Pope Benedict XVI Homily on Feast of Holy Family 2010

January 10, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel according to Luke recounts that when the shepherds of Bethlehem had received the Angel’s announcement of the Messiah’s birth “they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (2:16). The first eyewitnesses of Jesus’ birth therefore beheld a family scene: a mother, a father and a newborn son. For this reason the Liturgy has us celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on the First Sunday after Christmas. This year it occurred the very day after Christmas, and, taking precedence over the Feast of St Stephen, invites us to contemplate this “icon” in which the little Jesus appears at the centre of his parents’ affection and care.

In the poor grotto of Bethlehem — the Fathers of the Church wrote — shines a very bright light, a reflection of the profound mystery which envelopes that Child, which Mary and Joseph cherish in their hearts and which can be seen in their expression, in their actions, and especially in their silence. Indeed, they preserve in their inmost depths the words of the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary: “the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

Yet every child’s birth brings something of this mystery with it! Parents who receive a child as a gift know this well and often speak of it in this way. We have all heard people say to a father and a mother: “this child is a gift, a miracle!”. Indeed, human beings do not experience procreation merely as a reproductive act but perceive its richness and intuit that every human creature who is born on earth is the “sign” par excellence of the Creator and Father who is in Heaven.

How important it is, therefore, that every child coming into the world be welcomed by the warmth of a family! External comforts do not matter: Jesus was born in a stable and had a manger as his first cradle, but the love of Mary and of Joseph made him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. Children need this: the love of their father and mother. It is this that gives them security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth went through many trials, such as the “massacre of the innocents” — as recounted in the Gospel according to Matthew — which obliged Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt (cf. 2:13-23). Yet, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and guaranteed Jesus a serene childhood and a sound upbringing.

Dear friends, the Holy Family is of course unique and unrepeatable, but at the same time it is a “model of life” for every family because Jesus, true man, chose to be born into a human family and thereby blessed and consecrated it. Let us therefore entrust all families to Our Lady and to St Joseph, so that they do not lose heart in the face of trials and difficulties but always cultivate conjugal love and devote themselves with trust to the service of life and education.

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Reasons for postponing a pregnancy

July 1, 2010

Taken from Zenit: http://www.zenit.org/article-29757?l=english

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here are questions on bioethics asked by ZENIT readers and answered by the fellows of the Culture of Life Foundation.

Q: Thank you for responding to the question regarding when natural family planning (NFP) is appropriate to use. […] I can understand why the Church has never formally identified “just causes,” but nevertheless, in our world today, I believe we thrive on tangible examples and responses to help us make good decisions rather than simply on abstract concepts.  In your article, you suggested that you could further provide specific examples of what is meant by “just causes” to postpone children. While I know that no list will be complete and it really depends on each couple’s situation, […] I would appreciate the further explanation. Sincerely — K.M., Lake Worth, U.S.A.

E. Christian Brugger offers the following response.

A: I am happy to speak further on the question of “just causes” for spacing births. Some may believe that only extraordinary situations can constitute legitimate reasons for practicing NFP to defer pregnancy (e.g., severe illness of a spouse; extreme financial difficulties; mental breakdown, etc.). In my opinion, this extreme interpretation is incorrect and can result in avoidable harms.

Recall the moral norm I formulated in my last piece on NFP, in which I drew on the reasoning taught in “Humanae Vitae,” No. 10: “If a couple have serious reasons [i.e., just causes — “iustae causae”], arising from the physical or mental condition of themselves, their children, or another for whom they have responsibility, or from the family’s economic or wider social situation, they may defer having children temporarily, or, if the situation is serious enough, indefinitely, providing they use morally legitimate means. Recourse to natural fertility cycles to space births (NFP) under such circumstances is an example of a morally legitimate means. Contraception is not.” (This wording is mine, not that of “Humanae Vitae”)  In order to translate the generality of this norm into more concrete terms, we need to attend to the pivotal concept “iusta” (i.e., the adjective “just”) in the long-standing Catholic teaching. The correlative noun is “justice”. In order to rightly apply the Catholic teaching on “iusta causa” I suggest that we attend to the concept of justice as an interpretive lens (a “hermeneutical principle”) through which to assess whether in any concrete situation a serious (iusta) reason (causa) to space births is present.

All people have duties arising from their morally significant relationships: spouses to each other; parents to children; children to parents; employees to employers; employers to employees. Generally speaking, the closer the relationship, the more serious the duty. The fulfillment of these duties is the domain of justice. So, for example, a man who neglects his family in favor of unreasonable participation in a leisure sport such as golf or fishing commits an injustice toward his family. The classical definition of justice is “rendering to each person what is due to him based upon the relationship that we have to (or with) him.” This sounds very general, but applying it in most situations is quite straightforward. An employee who has committed himself to eight hours of work per day should work for eight hours per day (if he is able); and his boss should pay him the agreed upon wage for working eight hours.

Now husbands/fathers and wives/mothers have very serious obligations in justice to the members of their families, chiefly to their dependent children, especially those who are most vulnerable to harm (e.g., infants, small children, and infirmed and disabled children). Perhaps it need not be said, but parents’ duties to their existing children are prior to children they have not yet procreated.  When discerning another child, couples therefore should ask: Can I fulfill well my existing duties while bringing another child into the world and fulfilling well my duties to that child? Absolute certainty, of course, is not required. But I think reasonable certainty based upon objective criteria is required (e.g., family relationships are in order; mother and father’s mental and physical health are stable; finances are in order; etc.).

If one has reason to believe that a relationship for which one has some duty will unfairly (and hence wrongly) suffer if another child is brought into the world, then, as an issue of justice, one ought to abstain from bringing another child into the world.  God has a personal and unrepeatable plan for every Christian’s life. This is his or her “personal vocation.” Husbands and wives too have personal vocations. At the center are the overarching commitments of marriage and parenthood. But their personal vocations might include other commitments as well, commitments that must be compatible with the fulfilling of their marital and parental duties. God may give to one woman an ability to organize people, to another the capacity to sing opera, and to another the personality to make friends easily. Because a woman believes God has called her to be married and to become a mother, does this mean she must set aside founding an organization for the defense of the unborn, or being a part-time opera singer, or a university professor? If God has given her special aptitudes, desires and opportunities, this is an indication that he may be calling her to use them in specified ways.

But one thing parents know with certitude is that if they already have committed themselves to being spouses and parents, then their personal vocation right now (immediately, presently) includes fulfilling well those responsibilities. They know that they have a moral duty to ensure (as best they can) that new commitments they assume are compatible with being a spouse and parent. If they judge that their existing children will be unfairly harmed by mommy choosing to sing opera professionally, or found a pro-life organization, or daddy taking a new job that will keep him away from the home, then they ought to set aside those alternatives as incompatible (at least for the time being) with their personal vocation.

My purpose here is not to criticize generous couples for welcoming many new children into their families. Such couples are a salutary expression of respect for a culture of life. And they should be encouraged and supported by their brothers and sisters in the Christian community.   But couples who for good reasons refrain from having more children (which for them can be painful) should not be considered less generous. Our generosity is first and foremost assessed relative to Jesus’ will. We want to ‘do whatever he tells us’ (cf. John 2:5). Both excesses and deficiencies in this regard are moral problems. So Christian family planning means assessing prudently and prayerfully the family size God wants us to have, which means the size that is as compatible as possible with our resources (spiritual, emotional, physical, material and relational).   A few concrete examples of “iustae causae” for deferring pregnancy might include:

1) Physical or mental illness of one of the spouses;

2) Serious financial instability (e.g., during a period of unemployment);

3) Needs arising from caring for “high-needs” children;

4) The instability of transitional periods such as spouses in graduate school;

5) Debilitating stress that can arise from having a large family in societies where large families are no longer valued (see “Gaudium et Spes,” No. 50).

Husbands need to be especially attentive to the welfare of their wives when assessing whether or not to have more children. Since wives will bear the exclusive burden of gestating their children, and the disproportionate burdens associated with nurture and education in the early years, husbands should listen very carefully to their wives’ input. Most happily married pro-life wives find it difficult to resist their husband’s solicitations for more children. But if as a result of caring for one or more small children, one’s wife is experiencing long-term exhaustion or depression, or if she has fallen into the habit of chronically doubting her worth as a wife and mother, and she has doubts as to whether she can fulfill peacefully the duties associated with caring for another infant, then a husband should assist her in expressing those doubts, and avoid manipulating her in accordance with his own will. Doubts, of course, can be unreasonable, based on non-rational diffidence or immoderate caution. And spouses should assist one another in judging whether such doubts are expressive of or temptations away from Jesus’ will. But if in the face of just reasons a husband disregards the clear doubts of his wife (even if communicated non-verbally), he may commit an injustice toward his wife. The same can be said of wives toward their husbands.

Although serious reasons (“iustae causae”) ordinarily pertain to the welfare of the members of the family, they also can arise from a commitment to apostolic works. A pro-life Ob-Gyn might be called to open an NFP-only practice, or a parent caring for a child with Down’s Syndrome a Catholic daycare for disabled children, or an attorney a pro-bono practice for Christians being denied their civil rights. They might reasonably judge that a period of disproportionate investment of time is necessary to set the new initiative on a stable foundation. If they discern that Jesus wants them to do this; and they also believe that doing it is morally inconsistent with having another baby; then they can confidently conclude that Jesus wants them to postpone having another baby until the practical conditions change.  One final question. Acknowledging that good reasons justify periodic abstinence, do they morally oblige a couple to abstain? I would say that if either spouse has reasonable doubts that he or she can fulfill well present responsibilities and, in addition, the duties of care to a new child, then the couple should not pursue another child (at least until the conditions giving rise to the doubts are overcome). It would be unfair to those for whom we have responsibility to freely pursue a state of affairs in which we are unable to render what we owe to others in justice.   Having said that, individual spouses, who have reasons based upon their own welfare — and not the welfare of another for whom they are responsible — are free to adopt personal sacrifices that exceed what the moral law requires. So, for example, a mother with chronically severe headaches or a father with non-incapacitating M.S. may choose — in consultation with his or her spouse — to pursue more children knowing that the “cost” to him or herself likely will be considerable, presuming they have good reasons to believe they still will be able to meet their duties.  But although one is free to exceed the demands of the moral law in one’s own life, one is never free to make that choice for another.


Motherhood, works, and contribution to society

February 27, 2010

Since the start of our pregnancy journey (yup, my wife is expecting :)), we have been using this book called “Prayerfully Expecting” to pray together, it’s a nine month novena. Do you think nine month pregnancy is a coincident with the word novena which means “nine”? hehe

Anyway, I found the following quote from the Bishops of Kenya (page 68 of the book) as very interesting. It’s about motherhood, working, and how she contributes to society :), enjoy it:

It is often regarded as the norm in our present-day society that both father and mother be employed outside the home. Such an attitude needs to be carefully reconsidered. It should be understood that the most important work a woman has to do is to provide the proper rearing and upbringing of her children. A woman who is devoted to her home and her family is, in fact, working in a very real sense and making a very real contribution to the development of the country. Let it not be thought that the process of nation building takes place only outside the home. The woman who gives her time and talents to her home and family is not depriving her family by not earning a salary. On the contrary, she is making a very significant contribution to her children in a way no money can supply.

When both parents are working away from the home, the children are often left in the care of other children. This is a twofold injustice: it is unfair to those in charge and to those who have to be tended. Even when competent persons are entrusted with the care of children, they are not adequate substitutes for the parents. The thinking should be towards providing the fathers of families with wages sufficient to support the family, so that it is not necessary for the mother to be a wage earner too.

— Bishops of Kenya, Joint Pastoral Letters, 1979

I like the last sentence, do you? hehe :p


Seven things teenage boys most need

January 16, 2009

Interesting article:
Legionary of Christ Father Michael Sliney suggests the following seven necessities for parents of adolescent boys:

  1. Clear guidelines with reasonable consequences from a unified front; cutting slack but also holding boys accountable for their actions.
  2. Reasonable explanations for the criteria, guidelines and decisions made by parents.
  3. Avoiding hyper-analysis of boys’ emotions and states of mind: avoiding “taking their temperature” too often.
  4. Unconditional love with an emphasis on character and effort more than outcome: Encourage boys to live up to their potential while having reasonable expectations. To love them regardless of whether they make it into Harvard or become a star quarterback.
  5. Authenticity, faith and fidelity should be reflected in parent’s lifestyles.
  6. Qualities of a dad: Manliness, temperance, making significant time for family, putting aside work, and being a reliable source of guidance.
  7. Qualities of a mom: Emotional stability, selflessness, loving service and extreme patience.

complete article and interview at: http://www.zenit.org/article-24773?l=english


Sign UN Petition for the unborn child

December 10, 2008

You can help to sign the petition through this website:
http://www.c-fam.org/publications/id.95/default.asp

It is organized by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Read the news here:

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14570


the important role of Fathers, game, and God in the life of boys

September 16, 2008

I found this article from Zenit interesting:

http://www.zenit.org/article-23595?l=english