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Biblical Teachings on Marriage and Family. A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

December 29, 2013

It is not difficult to demonstrate that most of our modern problems center around struggles and misunderstandings regarding marriage, sexuality, and the family. Collectively as a nation and the culture, we have departed significantly from the teachings of God and common sense, when it comes to our thinking and behavior regarding these three fundamental pillars.

Today’s Feast of the Holy Family presents us an opportunity to reflect, and provides a rich tapestry of Scriptures. Many of these teachings are not “politically correct,” but for that, no apology should be made. They remain God’s teachings and it is hard to argue that modern notions of sexuality, marriage and family have produced anything short of catastrophe and disaster. And as is usually the case, it is the children suffer the most.

Any look at statistics, show facts and trends that are not merely alarming, they are downright astonishing, especially given how steeply and suddenly they have occurred. Currently more than 40% of children in this country are raised without two parents. Numbers have declined even more steeply for minority communities.

In 1961, the year of my birth, 80% of black children were raised in a two parent family; today that number is 20%. And for whatever assertions may be made regarding racism and poverty, the fact is these numbers are demonstrably improved over those of 1961. Even with far greater social stressors and pressure, Black families used to stay together and work out their difficulties. Today with far greater affluence, this is no longer the case. “White” families and other ethnic and racial derivations may have numbers that are only slightly less shocking, and when we factor in age and generational differences the numbers are not that far apart.

The two-parent, heterosexual family is becoming quickly and endangered species. Along with this decline many grave social consequences follow, to include: lower SAT scores, and graduation rates, higher rates of juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, cohabitation rates, sexually-transmitted diseases, higher rates of homosexual inclinations and a higher tendency to divorce. Clearly as the model of the stable faithful heterosexual marriage becomes rarer, the capacity of young people to form stable families becomes less and less likely.

And whatever attempts to make the claim that this disordered state of affairs is probably just fine, and that “alternative family arrangements” are just as good as traditional ones, most people know that this is a lie. It just makes common sense that psychologically, the best environment for any child is to be raised in what nature, and nature’s God has set forth. Namely: that there should be a father and a mother, a male and female, who form a stable, committed, and lasting bond where their children can be formed in a safe environment of trust and learn the male and female genius of being human. A mother alone, or a father alone, or two fathers, or two mothers or any other combination is far less than ideal, and to intentionally subject children to this is an injustice.

Yet such departures from God’s plan for marriage and family are increasingly the norm today. There is much about which to pray and reflect on this Feast of the Holy Family

Having stated in a kind of general way the problems and misunderstandings regarding sexuality and family life today, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the readings and see five basic teachings or themes sets forth.

I. Honor – the opening of the first reading says God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. (Sirach 3:2). The reading goes on to state the blessings that come from this honor and obedience.

Yet, in modern culture, honor directed toward parents and elders has increasingly disappeared. The steady diet of most children on TV, music, and other media is that they are the “wise” ones, and that adults and parents are “out of touch.” A typical sitcom or commercial on television presents the children as all wise and up on the latest things, whereas the adults are usually pictured as quite clueless. And if there is a father in the picture, he is presented as a total buffoon.

When I was a child, my father forbade us to watch The Flintstones. He said that he would not allow his children to watch a cartoon the presented adults looking stupid, because this would not help them to respect their elders. He was right. Of course the Flintstones is quite mild compared to the steady diet of most youngsters some 50 years later.

The fact is, God teaches and commands that children should honor their father and their mother. Without respect and honor, there can be no teaching or handing on of wisdom from previous generations. The lack of honor and respect for parents, elders, and authority in our culture goes a long way to show why and how we are making foolish mistakes, and repeating errors long since discarded by previous generations.

While previous Christian generations and eras were not sinless by any means, it is evident that we are going steeply backwards, such that the folly and sinfulness described by Paul in Romans 1 regarding the pagan world have reemerged on a wide scale. But our folly is even worse, for we, unlike them, do have access to the gospel and our culture had emerged from the Judeo-Christian wisdom. But in a kind of teenage rebellion, we have collectively cast off the respect and honor that is due our elders, and the traditions and wisdom that they and the Church can offer us.

We must restore honor to our parents, elders, and lawful authority such as the Church if we want to see our families and culture strong again. Parents and those in lawful authority must also learn to teach and act as those worthy of respect and honor.

II. Hierarchy – . Although it is politically incorrect, the Lord through the Scriptures teaches the family must be hierarchically ordered. The father and husband used to have headship. The text from Colossians today says clearly

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,  as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives,  and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything,  for this is pleasing to the Lord. (Col 3:19-21)

Now headship is required of every body, and every group. A body with two heads is a freak, and a body with no head is dead. It is the same for organizations and groups. Even if there be consultative bodies, headship and leadership is required. God sets a husband and father as head of the household, the domestic church. This is consistently taught in scripture (Col 3:18; Eph 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1, inter al).

And while it is clear that this authority he has is for service, not domination and that he exercises it among those of equal dignity before God, nevertheless he has this authority and it ought to be acknowledged and observed. He is not to be bitter to his wife or Lord it over her, but he must with love be willing to manifest headship in his household. I have written more of this here: A Unpopular Teaching on Marriage

In our times many have preferred to set this teaching aside and the result is that many marriages resemble more of an on-going power struggle, than a loving and cohesive unity. It is true that it is not necessary or even wise for a husband to micromanage everything in his household. He does well to keep deep communion with his wife and often defer to her judgment in many matters. But there are simply some matters that require a final “decider;” some one that everyone looks to and, like it or not, accepts their decision and direction. Scripture consigns this role to the husband and father.

Further Scripture says, Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord (Col 3:20). And again, God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons (Sir 3:2). And while we have commented on these verses in terms of respect, he ought to note them here in terms of hierarchy. Children are to respect the hierarchy of the family. They are not on par with their parents and should not act toward their parents as if they were on par with them.

When I was growing up, my Father made sure to confirm my mother’s authority over us and would not tolerate us being disobedient or disrespectful toward her. A good husband and father with be careful to do this.Even when I was an adult my father would not tolerate me speaking ill of my mother or being disrespectful toward her.

Thus, while all the members of the family have equal dignity before God, not all have the same role in relation to each other. Hierarchy is important in the family for good order and teaching.  God sets it forth and it ought to be observed carefully.

III. Helpful virtues – The first part of the second reading today from Colossians 3 provides a veritable encyclopedia of virtues to cultivate. Notes some of them here:

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another… put on love,  that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts…And be thankful (Col 3:12-15)

I spend an entire session with couples that I prepare for marriage looking at this passage. All the virtues here are essential for good family life.

Note how many of the virtues emphasize compassion mercy and forgiveness. The fact is, families are composed of sinful human beings, who have issues, and struggles. Life too can be difficult, and cause stresses and strains on marriage and family. How essential then to develop these sorts of virtues.

Every now and again, when someone comes to me and tells me they have difficulty preparing for confession, and want advice, I often refer them to this very passage. I asked them to read Colossians 3 and assure them that if they will read it carefully they will have plenty to confess before they are halfway through!

So many stresses and strains could be either avoided, endured, or handle charitably, if the virtues of Colossians 3 would only be cultivated. Is impossible to comment on them all here. Perhaps we will do well to have another blog post on this passage later this week.

IV. Holy teaching – The text from Colossians goes on to say, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16)

Nothing can be more essential in having a godly and holy family, that having godly and holy teaching.

With rare exceptions, we have utterly failed in this regard. Nothing can be considered more important than instruction for eternal life. Yet in how many families is this instruction seldom or never given?

If the child is failing math or some other school subject, most parents react with alarm, realizing that their child’s future may be at stake. They will often spend money to get tutors and other help. But if their child knows little or nothing about God, why they were made, what is the purpose of their life…well, who cares?

Parents will put bumper stickers on their car boasting at their child is on the honor roll at Somewhere Middle School, but will have little interest or pride in whether they can recite the Hail Mary, or the Glory Be, let alone know how to find a Bible and know the difference between the Old and the New Testament. Where’s the bumper sticker that says, “My Kid knows the Lord!” or “My Kid is smart enough to pray!”

Tens of thousands of dollars will be sent to the college so the kids can get the degree, to get the career, to get the house and the car. Yet little or no inquiry will be made as to whether their child attends Mass  at college or is living anything close to a Christian moral life.

This is a tragic modern situation where the ladder of success is leaning up against the wrong wall. Great effort is expended on things which pass away, and almost no effort on things which will last forever, come heaven or hell.

Scripture is clear, the home must be a place where godly wisdom is taught and lived, modeled and proclaimed. Parents should read their children Bible stories every day. They must be taught God’s law, right from wrong, and to walk in the holy fear and reverence of God. Family members should not only teach one another, they must admonish one another. To admonish is to warn, to recall, or summon one back to what is correct, right and true.

The principal educators of children in the ways of faith are to be the parents. While much is rightly said in terms of critique that not enough teaching takes place from the pulpit, 7 to 10 minutes a week is not going to accomplish what is necessary or called for in a text like this. Even if the pulpit of a particular parish contains a poor preacher, there’s nothing to prevent a parent from carefully studying the catechism and teaching their children; or to prevent them from taking a children’s Bible and reading them stories every day, and teaching them God’s word. Holy teaching should be the hallmark of every family

V. Heroic Sacrifice –  In this matter we look to the Gospel, and we see St. Joseph. The Gospel focuses on Joseph’s instruction by God through an angel that he must protect his child and his wife by taking them to Egypt immediately for King Herod six the child.

How many fathers, indeed parents in general in our culture struggle to get their priorities right? Too often  career eclipses their vocation. And thus, for many fathers, their work takes priority over their role as husband and father. And while the two are not directly opposed at most times, there are times and tendencies for one’s career to damage one’s capacity to be husband and father.

In the Gospel today what Joseph has to do in going to Egypt will clearly have an impact on his career and his agenda. Scripture speaks of him as a “tekton.”  And while many think this means Carpenter, it really means more literally,  “builder.” Joseph probably worked in the building trades.

Now going to Egypt in the middle the night is clearly going to impact his business. It is further likely that he would prefer not to go to a foreign land. And yet his child and wife need him. He is their protector and the husband, father and head of the household.

Heroically, Joseph obeys God and immediately takes his wife and child out of harms way. He does not count the personal cost. This is the kind of heroic sacrifice sometimes required of parents and family members. Joseph thinks as a husband and father, not a businessman, or a company man.

Now this is hard, and it is heroic, for many men strongly identify their ego with their work. Like any human being, they also fear losing their livelihood. But Joseph heroically trusts God and heroically witnesses that his vocation as husband and father is more important than even his paycheck.

We need more ever heroism of the sort today when money and lifestyle too often trump essential work of being a parent and spouse. Our  lifestyles are often far too costly, requiring double income and often long hours and overtime. But honestly, and we know this, children need their parents at home more than they need a great-room and granite countertops. Having a Beach house is nice, but having your parents at home is better.

In our era, too many parents are willing to let strangers raise their children so they can earn more money, and for what? Is it for the kids? Really? Then why are they so often marginalized by something that is supposedly for them? Life is complicated, this is clear. But every now and then it is good to re-examine our motives and priorities and be willing to make heroic sacrifice for what is more important than what we merely want.

Here then are some teachings on marriage and family from today’s feast. We do well to heed what the Lord teaches. Our families are currently and collectively in a real crisis. Individual choices have led us here and individual choices will have to lead us out.

God has a plan for marriage and family: One man for one woman in a stable faithful and fruitful union, raising their children in that context and bringing them up in the Holy Fear of the Lord.  We do well to heed this plan as a Church and culture or suffer the consequences.

Finally there is the tendency when we hear teachings like this, but have struggled to live them well, to react either with anger (and say, “The preacher is judging me”) or react with sadness and think that all we can do is be silent since we would be a poor witness. Please do not do either. All of us, whether we have been able to keep to God’s teaching or not, ought to proclaim it. Perhaps you have not been able to get married and/or stay married. Perhaps you wanted to, but  your spouse was unwilling to stay or cooperate. Perhaps you had a child outside of marriage. All the more reason to speak clearly to your children and grandchildren and urge them to seek God’s graces early. God has a plan, and it is for our good not our ill. Teach it boldly and with courageous love!

Here is a video of heroic sacrifice:

Comments (49)

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  1. Mau Joe Tomaino says:

    We need to hear this again and again
    Life has moved so far from the truth of God’s Best
    Thank you so much

  2. I find your Blog Fantastic! says:

    Thank you Monsignor. Your homily’s are so logical and edifying.
    I am so glad you share them on Facebook.

  3. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Interesting that my daily Bible reading has (today) led me through Wisdom 4-6 where Wisdom 4:3-6 state what you illustrate so well. The concluding verse of those four verses, #6 “For children begotten of unlawful bed witness, when put on trial, to their parents’ wickedness.” describe so well the results which we are only beginning to see.
    The children, as they become adults, end up – more and more – in rehabs, group homes and, as the damage grows worse, in prisons or worse. Blame may be focussed on those who end up in this state, for now, but a deeper look is offered here.
    I saw the stage being set in the 1970’s as men were encouraged to take on more of the mothers’ mentoring in order to help the mother. May sound good with partial (one-sided) evidence but, what became of the kind of mentoring which Joseph did? Teaching the strong male sacrifice for the family and attention to detail needed to build a solid structure and could be reflected in showing how perfect God’s plan was when we were taught to build our foundation of rock, rather than shifting sand. Was this part of God’s perfect plan? I am willing to admit that I don’t know what is beyond my understanding and to just love it. Matthew 7:24-26 and Luke 6:47-49.
    In conclusion I see two comparisons; a carpenter setting aside the carpentry tools to help an electrician, plumber, etcetera by laying out wires or pipes as the further structure building is neglected until the end of the partially completed strucure is reached and meaningful work comes to an end.
    Or, in the case of incomplete or lop sided families, a direct current light bulb connected to only a positive or negative terminal, in one case; or in the lop sided, to either two positive or two negative terminals so that the light bulb does not come on and darkness prevails.

  4. Jackie Parkes says:

    We do need to hear the truth spoken with charity – thankyou.

  5. Richard M says:

    Hello Msgr Pope,

    Well said.

    And yet…the marriage statistical trends are even worse than you might think.

    Marriages per 1,000 unmarried women age 15 and older:

    1950 90.2
    1970 76.5
    1980 61.4
    1990 54.5
    2000 46.5
    2007 39.2
    2008 37.4
    2009 36.0
    2010 32.9
    2011 31.1

    http://ncfmr.bgsu.edu/pdf/family_profiles/file131529.pdf

    Obviously the 2008-2010 recession accelerated things a little. But do a straight line projection and it means marriage in the US simply ends around 2025-2030. Which, of course, it won’t – but it will be reduced to a small, hard culture-resistant cohort (Mormons? Traditional Catholics? Amish? Orthodox Jews?) of perhaps about 10-15%.

    Which, of course, is not sustainable. But a lot of children will suffer before the bankruptcy of this model is fully evident to nearly all.

  6. Pilar says:

    Amen! Now, when can you come preach at our parish? God bless you Msgr. Another fine example of the truth being taught with charity.

  7. one anonymous says:

    Selflessness is becoming more rare and so too “heroic sacrifice”. If husband and wife understand their part in sacrifice, then there is harmony, but if one is selfish the other must carry the weight of the burden (of sacrifice), and if so willing to do so, will certainly be heroic (as imperfect as that sacrifice may be). And there is never a perfectly balanced sacrifice between husband and wife, but maybe there can at least be a willing (willing the key word here) compromise… and then sometimes just a really good match (which is something good in itself to look for when considering marriage) — “Jack Sprat could eat no fat. His wife could eat no lean. And so between them both, you see, They licked the platter clean.”

  8. RichardGTC says:

    Amen.

    “Individual choices have led us here and individual choices will have to lead us out.”–Amen.

    Amen.

  9. Thomas Vogler says:

    Thank you, Monsignor.

    There is much truth in what you say. You and I were born in the same year, though perhaps few other of our lives’ circumstances coincide. While agreeing that a happy family, governed in fear of the Lord, is better for all than the opposite, I have known more than a few weak, vain, foolish men who have bolstered themselves with these and other teachings from the Bible, to deny their faults and do great harm. I have also known families that seem to strongly contradict the assertion that two women, for instance, cannot cleave unto each other and raise children very well, without the materialistic excesses and distortions of value you so rightly decry. My wife and I shared Christmas with the family I have particularly in mind. They talked about teaching their daughter to pray, and the child, six years old, said a lovely grace for us, before we ate. Her parents have enrolled her in a Catholic school. They are not teaching her any animus towards the Church. They wouldn’t think of raising a child without God.

    Also at the dinner, Christmas Eve, were my sister in law, her husband and daughter. They have grave troubles. My father in law, now dead nearly twenty years, was very religious, though one couldn’t call him a godly man. The authority he wielded as the head of the household did profound damage to everyone, and not least himself. He clung desperately to the form of a proper Christian family, but produced a nightmare, from which his wife and children still suffer, and his grandchildren as well, though he did not live to know them.

    With my observations and experiences, it is hard to say of a family that it is necessarily good, because of its form. I know you are not saying that, and are rather showing that the form enables a kind of good, which is of supreme importance. I don’t argue with that. But it also seems like you are saying that a family composed differently is necessarily spiritually inferior, injurious to its children and society. That part is hard for me to follow. I’ve never noticed that the sins and shortcomings which afflict families are distributed according to their composition. And likewise, the gifts of the spirit, which can help with those struggles, seem to be available to all. The love and charity of men, however, is more discriminating.

    I appreciate that this is a complicated and deep subject, and that I may in time be able to understand it better. I just wanted to share the challenges that this teaching presents me. I wish my father in law mercy at judgment, as I do for my friends and their daughter, and for us all.

    • Peg says:

      I respect your honesty and I can relate in some ways to your thoughts. Thank you for being so respectful.

  10. Vijaya says:

    Love this feast day, all the readings and prayers and your reflections. I should probably add the Colossians verse and stick it on my cupboard, just as I have the Ephesians verse about putting on the armor of God.

  11. Lenny says:

    I wish that my Parish Priests gave homilies like this, the last part of Colossians was eliminated.

    Thank you.

    • Oh dear. I remain very frustrated with the excised readings

      • Peter Wolczuk says:

        Excised readings. I appreciate this term and will keep it in mind, although in a regrettable way. There are a few others which I have often heard, and discussed, in my 30 years of wandering in a spiritual desert before committing to regular church attendance. And then again in church. These are sermons which are regularly so partially given that I never encountered the conclusion until I read the bible through on my own.
        Only two come to mind, at the moment. Here they are, along with the part I didn’t hear in church; Matthew 20:1-16 “Or are you envious because I am generous?” John 8:31-34 “…a slave to sin.” Too much truth for the envious to relate/reveal?
        This reminds me of those who complain about the “harsh God of the Old Testament” I have read the bible through twice and am on the third time and I can’t find it. Next time someone mentions that I should ask them where to find it. Offer to wait a day or two while they search and/or consult. Maybe somebody told these accusors without giving any reference. Somebody who’d been told by somebody who’d been told by somebody who’d been told……..
        Twice I have seen some one told a statement and they told the next person (who hadn’t heard it before) the next told the next after that and so on. Each was hearing it for the first time and, no one could overhear any of these tellings.
        At the end, the last person related the final version to the audience and, in each case, there was no resemblance to the original – which was read out loud at the conclusion.

  12. Nancy says:

    Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for what used to be called “common sense.” I look to your posts/blogs for inspiration, and occasionally I send them to my young adult children and hope and pray that they actually read them.

  13. mark k. says:

    At our 11 AM Mass today, the last part of Colossians, starting with “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands” was not read by the woman lector. Regarding the rolls of men and women, it’s been my observation, that often once women enter into a roll previously held by men, the men tend to disappear and turn what ever it was over to the women to perform. Women wanted more participation in things of the Mass etc. and the Church has rewritten the Bible, Missal and Church music to remove all things masculine. The Church in the US anyway, remade the Mass, several times over in the 1970’s and 1980’s to allow more “laity”, code for “woman” participation and we wonder where the men are today.

    Women no longer desire to be wives or mothers, planning careers are taught in the public schools. When I was growing up, school girls were asked if they had a boy friend, plans for getting married, and children. Not today, it’s only what college do you plan to attend and what career do you want.

    I run a small business in Central VA in which I employ younger men due to the physical nature of the work. They are all (yes everyone) divorced, paying most of their wages to former wives in child support, and are living with girl fiends (some with children from other men) and counting down the years when their kids turn 18 and they can keep their money. They all feel like they are in prison counting the days to freedom, they hate and blame the government, they drink much and talk of doing drugs often. I do what I can to evangelize in subtle ways. Before Christmas I gave two of the guys Bibles (RSV-CE). I forbid any work on Sundays (the guys really like that), and stipulate that condition for all contactors I hire, you should see some of the looks I get, and sometimes a few comments. To many people Sunday is just another day. God help us, we in this country, are in worse shape than many realize.

    • Sue Korlan says:

      I am a female lector who was told not to read the last part of Colossians by the priest. He had it on a sticky note so all of the lectors would turn to the next page with the shorter version on it.Please don’t blame the lector for her obedience to the male powers that be. I think he was concerned that someone might take offense at it. The Lectionary contains a shortened version and the priest has the right to decide to use it. And our lectors are pretty much 50-50 between men and women, so that’s not it either. The bishops and the Vatican decided what went into the Lectionary, not the laity And as far as I know, the bishops and the heads of the Congregation for the Liturgy are still male. So please lay the blame for this where it belongs.

  14. Pedro says:

    Months ago it was published in Italy and then translated into Spanish a book whose title are some of today’s Paul’s words, written by a Catholic journalist, Costanza Miriano.

    A great turmoil followed, especially in Spain, by the so called progressive media and politicians, and even supposedly Catholics. Written by a young and modern wife, te text is just about classical Catholic wisdom in marriage.

    Original book in Italian: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sposati-sottomessa-Pratica-estrema-donne/dp/8845425738/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1388359275&sr=8-2&keywords=costanza+miriano

    (So far there is no English translation)

  15. Robbie J says:

    Thank you, Msgr. Pope. Absolutely spot-on! A little off-topic, perhaps but….
    Parents have to be good role models for their children and lead by example. NO amount of teaching/instruction (especially in faith matters) is going to have much impact on the children if parents do not lead authentic Christian lives themselves.The children have to see it first and foremost in their parents – their primary educators. It starts with a visible love; tender,sacrificial love between mom and dad. As difficult as this may seem (given the complexities of modern life), this is entirely possible with and by the grace of God (i know this to be true; I learned the hard way). We spouses have to pray and ask for this grace. Only then, can we as parents impart our faith to our children – otherwise, all the exhortations that “God is Love” would seem completely meaningless. God love you.

  16. Rosemary says:

    The term, “fruits of Vatican II”, comes to mind here. We may curse the darkness but are also attracted to it anyway since it seems that the Catholic laity has steadfastly followed the secular culture, contrary as it is to what the Church stands for. Perhaps we should be asking why are Catholics so easily swayed by such a culture? Where are the shepherds who were supposed to be guarding their flocks? If the Church were a corporation with stockholders….

    The degeneration of Catholic spirituality began occurring almost two generations ago, and the slide continues. I know that Msgr. wishes to give us the facts and also some hope but many have come before him to do the same, and they were ignored – as were the prophets.

    We also may want to look at the stats on annulments in the U.S. They hover in the 60,000 per year range. This is the most shocking number to me. How is it that so many invalid marriages are performed? This also causes a breakdown in the Catholic teaching on the sanctity of marriage; we tell all that marriage is sacred – until it’s not.
    This causes confusion among us faithful and derision among non-believers toward the Catholic Church. We cannot bemoan the loss of marriage and family if our hierarchy (that grants the annulments) is so much a part of diminishing its relevance.

    • Sue Korlan says:

      Not all these invalid marriages were performed in a Catholic Church. For many of us, we dropped out of the Church, got married while living as non-believers, got divorced (amazing what happens when God isn’t part of your marriage), rejoin the Church, and then get an annulment based on a complete lack of canonical forms. It’s still an annulment, but it’s a sign that the sinner has acknowledged his or her sin and has rejoined the faith of his or her youth. So you would have to know which of these are which before blaming the hierarchy.

      Also, sometimes a spouse doesn’t know the person being married has no intention of ever having children. That’s a reasonable cause for allowing an annulment.

      • Rosemary says:

        The invalid marriages performed in the Catholic Church are what perplexes me. (But I found out from a Catholic friend that her marriage to an Episcopalian in his church was accepted as valid when she tried to have it annulled by the Catholic Church. The CCC #1640 refers to this.)

        I am not sure what you mean by an “annulment based on a complete lack of canonical forms.” It is the job of the hierarchy to know how to proceed. We depend on them to guide us since we do not have the ecclesiastical facility to handle these situations on our own. It is they who grant annulments or render a marriage invalid.

        There are many impediments that render a marriage invalid. Deceiving the other party about anything – fidelity or the desire to have children chief among them – naturally renders a marriage invalid. However, an annulment is not a sign of penitence for the sins of youth or an absolution for wrongdoing. I would advise you to discuss your situation with your pastor.

    • Karl says:

      I believe the numbers of annulments, in the United States, is hovering around 40,000/year, nowadays, but I am not certain.

  17. stefanie says:

    Challenging words, Monsignor Pope! Thank you! Sometimes I think that our priests and bishops are too afraid to use such challenging words to their flocks because they ‘worry’ over the five people who will complain after Mass “But, Father, you are not married! You don’t know how hard it is to be married/raise children!”
    Poppycock!
    The Church is right to keep our priests manly — at the head of our parish household. Fathers must be protectors of the Church family. If one does not acknowledge a head of the parish household, one will claim herself/himself the head of the parish household and act accordingly. One then becomes a ‘Little” father, bishop, pope…a ‘Little” Messiah. I have to constantly squash that impulse in my own self — I’m sure it’s true of others. We Catholics do a great deal of harm when we feel the need to sharply criticize our priests and bishops. Someone is always listening to our ‘unholy’ words…they can be our own family who decide then to not embrace the Church as they become adults.
    Monsignor, I like what you said about using Colossians 3 as a preparation for confession. I’ll be adding that component to our RCIA Confirmation retreat!

  18. Maria says:

    It’s comforting in the extreme that there are voices like yours Msgr. Pope still willing to speak with God’s love, Truth, and concern to our confused and misdirected society. Society is a lot like children, deep down they desire structure, truth, and discipline because of the security of leadership and protectorship those things indicate. It is so confusing in these days to truly hear and follow our Holy Mother Church’s wisdom and teachings for the family.

    I detect a subtle but real yearning in the culture for this more deeply rich ideal for marriage and family however. I have noticed people with no ideals or wisdom in this regard watching and even admiring families who are living the ideal out as best as possible. Therefore, I feel the desire and urge to go forth and sound out the light of the path less taken to this world, as deaf as it seems to be. Many people (though not all) will listen and want to emulate truths when seen from joyful, honest and loving witnesses. Let all of us who believe that God has a divine and beautiful plan for marriage and family, pray in our daily prayers that the Lord of the Harvest will soften hearts and open minds to His love and truths. It can happen.

    Rome wasn’t built (or in this case, rebuilt) in a day but let us not be discouraged from beginning again.

  19. anna lisa says:

    The marriage crisis, is a crisis of chastity. If half of the married men in the pews abuse themselves with online pornography, what we’re seeing is a breakdown of the vows of marriage itself. In an odd way, the ones that know they are not fit to be married are more honest than the married men and women who lead double lives. Indeed, it is even possible that families who have not partaken of sacramental marriage might even live a more honest marriage, according to the natural law, then many who use their church wedding as window dressing for a dissolute morality.

    • Maria says:

      Amen to that, sister.

    • Patrick says:

      Nah, it’s a crisis of disobedience and inner ugliness since 99 percent of the married women don’t consider themselves subject to their husbands which is a destruction of the vows of marriage. The porn problem would never have appeared if men hadn’t agreed to give women equal say in running society. Chicks mess things up then do all they can to deflect the blame. As ugly as it is, many many men find pornography MORE ATTRACTIVE than today’s women. Imagine.

      • Patrick, I am not sure about posting your remark. I have decided to do so, but please avoid inflammatory remarks and words like “Chicks” etc don’t help. Porn has certainly been around a lot longer than feminism. While I get your remark that too many men prefer porn to real women, that’s messed up and it isn’t all the fault of women.

        • Patrick says:

          I’ll be less inflammatory from now on. What I observe in marriages of my acquaintances is bossy wives and men constantly knuckling under because “It ain’t worth it.” I don’t think I have seen a functioning marriage that looks appealing enough to justify a vow to the death though i have read about some on the internet. In recent years a lot of friends, acquaintances and old family friends have gotten divorced, and all of the marriages were ended by the wives but one but they receive little or no social approbation for it. I think we’re stuck in an obsolete chivalrous mindset. Feminism is the default mode for virtually all women, so they’ve moved on from chivalry but are still collecting benefits from it. It doesn’t make sense anymore for men to try to protect women, which is unfortunate because a lot men want to protect women. It just turns them into chumps and tools, though. So I’ve been treating them with very little reverence, basically the same way I treat men since equality usually is their stated desire.

    • Karl says:

      anna lisa,

      To some extent I agree with you regarding a crisis of chastity. But, it is unrealistic to expect people to be perfect, although striving for it should be the game plan.

      We sin, dear. I have remained faithful to the vows I spoke in 1980, even though my wife abandoned our marriage in 1989 and has long been involved in an adulterous relationship, which supplanted ours. But, it would be a form of deceit were I to profess that I have not sinned internally over these many years. It is a constant choice, I make, to remain faithful but it is not easy, nor without stumbling. If that makes me leading a “double life”, then I should pack it in and enjoy adultery to its fullest extent!

      What I ask is for you to be wary of simplistic solutions with very wounded people. Not just the divorced are wounded. The married are, as well. We all need help, which is not there. We are supposed to die to ourselves to serve our spouses. It is there where most of the work and emphasis needs to be. To see to it, through my behavior and actions that my spouse enters heaven, or purgatory, upon her death, is my OBLIGATION as best I can fulfill it. AND, by living for such an end, in the clear view of our children, do I set an example for them as both a husband and a father, both which I remain, in spite of my wife’s long ago abandonment of our marriage.

      Practical, living, oriented-towards-healing marriages and relationships, mercy, is needed, not mere judgment alone. It is true mercy to hold a spouse to account, on the part of the Church, but not merely with sanctions (which are never done but sorely needed, in public) but with coordinated support for healing the brokenness which underlies the poor behaviors and choices.

      Thank you.

  20. Don says:

    Msgr – I fear that these trends will not reverse until the West is re-Evangelized. And, I do not see that happening until after the whole house of cards upon which the foundation of our secular-humanist culture is built falls and we can start to rebuild Western Civilization. I will keep praying though; the Holy Spirit CAN accomplish it if God wills it.

  21. TeaPot562 says:

    Msgr: I suggest a correction to a typo: In your paragraph leading part V Heroic Sacrifice, you include the phrase “King Herod sicks the child.” I think it should be “King Herod seeks the child.”
    Otherwise, a fine homily. We all need to pray more for our families, including those no longer attending Church on a regular basis.
    TeaPot562

  22. Patrick says:

    If men are manly, women will accommodate themselves to that manliness and become womanly. If the Church wants to produce manly men and womanly women it needs to get women out of the way and let men form men. Then women can be submissive and figure out how to be women by subordinating themselves in everything to men. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Women should stop starting things, stop trying to take care of problems, stop doing readings, stop being altargirls, stop doing everything. Then things will slow down and even come to a standstill for a while, then men will start stepping into the places meddling and excitable women formerlyoccupied and the Church will become manly again. Which means, calm, quiet, reverent, peaceful, strong, unyielding on points of faith, influential in society, and everyone will benefit.

  23. Robert L. says:

    The decline in the low income family is directly linked to welfare system which was fully funded by progressives under their “War on Poverty” in the early 1960’s. What was the ONE stipulation placed on women to qualify for this “aid?” There can be no father supporting the family. This progressive attack on the family was further codefied a few years later when SCOTUS (King vs Smith) stipulated that the can be no father supporting the family. HOWEVER, the mother receiving “aid” can have a cohabitating partner other than the father.

    To think that the institution of marriage is in decline by chance would be to deny the serpent in the garden.

  24. jenny says:

    It is an excellent statistics…..
    My thoughts would be:

    In the church we hear more about women responsibility for children, than about men responsibilities.
    Also we hear more about women killing the unborn children , than about men killing the unborn children.

    There is no word to define the sin of the man who kills his unborn child – by starvation.
    But we call it abortion if the mother kills the unborn.

  25. Ray Joseph Cormier says:

    The worst tragedy is for a child to be brought up unwanted and unloved.

    The children really do pay for the sins of the parents.

    Christ said then, and the Resurrected Christ is consistent Today, Call NO MAN on earth your Father, for we have One Father in Heaven.
    Matthew 23

    If every one focused, developed and practiced that one big idea in the Love of Christ 24/7, eventually everything else will fall in place, even the Jews and Arabs finally making a True Peace, seeing each other as Family under God.

  26. Todd Flowerday says:

    Long, true, but a question: would it be fruitful? Does it serve better to latch into one hopeful point and hammer it home?

    Conservatives are partly to blame: the so-called war on drugs, immigration policy, and splitting off a parent or two in the military or mobile jobs. And paying insufficient wages that require two or three jobs by perhaps both parents. It might cause some of Mr Rangone’s friends some stomach upset, but perhaps their “American generosity” is partly involved.

    500,000 US children in foster care with no parents. They need people to adopt them. Why don’t more Catholic families come forward? In these instances, one mother, one father, two mothers, or two fathers are demonstrably better than none.

    I find these homilies tedious. Not because they are wrong, but because they do nothing for those who might need them, but serve to soothe those elder siblings who seem to say we need to hear them. I don’t know why. What we need are solutions that crack through both the secular culture and the deadspeak of the Church, something that brings fragrance and attractiveness to the Gospel.

  27. Isabell says:

    The Catholic Church has been very weak in teaching it’s flock the basics of our faith. Why can’t priests deliver a sermon that teaches instead of preaching about who-knows-what each Sunday. I really try to learn something during the sermon. The priests reads what he wrote and its just sounds so dry and irrelevant. Our generation (born in the 60’s) is the most uneducated generation. We were taught very little about the foundation of our faith.

    How can we carry this to our own families and fight off this me-first power-hungry culture when we learn so little each weak at church. (Yes, I know we receive a sacrament, but I do wish we were fed more.) Spiritual warfare is a very real thing and it hurts the family first and for most when we don’t know what we are battling or are given the proper tools in which to battle.

    The Pope seems to be making some good points though. Getting back to the A,B,Cs.

  28. JimmyChonga says:

    We desperately need a “Divine Reboot” and NOW – come, Our Lady of Good Success, take up our cause, fight against the Enemy, and trample his head underfoot.

  29. steffani says:

    What an awesome homily!

  30. jenny says:

    Let’s follow Saint Joseph example in saying “YES” to God’s will, by marrying women who were impregnated and abandon by other men….this is what Saint Joseph did.

    We will see more families sticking together………