One of Nine - Catholic Family Life
Today I want to introduce you to the Youtube project One of Nine and encourage you to watch the videos and support the channel because both Maria & Peter are extremely talented, faithful and excellent advocates for Catholic family life. It is a positive project and it fosters a feeling that faithful Catholic families are not alone.
I think this is especially important if you are a priest or religious.
Why? Well, because it is frankly, heroic. As well as providing a valuable insight into the reality of Catholic family life, it provides an honest portrayal of just how challenging it is to live the Church's vision for family. Yes there is tremendous joy: I would not advocate an alternative or criticise the vision. It is the one I have chosen with all my heart. But it always comes with challenges, worries and is so often accompanied by the bitter sweetness of loss and longing.
The Catholic community here in the UK is incredibly small. Shockingly small really. I'm not talking about "Mass goers", I'm talking about Catholics who go to events; talks, Masses, marches etc, etc. You quickly realise you are at all the events with the same group of people and everyone knows you. This is a wonderful thing in many ways because you are always with friends. But it is also a bit sad, because you start to realise how tiny the faithful Catholic community actually is.
The point I'm making is that we talk and we discover our experience is the same no matter where we come from. Those of us who know the faith and live the faith have put our lies on the line. That's not overly dramatic, it's fact. The reality of Catholic family life is quite literally living at the complete service of a spouse and children. There's no doubt that this is deeply fulfilling and satisfying. It is also terrifying. You live every day questioning the impact your choices are having on the people you are responsible for.
Bringing up your children Catholic puts them completely at odds with the world in so many senses. Just watch the most recent One of Nine film if you doubt the reality of this; it is an expose of teenage life as a Catholic and in a Catholic family.
We are bringing up our children in a largely hostile environment which advocates and encourages behaviours which are hugely at odds with what we are teaching: God is real and He loves you so much He sent His Son to suffer and die so that you might have eternal life. Therefore we should live our lives in a way that puts His Son, Jesus Christ, at the very centre of everything we do.
At the centre of most children's lives today is social media, video games, friendships, and sexual exploration. Make no mistake about it. Society is pushing the idea that sex is the most intrinsic dimension to your humanity.
I strongly believe that Catholic family life provides an antidote to much of this, but as a father with older children my experience is that you can't avoid these realities or protect your children from them. So you have to discuss them and not dismiss them, you have to provide the intellectual tools to enable your children to deal with them as they arise, and to make informed decisions about them.
I cannot stress how dangerous this is. The Catholic way will, without doubt, challenge your children on sexual orientation, on sex before marriage, on contraception, on abortion, on how many children they can have, either because they are faced with IVF as an option to have one or learning natural fertility to space out the ones they are having. On their relationship with their spouse and how they treat their own children in time. These are massive, life changing decisions, which brings me to why I think every priest and religious should watch these videos.
Maria talks to mums who have lived the Church's teaching which means being a young family coping with the financial and mental pressure of a large family. Of losing children to miscarriage. The pain of not being able to conceive. The general (happy) chaos of a big family. If you are a priest who lives alone in a big house you face challenges of a different sort: loneliness, coping with the stress and challenges of ministry, being faithful to your vows. But they are very different from a father wondering how he is going to fed his growing brood, or how he talks to his SSA son or daughter about God's plan for their lives, or explaining to an autistic child why they have to sit with the family and pray the rosary.
I have watched my son, bright blue, fight for breath after a traumatic delivery and prayed for every breath.
I have pulled my seven year old daughter out of the wreckage of our crashed car and wept for her loss at the side of the road. I have begged God to turn back time, or change what happened or bring her back.
Faith is at the centre of all of these life dramas. Faith is what gives you the impetus, hope and courage to carry on. To face the loss, to hang on to the hope, to gather the answers, to always hold on to the love.
If our priests compromise the truth we are trying to live by, even if it is because they are trying to be gentle, or popular, or kind, they betray all these efforts. Imagine how betrayed a wife and mother who has been betrayed and abandoned by her children's father feels when she is told all her sacrifice is meaningless? Or when a child (this has happened to me) who has been taught that he has to go to confession before Holy Communion if he needs to confess a mortal sin, is told by the priest he doesn't need to do that as long as he is really sorry, how this undermines what he was taught at home?
Faithful Catholics (and I reiterate, we all know each other) feel increasingly abandoned by clergy in these times. They have all but given up on the bishops, they feel failed by the institutionalised/ hierarchical Catholic Church even while they hold on to the promises of Jesus about the Church. But we know that, ultimately, we are the Church; those of us who hold on to the truth of the Gospel.
If we are prepared to commit our lives to the teaching of the Church, why are clergy - priests and bishops - seemingly so determined to undermine that commitment, to compromise it, attempt to explain it away, deny it, or preach another Gospel?
Imagine the damage that is being done by representatives of the Catholic Church who deny one facet or another of doctrine. For them as individuals it might be an intellectual decision; they may not even be aware of the incredible damage they can do by undermining the integrity of the faith they stand for - indeed have given their lives for!
Stand with us now. Stand with the faithful. Do not be seduced by the world, the flesh and the devil.
"The priest does not teach his own ideas, a philosophy that he himself has invented, that he has discovered or likes; the priest does not speak of himself, he does not speak for himself, to attract admirers, perhaps, or create a party of his own; he does not say his own thing, his own inventions but, in the medley of all the philosophies, the priest teaches in the name of Christ present, he proposes the truth that is Christ himself, his word and his way of living and of moving ahead. What Christ said of himself applies to the priest: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7: 16); Christ, that is, does not propose himself but, as the Son he is the voice, the Word of the Father. The priest too must always speak and act in this way: "My teaching is not mine, I do not spread my own ideas or what I like, but I am the mouthpiece and heart of Christ and I make present this one, shared teaching that has created the universal Church and creates eternal life".