Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The New Year and Families

Father John J. Lombardi

"The average family that goes on a two-week vacation does more planning for that than for their journey to Heaven "(Dr. David Jeremiah, quoting reports.) Huh? Read on.…

We are celebrating The New Year and Families…

We celebrate this Sunday-Jesus, Mary and Joseph-the Holy Family. Remember from this divinely-given model that the family is the building block of civilization.

Now, just think: St Joseph in The Holy Family almost contemplated a divorce (Mt. 1:19), but they all kept on-so keep working out the differences and dissonance. The Holy Family went thru extreme poverty and neglect (Lk 2:7)-so persevere thru it too. They were split up (Lk 2:41ff) by circumstances in life, but found one another again.

On Christmas day I was visiting some families-and came upon one racked by divorce and despair, and another family, still lovingly together: the families couldn't have been more opposite. I wondered -Why did God allow me to see this one family in disarray, on a rainy Christmas day, just before joining another family fully in joy? Answer: Jesus sends us to enter the suffering of some, amidst the joy of life of others, to try to repair and reconcile those who need love and healing. Blessed Damien of Molokai, "The Leper Priest," used to say: "Every once in a while the Lord allows us to pick a rose among the thorns."

Thinking of families: I still recall how me and my siblings-all five of us-one time fit into the same bathtub for a cleaning from mom and dad (got it on film, too!), and we all laughed the whole time. Talk about environmental-organics and family fun! That was--and is, my human, blood family, and I have good, warm memories of this to fuel me on. I also have a "spiritual-eschatological family"-the Folks in Heaven, those in the Final Purification-Blessed Purgatory-and also all on Earth-those around the Grotto and parishes I serve. Recently we celebrated Mass at the Grotto where people from Senegal, the Philippines, Italy and Haiti attended-and some of the Mass parts were in French, Latin, Greek and even English! The main-celebrant-priest was black and spoke eloquent French; another priest dressed in brown robes was from Massachusetts-a Franciscan; and yours-truly from Mary-Land: This was a varied, beautiful tapestry of colors, languages, spiritualities and backgrounds-but all One Family! We should be grateful, especially here at Mary's Grotto, but also elsewhere, for the diverse and divine Holy Catholic Family we have, made up of folks from all around the world. Well, actually, if you think about it, folks visible and invisible from all around the worlds!

Speaking of Our Faith Family: In last week's New York Times Sunday Magazine, the cover article was on "The Hispanicization" of the Catholic Church in the US of A. Generally it was a favorable and good article highlighting how intimate Latinos are with Mother Church, Jesus and, of course, Mother Mary. One downside: as with secularist-slanted pieces, this article and others can focus myopically on the Church's social justice outreach aspect only to Latinos, while neglecting the holistic and desirable spiritual-eschatological helps of the Catholic Church (which Pentecostals are filling in and taking advantage in Latin America the U.S. and elsewhere, where Catholics are lacking). The Catholic Church not only offers "safe haven" and "familiarity" to Latinos and others, but also, of course, the Sacraments and rich traditions of the Virgin and saints. Anyway, as Mary's Grotto is frequently filled with many Latinos from all over the world, let us continue to ask The Lady of Guadalupe to help us to preserve and promote our Faith and Families!

But, today, make no mistake about it-the family is being rejected, neglected, attacked and racked by sufferings today. Top Ten Challenges to Families Today-and Alternatives:

  1. The loss of the public "Presence of God"-The denigration of: the Ten Commandments, prayer in schools and the marketplace, along with the false cries of "separation of church and state" (never mentioned in the Constitution) all derail public religion and loosen needed bonds for families to root-in publicly. Yet: a long-married couple recently went to pray in front of the Supreme Court with a Bible to witness the Faith for the unborn. (Unfortunately, during the vigil they were commanded to desist from this). And: many Catholics attend daily Mass and pray in public (Grace at meals for instance)-So, Why not you?
  2. TV : I heard recently that the average family spends some 39 hours watching tv during a week, while some parents only spend 29 minutes of time talking to their children. Is TV derailing your family, your quality time with others? Alternative: Many Christians limit time watching tv-viewing videos instead, and spend quality-leisure time with loved ones-do you?
  3. Sports-- on Sunday, loss of Sabbath quality-leisure time together, the phenomenon of "soccer moms" multi-tasking, all enthrall sports fans to a point of sports-extremism. Football games, NASCAR and recreation are not bad in themselves but when embraced without restraint they become a divider for families and couples. Yet: some families are selectively choosing sports time so as to both embrace healthy recreation and family time together.
  4. Hedonism-Principle: when people seek pleasure for itself and become inordinately attached to it and forget or forego sacrifice then families are spilt up. Alternative: Many Christians and Catholics are choosing to Live Simply: asking the crucial question: What do I need, versus What do I want?-and adopting a simple lifestyle accordingly.
  5. Entertainment Culture-ipods, cell phones, computers, palm pilots, video games, mini- pc's, ; Blackberry's are all ok in themselves and can even be helpful, but can become idols and opposite to our human penchant for the needed, irreplaceable communication among couples and families. One can become drained by the entertainment-instant gratification-culture and by modern, normally helpful gadgets and lose the art of communing with others. Yet: a little boy, age five, recently gave to me after Mass one day five dollars to give to the poor-this was his beautiful contribution to sacrificing.
  6. Loss of a Culture of Commitment -we live in, Pope John Paul II noted, a "culture of divorce"-and this loosens the needed bonds that bind families and couples together. Alterative: A young couple preparing for marriage recently said they want to be "married in the Church and in Jesus" because they can't do it alone-live forever together! They realized their need for Grace and God's help. Are Jesus and the Church's Sacraments part of your commitment?
  7. Drugs-some "hard drugs" are now mainstream--in suburbs and exurbs-they are of the Devil and wreak absolute havoc and chaos upon families. Yet: I just visited a drug treatment center and most of them-even non-Catholics lined up for a "deliverance-healing prayer" for strength at the end of a talk on healing. How can you heal and reconcile those in the enslavement to drugs?
  8. Homosexualism-while individual homosexual persons are not sinful in themselves (unless acting upon their sexuality) some aggressive political and cultural movements can, esp. thru same sex-marriage proposals, etc) derail families, marriage and commitment. Alternative: some persons who are homosexual are seeking holiness in the Church and Christ, led by priests like Fr John Harvey, to honor Church teachings, chastity and the family as God designed it.
  9. Contraception, means, literally, "against life"-and this illicit facet of sexuality is also against families and true love. We should include abortion and euthanasia, here, and the Culture of Death which disintegrates all life forms and commitments. Yet: today many Christians are embracing an "organic-Natural Family Planning alternative" to contraception, and many more studies today indicate the bad side-effects of the Pill and other contraceptives, and people are listening-and adapting!
  10. Relativism, means, here, that any lifestyle, philosophy or spirituality or family-model proposed is as valuable as any other traditional one. This causes confusion and chaos in our families and churches. Yet: Many families today are eschewing the "elitist" proposals of relativism by embracing alternative, traditional schooling, a return to classic Christianity and Catholicism (embracing the full breadth and glory of what Jesus, the Bible and the Church really teaches) and deeply realizing and practicing The Family is the Building Block of Civilization.

The New Year and Holy Resolutions? Dr David Jeremiah, evangelical preacher, said recently that Christians must have a strategy for the New Year to become holy-"it doesn't just happen"! He quoted the quip: "If you fail to plan then you plan to fail." Got it? So, then, what is your strategy to become more holy, closer to Christ and His Church, in this New Year? …Read the Bible a couple times a week, or daily. Go to Mass during the week. Serve others, esp. the poor, more often. Work on your predominate faults and sins (review each day in an examen of conscience). Keep at it!

Let's look, briefly, at The Year Past --Top Stories of 2006 (according to a poll on CNN): The Democrats' takeover of Congress; The Iraq War; Hamas and Lebanon violence; Darfur-Sudan genocide; Somalia re-taken by Christian forces from Islamcist extremists. My own additions: Pope Benedict's comments about Islam and the subsequent violence from that: this got a needed conversation going-though controversially. And the Pope visits Turkey, peacefully -where he often speaks of faith and reason (they must go together), religion and non-violence are incompatible; Islam's need to respect other religions in their countries. To form a worldwide place of peace, this, Islamic extremism, is an urgent issue

  • The Federal Drug Administration recently approved the future use of food from cloning-incl. milk, dairy products and meats: This should alarm anyone-especially those who frequent supermarkets and buy for their children and families. We need to seriously question this "biological movement" of cloning and the penchant of science to "push the envelope" of fiddling with Mother Nature--a la "Frankenstein"-changing the nature of what God designed. Is this what God wants-actually creating new animals and beings to harvest for food sources? Critics are rightly questioning whether this will spur on human cloning and whether money is unfairly fueling this maddening drive and also that products using clones may be unsafe. These are valid concerns. As Pope John Paul II said often about science: "Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it."
  • Gerald Ford, 38th U.S. President, died. Of course he pardoned previously- defunct president Richard Nixon, and Ford was defiled for this at the time of Watergate, and now is seen as heraldic. His affable style is captured by his quip: "I'm a Ford not a Lincoln." So, from Mr. Ford's legacy, we should remember forgiveness and healing…Who do you need to forgive or receive reconciliation from?
  • The execution of Sadaam Hussein: This tyrant killed hundreds of Kurds, Shiite Muslims and other innocents. While he called for Sunni-Shiite reconciliation as he breathed his last breath, a priest-friend said upon learning of his execution: "I prayed for his soul." Amen

Against anxiousness in the New Year-Five Practices

  1. Practice the Presence of God: talk and listen to Him 24/7-continual conversation=ongoing communion.
  2. Carry a small pocket bible and read it while waiting in a store or bank line. "Your word, O Lord, is a lamp unto my feet" (Psalms).
  3. Prayerfully pray and repeat: Present moment/ holy Moment. Sacred moment, only moment.
  4. Spend at least ten minutes each day in meditation and cultivate a grounding in God that cannot be shaken the rest of the day.
  5. Memory verse: as Jesus prays about His Gift to us: "No one will take away your joy from you" (Jn. 16:22; also read and mediate upon Jn. 17: 22 and 24 on the Glory God gives to Jesus and wishes us to have!).

Quote of the Year (?): "Think of the happiest things, that will be the same as having wings." -Walt Disney.

Reminders: This Monday is The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, and is a Holy Day, but it is not obligatory. However: don't you want to honor and venerate Your Mother, and also Our Lord?

Remember to support your parish and priests thru worship.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi