The family is the foundation our faith. St. Paul
again tells us that faith comes from hearing. Someone who already believes, professes the faith in word or action, and others receive the faith—from God, of course, but through the one who believes. This is the ordinary course of Divine Providence. Only believers reproduce other believers.
Therefore, the family is certainly the source of our natural generation and education as human beings. But it is also—and especially—the source and support of our supernatural life and well-being. For it is mainly through the family that we receive and grow in the true faith without which the supernatural life would not even be possible.
This is why the faith of each member of the family is so necessary to provide the sustenance in faith that the other members of the family so desperately need. First in this law of dependence are the father and mother. The strength of their own Catholic faith will determine the strength of their children’s faith. In the designs of God, they are the principal channels of grace of faith to their children.
What is true in the course of nature, is even more true in the order of grace. Like reproduces like. In today’s world of widespread unbelief, this will mean nothing less than heroic faith in the parents if they hope to reproduce and preserve this faith in their offspring.
It is here that a brief explanation is needed in regards to the four pillars of the Catholic family. They are fidelity, indissolubility, children, and selfless charity.
Fidelity. The first pillar of the Catholic family is the obligation that the husband and wife assumed when they received the Sacrament of Matrimony. They promised God that they would remain faithful to each other in a world that has canonized infidelity and makes a mockery of the marriage vows.
Remember that parents are to be channels of grace to their children, here of the grace of faith in the unchangeable teaching of Christ on marital fidelity. This is far deeper than merely giving a good example. Father and mother are to be conduits of supernatural light for the sons and daughters they have brought into the world.
Indissolubility. If there is one truth of the Catholic faith that parents must teach their children it is the indissolubility of Christian marriage. The Catholic Church will survive only where Christ’s difficult doctrine on marital indissolubility is still believed and practiced.
Christian marriage is the foundation of the
family. Most people do not realize that until the dawn of Christianity, the family did not exist in the pagan world. In the Roman Empire, into which Christ was born, contraception was universal. There were no laws prohibiting abortion. Infanticide was commonplace. Marriage was essentially cohabitation.
No single word in the Western world took on a more changed meaning than the Latin term familia, which in English is the family. Among the Romans, familia was a household of servants, headed by a man with his wives and concubines.
What the family now means among believing Christians who are loyal to Jesus Christ is a group of persons who are related by marriage and who typically include a father, mother, and children. In the mind of the Church, “The family is the foundation of society.”
It is no exaggeration to say that the family is the seed-bed of hope. It is the seed-bed of hope in eternal life, for which families here on earth are the pre-condition and necessary preparation. Parents can see their children now in time to teach them there is a heavenly eternity to hope for, and train them to pay the price of reaching heaven in the world to come.
Families are made for heaven and we are so accustomed to speaking of families in terrestrial terms that we may have to do some violence to our thinking to say that families are really made for heaven. This is the clear teaching of divine revelation and should be the towering goal of our earthly desires.
We are destined to be re-united as families in that heavenly Jerusalem which the voice of God told St. John, “You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make His home with them; they shall be His people, and He will be their God” (Rev 21:3).
Home on earth is where families begin and grow. But home in heaven is where families are meant finally to arrive, where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; where there will be no more death or family bereavement, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past will have gone, and what we now call the future will be an everlasting present in the company of those whom we have loved on earth, never again to be separated from them for all eternity.
Last week’s column left off with the topic of
procreative love, which is divinely intended to animate the selfless love of husband and wife to want to have children. Unlike unitive love, which provides for their mutual affection for each other; procreative love makes them desire to cooperate with each other in bringing offspring into the world and caring for and educating their children in what the Church calls spiritual procreation.
Once married people believe this, they are called upon to practice nothing less than heroic charity to reproduce themselves. This reproduction is not only to procreate children in body for this world but reproduce themselves in spirit for reunion with their families in a heavenly eternity.
The publication by Pope Paul VI of the encyclical Humanae Vitae which forbids contraception as a grave sin. No single document in modern papal history has provoked more controversy and opposition than Humanae Vitae. In one country after another, Catholic bishops’ conferences met in solemn session to pass judgment on this papal teaching. Thank God, many of these conferences fully approved what the Vicar of Christ declared.
Let’s take a look at a couple of significant paragraphs of Humanae Vitae. “In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian view of marriage, we must again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.
Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether permanent or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.”
Every form of contraception is simply forbidden. Given the mind-set of so many members of the hierarchy, it is no wonder that millions of Catholics are deeply confused. “Whom are we to obey,” they ask themselves, “the bishops or the pope?” Pope Paul VI anticipated this dilemma of conscience. Shortly after Humanae Vitae, he said, “How many times we have trembled before the alternatives of an easy condescension to current opinions.” No wonder Paul VI never published another encyclical for the next ten years until his death in 1978.
To be continued....