Our Beautiful Catholic Traditions
As you know, I’ve been in Rome for nearly three weeks participating in the Synod of the Family.
So many good points have arisen here in our meetings. Yes, there has been some give-and-take, even some disagreement. As the Holy Father observed, that’s not bad at all. Come to think about it, this also characterized meetings in the earliest days of the Church, as is evident in the Act of the Apostles.
One of many points upon which there has been unanimous and enthusiastic accord was this: that one of the more powerful ways we as a Church support and strengthen marriages and families is through prayer, the Eucharist, God’s Word, devotions, the sacraments, and our beautiful Catholic traditions.
What am I talking about? Let me give you an example. Last Sunday, I celebrated Mass at my “titular” (“honorary”) parish in Rome, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Afterwards, I took the priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese of New York who are working or studying here in Rome out to a local family restaurant. Thank God we had a reservation, because the little place was full, and at every table was a family celebration: two big tables celebrating the baptisms of little babies; two large tables gathered around couples celebrating wedding anniversaries; and one group celebrating the sacrament of confirmation for a twelve year old girl.
It dawned on me then that we bishops spend all this time jawboning about highfalutin concepts to keep marriages and families united, and here they are right in front of me, having a great time, good food, celebrating God’s call, grace, blessings, and mercy! No wonder Jesus worked his first miracle at a wedding banquet!
The Church’s rich tradition of prayer and devotion is a powerfully providential way to keep families united, strong, healthy, and holy.
Let’s just recall some of them:
— joyful yet simple celebrations of baptisms, first communions, confirmations, weddings, and jubilees of marriage;
— faithfully worshiping together as a family at Sunday Mass, and preserving the gifts of quality time and a meal together, at least on the Lord’s day, if not more often during the week;
— the presence of holy water, the crucifix, the Bible, and images of the Jesus, Mary, and the saints in our homes;
— a true celebration of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus;
–special attention to the Christmas crib in the home.;
— family observance of Lent, especially through common penitential practices, enhanced compassion for the poor, sick, and those in need, and approaching as a family the sacrament of reconciliation;
–giving children biblical and Christian names;
–taking the duties of Godparents at baptism and sponsors at confirmation very seriously;
— asking a priest to bless a new home;
–rallying around relatives who are sick and dying, and coming together in faith at the time of death and burial;
–remembering parents and family members at Mass on the anniversary of death;
–blessings of expectant parents and special intercession for couples struggling to conceive a baby…
You could certainly add to the list!
My point is that we in the Church have a treasury of simple, down-home, tried-and-true acts of prayer and devotion which keep marriages and families strong, in love, and close to God.
“Oh come on now!” I can hear some say. “Nobody does that stuff anymore!”
To which I would reply: that’s the problem! We should! And maybe one of the reasons we no longer do a lot of this is precisely because we pastors – bishops, priests, deacons, religious, catechists—never talk about it or encourage it!
We need all the help we can get in these days of tension, turmoil, and challenge in married life and family, right? That’s why I’m stuck here at the synod!
All I’m saying is that we Catholics have a lot of helps to marriage and family that we have forgotten.
Can we recover them?