I recall a book I first read many years ago which was a collection of essays compiled by the Fatima Family Apostolate and entitled: “only Heroic Catholic Families will survive”.
Survive what? You may well ask.
Fr John Hardon S.J. summarises this in Chapter 1 by calling it the ‘disintegration of family life’. Including but not limited to: rising divorce rates, birth rates below survival level, co-habiting, contraception, infidelity, glorifying fornication, sex education, homosexuality (and this was written well before the current push for same sex unions), abortion and persecution of those who oppose any or all of the above, and the list goes on..
He writes, ” One modern pope after another keeps warning the faithful about the deadly struggle going on in the world today, between Christ, the Light of the world, and Satan, the prince of darkness, and the main focus of this struggle is the FAMILY.”
This includes of course our wonderful Pope St John Paul 2 :
“At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.”
“Today, the various forms of the erosion of marriage, such as free unions and “trial marriage”, and even pseudo-marriages between people of the same sex, are instead an expression of anarchic freedom that are wrongly made to pass as true human liberation.”
And how about this amazingly prohetic document from Pope Pius XI in 1930:
“For now, alas, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense of shame put aside, now by word again by writings, by theatrical productions of every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by cinematographs portraying in vivid scene, in addresses broadcast by radio telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices either are extolled or at least are depicted in such colours as to appear to be free of all reproach and infamy.”
Whatever happens to the family, happens to the Catholic church.
Where the family is weak & struggling, the Church is weak & struggling.
Fr Hardon sees the strong Catholic family, with parents willing to die for their faith, as necessary for the rebirth of family life throughout the world. He is not necessarily referring to physical death either, but that subtler form of dry martyrdom, with ridicule, rejection, ostracism and exclusion being just as, if not more difficult than the quicker physical martyrdom.
I was speaking to a friend the other day with 6 children who had been reported to Family Services for suspicion from a neighbour of running an “illegal daycare centre.” Recently moving to this neighbourhood in a busy road meant that there was a certain anonymity between her and those who were peeking through the blinds minding other peoples business. To add insult to injury, she has the audacity to homeschool, and was helping out her sister who had just given birth to their 7th child. This meant that for a week or so while her sister was about to give birth, a large bus (her sister’s van) was pulling up each morning and ejecting more children who also homeschool. Thus, she had 12 children at her home. The two females complete with power-dressing outfits ascertained within minutes there was no illegal business there, but spent the next 20 minutes with eyebrows lifting and eyes darting, occasional self-righteous interjections of, “Well I am only ever having ONE child!” followed by furtive glances as one of the poor Catholic underclass was gleefully jumping naked on a couch in the background. They basically invaded her home, criticised her and her family, ridiculed her and her husband for choosing to fully embrace life, then left feeling their self-congratulatory work would be incomplete without offering a free on the spot vasectomy to her (thankfully) absent husband. This is the same husband who when joyfully announced the birth of his sixth child at work was told in a very serious voice by his boss’s wife that, “You are MAD.” And she didn’t mean the kind of crazy-funster-at-a-party mad, she meant the other sort with the police escort to the nearest psychiatric facility.
Persecution is real. And it is a form of martyrdom. Just ask my friend.
ps. if you have any more examples of families & martyrdom, or other great quotes from the Popes on the Family, would love you to share in the com box below..