
skills - such as how to be a good auto- mechanic.
big difference in the way different people use the same words grows
even bigger when it comes to a topic like marriage. Marriage is
a vocation. When speaking of marriage, we Christians mean a lifelong,
loving, self-sacrificing, sacramental covenant between a man and
a woman. Please take note of that language. This is not an "agreement,"
but a covenant. There is an important difference. Agreements can
be passing. A covenant is forever; it cannot be revoked or dissolved.
The marriage covenant is ordered towards procreation and mutual
holiness. And within it, God plays a very active role as an equal
partner - in fact, more than equal partner - of the husband and
every one of these qualities of marriage - expressed in words like
lifelong, loving, self-sacrificing and sacramental - causes discomfort
to the modern mind. For many of our young people, change and choice
have become a kind of idolatry. Permanence seems stodgy, and sexual
roles have become confused.
persons now routinely argue for equal status before the law - not
just for themselves as children of God (which is justified) but
also for their relationships (which is not). Sacrament and mystery
have been squeezed aside by technology and materialism. The legal
contract has replaced the human covenant. Children are often talked
about like products, and even liabilities. Fertility is treated
as if it were a disease to be controlled. And the very idea of holiness
can be made to seem like a kind of pious delusion. After all, how
can holiness - the presence of something "other than"
humanity, subsisting without humanity - really be taken seriously
when our culture doubts the existence of anything outside the tangible
me offer another example: Think about the word "God."
Christians believe in a loving, personal, approachable Creator who
knows each one of us by name, and who seeks our eternal happiness.
Much of the world around us does not share this belief. For the
modern mind, God -when He seems credible at all - is little more
than an impersonal consciousness, without any real impact on the
life of human beings.
is a curious time. At the heart of much of today's social and natural
science is a deep sadness. This flows from our inability, apart
from God, to find meaning in all the knowledge we accumulate. Facts
do not really mean much, unless we have the key to unlock what they
mean. As a species, we now double our total knowledge every couple
of decades. We are drowning in facts and data, and yet we're still
desperately thirsty for meaning.
The Disintegration of Family Life
readers may remember the U.S. presidential campaign of 1992, which
marked the beginning of the Clinton era. During that campaign, the
incumbent US vice president, Dan Quayle, made 'family values' a
personal crusade. He argued that the traditional family was under
attack; that we needed to protect its privileged role in our culture
in order to restore our civic virtue; and that if we failed to defend
the family, contempt for human dignity would continue to grow.
a result of this campaign, Dan Quayle became the target of almost
universal media sarcasm. He and his running mate, President George
Bush, were later defeated in the election. But I like to think that
Dan Quayle had the last laugh when he read an article which appeared
in a prestigious U.S. magazine just five months after the election.
April 1993, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, writing for the Atlantic
Monthly published a cover story entitled " Dan Quayle was
right." In it, using the same social-science methods that are
so often manipulated by enemies of the family, she demonstrated
that alternatives to the traditional, intact, two-parent family
simply do not work.
only do those alternatives to the traditional family fail to provide
stability within the home, but they also have a fatal effect on
society as a whole. In fact, 'diverse models' of the family - which
in practice means single parent and stepparent households, and now
also same-sex couples as heads of households - clearly weaken society.
show that children in single-parent families are six times more
likely to be poor, and they stay poor longer, than their counterparts
who grow up with a mother who is married to their father. The children
of single-parent households are two to three times more likely to
have emotional and behavioural problems. They are more likely to
fail in the classroom; to drop out of school completely; to become
pregnant as teenagers; to abuse drugs; and run afoul of the law.
children of single-parent households are also at much higher risk
for physical and sexual abuse. Children from disrupted families
have a harder time achieving intimacy in their relationships, forming
stable marriages, and holding steady employment. In other words,
contrary to the North American mythology of the last 30 years, divorce
is a disaster for children. They just don't 'bounce back' from it.
trauma is deep and long lasting. And it shows itself in a great
variety of ways. Whitehead quotes family researcher Judith Wallerstein
as stressing that "Parent-child relationships are permanently
altered by divorce in ways that our society has not anticipated."
Not only do children experience a loss of parental attention at
the onset of divorce, but they also soon learn that at every stage
of their development, their parents are not available in the ways
that are urgently needed.
multiply the suffering of these children by tens of millions, and
you have a portrait of the social fabric of the United States today.
Eighty percent of black children in a city like Baltimore are now
born out of wedlock. Illegitimacy and divorce rates are extremely
serious - as are gang violence, domestic abuse, and the traffic
in illegal drugs.
point should be abundantly clear. In countries like the United States
- and perhaps in Canada as well - we have become confused about
the real nature of the family. We are also confused about freedom.
Freedom, to be authentic, must always be rooted in responsibility.
Instead, we have turned the quest for 'freedom' into a kind of worship
of personal licence, in which each person defines truth for himself,
and no higher authority is allowed to interfere with our personal
a result, we are straying farther and farther away from the type
of a community that builds, and lives, a common moral culture. Instead,
we are becoming a collection of individual consumers, competing
for our share of material goods, defined by our appetites and possessions
- but ignorant about the real nature of human dignity, which is
transcendent, rooted in God, and eternal.
more than two centuries, the United States has been a model of liberty
for the whole world. And as a child of the United States, I take
very great pride in my country's founding principles. But I am afraid
something has gone deeply wrong with the American social fabric
today, and instead of addressing it and attempting to heal it, we
exalt and export it.
me offer a concrete example of what I mean. I really believe that
at the heart of the population control policies advanced by my country,
you will find two basic impulses, selfishness and fear. We are hungry
to protect our material comforts, and we are afraid that people
of the developing world will take them away from us. So rather than
share what we have, we seek to reduce the number of those with whom
we might have to share. Any Christian will immediately see how destructive
to the family both of these impulses - fear and selfishness - are.
The family, by its very structure, is a rejection of fear and an
expression of hope. It is the embodiment of selfless love. Its natural
fertility brings the future into human flesh. The family is the
engine of life and the doorway by which God enters into humanity.
is interesting to note that so many of this century's "big"
ideologies, from Marxism and Leninism to certain kinds of feminism,
mistrust the family and seek to limit and control its scope - to
break it down, even when the practical results of that breakdown
are so obviously damaging to society as a whole. There is a reason
for their hostility. The family is a competing source of identity
and meaning. It demands unselfishness; it teaches community; it
inculcates higher values, which claim the moral authority to order
our material appetites. So the family undermines the power of ideology.
And so, in the developing world, good families are the single most
important strongholds of resistance to the industrialised nations'
culture of death, embodied by the crusade for zero population growth
and the policies of forced population control.
bishops of Latin America, several years ago, correctly identified
population control as "contraceptive imperialism." Population
control is the worst kind of hypocrisy, because it pretends to offer
freedom while it robs the emerging world of its birthright. It preaches
development while it steals the future - which for every culture
resides in its children. It claims to empower women while really
just making them barren. And in doing so, it smothers the family
before it can grow, or even begin.
the vocation of marriage is a call to both loving resistance and
missionary zeal: resistance to the culture of death, and zeal to
spread the truth about the nature of the human person, which is
fully revealed only in Jesus Christ.
More than a Social Institution
there is much more to Christian marriage and the Christian family
and their opposition to the culture of death. Christian marriage
is an echo, in human flesh, of the love within the Trinity itself.
That love is active; it creates new life; it thereby renews humanity
and the face of the entire earth.
moment of every day, a mother and father are teaching, guiding and
sanctifying each other and their children, while witnessing about
their love to the world beyond their home. The structure of marriage
- if lived fruitfully and faithfully - naturally points them outward
toward the world, as well as inward toward one another and their
children. Remember what St. Augustine said: " To be faithful
in little things is a big thing." Simply by living their vocation,
a husband and wife become the most important living cell of society.
Marriage is the foundation and guarantee of the family. And the
family is the foundation and guarantee of society.
family, as nothing else - not government, not technology, not shared
economic interests - will serve as a cornerstone of community. This
is why Pope John Paul II writes, in his 'Letter to Families': No
human society can run the risk of permissiveness on fundamental
issues regarding the nature of marriage and the family. Such moral
permissiveness [can only] damage the authentic requirements of peace
and communion among people.
is within the intimate, personal community of the family that a
son knows he is loved and has value. In observing her parents, a
daughter first learns basic values - such as loyalty, honesty, and
selfless concern for others - which build up the character of the
wider society. Truth is always most persuasive, not when we read
about it in a book or hear about it in a classroom, but when we
see it, firsthand, incarnated in the actions of our parents.
and family safeguard our most basic sense of community, because
within the family, the child grows up in a web of intimately connected
rights and responsibilities vis-`-vis other people. It also protects
our individual identity, because it surrounds the child with a mantle
of privacy and personal devotion. It is interesting that most of
the laws surrounding marriage in our culture were developed precisely
to protect family members from the selfishness and lack of love
so common in wider society. The family is the human person's single
most important sanctuary from mistaken models of love, wrong notions
of sexual relationships and destructive ideas about self-fulfilment.
All these painful things, if they are left unchecked, can be centrifugal
forces, pulling families apart.
is the counter-force. Love is the glue both for family and society.
This is why the family must be a "sanctuary of love."
We most easily understand love when we, ourselves, are the fruit
of our parents' tenderness. We most easily believe in fidelity when
we see it modelled by our fathers and our mothers. Love lived is
the unanswerable argument for God, and also for the value of the
gift of children is an essential part of the Christian reflection
on marriage. Marriage is transformed and fulfilled when spouses
co-operate with God in the creation of new human life. A husband
and wife are completed by sharing in God's procreative transmission
of life to their children, who are new and unique images of God.
This is why the Church resists population control by contraception
and abortion so forcefully.
uses conjugal love to personalise His creation. And in co-operating
with God's plan, a couple discovers the real meaning of their marriage.
That is why the argument that contraceptive love can be "unitive"
and "integrating" for spouses is simply wrong. Think about
it: What kind of fulfilment or perfection can come from a couple
"disinviting" God from the love which He, Himself established
is an act of refusing life, and deliberately excluding new life
is a choice for the culture of death. In contrast, every marriage,
which makes an act of trust in God and remains open to children
is a powerful choice for life. And it is to the glory of the Church
that, in the face of all the hostility of the modern world, she
keeps the words of the Creator - choose life - alive in humanity's
heart and conscience.
Called to Holiness
vocation is a call to holiness. Marriage and family are perhaps
the greatest example of that call. But what exactly does holiness
mean? In everyday language, we use the words 'good' and 'holy' almost
interchangeably. Holy people are, of course, also good people. But
the two words really do not mean the same thing.
comes from the Hebrew word 'kadosh'., which means 'other than.'
God is holy because He is 'other than' us. His ways are not the
ways of the world. This is why St. Paul tells us, in his Epistle
to the Romans, "Do not be conformed to the world." Pope
John Paul II used the same Scripture passage - "Do not be conformed
to the world" - as a foundation stone for 'Veritatis Splendor',
his great encyclical on the nature of truth.
brings us back to the ideas of loving resistance and missionary
zeal. While we should never be conformed to the world, neither do
we have a licence to condemn it, or withdraw from it. "Family
as sanctuary" does not mean "family as fortified enclave."
We cannot convert the world unless we engage it. We cannot be leaven
if we remove ourselves from the recipe.
as sanctuary" means family as source of refreshment, encouragement,
renewal, formation and strength for our mission to the world. God
put us here to actively help Him complete His work of redemption
- because He loves the world. That is why He sent His Son to die
for the world. As we struggle and pray for God's holiness in our
personal lives, so too we must work to draw the entire world, and
all of creation, into that holiness along with us.
balancing act of 'love for the world' and 'resistance to its ways,'
can be a difficult one. It will never be accomplished until we offer
much better programs of marriage preparation to our young people
than we have offered in the recent past. Here in North America,
far too many Catholic young people marry with good intentions and
even a healthy love for God and the Church. But they do not really
understand the sacramental nature of marriage expressed in the fifth
chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, and they do not
see the larger purpose or ecclesial dimension of their covenant.
In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul speaks about marriage
as a sacrament of Christ, a mystery - that husbands should love
their wives as Christ loved the Church.
need to see in the love of a husband for his wife, and a wife for
her husband, a sign f Christ's love for us, an unselfish self-giving
love. Our young people need to understand the excitement, joy and
adventure of this sacrament; to be challenged to love as Christ
did; to trust in an unpredictable future out of love for God and
their spouses. They have to see love within marriage and family
as an adventure, as a participation in the mystery of Christ's love
for the Church. The fact that they too often do not see these things
is a very serious judgement upon all of us as parents, as teachers,
as pastors, and as bishops. We have been responsible for their souls.
But I doubt that many of them even know what a covenant is.
especially, too many of our young people are not ready for the cross.
They do not understand its importance, in every vocation, including
marriage. And so when suffering and sacrifice come they do not see
these things, as an opportunity to grow in grace or to witness the
spirit of Christ to others; they see these things as a sign of failure.
Too many of our married young people simply give up.
than 50 percent of all new marriages in the United States now end
in divorce. For reasons we have already seen, this is a disaster
for our culture. But even more alarming is the fact that Catholics,
who are called to be a leaven in society, have exactly the same
divorce rate. The one very revealing exception to this trend is
that Catholics who practice natural family planning (NFP) have much
lower divorce rates.
could survive as lukewarm Christians when the Church was part of
society's 'establishment,' and religion was seen as a praiseworthy
social habit. But those days are long past, and God has given our
generation a very different environment. The world culture that
is taking shape around us today will not be a friend of the Gospel
- at least not for a very long time. The religion of modern, secular
society is the practical atheism of technology. It is aggressive,
confident and intolerant. We see all of these qualities in the spirit
of recent international conferences such as the ones held in the
1990s in Cairo and in Beijing.
lies the need for every Christian marriage to be engaged in missionary
outreach. We do our best preaching, of course, by example. A married
couple who model a love for Jesus Christ within their family - who
pray and worship together with their children, and read the Scriptures
- become a beacon for other couples. At the same time, however,
our families absolutely do need to recover an outward-looking zeal
about family life itself, about spreading the Gospel, teaching the
faith, and doing good apostolic works. St. Matthew's Gospel tells
us: "Go, make disciples of all nations." It does not add
".unless you're married." The Epistle of St. James tells
us that faith without works is a dead faith. It does not add, "unless
you have children."
my home state of Colorado, entire families of Seventh Day Adventists
or Jehova's witnesses often go from door to door in a neighbourhood,
recruiting for their churches. The doctrines of these groups are
really very confused, and their tactics can certainly be frustrating.
But I admire the zeal these people show in spreading what they mistake
for the truth. And I often ask myself: How would our Catholic families
compare to them, in their zeal for the Gospel?
here is my final thought:
at the turn of the century, no Catholic family can afford to be
a "sanctuary" in the sense of digging its own little foxhole.
God does not call us to burrow in and wait for the rapture. Our
God is the God of life, abundance, deliverance and joy. And we are
His missionaries - by nature and by mandate. No Catholic family
can afford to be lukewarm about the Church as the new millennium
arrives. No culture is so traditionally "Christian" that
it has heard enough about Jesus Christ; no culture is safe from
the unbelief and contempt for human dignity which mark our age.
Catholic families will either passionately live and joyfully spread their Catholic faith, or they will soon find that they have no Catholic faith left to share. But of course God will not let that happen. We are part of His solution.
GRANT US, Father a spirit of wisdom and insight, so that we may know the great hope to which we have been called.
Let peace and harmony reign among all the dwellers on the earth.
To those who exercise the ministry of authority in the service of their brothers, send a spirit of wisdom and humility.
May all those consecrated to you together devote themselves to constant prayer.
Grant us, O God, to fill up in our own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for his Church.
To our families and benefactors grant the blessing of everlasting life.
Be ever mindful of your mercy, exalt the lowly; fill the hungry with good things.
Both in life and death, let us be yours, O Lord.
the world from its slavery to corruption, to share
in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
This bulletin is published by the National Association of Catholic Families, UK Registered Charity No.298481. Our main website is at http://www.catholic-family.org.uk The reliability of the news herein is dependent on that of the cited sources, which are paraphrased rather than quoted. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the NACF. Please forward this bulletin to other interested parties. To unsubscribe, send an appropriate email to firstname.lastname@example.org No appended files accepted, unless by prior arrangement.
Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, pray for us