Monday, August 01, 2016

What Makes a Family Holy?

If the goal of the individual Christian is to become a saint, the goal of a married Christian couple is to become saints together, with one another’s aid, and the goal of a Christian family is to strive to be a holy family, in imitation of the model of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Thus, it behooves us to think carefully about how to define family holiness.

In order to do so, we need to identify the causes of family holiness, lest we be arbitrary about the effects we should be looking for or prioritizing. One might, after all, skew in this or that direction because one is not holding oneself responsible to the root causes. It’s like defining man as risible, tool-using, linguistic, social, and religious, without saying that he is rational, which is the root of all of these things.

The teaching of the authentic Magisterium is of great help to us, because it shows again and again the primacy of prayer, the sacramental life, and the Holy Eucharist for the holiness of all Christians, whether single, married, religious, or clergy.
The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. . . . [T]he renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way. (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 10)
Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the source and culmination of the whole Christian life, they [the faithful] offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It… (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 11)
Confirming this doctrine by their lives, all of the saints prioritize prayer over action, the interior life over the exterior apostolate, the Holy Eucharist over any other work of devotion or charity. In this respect they are simply taking their cue from Our Lord: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). In an age preoccupied with activism, engagement, and “results,” there is no truth as frequently neglected or even denied as this one, for which the perfect remedy was (and still is) Dom Chautard’s book The Soul of the Apostolate.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Magisterium stresses the intimate bond between the sacrament of holy matrimony, the sacred liturgy, the Most Blessed Sacrament, and a holy family:
The sacrament of marriage is the specific source and original means of sanctification for Christian married couples and families … The gift of Jesus Christ is not exhausted in the actual celebration of the sacrament of marriage, but rather accompanies the married couple throughout their lives. … Just as husbands and wives receive from the sacrament the gift and responsibility of translating into daily living the sanctification bestowed on them, so the same sacrament confers on them the grace and moral obligation of transforming their whole lives into a “spiritual sacrifice.” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 56).
“Fairest love” is learned above all in prayer. Prayer, in fact, always brings with it, to use an expression of Saint Paul, a type of interior hiddenness with Christ in God; “your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). (John Paul II, Letter to Families 20).
Christian marriage, like the other sacraments, “whose purpose is to sanctify the people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God,” is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the Church” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 56). 
The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32). The mutual consent that the husband and wife exchange in Christ, which establishes them as a community of life and love, also has a Eucharistic dimension. Indeed, in the theology of Saint Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for his Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of his “marriage” with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist. (Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis 27)
This “community of life and love” extends outwards in works of charity (including the spiritual and corporal works of mercy), beginning with one's own children and radiating to one's parish, town, and larger society, according to the proper order of charity. Yet everything we do as Christians flows from and leads back to the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of which the Holy Mass is the supernatural re-presentation, and of which the Holy Eucharist is the supreme sign and mystical reality. We are pilgrims who live from and for the Bread of Life, until we gaze upon His divine and human face in the beatific vision.

We are entering into dark times, when fidelity to the integral teaching of Scripture, the witness of Tradition, and the fullness of the Church’s Magisterium will be met with increasing incomprehension, incredulity, mockery, ostracism, penalties, and eventually outright persecution. We must do our utmost not to lose sight of these authoritative guideposts, by which we can confidently walk, with God’s grace, along the path of holiness — as men and women, as husbands and wives, as parents and children, as priests and religious. Nor can we accept any substitutes, dilutions, or subterfuges. Christ and His Church have spoken clearly about who we are and what we are to do, if we would remain in the truth of Christ, and live the truth in love.

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