Here in the middle of the Christmas Octave, the Church bids us to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. On the old calendar, the Feast of the Holy Family falls on the Sunday after Epiphany, which makes a little more sense since the gospels appointed for the feast often take us far forward in time mere days after He is born. The gospel this year is only forty days into the future (unlike other years when the gospel takes us twelve years into the future), but today’s gospel is still well past the Feast of the Epiphany, which we have yet to celebrate.
Nevertheless, here we are. Perhaps it is a good time to reflect on family life. For, at Christmas time, family and extended family often gather together. We are also in the midst of a reflection by the Church at Synods in Rome on the modern problems associated with the family. These problems are rooted in the loss of God’s vision for human families and sexuality. Pray for the synod members, that they will look less to diseases now and more to the solutions given in God’s Word. It is true that we must understand the problems, but it is even more important that we understand what God teaches and effectively proclaim it.
In terms of this Feast of the Holy Family, let us consider marriage and family along three lines: structure, struggles, and strategy.
I. Structure – All through the readings for today’s Mass, we are instructed on the basic form, the basic structure of the family. For example,
- God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons (Sirach 3:2).
- May your wife be like a fruitful vine, in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants, around your table (Psalm 128:3).
- 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. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they may not become discouraged (Colossians 3:20–21).
- Each year, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover … Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety … (Luke 2:45, 51).
- And he was obedient to them; … And Jesus advanced in age and wisdom and favor before God and man (Luke 2:51–52).
And thus we see the basic structure of family:
- A father in honor over his children
- A wife and mother, supportive of her husband and his authority
- A mother, having authority over her children, supported, loved, and encouraged by her husband and obeyed by her children
- Children who both honor and obey their parents
- Fathers, and by extension mothers, who instruct and admonish their children, but not in a way that badgers and discourages them, but in a way that encourages and builds them up
- A family structure that helps children to advance in wisdom and age, and in favor before God and man
- So, a father, a mother, and children, all reverential and supportive of one another in their various roles and duties.
Here, then, is God’s basic teaching on family and marriage. Here is the basic structure for the family as God sets it forth: a man who loves his wife and a woman who loves her husband. And in this stable, lasting, and faithful union of mutual support and love, they conceive and raise their children in the holy fear of the Lord.
Add to this, the principal description of the book of Genesis, which lays out how God sets forth marriage: “A man shall leave his father and mother, cling to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). And to this first couple, God gives the mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22).
Note, too, how the structure of the family takes its basic form based on its essential work: procreation and the rearing of children. Why should marriage be a stable and lasting union? Why is Adam told to cling to his wife, to form a stable and lasting union with her? Why? Because this is what is best and just for children! Children both need and deserve a stable and lasting union of their father and mother, and the complementary influence of the two different sexes. This is what is best for children to be raised and formed. Hence, the family structure of a father and a mother, a male and a female parent, flows from what is best and just for children. The structure of the family, as set forth by God, is rooted in what is best and just for children. This is what is sensible and best, sociologically and psychologically, for the proper development of children.
Even before we open the Bible, it makes sense that a child should have a father and a mother, the influence and teaching of both a male and a female. There are things that a father, a male, can teach a child that a mother, a female, cannot teach as well. Further, the mother, a female, can teach and model for children what only she knows best. Both male and female influences are essential for the proper psychological and sociological development of the child. Clearly, then, God’s biblical mandate that marriage should consist of a father and a mother is not without basis in simple human reason and common sense.
To intentionally deprive a child of this context is both unjust to the child and unwise. Hence, we see that the basic structure for marriage takes its shape from what is best and just for children. Both God and nature provide for a father and a mother, a male and a female, to conceive and raise a child.
It also makes sense, based on simple human reasoning, that that relationship should be stable, something the child can depend on from day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year, through all the formative years.
Here then is the proper structure for marriage. It is set forth both by God and human reason.
II. Struggles – And yet, what should be obvious to us as a culture seems to be strangely absent in the minds of many. Let us be clear: sin clouds judgment and makes many think that what is sinful and improper is in fact okay or even good. It is not. In our current culture we gravely sin against God and against our children by consistent misconduct and by the refusal to accept what is obviously true. The words of St. Paul are fulfilled in our modern times: their senseless minds were darkened, and they became vain and foolish in their reasoning (Rom 1:21).
It is clear today that the family is in grave crisis. And it is also clear that it is the children who suffer the most. Our modern age in the western world shows forth a mentality that is both deeply flawed and gravely harmful to children.
Marriage and family are in great crisis due to the willful and sinful habits of the vast majority of adults in our culture regarding sexuality, marriage, and family life. The rebellion of adults against the plan and order of God has caused endless grief and hardship, and has set forth a culture that is poisonous to the proper raising and blessing of children.
Previously, there has commentary on this on the blog regarding this. Without repeating whole blog posts, the following excerpts stands forth:
Children have much to suffer in this world of our collective making. And while not all of us are equally guilty of contributing to the suffering of children, none of us is wholly innocent either, if for no other reason than our silence.
Consider that most children born today are no longer born into the stable and lasting family units they justly deserve, with a father and mother committed to one another till death do them part.
The problems begin with fornication, which is rampant in our culture. And while most do not think of this as a sin of injustice, it is. It is so because of what it does primarily to children.
The fact is, many children are conceived of fornication. Tragically, most of these children who are thus conceived are outright murdered by abortion. 85% of abortions are performed on unmarried women. And for all the vaunted declarations of how contraception makes every baby a wanted baby, nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion has skyrocketed with the availability of contraception. This is because the problem is not fertility; it is lust, promiscuity, fornication, and adultery. And contraception fuels these problems by further enabling them with the lie that there is no necessary connection between sex and procreation. The promises associated with contraception are lies; contraception does the opposite of what it promises.
Thus fornication and the contraceptive mentality (founded on lies) cause grave harm to children, beginning with their death in huge numbers. And the children conceived of fornication who do (thankfully) survive are nevertheless subjected to the injustice of usually being born into irregular situations. There are single mothers, some single fathers, and many other irregularities.
Add to this picture the large number of divorced families. And make no mistake about it, these shredded families cause great hardships and pain for children that include children being shuttled back and forth between different households each week, having to meet “daddy’s new girlfriend” or “mommy’s new boyfriend,” and all sorts of other family chaos. Blended families also dramatically increase the likelihood of sexual and emotional abuse, since legal relationships seldom have the built-in protections of natural relationships.
All of this misbehavior, individual and cultural, harms children. Not being raised in a traditional marriage dramatically increases a child’s likelihood of suffering many other social ills, starting with poverty.
The chief cause of poverty in this country, is the single motherhood, absent fatherhood.
71% of poor families are not married.
Children of single parent homes are 2 times more likely to be arrested for juvenile crime,
2 times more likely be treated for emotional and behavioral problems,
Twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school,
33% more likely to drop out of school,
3 times more likely to end up in jail by age 30.
50% more likely to live in poverty as adults,
And twice as likely to have a child outside of marriage themselves. [*]
And add to the burdens children must experience, the new trend of same-sex adoption. Never mind that it is best for the psychological development of a child to have a father and a mother, a male and a female influence. No, what is best and just children must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Same-sex couples must now be given equal consideration under the law (in many states) to heterosexual couples. It’s the adults and their rights that seem to matter most here; what is best for children is quite secondary.
Here then are our struggles. Our families are in grave crisis and MOST children in our culture are not raised in the stable and committed homes they deserve. And let us be even more clear: to intentionally deprive children of this sort of home by raising them outside of marriage, or in same-sex unions, etc., is sinful, wrong, and an injustice.
Disclaimer – Let us also be clear that it is not possible to personally judge every case of a broken family. The modern world has experienced a cultural tsunami and many have been influenced by lies and other false promises. It may be true that, if you are divorced, you tried to save your marriage but your spouse was unwilling. Perhaps in a moment of weakness, perhaps before your your conversion to Christ, you fell and bore children outside of marriage, but have done your best to raise them well.
But in the end we must say that children have had much to suffer on account of adult misbehavior in our culture. It is a true and sad fact, and we need to repent and beg God’s grace and mercy to undo our grave sins of commission, omission, and silence. We have set forth a bitter world for our children to inherit.
III. Strategy – What are we to do? In a phrase, “Preach the Word.” Whatever the sins of us in this present generation (and there are many), we must be prepared to repropose, unambiguously, the wisdom of God’s Word to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even if many of us in the current generation have fallen short, we cannot hesitate to announce God’s plan for sexuality, marriage, and family.
Our strategic proclamation must include these key elements:
- No sex before marriage, ever, under any circumstances. Sexual intercourse is rooted in the procreation of children and there is no legitimate use of it outside of marriage, ever. There are no exceptions to this.
- Children deserve and have the right to expect two parents, a father and a mother, committed to each other till death do them part. Anything short of this is a grave injustice to children and a mortal sin before God.
- Gay unions, or single mothers and fathers are NOT an acceptable alternative to biblical marriage. To intentionally subject children to this, for the sake of political correctness or for the perceived needs of adults, is a grave injustice to them.
- Marriage is about what is best for children, not adults.
- Married couples must learn to work out their differences (as was done in the past) and not rush to divorce courts, which offends God (cf Malachi 2:16).
- The needs of children far outweigh the preferences and needs of adults.
Whatever the personal failings of any of us in this present evil age (cf Gal 1:4), our strategy must be to preach the undiluted plan of God for sexuality, marriage, and family to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
In short, “Back to the Bible! Back to the plan of God! Away with modern experiments and unbiblical schemes!” God has given us a plan. And we, thinking we had better ideas, have caused great sorrow and hardship for our descendants. We have acted unjustly, murdered our children through abortion, and, sowing in the wind, have caused those who have survived our misbehavior to inherit the whirlwind. It is time to repent and help our heirs to rejoice in chastity, marriage, and biblical family. Otherwise we are doomed to perish.
God has a plan and it must be our strategy to get out of our struggles and back to God’s structure for our families.
This song says, “So, humbly I come to you and say. As I sound aloud the warfare of today. Hear me, I pray. What about the children?”
20 Replies to “Focused on a Functional Family: A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family”
Marriage is necessary for children’s well-being … and for the married couple themselves and their siblings and other relatives close and extended. I just wanted to emphasize that while it’s important to the children, for their upbringing and development, it remains necessary for these reasons even when they are adults and when they have their own children. The chaos in broken families these days, with half and step parents and grandparents, current step and half siblings, former half and step relatives …. it damages everyone. And for the married couple, even when they are no longer raising children, they’re married and stable selves have value for their grandchildren and their children in raising them.
“their married and stable selves have value….”
I apologize for the clunky sentence and for the wrong spelling of “their.” 🙂
Thank you. Merry Christmas and may The Holy Family guide and protect us.
Thank you for putting the wisdom of God’s plan in such a complete and understandable way. To be widely shared.
That was very much spot on. I know that some of the things you point out would make people squirm but we all need to hear this. It must be said in charity and love and hopefully received in the same manner. What’s more, when one looks at the sad history of the breakdown of marriage and the family, it’s hard to see how one could argue with what you’ve said. Thanks Msgr. Pope.
Great article again, thank you.
Two points I would add:
1. we need to find a way to help all parents “accept the love of truth so that they may be saved” 2 Thes. 2:10. For all those who have inherited a mess from our generation, that seems to be an absolutely essential starting point. If parents and children accept the love of truth and eagerly work to find and believe whatever God wants everyone to know and believe, God will bless them for their efforts.
2. To receive God’s greatest blessings, we should ask for them the best way possible Therefore I ask what is better than the following?
I believe one other aspect of this unfathomable mystery of God incarnate is that Jesus was the perfect incarnation, embodiment of the Fourth Commandment as He related to Joseph and Mary and thereby perfectly revealed one part of God’s eternal, changeless, always in the present tense, Divine Will and therefore we can know with an absolute certitude of Faith that that is still God’s eternal, changeless Divine Will. Think what this means in it’s application. We Catholics pray to God through Mary and we try to honor Her as our mother. Jesus does it perfectly because all times are present to God in their immediacy (CCC 600). But, two thousand years ago, both Jesus and Mary perfectly honored Joseph as the head of the family and both offered their prayers to God through Joseph. Joseph, praying as the head of the family with supreme humility, resolutely united His prayer with the prayer of Jesus, whom he believed was the Son of God and therefore of the same exact, infinite nature as God the Father. Jesus would then be praying through and with Joseph the one, single, eternal, infinite, always in the present tense prayer that Jesus offered as He suffered and died for all sinners on the cross in union with the prayer of Mary at the foot of the Cross. The CCC at 2741 says, “Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.32 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts”. When we resolutely unite our prayer with the prayer of Jesus, we ask Him to pray His prayer for us and everyone else, all sinners, this present time request is seen by God in the present with all the prayers of everyone, including Joseph and Mary, and we can consciously join with Jesus as He eternally hears all their prayers in the present tense and is subject to their prayers. Does this not seem unfathomable, yet, unassailable? Is this a possible explanation of why Mary at Fatima, on Aug. 19 and Sept 13, 1917 promised that Joseph and the Child Jesus would come on Oct. 13, 1917 to bring peace to the world? That God so honors St. Joseph with such obedience? Any objections?
Amen to this, especially Msgr’s Strategy. The most interesting sentence in scripture about the family is the one Msgr quotes from Sirach: “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” The second most interesting is one from Ephesians “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Both of these contain profound psychological truths. The first is easier today to accept, even if it is not well understood; the second, most people find abhorrent under the spell of feminism. As a psychologist, I find them both extremely insightful and complementary to one another, indeed, one can’t exist without the other.
It is widely recognized that the family thrives where there is authority and self-sacrifice, what is less appreciated is the role of humility in the family. The thriving family is a hierarchy, that requires humility at all levels but in different ways. Fathers must be at once meek, competitive, and protective. Mothers must appreciate the husband and respect him outwardly and inwardly in her heart (mature wives know what I’m talking about). when children see both the authority and humility in both parents, but in different ways, they emulate the behavior of their parents. This emulation is an honoring and a submission.
Pretty well stated catholic psychologist.
Thank you, Msgr., and a Blessed and Joyful Christmas to you and yours. Thank you for all of your excellent posts.
to intentionally deprive children of this sort of home by raising them outside of marriage, or in same-sex unions, etc., is sinful, wrong, and an injustice.
Then why do you take it out on the children? Oh, yes, you do.
Please elaborate. Vague accusations amount to attempted character assassinations. Which of course is a serious sin. Therefore, please elaborate how I “take it out on the children” and please supply evidence that I have in fact done it. I am not aware of having taken anything out on children. I am not therefore acquitted but since you make vague but seemingly serious accusations of me I would ask for evidence and clarity. I don’t don’t know anyone by the name of Patty Sue so my presumption is that you are making accusations against a stranger, me, whom you do not even know. I hereby deny your charge and remind you that in certain settings making charges like you have that seek to damage people’s reputations can get you sued. I have never fathered or raised a child outside of marriage, neither am I SSA. I am a celibate (heterosexual) priest who has never violated my celibate promise, not even once.
Why not comment on the article, rather than on someone you have never met. Say what you don’t like and withstand the comments of others who might challenge you?
“Then why do you take it out on the children? Oh, yes, you do.”
Please tell me that you went to school, because your argument is lame (one example of failing liberal education).
Or are you trying to say that depriving the children of any help from same-sex couples or single parent is even worse? If you make an argument, then support it, or else you will look foolish.
Well, the good Msgr. is giving us a lesson on PREVENTIVE medicine.
And what lesson are you teaching us Patty Sue?
” And for all the vaunted declarations of how contraception makes every baby a wanted baby, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Wow, I had never heard that one before. Don’t make me laugh. No baby born of contraception is a wanted baby, not in the true sense of the word. That baby is devalued even prior to its conception in that scenario. The fact is, that couple wants only what pleases them at the time – the now “wanted” baby is merely an extension of their already overinflated and severely damaged egos (pride). They have no trust in the providence of God, they do not care to receive the blessing God is trying to give them through procreation. This couple merely wants to control, which means they have no real faith in God. They may believe in a god, they may even go to church, but their hearts are hard. This couple, in fact, may even abort the baby at the first sign of imperfection. Per the statistic above, 15% of all abortions are to married women, that is disgusting.
Our language is wrong. We don’t know how to speak. We don’t teach our children, our selves, how to cope. We give into fear and try to control in an attempt to “be strong”. It is that example that our kids see – our mistrust of the Lord. It flows down to every generation that follows. When we hide from our weakness, we hide from God. We teach our children to do the same.
It occurred to me the other night, how when a person goes walking alone in an unpleasant neighborhood, that person often feels fear. That person is confident something bad will happen to them. Why is that person not confident the Lord will go before them and protect them? After all, it is so often the fear of the victim that feeds the confidence of the criminal. We have to take back our strength. It lies not within our selves, but within our Lord. He is just waiting for us to ask.
The confidence that comes from a strong relationship with God will strengthen families, will hold marriages together, will bind us in times of trouble, in times of sorrow. We were never promised a rose garden, but we were promised Mercy and Peace of Christ. We just have to be confident in it, and all blessings will flow from it.
“Our language is wrong. We don’t know how to speak.”
You got it! So we have the “wanted” and “unwanted” babies. And the SATANIC Planned Parenthood will step in for a fee to get rid of the “unwanted”.
Similar to Nazi Germany with the “wanted” (baby Nazi) and “unwanted” people (Jews) slogan.
Thank you for another good reflection on the topic of the domestic church of the family .
It is rather a compliment for women , that in the New Testament , women are accorded the dignity , the role of reversing the curse from the Fall, of ‘ yearning for the husbands ‘ , at the expense of forgetting the fidelity to God ; instead, they are blessed with the freedom and responsibility, to choose to discern what is to be of The Lord , as you have pointed out in a previous article and submit as unto The Lord , out of love for The Lord as the first motive , which , in turn could bring order to all other areas as well !
It does take the challenge of knowing the mind and heart of The Lord and who else to help with same , than the help of the Parents The Lord chose to entrust with His own upbringing, which The Church and The Papacy are too to be , in our times !
When difficulties arise , being able to join the husband , at least in the spirit and possibly even going back , as far as the moment of transgression of the First Parents , by calling on The Lord, ‘ I trust in You ‘ , on behalf of the other too , might help to bring the needed awareness of a glimpse of that great love for each , to help with repentance and strength to look forward with hope and deeper trust , in the power of The Spirit , not in the self made mountains of accusatory words /deeds , such that both parties would accept the role , as did the Holy Family , of their share in helping to do what it takes , to destroy the works of the devil and help to open hearts and minds more , to see The Light of love of The Father , a Trifold love , to respond in kind , in mercy and holiness !
May be the family rosary does all that and the Bl.Mother now calling for 3-4 Rosaries a day might be an indication of what it takes, in our times !
Blessed Feast and New year and as always , thank you to all the members of the Family who hold each other , in prayer !
We can talk, hope, pray and sacrifice until we are blue in the face and it will make no difference until people live their commitments. And with respect to Catholics, until marriage is strongly defended, canonically and pastorally, the game will remain lost. Teaching the truth is not sufficient.
If what was good for children was as important as you wish it were, the canon law and the pastoral approaches of the Catholic Church would be drastically different.
I have five children and 11 grandchildren whom I love but the world they face is only going to decay. The Catholic Church is not up to this challenge.
If the Church listened to those … who have defended our marriages and respected our vows, it might help. But the change in the Catholic Church must be drastic, thorough and supported or any change is going to fail.
NB I edited Karl’s comments.
Readers are free to express their hopes and disappointments regarding the Church and her policies. But Please: do not engage me personally. Call the Church to greater clarity if you will, but avoid charges that are prosecutorial and cannot be proved except by your own word.
Karl, we have heard endlessly about your experience in the Church. here and on many other blogs. I and the readers here should not be drawn into these matters. None of us had anything to do with it.
Further, your experience is not everyone’s experience and we cannot adjudicate your situation on a blog. This is simply not the forum for your to air your grievances.
It is not fair because the Church cannot speak to your case in the public forum. Tribunal procedures are confidential and even if you choose to air them publicly the Church cannot defend herself publicly without violating confidentiality and the rights of others including the respondents in your case(s). Please desist in these angry diatribes. Find a local priest or Church leader and work them privately as you ought.
Stop it Karl, stop it, find an appropriate place to work it through but not continue to publicly air matters in which the Church cannot answer publicly
Hey, Karl! In your diatribe about how much of a failure the Catholic Church is, you forgot to mention one thing.
Fear of the Lord. If you don’t believe in that, why should any of us believe in you? Do you have any solutions that would actually help anyone in need of problem solving, or do you simply like to hear yourself be superior to all the “little people” in your world that are really trying to solve any difficulties they might have? If “[T]eaching the truth” isn’t sufficient, what, exactly, is? Get some help, if you’re man enough.
Thanks Msgr. I incorporated some of your ideas into my homily. It was one of those tough love homilies, and was received well.
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