That figures, since this is Holy Family Sunday.
Taking a cue from our Lord, Catholics see family as a big deal. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601-1658, particularly 1655; 2210)
That's not the same as holding up Happy Days or All In the Family as an ideal toward which all must strive.
So why is this in one of today's readings?
8 Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord."Some of the world's billion-plus living Catholics may think this verse justifies their view that wives are useful household items, along with the dog and a dishwasher.
That's not what the Church says, though. The rest of that bit from Colossians goes like this:
"Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.It's not the 'share a bedroom while you feel like it' arrangement that's been popular occasionally: but Colossians 3:18-21 doesn't describe the toxic domestic lockup many of my generation grew up with.
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged."
I've talked about Ephesians 5:22-31, Judges 4:4-10; John 2:1-5, and herding goats, before. (February 9, 2014)
Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Catholics were members of the Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility parish.
The parish, and town, are fictional: but there's something to the stereotype that responsibility goes with being Catholic.
In a Catholic family, we all have duties: children (Catechism, 2214-2220); and parents (Catechism, 2221-2231); wives and husbands. (Catechism, 2360-2365)
Men and women aren't alike: which is fine with me. More to the point, that's the way God designed humanity:
"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them."Since I think God designed humanity, and doesn't make junk: I think men and women are important. We have "an equal personal dignity." (Catechism, 2334, 2393)
Being "in the divine image" is more about our minds than our bodies, and I'm wandering off-topic. (Catechism, 1701-1709)
As usual, it boils down to 'love God, love my neighbor, see everybody as my neighbor.' (Matthew 5:43-44, 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)
The Church says parents have 'rights,' which governments should recognize: civic leaders have responsibilities, too.
Parents have, or should have, "...the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions...." That's because parents are — what else? — responsible for their children's education. (Catechism, 2229)
Part of their education is teaching our kids "...to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God...." (Catechism, 2226)
That doesn't mean I'm expected to train my kids to be priests, monks, or nuns. It's pretty obvious that none of our kids are headed for a "religious" vocation: which is okay. I'll get back to that.
Once I've made sure my kids got an education, I can tell them to be doctors, or lawyers, or whatever?
Nope. Not even if it's a family tradition.
"When they become adults, children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life...."I can't even tell my kids to get married, or who to marry — or not to get married.
My wife and I are expected to give our kids "judicious advice," while being "careful not to exert pressure on them ... either in the choice of a profession or in that of a spouse...." Once they're adults, the choice is theirs. (Catechism, 2230-2233)
Family is important: but it's not the most important thing in life. Putting anything ahead of God on my priority list is idolatry: which is strictly against the rules. (Catechism, 2112-2114)
"Parents should respect and encourage their children's vocations. They should remember and teach that the first calling of the Christian is to follow Jesus."In my dialect of English, a "vocation" in the Catholic context generally means a "religious" vocation: being a priest, nun, or monk.
Clergy and holy orders are vocations: but so is being married, or single. As I've said before, everybody's got a vocation. (December 11, 2011)
"VOCATION: The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness (1, 358, 1700). Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness (825). The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will (898). Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 873; 931)."Folks who follow a vowed life, nuns and monks, have a "vocation." (Catechism, 925-927)
(Catechism, Glossary, V)
So do ordained deacons, priests, bishops, the Pope; and everyone else. (Catechism, 874-896, 897-913, 1669)
I'm in the "everyone else" category: part of the laity. Our job is "...to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will...." (Catechism, 898)
The Catholic Church has been around for about two millennia, attracting folks from around the world. Every individual and each culture brings something new to the mix. Some innovations, like St. Francis of Assisi's nativity scene, are still with us.
Getting back to vocations, by now it's not just priests, nuns, monks, and laity. we've got secular institutes (Catechism, 928-929), societies of apostolic life (Catechism, 930), and other vocations that overlap vowed and laity.
Two of our surviving kids are a bit like me; two are a bit like my wife; and each of them is a unique individual, pursuing his or her vocation. So far, they've all decided to stay with the Catholic Church.
But if one of them decided to walk out: the church door is unlocked, metaphorically speaking. Anyone is free to leave. Or join.
If one of the kids decided to stop being Catholic, I wouldn't be happy about it: but even if I could "make" them believe, I wouldn't. Seeking truth is a responsibility each of us has. Forcing another person to act against his or her convictions is against the rules. (Catechism, 2104-2109)
Maybe you've run into Catholics who don't live up to these high standards. I'm not surprised.
We're all human beings: basically good creatures, dealing with the consequences of a bad decision by our first parents. (Catechism, 388-389, 396-409)
For two millennia, the Church has been passing along what our Lord told us: 'love God, love our neighbor, see everybody as our neighbor.'
And for two millennia, some of us have paid attention: trying to live as if those ideas matter.
I wasn't a Catholic in the '60s and '70s, when 'those crazy kids' were trying to change the world.
I thought change was needed, though: and still do. Some of our reforms are turning out well. Others, not so much — but I'm glad the "good old days" aren't coming back.
Since today's America — and world — are far from perfect, we still have work to do.
When we're doing our job, the Church doesn't make people behave the right way. At its worst, forcing 'correct' behavior leads to atrocities like the Verden massacre. A dozen centuries later, we're still cleaning up that mess. (May 18, 2014)
Convincing folks that loving neighbors is a good idea takes longer. But after 19 centuries of passing along 'love God, love our neighbors, see everyone as our neighbor;' a remarkable number of folks started thinking that owning other people is wrong.
Human nature being what it is, some Catholics of the early 42nd century may be upset that the Church doesn't 'make' people behave.
My guess, and hope, is that the social ills they're sorting out won't be quite the same ones we have. And that's another topic. (October 26, 2014; September 13, 2011)
I'd say 'that's not my problem,' but I'm a member of society, with — you guessed it — responsibilities to future generations. And that's yet another topic. Topics. (Catechism, 1905, 1917, 2415, 2456)
(From Jaime Jasso, via DeviantArt.com, used w/o permission.)
More of my take on life, love, and the long haul:
- "Caesar, Civilization, Dealing With Change — and Building a Better World"
(August 31, 2014)
- "Joining the Universal Banquet"
(August 3, 2014)
- " 'They Have no Wine' "
(May 11, 2014)
- "Unconsidered Optimism and Diaper Changing Tables"
(June 23, 2013)
- "Sex, Marriage, and the Catholic Counter-Culture"
(February 17, 2011)
- "For the XXXI World Day of Prayer for Vocations"
Pope John Paul II (26 December 26, 1993)
- "Familiaris Consorti"
On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World
Pope John Paul II (November 22, 1981)
- "Gravissimum Educationis"
Declaration on Christian Education
Pope Paul VI (October 28, 1965)
- "Divini Illius Magistri" On Christian Education Pope Pius XI (December 31, 1939)