Go Home and Love Your Family

"Marriage of Mary and Joseph." From an early 1900s Marriage Certificate.
“Marriage of Mary and Joseph.” From an early 1900s Marriage Certificate.

I’ve reached that point in my 20-something life where many of my friends are getting married. August is for weddings, apparently. In between the various ceremonies, receptions, and gift registry orders, the most lovely joy simply has been to witness those close to me transition from one season in life into a new one with those whom they love.

With some of these friends, I have journeyed for years — having known them long before they met their significant other. Later on, it was only natural that I also became friends with the other person in their life. Seeing such relationships from the very beginning, when they first fell in love, and watching them progress and blossom into where they are now has been a most unexpected gift.

I have encouraged my friends who are engaged or married that their witness is a hopeful example for those of us who have yet to discover God’s call. For me, one of the most beautiful realities in the world is seeing a faithful, faith-filled couple joyfully living their marriage in midst of the peaks and valleys of family life and changes to it in recent decades.

It was not always this way. For many years, during my time in the Evangelical church when I first converted, I had taken marriage as a given. Additionally, although I had been raised as a Buddhist in my younger years (that is a story for another time!) and they have a celibate monkhood, I never considered that path for me. For most of my life, marriage was simply taken for granted and expected. You could say that I thought it was special insofar as any other calling from God was special.

In one sense, the Protestant reformers pushed back against what they saw as the diminishment of family life and the necessity and beauty of the lay vocation. However, in destroying Holy Orders and eliminating monastic and religious life from their communities, they threw the baby out with the bathwater. When I became Catholic an entirely new world of “vocations” was opened up in ways I had never known before.

The myriad of possibilities — religious life, becoming a priest, living as a brother or sister, among other callings — was such a new revelation. Here I saw revealed the full breadth and extent of what God could ask of men and women in order to follow Him: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive [back] an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come” (Luke 18:29). 

Simply put, the important point I learned when I became Catholic is that without the witness of the other possibility, the other callings, marriage becomes absolutized or practically treated as the only way to human fulfillment. This is an idea with drastic consequences, as shown by the recent challenges to our understanding of marriage in recent years. At the very least, I think this perspective tends towards the notion that one has to “find” someone to be complete or to live a full human life.

To be sure, marriage is a great good and holy marriages are something that we need more of in this world! As Sacred Scripture beautifully intimates, earthly marriage is an icon of the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church (c.f. Ephesians 5:25). It is the first school of living, a “community of life” where we are brought into the world and nurtured (Familiaris Consortio § 37). Pope Francis reiterated some of these points in his message to the 20 newly married couples last weekend at St. Peter’s:

[Marriage] is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.

On the other hand, if we do not ever realize or reflect upon the marvelous reality that there are other ways of living an integrated human life, of growing in sanctity, of the many paths to sainthood, then we are missing out on another huge portion of our faith. The different vocations all nourish and refer to each other: without strong families, where would vocations come from? And without holy priests, sisters, and brothers, how can families flourish?

In my own life, it was not until I had befriended a sister who still remains dear to me that my mind realized, “Aha! This, here, is why we have sisters.” It was that point of encounter when the abstract became real: She welcomed me as a mother. Or he was a father to me in that Confession. Spiritual fatherhood and motherhood are such precious, rare treasures. Whatever the resultant call for our lives, when we encounter that kind of love, we are never left the same. “Were not our hearts burning [within us]…?” (Luke 24:32).

Having said this, in different ages, God has always raised new ways of living or revivified existing forms of life in order to enrich the Church. From the ascetics and monks of the deserts in the first period of the Church who called the dying Roman world to be reborn in Christ, to the great mendicants and preaching orders who revitalized the faith life of Christendom, to the ardent missionary orders who trod across the world, we have seen examples of such a movement of the Spirit.

In our age, we must first ask, Lord, what are you calling me to? How will you raise up family life? What do you want to reveal to the world through our lives? Religious and priests, likewise, can ask God how they may walk and support the laity in discovering this. Even if the answers remain yet unclear, the burgeoning growth of Catholic lay groups and the increased recognition of lay life after the Second Vatican Council give us hope.

What can we do in the meantime? First, please pray for the upcoming Synod on the Family, for our cardinals and bishops, and for our pope — especially for unity and common witness. We must also pray in our churches during Mass for Holy Marriages. We must advocate for a renewal of family life, pray for purity of heart, and implore God for healing from the broken forms of living in our culture. Most importantly, simple as it sounds, though hard as it may be at times, we must love our families.

Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa was once asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family.” Sometimes it is not in great deeds, lofty prayers, or in eloquent writings that we change the world; rather, it may be the little tasks, the quiet prayers at bedside, and the saying of grace at mealtime that affects eternity. Moreover, no matter what form of life we may be called to, in doing this, we will learn how to truly love, to forgive, to prepare in this earthly life for that heavenly union with the Divine Family, the Holy Trinity.

It was a long time ago, the fruit of many generations, that there lived a little family in Nazareth. They did not have much in the way of material means, but they were rich in faith, hope, and love for each other. It was this that changed the world forever:

“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.” -Luke 2:51-52 

Rachana Chhin

Rachana Chhin

Rachana Chhin is a 25-year-old Catholic convert (via Buddhism and Evangelical Christianity) from Houston, Texas. He received his Bachelors degree from Baylor University where he studied International Affairs and the Great Books. He is now pursuing a Juris Doctorate and Masters in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota. In his down time, he enjoys reading, listening to classical and folk music, and playing strategy games on his computer.

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3 thoughts on “Go Home and Love Your Family”

  1. Pingback: Padre Pio on the Blessed Virgin Mary - BigPulpit.com

  2. You wrote, “How will you raise up family life? What do you want to reveal to the world through our lives? Religious and priests, likewise, can ask God how they may walk and support the laity in discovering this. Even if the answers remain yet unclear, the burgeoning growth of Catholic lay groups and the increased recognition of lay life after the Second Vatican Council give us hope.” I am hopeful that priests will support the following idea (maybe after lay encouragement).

    To help ALL parents be better helpers of their children, ONE STEP AT A TIME.

    This idea has three aspects:

    1. A poster (similar to the one below) in all churches, put up by their minister for passive but powerful reminding of what everyone can know for certain.

    2. Superb questions (God’s questions) with verifiable evidence on slips of paper with a web address

    3. all ministers of all faiths will be expected to publicly show they trust God’s answer to all such questions (or explain why they do not) and each minister will be expected to make available their own sequence of questions or endorse another’s sequence.

    I hope you see the potential for good if this gets started and all parents and children are reminded in all churches by posters to show they have accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and reminded by their ministers what it means to love truth, to seek it and to want others to love it and to seek it and to understand it the way God wants it understood.

    Hopefully, all people will be expected to enter the market place of theological ideas armed with critical thinking skills and work to make those skills better. What minister will fear this will lead all away from their faith and therefore refuse to support it?

    Poster idea:

    What minister will publicly dispute any part of the following suggested Poster idea that can be improved and/or shortened and is to be put up in the church as a silent reminder to parents and children so each thinks about showing they have accepted the love of all truth so that they may be saved (2Thessallonians 2:10)?

    “All truly good parents are seen wanting to pray ever more perfectly and committing themselves to a lifelong effort at being open to all Truth from God, through anyone, and eagerly working to know and believe whatever it is that God wants everyone to know and believe and therefore these parents, in order to share them with others but especially with their children, are looking for the best verifiable information and GOD’S ANSWER to the best sequences of questions from ministers of all faiths who are eager to share such in the sure faith that God’s answers for these questions will lead all, by peaceful means, to the one Faith God must will all to have and for them to thereby reject all man made additions to this Faith. There are many in this church eager to help anyone start or continue in this lifelong search for Truth and to help any who now seek to find everything God wants everyone to know and believe, one step, one question at a time.” (names, telephone numbers, email addresses)

    Obviously people will eventually know everything in the poster no matter how long it is if the minister makes a monthly, strongly worded comment reminding all that there are parishioners who are eager to help anyone find God’s answer to all questions from anyone. Parents and children will each know (because the poster and the monthly reminders puts a “spotlight on the parent’s actions”) whether or not the parents are, or are not, doing what they should already be doing but many times today, in this world, are not doing. Is this not a good way for ministers to frequently remind all (without pointing a finger at any one person) of the importance of truly accepting the love of, and therefore being open to truth from God through anyone and eagerly seeking ALL the truth that God wants all to love so that they may be saved (2Thessallonians 2:10)? If you cannot think of a better way, and this might help many parents, should you pass this on so others can help improve it?

    Second aspect of Idea: Slips of Paper to help evangelize others and children?

    The second aspect requires the minister or a moderator (or team of moderators) who will write, or find, and post suggested questions (with verifiable, unassailable evidence) on a particular part of the church webpage (numbered and grouped according to toplc) for people to be able to read and print out the questions on slips of paper and carry them in their wallet or purse. Then, when a person has an opportunity to dialogue with someone, (or when a parent and child have “one of those” discussions) they have these carefully worded, superbly well thought out questions, that they can hand to the other person and ask them if God might want to give them HIS ANSWER to this question and if they should therefore seek and find God’s answer to that question in their heart in the security of their home. The intent of each question will be to help people take one step at a time, one issue at a time, towards believing whatever God wants everyone to know and believe, rather than trying to get them to read an entire book (which is a very good thing but few do this today) and there will be services (almost always free) where many different approaches to questions on each particular “step” are put side by side for comparison purposes. Parents, especially fathers, will be expected to arm their children with the best examples and to demonstrate being open to knowing and believing everything God wants all to know and believe and to help their children check out the arguments, questions, posted by other faiths to see if they have any questions that God’s answer to seems to appear to lead to this other faith only. Hopefully, many people will include related questions listed by numbers at the bottom to be found on the web page also listed and therefore they will not have to personally have all the answers.

    Think if all religious schools made sure that all children new where to go for the best questions for people of any faith.

  3. The Mother Teresa quote works best when you realize that she’s not limiting ‘family’ to “youngish father, youngish mother, precollege children” like society and church alike do nowadays. That we use terms like Brother and Sister for religious reminds us something that most folks forget about the Church community, in their focus on only *their* “family.” As someone ten years older than the writer, I have to warn him about how those same friends will peel off one-by-one (two-by-two?) over the next few years if he stays single. As a CCC 2231 Catholic (“Some forgo marriage in order to care for their parents…”), I see firsthand how much “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother” is an idea that the Church abandoned years ago in exchange for idolatry of nuclear families. At 25, you’re still a child, as are those children getting married off to become the new darlings of the Church for their shiny rings.

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