I’m very grateful for all the input I received in response to my request last week, whether it came through comments, emails, or personal conversations. As I read over everyone’s thoughts, one overwhelming question came to me. It’s one of those questions that has a pretty elusive answer (like when people ask me, “How do we get kids to keep coming to Church after Confirmation?” Yeah, if I had that answer, I’d be rich. Somehow.), but I still think it’s worth asking.
Many of you responded with a desire for family life to be promoted and encouraged. We are constantly inundated with the bad news about divorce or single parent families, and the culture is so obviously working against those families who are obeying the Church’s teaching. What can we do to promote and encourage the positive message that the Church has for family life and marriage?
When I was reading over the post-synod document (which is also serving as the guiding document for the upcoming synod), the bishops did exactly that. They encouraged those families who are living Church teaching and they expressed “their gratitude, appreciation, and encouragement” to those who have responded to their vocations and the mission of the family, even when that has meant suffering.
But we all want something more, right? So what is that? The Church has been encouraging families for a while. Read Familiaris Consortio. Is it because things like that don’t make the news? “Pope Encourages Families” isn’t exactly the best headline if you want to sell papers. Or is it because we aren’t seeing it translated into practical ways on the local level?
And here’s my other question… as much as we talk about the synod being positive about marriage, do we deep down want them to condemn things as well? Maybe we would feel encouragement in our daily struggles to live the hardships of Catholic family life if there was a clearer expression that the other ways of living weren’t okay?
These are honest questions. I’m personally tired of just receiving statements and documents and letters that no one reads and just get filed away on a website somewhere. But can we really ask anything else of the Synod, other than a statement or document? Again, that sounds like a rhetorical question, but it’s not. What do we want from this time?
It’s an understatement to say that family life is a mess right now. Some other topics raised were single parent families, the need for better marriage prep, and a better understanding of the sacraments. I agree with all of these, and I hope there are some practical, concrete changes to come out of the Synod.
I suppose it’s ultimately up to the Bishops to decide what exactly they can do. But whenever I complain about changes not happening, I feel like I should be able to articulate what I even want. And I can’t do that right now.