With the Synod on the Family taking place in Rome there is a great deal of information and mis-information flying around the internet. Everyone is trying to take the ball and run with it regardless of whether they keep it in the field of play or not. The family, marriage, homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, communion, confession, co-habitation; it's all there, sort of like a day-time soap opera.
If the Synod and surrounding discussion has done nothing else, it has people talking, and that can be a good thing. When the dust settles and the smoke clears, and this may not be until after the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year, the Church's teaching will remain the same. The language that we use to address sensitive topics may change but the core teachings will remain the same. So let's look past all of this to what we can really learn from the Synod and discussion.
What these events have really highlighted for "those who have eyes to see and ears to hear" is that the "vocation crisis" we've been wringing our hands over for the past 20 or 30 years was really the wrong one. Yes, there certainly was a vocation crisis but it wasn't a priestly or religious vocation crisis. It was and continues to be a marriage vocation crisis. Solid vocations - priestly, religious, AND married, most often come from solid marriage vocations. Like begets like. I am in no way discounting those who arrived at their vocations by other means but the lion's share of all vocations come from a solid marriage vocation or at least a solid Catholic Christian witness.
If you are like me, even as I type, my mind tends to relegate marriage to a secondary vocation. I tend towards a way of thinking that says, "good priests, brothers, and nuns come from solid Catholic families," forgetting that marriage IS a vocation. It IS a calling just as much as the other vocations. It deserves just as much discernment and preparation as any other vocation.
I haven't been thinking this way for very long and I know the Catholic Church in the United States hasn't either. A cursory glance at marriage preparatory programs in most diocese over the past few decades should make us cringe if not weep. My brother went through 8 years of formation to become a diocesan priest. I know sisters and brothers who discern for longer amounts of time. How long is a typical marriage preparation program? Usually about 6 months at the maximum and I've never heard of one that asks those seeking to be married how long they've discerned the married life or when did they know it was their calling.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting a 6 to 8 year marriage preparation program. Okay, I am but not in the way you might think. When and where is this primary formation to be done? In the family of course! How can this type of formation take place in a family that is torn apart by divorce, alcoholism, drugs, or infidelity? It can't. So what is the answer!!!???
Ah, now you have a taste of what the bishops and the Synod are dealing with and the answers they are praying for guidance on.
The bishops need our prayers and sacrifices. The Pope needs our prayers and sacrifices. They don't need our gossip, second-guessing, fear mongering, or talk of schism. The Holy Spirit guides the Church and I believe He is guiding this meeting. Why else would the storms of the world be raging so violently outside the doors of the meeting place? Why else would the devil be sowing so much division even among those who usually are worshiping side by side? It is because this issue, this building block of society and the Church, the Family, is so important. Satan has been trying to destroy the family since the garden. Should we wonder that he continues to attack it even today?
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