Reflections on the Family

Fr. Peter Dugandzic
Summer 2010, revised and updated winter 2010
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The Family

Many today express concern about the state of family life in our society. With regard to the family, we must always promote and support this basic cell of society and the Church. Based on the objective state of the family today, it is clear that attacks by the devil on the family continue to increase with the passing of each day. Many of us are painfully aware of families that are broken and stretched to unbearable limits. The result has impacted the lives of so many, especially for the most recent generations who have become confused about moral Truths. The importance of the family to the Church and society has been repeatedly expressed by the magisterium, particularly beginning at the Second Vatican Council in documents such as Gaudium et Spes.

In an effort to address the issues affecting the family, Pope Paul VI established a Pontifical Committee in 1973. This commission was charged with examining the various issues in the world that affect family and offering them support. Their reports and findings became the focus of the 1980 Synod of Bishops in Rome and the recommendations of this synod were brought together in the Apostolic Exhortation entitled
Familiaris Consortio. The issues faced and role played by the family were so numerous that Pope John Paul II subsequently raised the Committee to a Pontifical Council.

Anyone who followed his career knows that concern for the family was at the heart of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate. Not only did he express concern for many of the situations that plagued families – he also identified many of the deeper trends and root causes of the problems and offered many correctives in the goal of assisting families to become what they should be based on the objective order. Throughout his priestly life he consistently pointed out these trends and worked to correct them.

He identified one such root cause while archbishop in Krakow. In a book entitled
Love and Responsibility, originally published in 1960 and translated into English in 1981, he discussed the effect utilitarianism has had on the relationship between a man and a woman, especially its impact on the understanding of what constitutes love. This particular school of thought finds its roots in the writings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus but was organized into an independent school of thought in the late 18th century by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. In recent centuries, this school of thought has become widespread through the various resources employed by social engineers.

In an admittedly simplistic summary, at the heart of this philosophical school is the reduction of moral worth and ethical evaluation to the measurements of pleasure and pain. Generally speaking, anything that brings about pleasure should be sought as a good and anything that brings pain should be avoided as an evil. Thus, this school of thought, albeit unintentionally, connects happiness to pleasure, which effectively obfuscates the proper understanding of happiness as traditionally held. Rather than happiness being a future state anticipated ultimately in the next life for those who remain steadfast to what is truly Good, it becomes a state of enjoyment to be pursued in this life. Note that the spread of this theory paralleled the spread of the Freudian idea of the Pleasure Principle. These combined to create a milieu in which the good of society is promoted as seeking the greatest amount of pleasure for the largest number of people and thus the only restraint on the means sought for individual pleasure was that it remained subordinated to the common good of respecting another’s pursuit of the same end.

In his criticism of this rapidly spreading worldview, the future pope noted that it tended to cultivate a high level of
egoism in society, which is the source of the individualism we recognize today. In short, there has been an overemphasis on the pleasurable satiation of self as the measurement of self-satisfaction. From this, what comes to be the standard taught to upcoming generations is that an individual should seek that which is useful for attaining personal pleasure and satiation as an instrument of good. The only restraint is when that sought after good violates the pursuit of an equal good by another. The person is said to be “good” when he or she is in a state of satisfactory harmony and bliss. The person is encouraged to “use” various means to attain the proper end of personal satisfaction, which comes through gratification. In this worldview, such “use” can even be applied to another, qualified only by mutual consent.

When applied to the relationship between human persons, especially a man and woman, love is reduced to a harmonization of egoisms. There is a mutual using of the other to bring about personal gratification of needs. So long as both egos exist harmoniously and achieve the sought after happiness, the bond between them can be called love. And if the harmonization between the individuals fails for some reason, it is taken as an indication that the love has ceased. The simple conclusion must be that the usefulness of the other has ended and it is time to move along and find another who will provide for a renewed stasis of the ego. In this worldview, selflessness and altruism are portrayed as curious aberrations.

The above is an admittedly simplistic presentation of a complex and widespread trend. Suffice it to say that the problem identified can be corrected when teaching lessons in life, lessons that must be lived in the family. Thus, in contrast to this trend we must focus on the axiom that a person is the kind of good that can only be an end in itself. Therefore, a person can never be “used” as the means to a selfish end. Other human beings must always be seen in this light.

Based on the trends mentioned above, it is clear that many families have been afflicted by this errant strain of thinking. Husbands and wives part ways when life situations become difficult. Children become products to be obtained rather than beings that are the anticipated result of spousal love. Spouses are no longer partners faithful for life but instruments of mutual pleasure. Complicating this reality are the utilitarian attitudes inculcated by a contraceptive relationship, which fosters the Culture of Death.

Through the following reflections, it is hoped you will begin to focus on your family and ways to build it up in holiness. Work on cultivating your relationships within the structure called the Domestic Church. Encourage one another to holiness. Desire to see the other, not as a source of immediate pleasure but as a partner in faith on pilgrimage to the Kingdom. Let your prayer focus on seeing every member of your family as a member of Christ’s Holy Body and more than a mere source of self-gratification.

A Sower Went Out to Sow

All three synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke –have very similar versions of Jesus’ parable in which he speaks about a sower who goes out to sow some seed. In the parable, the fate of the seed varies and, depending on where it lands, the seed thrives or dies. In addition, all three accounts offer an explanation given by Jesus with regard to the deeper meaning of the parable (see Matthew 13:3-8; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:5-15). Anyone who knows anything about seeds and how they germinate knows that certain conditions must be met in order for the seeds to grow.

Obviously, Jesus is not being literal as the parable is meant didactically, which indicates to the hearer that there will be certain conditions in the interpretation and application of it. In His explanation, Jesus confirms that the seed is the Word and human hearts the various types soil. It should be made clear that in this context the “Word” referred to is in the singular. We are not talking about the multiplicity of words but THE Word of God, that is, Jesus, the Word made Flesh, Who is sown in our hearts. The initiative is clearly God’s and we are recipients of that initiative. The Seed that God has sown throughout salvation history is Grace.

All three versions of the parable are quite similar and the point made by Jesus is the same – we need to constantly cultivate our hearts so that the Word sown, the Grace of God bestowed upon us, will bear fruit in eternal life. Such cultivation in this life is identified as holiness of life. The Grace God gives is the same for all but what happens to It depends on the recipient. The sin stained heart needs God’s Grace to be purified yet it is the same heart that can also repulse the Grace offered by God through obstinacy. That being said, it is good to examine this parable in relation to the worldview outlined above and especially with regard to the state of family life.

At the outset, I openly admit I am not a horticulturist and not the best with plants. I am sure there are those with a green thumb who can appreciate the details in the parable much better than I. Certainly, the majority of people in Jesus’ immediate audience were farmers steeped in an agrarian mentality and would not have needed an extensive explanation regarding seeds and the cultivation of soil. However, we do not need to be specialists in this area to appreciate the deeper meaning in the parable.

The reason Jesus spoke in parables was to reveal the Truth as established by God. The parables signify the preordained reality and we are responsible to apply this significance to every aspect of our lives in order to ensure we are living rightly since our eternal salvation will pass through a Judgment based on standards that have been predetermined by the Judge. Thus, getting this right has eternal import. With regard to the task at hand, I think it helpful if we apply this parable to family life in the world today and its critical role in living out the Divine Will. It is in the family where receptiveness to the universal call to holiness is first established and where the prayerful structures of living out that holiness are developed.

As was noted in the previous section, the family has been ravaged by the devil and the result has been a breakdown of family life. Confusion now reigns as to what is Good and what is Evil. The pursuit of holiness is no longer the first priority of many families as the pursuit of the so-called “good life” has taken its place. This breakdown remains a concern for the Church’s hierarchy because the family is the primary cell of the Church. Ultimately, as the family goes, so goes the Church and society. The rapid changes to the family in the last century and the Church’s growing concern were captured in the very first paragraph of
Familiaris Consortio in which Pope John Paul II notes:

The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture. Many families are living this situation in fidelity to those values that constitute the foundation of the institution of the family. Others have become uncertain and bewildered over their role or even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal and family life. Finally, there are others who are hindered by various situations of injustice in the realization of their fundamental rights.

Yes, there are families who do their best to remain faithful to their Christian values despite these growing trends. Yes, there are families whose values remain founded upon the Rock of the Church and implement those values every day. The document does affirm these families and lets them know that they are not alone. The Church is their voice in the world and is committed to supporting their efforts in cultivating a strong sense of holiness within the home. In this regard, the family is where the type of “soil” is first cultivated and the Church exhorts families to be what that are – a Community of Love in the Divine Image.

In the coming sections, more will be said about the Church’s teaching in this area and a reaffirmation of what it means to be a truly Catholic and Holy Family. In this regard, the Church is not presenting an unobtainable ideal but one that is very real, an ideal that must be the goal of every family. The key to getting this right is that each individual and every family must grow in awareness and remain constantly vigilant of the effects that surrounding forces have on the “soil” of family life and its members, which becomes an aid to the family that will allow it to purge itself of the error and so enable it to be Grace filled – a truly rich soil into which the Seed can be sown.

Wordly and Secular Forces

Never before in history have certain groups been able to exert influence, for good and bad, over a large cross section of society. In fact, a social scientist studying the effects of television in the 1970s noted that, “television is a centralized system of storytelling” whose portrayed themes are part of “a daily ritual that elites share with many other publics,” which, he claims, allows for the broadest societal ideological homogenization. These scientists not only measured the effects of television but also have used the results in a broad program of social engineering. It is these same groups who have wielded influence in the public education system and its curriculum. It is through means such as this that the ideologies of secular humanism and relativism have inculcated a specifically non-Christian worldview in a large portion of our population, including many so-called good Catholics.

In the first half of the last century, the process of social engineering grew out of the public educational system. Educators and scientists recognized that there was a captive audience in the schools and realized that if certain messages needed to be inculcated in the largest possible group, this would be the place to start. There is no doubt that many good things have come about from making education available to every citizen. Simply put, schools began yielding better and more productive citizens, which ultimately contributed to the common good. With regard to education, the Church has always been at the forefront. In every mission territory the Church has entered, the first goal has always been to set up schools. As point in fact, the Franciscans and Jesuits opened Catholic schools on this continent more than 150 years before the American Revolution. Public education paralleled this trend but it would not be until the late nineteen century that such education became mandatory for all children.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the public education system in America grew and the results were beyond all imagining, especially in the area of certain ethical questions. Beyond a shadow of doubt, education has always been a good for society and for the Church. But social scientists and educators began asking what “content” should be part of the curriculum, especially in moral questions such as marriage and human sexuality. Every expert agreed that young people needed more “information” in order to make good decisions. However, over time it was decided that religious perspectives should be limited in the curriculum and eventually these perspectives were to be eliminated all together because many were shrouded in religious superstition. The criteria for inclusion focused only on that which could be scientifically verified.

In this worldview, morality has been reduced to “ethical science” and only the immediately verifiable can be introduced into the classrooms. By the second half of the century, religious approaches were barred from the classroom and only the worldview espoused by secularists and scientists was permitted. At the heart of this methodology and worldview is doubt and skepticism. Everything must be doubted and the first response to all claims should be skepticism. The same theory and worldview has been embedded into the media and the content of many programs aired today draws from the same font of information used by educators. The fundamental approach cultivated throughout society is doubt and the result has been that Man, like Adam and Eve, has come to doubt God’s total gift of Himself, even to the point of doubting the existence of God. The impact has been a reduction of all things to the observable functionality of what it does, not what it is.

It would be this same group that called for tolerance of all views. In this regard, the starting point of any investigation is that all views are equal and when perspectives differ, it is merely because of the relative approach one takes. Through the widespread propagation of the idea of tolerance we find ourselves living under what Pope Benedict has termed the “dictatorship of relativism.” He notes that it is the same secular forces that have sought to marginalize the Church and even demand that the Church adapt Her teachings to the modern relativistic views of morality. This process has lead to a further marginalization that has developed into a “new intolerance” directed primarily at the Church. The effect, he notes, is that the Church is “no longer allowed to live out her own identity… In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is the real threat we face.” The same heavy handedness to conform or be marginalized has been imposed upon the family as well.

Part of the struggle in the world today has to do with maintaining a correct understanding of what something is before asking what it should do. This approach to Truth is the very basis of what the Church teaches in the Natural Law. The key here is in the starting point for the discussion. Truth is not found in what something does but what it is. Thus, the first question should be, “What is the family in the mind of God and what does it take for that to be fulfilled?” Today there are those who seek to impose “new” meanings upon the family rather than allowing the family to be what it is by nature. Their conclusions are drawn upon a mere observation of what the family does and, within this model, such becomes the basis for attempting to explain what the family is. This methodology is diametrically opposite to what should be occurring and did occur for centuries. The starting point should be a discovery of what the family is and all that it does should conform to that reality.

In fact, this is exactly what Pope John Paul II encourages in Part III of
Familiaris Consortio. He opens this section by stating that the family finds its identity in the plan of God and this identity forms the family’s mission. The identity of the family must be drawn from an examination of revelation and, especially with regard to marriage and the family, requires a profound examination of “the beginning,” that is, the origin of Man in God’s original creative act. For Pope John Paul, this indicated a need for exegesis of the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis. This exegesis was presented in the beginning of his pontificate as part of his Wednesday catecheses. These presentations are now collectively referred to as the Theology of the Body, which he presented in more than 129 equal length talks. A full review of this dense work is beyond the scope of this forum. Suffice it to say, he concludes that God originally created Man and Woman to be a Community of Persons, in the Divine Image, but Original Sin corrupted that original perfect Union. However, Original Sin did not completely eradicate that Union and thus the spark and inclination remains in every human person to tend toward Communion. The earthly marriage of Man and Woman signifies that original Communion as established by God. The True Marriage is signified in the Communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church. In this regard, every human marriage must conform itself to The Marriage.

The family, rooted in the sacramental union of a man and a woman, must always be what it is – a seedbed for forming a Community of Persons. This reflects a primordial reality and it is this reality that the devil has continually sought to destroy. All should take heed of the warning given by St. Peter in his first letter when he said, “Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.” In today’s context, the thought is simple – by destroying the Communion signified, access to what is signified is obscured and eventually destroyed. Thus, it should be no surprise to hear that families and marriages are torn apart today for the devil has been devouring them for some time. And further, there are those who observe the trends and, wielding great influence in the world, presume that reality must be made to conform to what is happening, rather than be challenged to form what ought to be. Here is where the parable of the sower can be most helpful. Each account recalls Jesus stating that the Seed sown fell on the path, the rocky ground, among thorns, and on good soil. Each of these will be examined in the coming sections.

Some Seed Fell on the Path

Anyone who understands seeds and how they germinate knows that they need to meet certain conditions to thrive and fully achieve their end. While there are other factors that can be examined, the particular one that Jesus focuses on is the soil. As is the case on many farms, alongside every row of vegetables or plants is a path to give the farmer access to them. The earth that forms the path is usually hardened from the impact of feet and other equipment drawn across it. The path is easily identifiable in that no vegetation grows there.

Obviously, as noted above, this parable is analogous. We must constantly remind ourselves that there is a danger in being overly literal when interpreting it. The parable itself is more like a fable in that the story has a moral to it. The difference in the parables of Jesus, as opposed to one of Aesop’s fables, is that the parable is part of revelation, a part of our insight into the mind of God. Jesus is offering us an insight into that which is for the sake of our salvation.

From the very beginning of time, God has had a plan and the revelation of that plan is not contingent upon Man. The plan involves and benefits Man but God’s eternal plan of salvation originates in God and has been fully revealed in Christ, the Word of God made flesh. Thus, we must always remember that God initiates and Man responds. Man’s role is not in the implementation of the plan but rather to be in a position to receive God’s Word so that the plan may thrive. Man merely lives out the plan, which is why Jesus instructs us to pray, “Thy will be done.” When this is does right, the result is holiness. The family is where this first happens.

Keep in mind that God’s plan from the beginning has been repeatedly attacked by the devil. Throughout history, the devil has sought to derail God’s plan. For instance, when God created them Male and Female, there was nothing more that they needed. God provided for all of their needs. Yet only a few verses later, the plan is corrupted by that which did not originate from God – they doubted the Gift and turned from God. The Devil tempts and something originates from within the heart of Man that was not from God – Doubt. From the very beginning of his existence, Man was set apart in creation and gifted with intelligence and freedom. Nothing else God creates has this capacity and thus Man is set apart within God’s plan. Only Man has the capacity to turn from God and likewise to turn back to God.

In this first part of the parable, Jesus tells us that some seed fell on the path and was trampled or eaten by birds. He goes on to liken this to the activity of the devil. This hardened ground could not absorb and protect the seed, leaving it vulnerable to surrounding forces. The Gift that originates from God and is lavishly bestowed upon the highest of creation is the same upon whomever it lands. It is where it lands that makes a difference and the condition of the heart on which it falls is the responsibility of the recipient. The devil does not want us to be open to God and will use whatever forces possible to close our hearts, forces that surround us without our paying attention to them.

At this point, it should be made clear that there is a fundamental difference between a human person, created with free will, and the soil where seed is sown. As already noted, Man is unique in creation. Soil, of itself, cannot will anything or cultivate itself. It cannot be aware of the forces that surround it. For a path to become fertile, it needs to be tended and cultivated, but such a change would have to be imposed upon it from without. Otherwise, a path remains a path and will always be a path. Human beings can will personal change, can desire openness, and thus work with Grace to become the soil they
need to be. Humans can also bring about conditions within their lives in which God’s Grace can be all the more effective. The first and primary place where this process begins is the family.

For every human person, the family is where the soil is cultivated. As was taught at the Second Vatican Council, there is a universal call to holiness. Holiness is intimately linked to
Communion, first in the Communion between God and Man and then between human persons. Those who engage in True Prayer understand that Communion is essential for Love to come into existence and thrive. In the Community of Persons called the family, a primary task must be prayer. A family in which there is no true prayer can become heavily trodden and hardened, as often happens to a path. So many have heard the maxim that a family that prays together stays together. Yet today more than ever, families rarely come to Mass together if they attend Mass at all. Today more than ever, families spend little time together and the time they do have is filled with hectic encounters rather than prayer. The soil that is the family, and each member in it, must be enriched in Holiness and Love, which depends on there being a true Communion of Persons.

The primary
Communion of Persons in the family must be Husband and Wife, sacramentally united by the Grace given in the Sacrament of Marriage. Only after the two become one in the Sacrament can the oneness be communicated in Truth through the body and the Community of Persons potentially extended with God’s help in a new human person. The Love of Husband and Wife expressed in the sacramental Communion must be spiritually realized and subsequently lived in Truth through openness to Life. New Life naturally flows from this Communion. The Truth spoken by the Bride and Groom on their wedding day must always remain true when Communicating in the body. Truth in the act depends on both being open to the Truth ordained in the act itself. The act must be what it is, first and foremost, and remain faithful to its nature as ordained by God.

The soil cultivated by families can become hardened in so many ways. Excessive utilitarianism or hedonism among family members, and especially between the husband and wife, hinders the
Communion of Persons. Such can happen in a relationship built on the mentality cultivated through artificial contraception, which is fundamental to the culture of death. This potential danger was expressed well by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae when he asked the faithful to consider how easily the contraceptive mentality "could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

Hardened hearts formed for egoism cannot assimilate the Word sown. A soul steeped in Sin and selfishness hardens itself and impacts the entire family. The secular world is the champion of unbridled self-gratification, which ultimately is the source of Sin. The result is always a heart closed and hardened, both in the individual person and the family. Without the heart open to the Word, without the true sense of Love as a Communion of Persons, a person is vulnerable and the devil can easily use the corruption in human nature to steal the Gift of God.

Some Seed Fell on Rocky Ground

So often when it comes to matters of faith and relationships, there are those who have some initial experience that excites and attracts them yet for some reason it disappears as quickly as it started. Often, upon closer examination, one finds that there was a superficiality exploited within the person and it faded once effort had to be invested into maintaining the relationship. Such superficiality is what becomes a person’s undoing in so many areas of his or her life. This superficiality has become the utilitarian norm of the secular world that continues to champion egoism as the source of what is good and the harmonization of egoisms as the common good, which is the basis for the secular approach to love.

Young men and women, particularly when they first meet one another and become infatuated, are excited and drawn to one another. Experts all agree that relationships in this phase are “blind” to many of the qualities possessed by the other. The survivability of the relationship is measured by the family history of each. Families without faith and spiritual depth typically never realize
Communion, which leaves so many without the depth needed for true Love. Hearts properly cultivated in Divine Love are open to a depth in relationship, which can carry them through rough periods.

Anyone who has ever worked in a rocky garden realizes how much work it takes to prepare the garden properly. If the rocks are not removed, the plants in the garden will not thrive. Good gardens need a fair amount of effort for the seed sown in it to achieve the necessary depth for a healthy growth. Cultivated soil has a depth and receptivity, but only with much effort. Good soil has to be frequently turned up and the stones removed.

So many forces in our world today add stones that degrade the soil and must be removed. As noted above, an excessive amount of self-centeredness and selfishness have seemingly become the norm. Everyone now refers to the ever expanding “ME” generation. The irony is that if we closely examine the seven deadly sins, each one is based upon an excess desire for selfish pleasure that is completely turned inward. As noted previously, such egoism can never result in true Love because harmonized egos are only mutually using one another to satisfy the ego. Such relationships fall apart when the harmonization comes to an end.

The stones of selfish sinfulness create a shallow soil and rob it of its richness. Families are the source of proper formation of a soul in giving itself away in Love. Self-denial, not self-gratification, is a hallmark of holiness and Love. Such self-denial is centered in the
Union between husband and wife, the beings between whom there is total self-giving and other-receiving. The entire family depends on its existence in this relationship being True to its nature as ordained by God from the very beginning.

The hedonistic structure that has been cultivated in the modern world through Freudianism and other pleasure gurus has placed a great number of stones within families, and the result has been some very rocky soil. More people today expect pleasure as the norm of existence and use it as the gauge of what is good or right. Without ever thinking about it, many have been cultivated to believe that other human beings are the means for their selfish satisfaction. Pornography, even in its mild form as found in most television programs, cultivates a “pleasure me first” attitude with regard to others. The result is the large number of relationships that break up using lines such as, “you don’t satisfy me anymore.”

Pleasure, as we all know, is very deceptive and elusive. Pleasurable moments never truly satisfy the heart, meaning the person will always need to seek more and more of it, and yet will never be truly satiated. More often than not, pleasure seeking cultivates a tremendously selfish attitude and inhibits the capacity for true Love between persons. Relationships built on pleasure, e.g., good sex, are actually relationships built on rocky ground. There is no depth to the relationship and it will wither as soon as a dry spell hits. The sun will always come out at some point in the relationship and those that are shallow will not survive. The cultivation of a right attitude toward others, an attitude of self-giving rather than self-pleasing, begins in the family and must be found in the structure of all family relationships. The first experience of relating to others is among parents and siblings. These experiences provide depth to and nutrition for the soil.

Ultimately, the seed sown in a heart that is concerned with self-pleasure will easily become dry and arid before God. The Seed sown may bring about a good feeling at first but true Love requires great effort and self-sacrifice in order to thrive. Those who have been cultivated in the rockiness of a “ME” first attitude have a great deal of work to do when coming before God and relating with others. Often the mistake made is to attempt removing the rocks from their heart without God’s help. Any attempt at correcting horizontal relationships while the vertical relationship is damaged is impossible. Depth and nutrition come from God. Self-giving originates in God and, if a soul is to thrive, it must first give itself completely to Him before it can be given to another.

To give one’s self away requires the person to have complete possession of self, for we cannot give what we do not possess. Such means that the individual has entered into his or her own depth and identified the stones that hinder Grace from entering and
Communion from thriving. But the stones identified can only be properly removed with the help of God and, once cleared away through the sacrament of Penance, the person must completely give himself or herself back to God. Such self-emptying is a difficult and often unpleasant process.

The narcissistic person is typically shallow and has difficulty maintaining any relationship that requires effort. To truly enter into
Communion with the person of God or another human person demands a self-emptying and total giving of oneself to the other. As reiterated in Gaudium et Spes,
Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.

Today, many family members are besieged by the “ME” first attitude, which has grown from the forces cultivated by the devil. For every “ME” expressed among the persons in the family, a new stone is added to the soil. When a family is not cultivating self-giving, a process that begins with husband and wife, the result is very cyclical. There will be times when the family thrives but the lack of depth and the excessive presence of rocks eventually yields aridity within the family and the relationships wither.

Some Seed Feel Among Thorns

So many things that seem so good initially frequently turn out badly and the effects of that counterfeit good can linger for years. For instance, the fruit offered to Adam and Eve looked so good to them, it truly was “pleasing to the eye,” but the effects of consuming it created a rupture with God and the effects of it impact us still. There are so many things put before us today and we are told they are a “good” for us. But the True Good is from God. In this regard, we must be aware that the devil frequently offers counterfeit goods, which is why we must always pray and discern in order to find the True Good.

Today more than any other period of history, consumerism and materialism have become forces that impede living a moral life. In this regard, we are talking about more than just the economy and financial considerations. Man, unlike any other period in history, selfishly consumes the material of the earth without any thought of conserving or sharing it. The supposed “good life” promoted today is about “having” more and constantly replacing or upgrading what we already have. The good life today, in contrast to the traditional understanding, is no longer linked to a morally good life or to a faith-filled life but to a life overflowing with material possessions and exotic experiences. The Seed sown among the thorns can be likened to the consumeristic world in which we live today.

Through the allurements of consumerism, the devil has put many families into precarious financial situations that keep parents from being with their children and husbands and wives from bring with each other. So many covet goods beyond their means and then must give the bulk of their time to obtaining and keeping those items. For many, family life is in disarray. We have been convinced that so many items that are luxuries should be consumed as necessities. The expectations for satiation are always raised higher and we are rarely given time to pause, ponder, and pray about the impact of trying to meet those expectations or even if the expectations are a true good. The devil does not want such reflection as it may put the person in touch with God’s Truth and a recognition that “things” will never truly satisfy the soul. As St. Augustine tells us, our soul will remain restless until it rests in God. Only the True Good will satisfy.

The excessive lure of worldly goods chokes the Love and Faith from the family. Yes, many have benefitted by the advances in the world, but such benefits have come at the expense of the family and, for some, at the expense of salvation. Materialism differs from consumerism in the excessive emphasis on “matter” and the manipulation of it. In this regard, secularist humanists, whose philosophical approach has formed the approach taken by social engineers, contend that there is only matter in the universe and have gone so far as to deny that there is anything spiritual because the spiritual cannot be measured or manipulated. Through the process of social engineering, this notion is now widespread, even though many do not realize they think or act in this light. In his
Letter to Families, Pope John Paul expressed concern regarding this pervasive worldview because of its impact on the understanding of what it means to be human. He noted:
The separation of spirit and body in Man has led to a growing tendency to consider the human body, not in accordance with the categories of its specific likeness to God, but rather on the basis of its similarity to all the other bodies present in the world of nature, bodies which Man uses as raw material in his efforts to produce goods for consumption. But everyone can immediately realize what enormous dangers lurk behind the application of such criteria to Man. When the human body, considered apart from spirit and thought, comes to be used as raw material in the same way that the bodies of animals are used—and this actually occurs for example in experimentation on embryos and fetuses— we will inevitably arrive at a dreadful ethical defeat.

Under the burden of this worldview, our culture now promotes a consumerist attitude toward human persons, an attitude that has been assimilated by many Catholics and has further impacted family life. Human beings are seen as products to be consumed or matter to be manipulated according to individual wants rather than a human person with inherent dignity. With the material manipulation currently promoted by scientists, children are a “product” rather than the fruit of a loving embrace. There are misguided fertility practitioners who claim to help couples “produce” children, but they do so through immoral techniques such as
In Vitro Fertilization. The technology is even reaching the point where “designer” children can be produced. Children are a gift from God, not a product to be obtained or consumed.

On the flip side, consumerism has driven parents to a mentality in which children are to be avoided. In fact, they willingly engage in practices with the express purpose of frustrating God’s gift of life. Indeed, hedonism practiced in the shadow of materialistic manipulation allows couples to be objects of pleasure for one another without the possibility of conception, a practice that destroys
Communion through the lie spoken with the body. In this mentality, the good of procreation is believed to be a financial burden and an evil to be avoided. Many who have been indoctrinated into this worldview have recourse to abortion because the life “accidentally” conceived is considered “inconvenient” or a mistake. The immorality of these practices slowly strangles Love and often becomes a root cause of broken families. The devil’s goal is to break down the Communion of Persons and will use any method to do so.

Among the side effects of the consumerist and materialist strangulation are pseudo remedies that bring about a temporary euphoria to keep the person from dealing with the spiritual pain that grows from within. In some cases, the result is alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, or other such maladies that destroy the entire family from within. As everyone knows, these diseases destroy the whole family as every member is affected.

The key at this point in our discussion is our need to grow in awareness of the various forces employed by the devil to keep the Word of God from thriving in our hearts. Jesus offers the parable for the express purpose of bringing about an awareness, which leads to healing and conversion. Care must be taken to ensure that families are supported and built up for the good of the Church and society. The first priority of the Church with regard to families is to protect them from the ravages of the devil so that the
Community of Persons can be maintained. For this to happen, the family must be a source of richness and Grace so that the soil of all its members remains open and receptive to the Word.

Some Seed Fell on Rich Soil - I

It seems that in recent times the devil has convinced the American mainstream that Catholic ideals are unobtainable and Her teachings out of touch with reality. Through secular social engineering, many believe that our fallen state is the norm and should be made the standard of reality. The Catholic standards and values of cooperating with Grace and pursuing perfection through the purgation of Sin elicit disdain from those who promote themselves as all-knowing gods, that is, gods of the enlightenment who now know better than God Himself. It is within this milieu that many have become convinced that undisciplined passions are normal and what had once been spurned as sin should be tolerated, and even propagated, simply because it happens so often and is done by so many. It is the pervasiveness of such attitudes that corrupts the soil of one’s being and renders the Seed sown by Christ ineffective. To accomplish this feat, the devil has sought to corrupt the soil by attacking the family and detracting it’s members from focusing on the objective reality as established by God.

Years ago, when a couple sought a new home, one of the more important questions posed to the sales agent was with regard to the local parish. In fact, when deciding on a neighborhood in which to raise their children, couples focused more on the faith life in the area than other factors such as the school district and property taxes. While such questions have always been important, Catholicism meant more because the couple desired a consistency between what happened in the home and outside the home. In point of fact, those who lived in New York City and Brooklyn, when asked about where they lived, did not refer to a town but to a parish. Their Catholic faith was their local identity.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, the local community must be an extension of the Catholic faith lived in the home, a faith that is not relative to each family. For most of the Church’s history, all Catholics attended Sunday Mass and sought ongoing religious instruction for themselves and their children. No one questioned the centrality of these activities and, because local communities had mutual concern among the families, fellow Catholics helped one another get to church and challenged other Catholics who were not going. All Catholic children learned the same faith at home, in the classrooms, and in the neighborhood when visiting with friends. Through the initiative and generosity of the community, many local churches and Catholic schools were built to accommodate the faithful and ensure ongoing Catholic education.

Those who were seen at Sunday Mass were also seen in the neighborhoods. Families knew each other and assisted one other in the proper formation of Catholic values, especially in the rearing of children. In times past, there was no question about the family being a “domestic church” because the simple fact of being Catholic defined the family values, values that were universal throughout the local community and world. There was no need for the Church to remind the community that parents were primary in the education and formation of children because such was always the accepted standard. There was no need to remind educators of their secondary role in educating children because teachers understood this to be so. Local parents’ associations served to strengthen the bond in the
community and provided families with mutual assistance in achieving the familial end of holiness and Love.

Unlike today, Catholicism was never viewed as merely a political status or sociological category. Catholicism was, and still remains, a way of life and
all of the values and teachings of the Church must undergird that way of living. Prayer, sacrament, penance, self-sacrifice, fasting and abstinence, self-giving Love, grace, forgiveness, repentance, self-discipline, and conversion have always been and must remain the hallmarks of the Catholic household and larger community. This way of life has always been embraced freely and without coercion by all in the believing community. Throughout the centuries, the result has been the cultivation of rich soil in the hearts of many believers.

It is only within this larger arena of committed Catholics that the domestic church is able to thrive. In the past, there was no need for papal statements or documents because all Catholic families implicitly knew that such was the case. It is within this framework that families are able to pray and care for one another as well as challenge one another to greater holiness. To achieve the good that brings about holiness, everyone must accept that such requires great effort and may be very difficult to do at times.

Anyone who has cultivated the land knows that it is a very difficult process. To get the soil just right requires effort, vigilance, patience, and strength. Those who do this well are people of “vision” who are able to remain focused on the end for which they are cultivating, a copious harvest. The cultivation of good and rich soil in our own hearts is equally difficult. Jesus gives us this parable because He realizes that it requires a great deal of effort and, at times, might not be pleasant. But, to achieve the goal set by Christ, we must remain focused on our end of being with God for all eternity. Getting there takes a person of “vision” – one willing to endure a great many trials that may corrupt the soil of our being. The rich soil in this parable refers to the pure of heart for, as we are told in the Beatitudes, they will see God.

The best way to spiritually bring about rich soil is to meditate on and live the Stations of the Cross. In this context, the Stations exemplify the discipline necessary to chastise the passions and achieve faith’s end. Taking up the Cross and following Christ takes effort, discipline, and, as we see literally in the person of Christ, entails suffering. This dimension of our Faith has always been at the heart of Catholic life. From the Martyrs of the early Church to the some of the greatest saints of our Catholic Tradition, saints such as Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, and Faustina, the role of suffering was at the heart of the spiritual life. Those who suffered were supported by the community, not spurned and rejected. In traditional terminology, the way of the Cross is said to be purgative with the end being purity of soul. It is exactly this purity that prepares the soul for
Union with God.

The family is the proper place ordained by God to properly cultivate souls to enter this purgative state and learn of its importance for a healthy faith life and ultimately realize Eternal Life with God. The way of perfection goes through the family, beginning with the Sacramental
Union of Man and Woman in Marriage, which is the way of self-sacrificing Love within the familial Community of Persons. This way has been ordained and established by God and should be kept in all sincerity by all the faithful. The enemy, in striking back at God, strikes at the family. The result has been divorce and alienation rather than Communion and Love. It is those who achieve the latter that will be with God for all eternity.

Some Seed Fell on Rich Soil - II

The goal of every family should be the living out of the True and the Good as ordained by God. The local community, as we saw above, plays a significant part in making this possible, especially a community that consistently seeks to live out the universal call to holiness. However, the larger community has a subordinate and supportive role to that of the family. Ultimately, both the Catholic family and the Christian community must be subjected to Christ Himself and to the will of God, Who speaks through revelation and the Tradition of the Church. The rich soil of one’s being is where Communion with God occurs, a Communion that the domestic Church and the larger Church recognizes as its End and lives out in every moment by being true to what it is, a Community of Persons.

In order to daily fulfill God’s will, several qualities need to be present for one to become good soil. At the heart of these qualities is discipline. Unfortunately this word has been reduced to mean scolding and punishment. However, it should be kept in mind that the word is much richer in meaning, especially in light of Catholic Teaching. In fact, the Latin root of the word translates as “teaching, instruction, and training,” which may entail admonishment and punishment. The word in its fullest sense deals with the acquiring of knowledge and wisdom and the imparting or sharing of that wisdom with others. Such knowledge and wisdom goes beyond the mere study of facts and figures. It is the engagement of one’s entire being in achieving the End of such wisdom, that is,
Union with God.

With regard to the Faith, the wisdom shared by parents with children is knowledge of the Good and Truth. A disciplined person knows the Good and True and pursues it alone in all thoughts and actions. Within the individual, self-discipline is a tempering of the senses and passions based on the knowledge of the Good and constantly orienting the will to do the Good and avoid evil. At times, such learning is difficult and may require a rebuke or mortification in order to help one become properly “disciplined” in the Truth. Here, notice the etymological connection between the word discipline and disciple. A disciple is one who lives the discipline of the Faith and shares that discipline in Love.

At the core of Church Teaching with regard to understanding what comprises “good soil,” we find words such as Virtue and Holiness. The Virtues have always been an integral and significant dimension of the Catholic way of life. While an in depth treatment of the Virtues is beyond the scope of this series, for the purposes of this discussion the definition from the Catechism will suffice. “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the Good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself” (see CCC p. 1803). Key to understanding the Teaching in this area is to recall that the Good is not relative to one’s perspective or feelings but is the proper culmination of human existence as established by God. Through a correct self-discipline and education in the family, the soil of one’s being is cultivated in relation to the Good as a person comes to fully realize the self in relation to God.

Often, one may wonder if he or she is truly living a virtuous Christian life. If the soil is properly cultivated in the family and community, one can recognize his or her proper orientation through the Works of Mercy. To this end, the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy are not just lists to be memorized but qualities for Catholic living. The Corporal Works of Mercy are: feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit the imprisoned; and bury the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: instruct the ignorant; counsel the doubtful; admonish sinners; bear wrongs patiently; forgive offences willingly; comfort the afflicted; pray for the living and the dead. In the well-cultivated soil of one’s being, each of these works are joyfully embraced and fully incorporated into the life of each family member, as is the case for each neighbor in the larger community. These should never be done merely because of an external obligation but should flow forth from an inner response to God that is grounded in a strong spiritual life.

Here then is where the family has its greatest impact in the mutual cultivation of the soil that is the being of each family member – the spiritual life must be the highest priority in the family. True prayer and self-sacrifice are absolutely necessary if the soil is to be “rich” and open to the seeds of God’s Grace. Yes, an essential aspect of family life is attending Holy Mass at least every Sunday as a family. But if there is no family prayer during the week, if there is no commitment to living the other sacraments, especially the sacrament of Penance, if there is no daily desire to be in
Communion with God through total self-giving, then the Grace God bestows will not find rich soil. The family must exist as a true Community of Persons if it is to achieve its end of Communion with God. The Community established first in the Sacrament of Marriage and enriched by sanctifying Grace is the fundamental arena in which the richest soil is cultivated – a soil that is capable of absorbing God’s Seed and bearing forth a great harvest.

Today, more than ever, the Community of Persons that is the family has been attacked by the enemy who wishes to sow seeds of discord. Such is demonstrated by the fact that families are torn apart in great numbers and the devil will continue to use whatever means necessary to keep this trend going because as the domestic church goes, so goes the universal Church. God wants the family, established on the Union of Man and Woman, to thrive and live while the devil wants to see it stagnate and die. In the beginning, God established the Community of Persons in His Own Image as the source of Life and the devil has been committed to destroying that Communion ever since. In short, the devil wants to destroy the fundamental Community of Persons in all its dimensions. Marriage, in its twofold significance, is about the Union of Bride to Bridegroom, that is Christ to the Church, which is signified through all time in the permanent and in dissolvable Union of Man and Woman, a Union that is marked by being free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Any thing or action that does not support or properly express this Union in Truth is from the devil, which is the basis for Sin. A rich soil is always marked by the abiding and permanent Community of Persons, which is the basis for being in a State of Grace.

Some Seed Fell on Rich Soil - III

As has been repeated throughout this reflection, rich soil does not just happen – it must be cultivated – first and foremost in the family and secondarily in the larger community. The rich soil of one’s being requires constant vigilance, prayer, and the Grace communicated through the sacraments. The Grace God bestows in abundance is only effective in the soul prepared to receive and cooperate with it. The family is where this process first begins and at the core of family is Marriage, a reality established by God and is under great attack by the devil today. Marriage is a permanent and indissolvable Union of Persons that is brought into existence by God. Marriage is not under the dominion of Man and any counterfeit presented by Man is worthless. For the soil of those in the family to remain rich, the Community of Persons within and without must be strengthened through a proper relationship with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church.

Rich soil requires a great amount of True Prayer and a constant recommitment of the family to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In times past, one could pass through neighborhoods and see small statues of Jesus and Mary in the yards. These were far more than just mere decorations – they were part of a prayerful dedication for the protection of the family and home from the wiles of the devil. Families would often pray for such protection each day. More than just a lawn ornament or an image to beautify the garden, these statues were also a reminder of the Purity and Love that characterize good soil. Thus, we know that family prayer is a must for the cultivation of rich soil.

In days gone by, families united daily in prayer, often multiple times throughout the day. Husbands and wives would pray together for themselves and their family. The daily Rosary was the mainstay of many homes. Prayers were recited before meals, in the morning upon waking and in the evening before going to sleep. The
united voices in prayer deeply expressed the Community of Persons that is the family.

True
Communion, especially if it is to exist in the family, begins with prayer and family Love but the whole must be oriented to Communion with God. Rich soil cannot be rich without God and to be in Communion with God requires a pure heart – a soul that is free from Sin. The family is where the attitude of purity is cultivated and where chaste Love begins, is nurtured, and finds fulfillment in Heaven. Communion with God, by its very nature, is signified in Marriage and every person must approach God with the disposition of living spousal union. Communion is the moment when the being of our person becomes One with God. The family that is a True Community of Persons is like the Church as the Bride to Bridegroom – the Domestic Church must present itself as a spotless Bride to Christ the Bridegroom. This is what must be lived out on a constant basis.

There is nothing more beautiful than families
United in Love, in a Community of Persons, who come before the Lord on Sundays as Family. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing families together at Sunday Mass, side by side praying and offering a perfect Sacrifice of Love back to God. Rich soil is not a soil in which there are never family problems and disagreements. Rich soil will entail many family struggles and the taking up of the Cross daily. The rich soil comes within the family that consecrates itself to Christ and the Blessed Mother – that is, a Community of Persons that renounces the City of Man in favor of membership in the City of God. Anything that tears apart the family or the Union of Man and Woman tears apart the very fabric of existence as established in God. And the devil knows this as well as we do and will do everything to keep families from being United in Love.

In our world today, through the inculcation of various secular errors that are spreading rapidly, divorce rates are soaring and broken families are left in the wake. It is no coincidence that during the same period we find a reduction in families praying together. It is no coincidence that during the same period we find that families do not spend any time together, each member running to different commitments outside the home. It is no coincidence that during the same period we find that Sunday is no longer a family day. It is no coincidence that during the same period we find a reduction of families going to Mass together.

In the midst of this rampant deluge of error is the voice of the Church crying out for a return to the Truth, a Truth that is not relative to one’s point of view or that changes from one day to the next. In this regard, what is in the mind of God remains always the same and, through faith and revelation, Man is able to discern and come to know that Truth. It is in this light that Pope John Paul II reminds the faithful and the world that
what the family is cannot be “redefined” and the mission of the family is to live out the Truth of what is already is – a Community of Persons. The Union of Bride and Bridegroom is a Union specified by Love – A Union that must be Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful. It is in this light that we read in Familiaris Consortio 17:
The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do… The family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God. Looking at it in such a way as to reach its very roots, we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.

Immediately following the parable of the sower in Matthew’s Gospel, we find a similar parable known as the parable of the Weeds and Wheat (cf. Mt. 13:24-30 and the explanation of the parable Mt. 13:36-43). The enemy of the Sower wants to detract the plan and goes so far as planting his own corrupt seeds in the soil in order to suffocate God’s Truth. So often there are many Catholics who believe they are impervious to the wiles of the devil, a tendency that began with Adam and Eve and continues to this day. But the seeds of secularism and progressivism have been widely sown and even grow in the midst of good Catholics. The next section will briefly focus on this parable.

The Weeds and the Wheat

Rich soil is meant to bring forth an abundant harvest. As the parable of the sower concludes, we are told the Grace that falls upon the pure heart is capable of bringing forth a harvest as great as one hundredfold. The depth and purity of the soil are what make the abundant harvest possible. In this regard, what issues forth from the will of a person in the form of moral action is what constitutes the fruit of the harvest. As noted above, the next parable in Matthew’s Gospel is the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat. This parable speaks of the fruit that issues forth from the soil of our being. In this light, we must understand that the weeds and wheat refer to the moral actions that are willed by an individual. What constitutes the goodness or evilness of an action has been determined by God and we are responsible to discern before acting so that we always will the Good and avoid evil. That being so, all of us realize that even good soil occasionally produces weeds. Even though this is the case, we should never allow ourselves to be fooled into believing that because something happened once we should expect that it will happen again. The person who is good soil must struggle at every moment to eliminate the weeds that are sown by the devil.

It is in the family where the seeds of immorality need to be identified so as to remove them before they take deep root and affect the wheat. This means that we are all responsible to avoid willing anything that is not in accord with the Divine Wisdom as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures and expounded upon in Church Teaching. These sources help identify the wheat and call the faithful to produce only moral Goodness by only willing what is in accord with these sources. Every person of good conscience must pray about what is contained in these teachings and ask God for the strength to act in accord with them.

Today more than ever, the devil is sowing weeds in the hearts of so many, weeds that are so prevalent that it continually challenges those committed to living God’s Truth. The enticement to Sin is greater today than ever. Yes, there are many families that desire to produce wheat and do encourage one another in this regard. Yet even the best of families still find weeds coming forth. The devil is relentless. The desire to produce wheat is laudable but the problem is that today the devil has convinced many that what are actually weeds should be called wheat, that is, to redefine God’s reality with a lie. If wheat are morally good acts and weeds are those that are morally evil, acts which originate and issue forth from the heart of Man, then the age old maxim to do good and avoid evil still applies. The problem arises when living within a culture that has effectively convinced many people, including many so-called “good” Catholics, that the weeds are actually wheat and vice versa. In the objective order established by God, it is clear what is wheat and what is weed. But in our modern culture, the devil has convinced many that what is morally wrong in the eyes of God is acceptable, effectively convincing large portions of society to call what is actually a weed a stalk of wheat. Such confusion has placed the seeds of weeds into the rich soil of so many hearts and these weeds are even being cared for and protected.

Yes, as human beings we do possess a Fallen Nature, that is, a Nature inclined to Sin but we must always remember that we are not dominated by Sin, and the liberation from that Sin is the Truth. Through Sanctifying Grace and a properly formed conscience, the inclination to Sin can be transformed into Virtue and it is the virtuous person who always seeks to will the Good in order to produce an abundant harvest of wheat, a harvest that will be counted at the Judgment. But the devil, from Adam and Eve onward, has sought to reduce that harvest by repeatedly tempting persons to immorality by convincing them to will evil acts, which produces a harvest of weeds. The damage today wrought through secular forces has made it difficult for many to discern what is wheat and what is weed even though the Teaching in this regard remains clear.

One of the areas where this is most clear is in the current trend to “redefine” what constitutes Marriage and the Family. Marriage, in order to be wheat, is the Sacramental
Union of one man and one woman in a Communion of persons that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. It is only within this Union that families can become what they are. Any other reality or definition is a lie and an enticement that seeks to normalize our Fallen Nature, which attempts to convince people that lies are good and Sin should be promulgated.

At the heart of the secular error is a methodology which claims that knowing “truth” is only possible in the realm of the observable and that “good” is achieved when pleasurable or desirable consequences are attained. Secularists do not want to look beyond immediate results or introduce further or ultimate ends. Thus, truths and goods must be repeatedly “discovered” by each generation through the accumulation of observable facts and pleasurable outcomes. Once discovered it is these that must be disseminated to the largest number of people. Anything else must be dismissed, especially if it originates in Scripture or Theology. In this model, if one observes that divorce is rampant, which today is the case, then the errant conclusion is that marriage is not a permanent state of being in which two become one. From this, the secularist concludes that indissolubility is not a good of Marriage, which results in an attempt at redefinition.

Similarly, there are many who observe that fornication is common and conclude that sexual union should no longer be reserved to husband and wife. Furthermore, because sexual continence is seemingly impossible by anyone of consenting age, married or unmarried, contraception is promoted as a good so as to ensure sexual pleasure on demand. Such is commonly held despite the constant Teaching of the Church that fornication and contraception are objective moral evils of which every instance is sinful. From this, the secularist concludes that procreation is not a fruit of the conjugal act and therefore not a good of Marriage, which results in an attempt at redefinition.

Along this same line of thought, sexual pleasure is so prevalent today that it is considered among the highest of secular goods. Since there are spouses who are unfulfilled in this area and are able to find fulfillment elsewhere, they promote adultery as an acceptable albeit qualified alternative. From this, the secularist concludes that fidelity is not a good of Marriage, which results in an attempt at redefinition.

And the most recent observation is that since there are those who engage in homosexual acts in search of sexual fulfillment, such should be taken as an acceptable alternative. Beyond a shadow of doubt, this issue may be the most complex of any we deal with today. The demand today is to bestow the title of Marriage upon this disordered use of the sexual faculty, a bestowal that betrays the very significance of Marriage as established by God. Any earthly attempt at redefinition of Marriage based on our Fallen Nature cannot change the Truth established by God. As an aside, care must be taken when discussing the morality of acts and the universal call to persons to produce wheat. A person who struggles with orientation can still produce wheat through virtues such as temperance, continence, and chastity.

Thus, secular attempts, when discussed in the light of Truth, can be shown to be deficient. For God’s faithful, the weeds of error are in our midst and at times are stifling the consciences of those seeking salvation. Truth is never relative and the Good cannot be constructed. All will some day be judged by the standard established by God and eternal life will be determined by the fruit of the harvest that comes forth from the soil, that is, either wheat or weeds. For this reason, the Church remains committed to weeding out those thoughts and trends that have come forth in the modern culture of death, which is far more than just a culture of physical death. Therefore, it is imperative today more than ever that the domestic church ally itself with the Church Universal, the Church established by Christ on the Rock of St. Peter.

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